Director: John Lemont
Writers: Aben Kandel and Herman Cohen
Cast: Michael Gough, Margo Johns, Jess Conrad, Claire Gordon, Austin Trevor, Jack Watson, George Pastell, Vanda Godsell, Stanley Morgan, Grace Arnold, Leonard Sachs, Nicholas Bennett, Kim Tracy, Rupert Osbourne, Waveney Lee, and John Welsh
Composer: Gerard Schurmann
Release Date: 3/22/1961
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Botanist Charles Decker (Michael Gough) returns to England one year after crash landing in Africa. Having discovered a means of growing plants and animals to extraordinary sizes, Decker and his lab assistant, Margaret (Margo Johns), experiment on Konga—a baby chimpanzee who, following his transformation, willfully aids Decker in eliminating his enemies. Complications arise when Decker develops a romantic interest in Sandra Banks (Claire Gordon), a high school student with an extremely jealous, hot-tempered boyfriend named Bob Kenton (Jess Conrad).
Konga is a goofy, uninspired effort by the writing team responsible for I Was a Teenage Werewolf. Exceptionally awful is the main plot, which combines (albeit poorly) the premise for King Kong with a mad scientist theme.
The crazed manner exhibited by Michael Gough (known for his portrayal of Alfred in Tim Burton’s Batman series) adds a frightening quality to the determination of Decker, who resorts to murder, blackmail, and a host of other ethical violations while working to achieve success within the scientific community.
Prior to the finale, Konga contains an inordinate amount of expository dialogue and tends to suffer from pacing issues as a result—a shortcoming of many British horror films. Viewers may therefore wish to avoid the first two-thirds of Konga, which does not feature a giant ape (arguably the only highlight of the entire movie) until its climactic sequence.
Also worth criticizing are the scientific inaccuracies that plague the story from start to finish. Perhaps most obvious of all, no attempt is made to rationalize how Konga—initially a chimpanzee—transforms into a gorilla-like creature after being injected with Decker’s growth serum. Though likely a consequence of budgetary constraints, the above discrepancy should nevertheless have been explained within the actual film.
Lastly, Konga fails to include a sympathetic lead character with whom the average person can relate. Margaret, for example, agrees to remain silent about the crimes of Decker—a cold-blooded murderer—when persuaded by her attraction toward him. Even Sandra, the ostensible female protagonist, is never developed to an extensive degree. For this reason, audiences may have a difficult time investing in Konga beyond a surface level.
Konga lacks a compelling social commentary to redeem itself from the stale, campy, and thoroughly nonsensical subject matter within its narrative. The original versions of King Kong and Mighty Joe Young, on the other hand, provide harrowing statements on the human tendency to invade, exploit, and tamper with nature when motivated by selfish gain, thereby complementing the giant monster trope with thought-provoking implications.
A second-rate imitation of King Kong, Konga is marred by abysmal production values and science fiction concepts of a dubious variety. Fans of B-grade cinema may, however, wish to view this film for its unintentionally amusing aspects.
Overall Quality: 3/10
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