Forgotten Films: Konga (1961)
This is the 80th in my series of Forgotten Obscure or Neglected Films
It has been a while since we had a giant ape film and I think we should do this one. I have a fond spot for this one. I was still in Alaska when I saw it, though I would be gone a year later and moved into Texas. I already loved the apes and this was the first of the giant ape films I saw as it would be several years before I ran into the King of Kings and the Kong of Kongs.
British botanist Dr. Decker (Michael Gough, later a Tony Award winner in 1979 and a cult star as Alfred in the two Tim Burton Batman films) is lost in a plane crash in Africa while searching for specimens. A year later, he was rescued and returned to England with a small chimpanzee named Konga and some rare flower clippings. He immediately attracts notoriety by telling the press that he believes he has found some ways to advance human evolution through botanical methods. This does not set well with the dean of his college (Austin Trevor, who will learn that it is not nice to argue with Dr. Decker). Decker has a research facility at his home which has been watched over while he was gone by Margaret (Margo Johns) who has a stronger relationship with him than just professor and assistant.
Decker immediately starts ripping up the plants in his greenhouse and replacing them with insectivorous plants, such as a pitcher plant and Venus flytrap which feed off insects. Decker has obtained drugs and cuttings from a witch doctor which he believes will allow him to control anyone and create advanced cellular growth. To that end, he experiments on the small chimpanzee, making him grow larger and (somehow) morph into a gorilla. Now that’s a scientific achievement!
Meanwhile, the dean wants Decker gone so he sends Konga on a mission to kill the dean. He hypnotizes the ape and directs him to smash, grab and kill which Konga deals with ease. Margaret knows of the disagreement with the dean and blackmails Decker into agreeing to marry her as soon as things settle down. Soon other murders follow – a fellow scientist on a similar track and a college student who is the boyfriend of a young co-ed (Claire Gordon) that the mad doctor has his eyes on. Wandering eyes will get you killed, doc.
The police suspect Dr. Decker but have no real proof. He might have gotten away with it, were it not for the co-ed. Decker wants to ditch Margaret for the younger, prettier girl and manages to get caught at it. Margaret gives Konga a giant dose of grow juice and does the hypnotism thing and Konga, growing like a weed, goes after the doctor.
The police tend to notice giant gorillas who can read the face of Big Ben without looking up and who are carrying screaming murder suspects in their grip. The army is called out and the monkey dies. A sad ending indeed.
What can I say? I am a sucker for this type of film. The actors were all pretty veteran stars. Michael Gough acted from 1946 to 2010 so he was in the prime of his career. Margo Johns had a healthy career, as did Claire Gordon.
The film is reasonably inexpensive from the regular sources. Now, the Steve Ditko comic book for the movie is not quite as inexpensive and there were several follow-up issues, another scientific wonder since the lead character was dead. I saw one copy over on eBay for nearly $70. Later issues were a lot less. Your mileage may vary.
Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.