Blu-ray Review: Konga | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, September 19th, 2020  


Studio: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

Jan 17, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

After his plane down in a fiery crash over the remotest jungles of Africa, famed botanist Dr. Charles Decker (Michael Gough) miraculously survives, spending a year amongst the natives studying their unique fauna and picking up tips from the tribe’s “witch doctors.” He returns home a year later to the surprise of his colleagues at an English university, who had given him up for dead, and his faithful assistant who kept up his experiments even after she hadn’t heard from him. In the doctor’s tow is an adorable chimpanzee named Konga, for whom he has grand—and sinister—plans.

During his extended absence, the doctor stumbled on a variety of previously-undiscovered, carnivorous plants which grow at unbelievably fast pace. Using a serum derived from their leaves, Dr. Decker plans to transfer their growth rates to mammals—starting with his new pet chimp, Konga. Two doses blow up the primate to the size of a gorilla. The doctor, who also dabbles in hypnosis, mind-controls the mega-chimp to do his bidding: namely, to go out and murder his academic, scientific, and romantic rivals!

A joint American-British feature released in 1961 by the ever-reliable b-movie factory AIP, Konga is your fairly standard, low budget creature feature, but there’s plenty here to keep cheesy cinema fans entertained. First and foremost is the titular chimp himself, which for most of the movie’s runtime is played by an average-sized man in a gorilla suit. (Apparently, the serum not only increases a creature’s size, but changes its species.) Much of Konga’s screen time is spent strangling his various victims and knocking papers and test tubes off their desks—it’s all rather silly how underwhelming it is, given the King Kong-sized chaos portrayed in the movie’s advertisements. The movie finally gives us the giant-sized, rampaging gorilla it promised in its promotional artwork for the film’s finale, in which our giant gorilla wrecks a couple miniaturized London sets before the British army catches up with him at Big Ben. It’s there where poor Konga bloodlessly absorbs a comical amount of bullets—combine Sonny Corleone in The Godfather with Peter Murphy in RoboCop, then multiply that times ten—before falling to the ground and shrinking back to chimp-size.

There’s arguably better comedy supplied by the movie’s central mad scientist, Dr. Decker. An obsessive mind cut from the same cloth as Re-Animator’s Herbert West, Decker will stop at nothing to achieve his goals, whether that be the advancement of science or some forced snoogling with a much younger, comely student who is just not into him in that way. After his first act of murder-by-hypnotized-gorilla, his assistant hilariously promises her silence in exchange for his hand in marriage. Equally hilarious is how the daft police hardly cast any suspicion on the famous doctor and his well-known pet chimpanzee, even when in rapid succession several of his close associates turn up strangled and covered in chimp hairs.

Although the movie drags its feet between its myriad moments of monkey mayhem, at least it always looks very pretty; Kino Lorber’s 2K transfer really does a nice job with the film’s colors, which include many deep greens and reds that could almost pass for TechniColor. Bonus features include a radio spot, theatrical trailer, and a gallery of promotional pieces. In a genre that’s not exactly brimming with convincing spectacles, Konga is goofy fun for anyone who enjoys cheesy monster movies.  



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