Tuesday, 14 May 2013

DVD review: KONGA (1961)

konga michael gough giant ape
Returning from Uganda, a year after he was considered dead when his plane crashed, Dr Charles Decker (Michael Gough) brings with him a small chimpanzee, Konga (with no trouble with customs nor quarantine) which he is to start his experiments. He uses a serum he found in the jungle which mutates plant life into being carnivorous giant plants. He injects Konga who instantly begins to grow, and when the good Doctor begins to be looked down upon at this college for his experiments, he uses the now gigantic Konga to exact his evil doing.
konga michael gough giant apekonga michael gough giant ape

Micheal Gough was one of those actors who could make even the most ridiculous dialogue (such as the nonsense he has to spout here) sound earnest, and as such what could be a complete piece of tripe is transformed into a camp classic. It doesn't matter (or maybe it's because) the gorilla costume is shoddy, nor that the optical effects have a matte line an inch thick, the mutated plants are merely inflatables the quaintness of the affair makes for an enjoyable experience.
konga michael gough giant apekonga michael gough giant ape
For the younger viewers, raised on modern effects in the likes of Peter Jackson's King Kong, will no doubt have little time for the japes on display here, and even fans of the original Kong and the work of the late Ray Harryhausen, will balk at the ineptitude of the effects, especially when you consider the work done in Japan on the Godzilla films at the time, using a similar man-in-a-costume style.
konga michael gough giant apekonga michael gough giant ape
The rest of the cast are just about serviceable, with Jess Conrad as the possessive student Bob being the best of the bunch. Conrad became a heart-throb as a singer, but also appeared in Peter Walker's slasher The Flesh and Blood Show, and the brilliant Cool It Carol (both 1972) and a brief self-mocking appearance at the end of The Great Rock n' Roll Swindle (1979). Margo Johns plays long suffering scorned housekeeper and Claire Gordon the object of both Bob and the Doctor's affections. Gough, a respected and fabulous actor, made a niche for himself in these low budget, campy films (the nadir being Horror Hospital) where he effortlessly reads through the parts, staying the right side of over the top, but is completely compelling nonetheless.
konga michael gough giant apekonga michael gough giant ape 
By the time Konga has grown to uncontrollable proportions, along with even dodgier effects the film has given up trying to be credible. The police chief's line "There's a huge monster gorilla that's constantly growing to outlandish proportions loose in the streets", said with a straight face says it all..
The new DVD release from Network is the latest in their line of British films, and looks better than I remember seeing it on TV (back in the days when they used to show films like this on prime time BBC2) and is a welcome addition to any cult sci-fi/horror or kitsch fan's collection.
7 out of 10

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