In Review: Konga (1961) on DVD

by Katherine McLaughlin on 05/06/2013


Unashamedly marketed as the ‘British King Kong’ and co-written and produced by Herman Cohen, who updated its themes to include not only man’s unquenchable thirst for power over nature but also over women, Konga was one of the very first gigantic monster movies filmed in colour (in SpectaMation and shot in London, including location shooting in Croydon).

American International Pictures, an outfit Cohen had strong ties with, and produced many films for, distributed this bonkers British B-movie in the USA. Fast forward fifty-two years and Network Distributing has re-released Konga on DVD as part of their British Film Collection. Not only is it a fun addition to the archive it’s a rather marvellous reflection of prevalent attitudes of that era.

Michael Gough is Dr. Charles Decker, a professor of botany, who being believed dead for a year after a plane crash in the jungle, makes a surprise return to the UK with a chimp named Konga in tow. His year spent in Buganda has led him to discover a serum that speeds up the growth process in organisms. Decker uses Konga as a test subject and hypnotises the animal to do his bidding with disastrous consequences. His long-suffering assistant and housekeeper, Margaret (Margo Johns), has been continuing his work and becomes an unwilling conspirator in a campaign for world domination.

Decker’s greenhouse shows off wonderful mechanical special effects with giant swaying phallic-looking plants and Venus flytraps dominating the scenery and chomping on meat. Giant Konga is a man in a suit whose path of destruction through cardboard buildings is aided by the use of miniatures, camera tricks and clumsy sleight of hand. It’s all part of Konga’s charm.

Gough is perfect as the power-crazed doctor who sleazes over his poor female student Sandra, has his wicked way with Margaret and kills anyone who hinders his plan. Gough delivers Decker’s brutish behaviour with a twitching eye and a grand maniacal presence that elevates this from bog standard B to brilliantly barmy.

Bonus material includes an original theatrical trailer, image gallery and press material PDFs

Katherine has awarded the mighty Konga four Torches of Truth


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