Review of “Konga” (1961)

trailer from YouTube

This is our latest Saturday night pizza and bad movie offering, a King Kong exploitation flick. Kong isn’t the only thing it exploits. A mad-scientist serious/silliness imbues the film, making it hard not to smile at inappropriate times.


A single-engine plane crashes somewhere in Uganda. It’s feared both the pilot and the eminent biologist, Dr. Charles Decker (Michael Gough), are lost. Nevertheless, Decker returns, hale and hearty, to Great Britain a year later with a baby chimpanzee named Konga. He tells the press he bailed out of the plane just before the crash and was cared for by “friendly local natives.”

Back at his home greenhouse, he pitches all the flowers and plants his assistant, Margaret (Margo Johns), carefully tended in his absence. When she complains, he tells her there’s no room for sentiment in science. He’s brought some carnivorous plants from Africa that a witch doctor told him about. These plants grow quickly. The same witch doctor said he could control his patients with seeds from another plant.

“His word was law,” he tells Margaret.

While he’s preparing an extract from the leaves of the carnivorous plants, the pot boils over. The cat wanders in (ya left the door open, dude) and licks the stuff off the ground. Decker immediately pulls out a pistol and shoots the cat. He can’t have a housecat grow to the size of leopard.

I don’t care what else happens in the movie. Decker has to die a horrible death, preferably involving claws.

He and Margaret inject the baby chimp with the serum from the plant extract. The screen goes wavy, and the baby chimp becomes an adult chimp.

Decker goes back to teaching, making eyes at one shapely student, Sandra Banks (Claire Gordon). He needs a teaching assistant. Sandra blows off fellow student Bob’s (Jess Conrad) offer of coffee to spend more time helping Dr. Decker. ICK.

Dean Foster (Austin Trevor) asks Decker to stop by his office. He wishes to express concerns about certain things Decker said to the press. The two argue. The dean just doesn’t understand Decker’s genius.

Konga receives another injection. When the screen stops wavering, he’s the size of a tall human. He’s also no longer a chimpanzee, but a gorilla. Go figure.

Later that night, while Dean Foster is working at his desk, a talk, dark hairy figure looms outside his window…


Early in the film, both Margaret and Dean Foster tell Decker he’s spent too much time in the wilds of Africa. He needs a break. Margaret sees the results of his “experiments,” that the chimp grows radically in size and obeys Decker. She understands he’s wound a little too tightly.

Later, when she realizes Decker is using Konga to commit murder, she is appalled—to a point. He convinces her she’s an accessory, but she has her own plans.

One morning as Decker reads his paper, Margaret protests. His response is worth noting:

“If there’s one thing I can’t abide it’s hysteria, especially in the morning.”

The cool, dispassionate scientist resorts to cold-blooded murder at the smallest slight or threat. Was he that touchy before he went to Africa?

Toward the end, there are de rigueur scenes of people fleeing through a cityscape. It’s not Tokyo this time, but London. Of course things end up by Big Ben. I so wanted Konga to climb it.

During a class, Decker shows a film he claims he shot during his stay in Africa. He was lucky enough to bail out with his camera equipment. To my evil mind, that almost sounded pre-planned, but another story for another day.

The film, according the IMDB, is stock footage from Papua New Guinea and surrounding islands, a fair distance from Uganda. But who cares? They’re all black guys in grass skirts, ya know? I confess, there was one instance where I looked away. Decker narrated something about “pet snakes” One guy seemed to be licking the head of a snake. I don’t know what he did. I shut my eyes.

So much was weird and absurd to the point of almost comical that I found myself laughing in astonishment. I doubt it was intended as a comedy. It took itself so seriously that it made itself look silly at times. I rather liked this flick. I can see where others might not see it that way, however.

Try as I might, I could not find the available for download.

Title: Konga (1961)

Directed by
John Lemont

Writing Credits

Aben Kandel…(original story) and
Herman Cohen…(original story)
Aben Kandel…(screenplay) and
Herman Cohen…(screenplay)

Cast (in credits order)
Michael Gough…Dr. Charles Decker
Margo Johns…Margaret
Jess Conrad…Bob Kenton
Claire Gordon…Sandra Banks
Austin Trevor…Dean Foster

Released: 1961
Length: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Not Rated

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

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