Release Date(s)1961 (December 3, 2019)
Studio(s)Anglo Amalgamated/American International Pictures (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: D
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: D
One of the numerous “monster on the loose” movies from the 1950s and 1960s, Konga, a King Kong wannabe, incorporates many of the tropes of low-budget thrill cinema. There’s a mad professor, a loyal assistant drawn into his maniacal schemes in the name of science, an animal that grows to unnatural size, a beautiful science-minded co-ed fascinated by the professor’s brilliance, murder, and—thrown in for no reason whatsoever—a jealous boyfriend.
Dr. Charles Decker (Michael Gough) has been in Africa for over a year, conducting research. He returns to London to resume his college professorship with a chimp, Konga, as his companion and eventual lab animal. His experiments have come to the attention of the Dean (Austin Trevor), who’s concerned that the oddball claims Decker has made in an interview are giving the college a bad name.
Margaret (Margo Johns), who has looked after Decker’s home, lab, and greenhouse filled with exotic plants while he was off in Africa, is the long-suffering, dutiful assistant who longs to be Mrs. Decker. Oblivious to this, Decker is instead attracted to his shapely student Sandra Banks (Claire Gordon), who is especially intrigued with the professor’s theories.
Konga is the kind of movie that’s so bad, it’s entertaining. Director John Lemont duplicates key scenes from King Kong without injecting any cleverness. The mostly British cast does its best with weak dialogue and ridiculous situations. Gough is a pretty effective mad scientist with an urbane, imperious manner that makes his lunatic experiments and theories seem marginally plausible. Arrogant, short of patience with those he regards as intellectually inferior, he is the classic narcissist with no compunction about doing away with those who cross him. His self-serving excuse for using Konga to commit murders—“I had to test his obedience.”
The film is a disaster as far as special effects—or lack of them—are concerned. The transformation of Konga from baby chimp to larger chimp is done with sloppy, wavy dissolves. The larger Konga is terrible, going the route of the Godzilla series by putting a man in an ape suit. Expressionless and ratty, the suit is dreadful. In the climactic scene, when Konga grows to King Kong height, he merely walks through the city surprisingly docile, staring stupidly as people scurry out of his way. When he’s cornered near Big Ben, it takes a crazy amount of gunfire to bring him down. He doesn’t even try to dodge the bullets or fight back, since that would present logistical and budgetary problems.
The Blu-ray release of Konga, with a new 2K scan and 1080p High Definition resolution, is presented in the widescreen aspect ratio of 1.66:1. The weird carnivorous plants in Dr. Decker’s greenhouse offer rich greens, reds, and purples with pulsating parts suggesting that they’re constantly hungry. Night scenes featuring the giant Konga are purposely dark to diminish the dreadful ape costume and the expressionless face. In a nod to King Kong and Fay Wray, Konga holds Dr. Decker in his hand (a doll in long shots, with Gough seen clearly only in close-ups in a giant fur hand against a process screen). A fire sequence nicely matches full-scale buildings with miniatures. Otherwise, effects in general are weak even by the standards of their time.
The soundtrack is English mono DTS-HD. Dialogue is distinct throughout, with the largely British cast enunciating their lines precisely. Surprisingly, for a supposed action film, there isn’t a lot of it. Music is used to enhance excitement, but is generic rather than distinctive. A few screams sound phony and, matched with unconvincing facial expressions, induce more laughs than terror.
Bonus features on the Unrated Blu-ray release include an image gallery, a radio spot, and a set of theatrical trailers.
Promotional and Stills Gallery – 10 black-and-white stills, 8 color stills, 8 lobby cards, and 4 posters and DVD design reproductions are included.
Radio Spot – A Konga radio spot amps up excitement to make the film sound thrill-packed. “Not since King Kong has the screen exploded with such mighty fury and spectacle!”
Theatrical Trailers – 4 trailers featuring giant monsters, huge lizards, and dinosaurs are included: Konga, A*P*E, Dinosaurus!, and The Land Unknown.
– Dennis Seuling