Movie: Konga (1961)

Synchronicity is a Jungian concept I won’t pretend to comprehend but, in my uneducated take on it, it is our innate ability to detect patterns in coincidence and occasionally bestow great significance upon those.  I experienced that sensation recently when I saw two movies two days apart that had the same batshit idea at their core: plants crossed with animals.

The first movie was 1970’s The Mutations, a horror film centered around a freak show at a travelling circus, and then I saw 1961’s Konga, which is ostensibly a rip-off of King Kong.  Two movies that should have little to nothing to do with each other, but which both concern (as the latter movie puts it) “the missing link between animals and plants.”  Um…the what now?

Michael Gough is an actor with quite a pedigree, yet here he is as the token mad scientist.  When we first see him, he has returned to civilization after a year in the jungle.  He brings home a baby chimpanzee and tell his female assistant it is somehow that link between plants and animals.  So does that mean this chimp is plant-based?  Wait, is this where Impossible plant-based meat comes from?!

For whatever reason, Gough empties his greenhouse and begins growing huge carnivorous plants instead.  The monstrous plants are a deliriously bad effect.  They all look like black inflatables of some kind: some are pitcher plants, others are like venus flytraps, yet others look like six-foot-table penises with giant floppy tongues hanging under the tip.  There’s one scene where the last of those is behind Gough and, every time they showed him, I laughed harder than I have at any moment in some comedies I enjoyed.

Taking extracts from these plants, Gough starts giving injections to the chimp.  Through a series of wavy cross-dissolves, it immediately gets bigger.  His assistant turns Konga, the monkey, into a butler for the reason of…science?  With the second injection, he doesn’t just get bigger—he changes species and becomes a gorilla.

This is one smart gorilla.  It somehow has a complete understanding of English, as Gough is able to hypnotize him into doing his bidding.  First, he has Konga kill the dean of the university where he teaches.  The dean had been threatening to fire him, saying he would strongly recommend this measure to the board…discretely.  I’m not sure how you do something strongly and discretely, so I wish I could have seen him talking to the board.

Murders must be like Lay’s potato chips, because nobody can seem to stop at just one.  Gough’s assistant is in love with him yet, even given that, she seems remarkably tolerant of his new hobby.  The most effort she puts into trying to stop him is to deliver this insane bit of dialogue: “What are you having with your poached egg?  Murder?”.  You don’t know how many times I have ordered breakfast from McDonalds and wished they would ask me that.

That assistant delivers Konga’s last injection, which makes him as tall as their mansion, destroying it in the process.  At the time, Gough is in the adjacent greenhouse, forcing himself upon a female student.  You know you’re committed to your attempted sexual assault when you are completely oblivious to your mansion being destroyed.

Finally, we are at the point in the movie where the giant ape should be stomping London.  Instead, he mostly walks in front of stills of nighttime London streets while holding an unconvincing doll which is supposed to be Gough.

Konga’s demise will arrive courtesy of a very small battalion of armed soldiers.  He just looks annoyed at the streams of tracer bullets that seem to be about as much of a nuisance as a cloud of mosquitos.  Not that he bothers to walk away or anything.  He just stands there until he suddenly succumbs.  It’s like this is a boss level and his health meter just dropped to zero.  Twas bullets that killed this beast.

Konga is a deeply stupid picture and somehow cheaper looking than even most of American International’s other releases from the time.  Still, it makes for a great time, if you can laugh at this kind of thing.  All I ask is that fate not deal me anymore more films about plant/animal hybrids for a while.

Dir: John Lemont

Starring Michael Gough, Margo Johns, Jess Conrad

Watched on Kino Lorber blu-ray