Thursday, 24 October 2013


Title: Konga
Director: John Lemont
Released: 1961
Starring: Michael Gough, Margo Johns, Jess Conrad, Claire Gordon, Austin Trevor, Jack Watson, George Pastell, Vanda Godsell, Stanley Morgan

Plot: After his plane crashes in the African jungles, a year later after being presumed to be dead British botanist Dr. Charles Decker (Gough) suddenly comes back, while also having found a way of growing plants and animals to enormous size. Accompanied him aswell is his pet chimp “Konga” who is soon playing an important part in the doctors plans for revenge.

Review: For most people Michael Gough will always be associated with playing Batman’s butler Alfred and true it’s easy to understand why as he did truly own the iconic role. At the same time there are those who view Gough as an under the radar horror icon with his appearances in “Horrors of the Black Museum” and “Satan’s Slave” and it was during this horror period that he also made this film, which set out to give Britain its own version of “King Kong” which interestingly would also be the same year that we got our own version of “Godzilla” with the enjoyably daft “Gorgo”.

Unsurprisingly producer Herman Cohen while seemingly being inspired by “King Kong” it would be more precisely the idea of making a giant ape movie in colour that inspired him the most when it came to making this film, while developing the film under the working title of “I Was a Teenage Gorilla” a nod to his earlier success “I Was A Teenage Werewolf” regardless of how nonsensical the title would seem against the finished film. So paying RKO Pictures $25,000 for the rights to the name Kong with a focus purely on making an exploitation film, the end results are decidedly strange to say the least.

Right from the start it is clear that Dr. Decker is up to something as he is shown breeding man-eating Venus flytraps in his greenhouse lab as part of his tests of his serum which soon sees him testing it on his pet chimp Konga, turning him from a playful chimp to a man in a questionable Gorilla costume. Yes I know gorillas and chimpanzees are completely different breeds, so either Dr. Decker’s Serum changes an animal’s breed as well as causing monstrous growth or more likely Director Lemont just felt that the audience wouldn’t notice the difference. Still this is not any old gorilla suit, as it also belonged to legendry ape actor George Barrows who amongst his many ape roles also played the memorably unique looking Ro-Man The Monster in the trash classic “Robot Monster”. However Lemont only hired his gorilla suit rather than Barrows himself, only to return the costume in less than perfect condition, much to the distain of Barrows while only raising more questions as to what Lemont had been doing with the suit during the shoot?

Having grown so used to Gough in his Alfred persona, it was quite a thrill seeing him playing such a devious role, more so perhaps because of seeing him as this loveable old man and faithful butler to now see him scheming and sending his killer ape off to kill his enemies and it's a role he plays well, especially the more he gets caught up in his scheme especially as he frequently hams it up clearly knowing the standard of film being made,  hardly masking his evil genius as we are barely ten minutes into the film before he start dropping hints as he potters around his home laboratory while also finding time to letch over one of his pretty students Sandra (Gordon) who soon unwittingly become central to Dr. Deckers plans, especially when he is sending Konga off to kill her boyfriend.

The idea of Dr. Decker using his killer ape for murder through the power of hypnosis might be a slight disappointment for a film essentially sold as a giant ape on the rampage movie, though it does still provide a fair amount of unintentionally amusing moments such as Konga hiding in the bushes and generally looking like he should be wearing a trench coat and trilby hat, especially when he has such a shifty expression on his face. Still giant ape fans should fear not as the finale finally gives us our giant ape, as Konga gets a super-sized dose of serum causing him to grow to a monstrous size before heading off on a mini rampage while Dr. Decker also receives the Fay Wray treatment before they soon encounter possibly the most well prepared group of soldiers to ever be featured in a monster movie and all without the need of a giant map or lengthy discussion between Generals while they push small models around the map. So surprisingly prepared for the threat of a giant ape I half expected someone to pipe up with “This is what we prepared for boys!” especially considering how quickly they stop the giant ape threat and disappointingly before he has had chance to cause much carnage, but then seeng how the film is seemingly set in a quaint little village there is only so much damage he could really cause, while the film ultimately as a result misses a trick by not being set in London, which could have seen Konga climbing Big Ben or even Nelson’s Column swiping at Spitfire’s.

While the film moves at a quick place to set Dr. Decker and his schemes in motion, with everything pretty much in place by the first twenty minutes, it does however drag in other places, as we are forced to endure mind numbing conversations between minor characters such a Sandra’s boyfriend and his parents, which had me eager to see him taken out as quickly as possible, so I didn’t have to ensure anymore of his yammering. Meanwhile for a man so focused on revenge Dr. Decker’s targets are actually pretty minimal and more to do with personal snubs or threats on his research than any real form of planned revenge.

Ultimately the film never seems to know what it want to be as it skips from one B-movie genre to the next as Gough hams it up with his mad scientist antics, before it switches to being a killer ape movie, before finally giving us the long awaited giant ape on the rampage which the poster promises us. Still when you in the mood for a man in a hokey monkey costume this is one of the better ones and certainly more entertaining than my previous attempt at finding one of these film with the ho-hum “Bride of The Gorilla”. Still if you want to see us Brit's rip off someone else's monster movie personally I would stick with "Gorgo" or maybe just watch the originals.

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