1910s & 20s * 30s * 40s * Pre-50s * Frankenstein * Atomic Angst * 1950 * 1951 * 1952 * 1953 * 1954 * 1955 * 1956 * 1957 * 1958 * 1959 *
1960 * 1961 * 1962 * 1963 * 1964 * 1965 * 1966 * 1967 * 1968 * 1969 * 1970 * 1971 * 1972 * 1973 * 1974 * 1975 * 1976 * 1977 * 1978 * 1979

Friday, November 6, 2009


Producer-writer Herman Cohen blatantly tried to milk some of the cache of the classic King Kong. His story had little in common with the classic, beyond featuring a giant gorilla at the end. Konga combines the favorite old trope of a mysterious jungle drug with a frankenstein-esque zeal for tampering with nature and the usual mayhem of a giant (whatever) loose on city streets. Toss in a bit of love triangle and a woman scorned and you've got it.

Quick Plot Synopsis
Professor Decker is presumed lost in a jungle plane crash, but surfaces a year later. He reports discovering some amazing carnivorous plants and a way to merge plant and animal DNA. He grows some of the plants, and extracts the juice. This he injects in a young chimp named Konga, who becomes a full grown chimp. Decker resumes teaching, but college Dean wants to retire him for his outlandish claims. Decker injects Konga again, this time turning him into a gorilla. Decker hypnotizes Konga to go kill the Dean. He does. Margaret, Decker's assistant extracts a promise of marriage for her silence. The professor, however, has a wayward eye for a blonde student named Sandra who wears pointy bras. At a dinner party, Decker meets a rival scientist who claims to have discovered what Decker has. Decker hypnotizes Konga again and the rival dies. Sandra's boyfriend Bob is upset over the professor's lechery. Konga is again sent, and Bob dies. Decker invites Sandra over to "console her." His real intent is to profess his love for her and desire for her to be his assistant. Margaret overhears and sees the groping. Enraged, she injects Konga with even more plant serum. He grows larger than the house. He kills Margaret. Sandra is taken by a carnivorous plant. Konga grabs Decker and walks downtown. Konga ables about, frightening a large crowd. The police and army arrive. They all fire at Konga, now half a s tall as Big Ben. Upset at the firing, Konga flings Decker to the street, dead. The bullets finally kill Konga, who shrinks back into a baby chimp laying beside dead Decker. The End.

Why is this movie fun?
This mixing of some tried-and-true tropes gives Konga a familiar feel. Gough's acting animated to the point of over-the-top, but he's certainly not dull.

Cold War Angle
Much like the original Kong, Konga has no real Cold War messages. Instead, the moral is the older cautionary tale about the dangers of science.

Kong's Coat Tails -- Writer / Producer Herman Cohen was unashamed about trying to cash in on the popularity of the classic. The posters were blatant. "Not since King Kong..." This was not simply promotional hype. Cohen named the chimp Konga and has Decker tell Margaret that (with the treatments) Konga will the first in a long line of kings.

...Like a Cheap Suit -- The one huge problem that Konga has, is that the gorilla was not stop-motion animation, as was King Kong. The posters hint at animation by stating that "SectraMation" was used. Instead, Konga is portrayed by a man in a conventional gorilla suit. Many viewers cannot get past this. Perhaps the gorilla suit was a budget necessity, but it manages to overshadow just about anything else Cohen had right. Like the original Kong, viewers could almost feel sorry for little Konga, but it is hard to feel sorry for a guy in a gorilla suit.

Evil Scientist -- Michael Gough plays a professor Decker who is a fairly two dimensional villain. He has almost no redeeming qualities. Instead, we are given a very dark view of research scientists. He is arrogant, rude, a glory hog and lecherous and more than willing to kill to get his way. His key role is embodying the traditional scientist hubris of thinking he can tamper with and control nature. As per the customary end, he dies at the hands of his own creation.

Psuedo-Evolution -- Some viewers scoff at the growth serum turning Konga the chimp into a gorilla: a different species. If you listen to Decker's techno-blather, however, you hear him claim to be able to "speed up evolution." An earlier populist notion was that chimps evolved into gorillas and then gorillas evolved into men. (hence the popular "ape man" character as the missing link in that theory).

Bottom line? Konga is not that bad as a story. The pace keeps moving, even if in predictable ways. The man-in-gorilla-suit is a sticking point for many viewers. If you don't let that derail you, the movie is entertaining enough.

1 comment:

Blaze said...

Sadly, I must join the anti-gorilla suit contingent. A good gorilla suit is fine, but this one obviously came from a "Be the Life of the Masquerade Party" shop.

I think some folks have a distorted view of chimps. Any chimp seen on movies or TV is a baby or youth. Once a chimpanzee reaches maturity, they become uncontrollable brutes. I was greatly surprised the first photos I saw of adult chimps. They have a startling likeness to a miniature gorilla!