Konga (1961)



Notes: American International Pictures.
Professor Charles Decker: Michael Gough
Margaret: Margo Johns
Sandra Banks: Claire Gordon
Bob Kenton: Jess Conrad
Dean Foster: Austin Trevor
Superintendent Brown: Jack Watson
Professor Tagore: George Pastell
Bob’s Mum: Vanda Godsell
Inspector Lawson: Stanley Morgan
Miss Barnesdell: Grace Arnold

Directed: John Lemont
Executive Producer: Herman Cohen
Assistant Producer: Jim O’Connolly
Story and Screenplay: Aben Kandel and Herman Cohen
Music: Gerard Schurmann

Summary: Jungle footage is accompanied by the obligatory “oo oo oo oo ah ah ah ah” noise. Botanist Charles Decker has crashed in “explorative” mission in Uganda, but returns to London nearly a year later with a baby chimp “already christened” Konga and questioning the notion of “civilization” in light of the friendly natives and what he learned from animal growth “specimens” and insectivorous plants that could devour small birds.

His secretary / housekeeper / “good friend” Margaret listens to him rave about being back among his reference books with his “first link in modern evolution.” Decker rips out greenhouse flowers, dismissing them as merely “decorative” and “stupid” mulch. In the 90-degree heat, he wants to experiment with the human/vegetal link involving Ugandan plants. He has seen growth stimulated in stunted animals by the precocious witchdoctor and has brought obedience seeds to sprinkle in the mixture. When a cat slurps some spillage, he shoots it, noting the threat of a leopard running through the streets of London. Konga is to be the subject of the experimentation. Carnivorous plants indeed snap at meat, and Konga grows when injected.

Decker shows his class at the university native footage in which the witchdoctor Masaba slurps on a live cobra face. Sandra has attracted the professor’s attention and he invites her to increase her extracurricular devotion to her would-be scientific career. Dean Foster berates Decker over the wild press stories and insists, “So long as I’m dean of this college you’ll do as I say.” So Konga gets another injection turning him into a standard-sized rubber gorilla suit and a lecture about obedience. He will now crush skulls “at my bidding.”

The newspaper announcing the murder of the dean oddly has the side-headline, “Astonishing Fur Raids.” The coppers note animal hairs found on the dean’s broken neck and Margaret more than suspects. Decker treats the murder like an obedience test. Margaret strikes a deal: marriage for silence, so we know she’s doomed. He agrees but insists they keep the engagement secret and marry after the semester.

The dean’s secretary, Miss Barnesdell, is interrogated and recalls Decker’s appointment, but Decker claims that a scientific debate accounted for the raised voices. At a party, Decker discovers that an Indian scientist is pursuing the same course of experiments as he. When Decker visits the lab, he rants about the “godlike power of creation” being at stake and has Konga kill this guy too.

Decker takes his class on a moss and fern field trip and invites Sandra to ride with him, making her would-be boyfriend Bob pissy. When the trip is called on account of rain, Bob attacks Decker. He backs off but later, on his way to see Sandra, is killed by Konga.

Margaret is antsy about this murder, but Decker continues insisting on it too being an obedience experiment. He speculates on destroying Konga and them both moving to Africa to continue the scientific work.

When Sandra spends an evening, Margaret follows the two to the greenhouse and overhears Decker telling Sandra to get used to the heat. He promises her share in his glory and forces himself on her. Margaret goes to Konga, gives him another injection, and Konga grows gigantic, wrecking the lab and throwing Margaret into the fire. He grows larger than the building, busts into the ceiling of the greenhouse, and as a carnivorous plant devours Sandra’s arm, Konga grabs the professor.

Konga wanders the streets of London as people panic and firemen park a lot of vehicles. At Big Ben the heavy artillery comes out, and although most of it keeps missing the target, Konga chucks Decker down onto the pavement and shortly thereafter collapses himself, reverting to the chimp he once was, sprawling beside the professor’s corpse.

Commentary: How primate-ocentric to shoot the cat for the sake of saving up the glamor for Konga.

The film is rather a drag and predictable at every turn. It seems as if there may have been an inkling of an attempt to pontificate about notions of “civilization” and “bestiality,” but none of that ever goes anywhere. Some glee can be had at Gough’s performance of the sociopath professor, though.

The gorilla suit is pretty embarrassing, but the dead chimp on the pavement in the end is sad. Anyway, shouldn’t Konga be a female Kong?

Ape Films