Tuesday, October 17, 2006

31 Days of Halloween - Day 17 Movie

Producer Herman Cohen gave us a lot of wonderful movies. He also gave us "Konga" (1961). Originally to be titled "I Was a Teenage Gorilla" to cash in on the success of "I Was a Teenage Werewolf," etc., "Konga" follows the formula of a controlling mad scientist working his influence on a troubled younger person (here a young chimp, as well as a busty student). The scientist in this case is Michael Gough, who makes this movie the enjoyable viewing experience it is. His performance is completely mesmerizing, and his character is completely rotten. Gough's crackpot theory is that there is an evolutionary connection between plants and people, and not only that but he can extract a serum from carnivorous plants that will make animals grow to tremendous size almost instantaneously. He enlarges his baby chimp, Konga, into an adult chimp, the a man in a gorilla suit, then at the climax, his spurned assistant extends this to a giant gorilla.

Gough has also hypnotized Konga to do his murderous bidding, but in the end, the tables are turned and giant Konga carries him away and tosses him at the British Military's poor marksmen, before he, himself is slain. In a cool change from the Kong like ending, Konga, much like the Wolf Man, changes back to his original chimp form at death.

This movie is actually a lot of fun, mostly for Gough's performance. The Konga suit is much better than Toho's Kong suit, but reminded me a bit of a black and brown version of the Abominable Snowman from "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" with Eugene Levy's Stan Schmenge character inside the suit. He certainly rolled his eyes back and forth a lot, I'm supposing to give the mask the illusion of life, though it wasn't immobile, and had some limited range of expression. The other special effects would not dazzle Willis O'Brien, or Eiji Tsuburaya, or even Bert I. Gordon for that matter. Giant sized Konga's scale changes from shot to shot, and the miniatures are pretty unconvincing, except for a scaled down version of Gough's lab, which was spoiled by the obvious doll standing in for Margo Johns.

Konga did not spawn a sequel, but did star in a comic book series that had a pretty good run and art by Steve Ditko.

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