Konga (1961) starring Michael Gough, Margo Johns
Konga begins with Dr. Charles Decker (Michael Gough) seemingly perishing in a fiery plane crash in Uganda. A year later, he unexpectedly turns up alive, having escaped from the wreck and living with native villagers, who eventually help him return to western civilization, bringing with him a chimpanzee that led him to the village — named Konga.
Shortly after, he is making his first extract from the plants, when Margaret’s kitty walks into the room, and starts to lick up the solution — and so the doctor shoots it with a pistol, not wanting a tiger-sized cat walking around the neighborhood.
Soon, the carnivorous plants are grown, and they’re feeding them some raw meat — and harvesting the leaves that are ready. Shortly afterward, the doctor injects Konga with a dose of the growth serum — his first dose. And Konga grows (with some rather cheesy special effects).
The doctor resumes lecturing, showing footage of the natives that he lived with, and afterward, he spends time with a pretty young lady that he wants to be his … personal assistant. The eager young student Sandra (Claire Gordon) thinks that he plans only to tutor her. Soon, the doctor is having a not-quite-reprimand from the dean of the university (Austin Trevor), resulting from his interview with reporters on his return, about a close connection between plant and human evolution. The doctor’s sense of superiority doesn’t take well to this, and he leaves angrily.
Gorilla my dreams
A well-trained Konga brings a tray of tea down the stairs to Margaret, with the perturbed doctor snapping at her. Margaret tries to be soothing, but the doctor won’t hear of it. And he’s determined to prove his theories to the Dean, and prepares to give Konga his next injection. After another cheesy special effect, Kong is now a full-sized gorilla — clearly a man in a gorilla suit, who frankly doesn’t know how to imitate a gorilla. The doctor uses a penlight to condition, and control, Konga. And he plans to use Konga to commit murder. “Tonight I’m taking Konga on his first test of obedience.”
Margaret soon confronts the doctor, accusing him of murder. “We killed Dean Foster. What are you going to do about it?” Margaret is so love-sick, that even with this knowledge, she can’t turn on him. The doctor goes on to justify the murder, equivocating the death of the Dean to the death of guinea pigs in scientific labs … since he wanted to test the ability of the serum to control the injected subject. What does Margaret want in exchange for her silence? Marriage. And the doctor agrees … at the end of the semester. And until then, she has to continue the pretense …
The following morning, after a pleasant breakfast with Margaret, Dr. Decker takes his class on a field trip, with all of the students crammed into the back of the van. Except for Sandra, who sits up from with him, which Sandra’s boyfriend, Bob (Jess Conrad), doesn’t appreciate. In the front, the doctor attempts to let Sandra know he thinks of here as “more than a student,” which she doesn’t outwardly react to. After they arrive, the doctor lectures on ferns, as Bob looks suspiciously at Sandra. He is getting quite jealous, and asks Dr. Decker to leave Sandra alone. This leads to a private fight between them — and clearly, Bob is now on the doctor’s list of murder subjects.
Later, Bob has dinner with his family, only to leave for his date with Sandra. As he’s preparing to leave on his motor scooter, Konga attacks, leaving the young man dead as his family rushes out. Konga runs off, and runs to the safety of the doctor’s van, eluding policemen. Scotland Yard investigates this latest murder, where they’re connecting the three murders connected to the university. At breakfast, Margaret confronts the doctor with his latest murder.
Margaret: [to Dr. Decker over breakfast] What are you having with your poached egg? Murder?
Despite the murders, Margaret still loves the doctor too much, and won’t leave him, or tell the police. Having been convinced of his personal danger — when the police finally catch him — Dr. Decker decides to destroy Konga. Then he and Margaret can go back to Uganda and continue his experiments. In fact, he plans to go to Bob’s funeral … and “console” Sandra.
Hell hath no fury …
In all, Konga wasn’t a bad movie at all. Ignoring the bad special effects, it was interesting to watch the amoral Dr. Decker — he was frankly reminiscent of Peter Cushing’s portrayal of Baron Frankenstein. And I felt sorry for poor Margaret, even after she became a love-blinded accessory to murder. The ending of the movie, however, was such a blatant rip-off of King Kong, with worse effects, that’s it’s only enjoyable to mock it as you’re watching.
Editorial review of Konga courtesy of Amazon.com
Lost in the African jungles for over a year, Dr. Charles Decker (Michael Gough, Horror Hospital) has returned to England with Konga, a baby chimpanzee. Disappearing into his lab, the mad botanist begins work on what he believes will be his greatest achievement. Having witnessed a Baganda witchdoctor’s use of a rare carnivorous plant to produce accelerated animal growth, Decker injects Konga with the same serum. Using the gorilla-sized chimp to brutally murder his enemies, Decker himself soon becomes victim to Konga’s uncontrollable rage. Grabbing the scientist, the berserk chimp — who’s grown to monstrous size — breaks out of the lab and rampages through London, a city whose salvation rests with the military, who’s been ordered to destroy Konga at all costs.