Uncovering Curiosities: John Lemont’s KONGA
Your interest in Konga will depend on your interest in old B-movies. If you think that bad acting and terrible effects mean that a movie is simply appalling then I suggest that you give it a miss. However, if you revel in camp performances, implausible plots and men in monster suits running though model cityscapes, then director John Lemont’s Konga (1961) is the movie for you. You should know that it has very little (read: nothing) to do with King Kong.
Michael Gough (Alfred from the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher Batman films) is Dr Decker, a scientist who is presumed dead following a plane crash in the jungle. However, reports of his death were severely exaggerated and Decker soon returns to London with Konga, a tiny chimp who he met on his travels. Decker has discovered new research on the missing link between plants and humans (!) on his travels and he discovers a growth hormone that he tests on his simian friend. Soon Konga is growing and Decker begins using him to kill his enemies. That’s the plot in a (monkey) nutshell, but don’t worry – a Kong-sized Konga is soon walking the streets of London.
Konga ticks all the boxes in the mad scientist sub-genre and Gough plays the role to perfection, treating the material with almost Shakespearian importance. The rest of the cast aren’t so good, but you don’t go into a movie like Konga for the acting, you want a monster; the title character here starts off as a real chimpanzee but by the time the last act rolls around, he’s played a man in a not very convincing ape suit. The film does have some great model work and some fine production design – save for some bizarrely phallic plants in Decker’s greenhouse.
The more discerning viewer may find Konga ‘apesolutely’ terrible, but fans of old B-movies will go ape for it! I’m with the latter.