Is This the End of the Konga Line?

Sorry but it was too good a gag not to use when I rolled up at London’s Russell Square Horse Hospital arts centre for the Cut‘s screening of the 1961 British giant gorilla movie Konga.

Producer Herman Cohen had by 1961 already established a reputation for cheapy horror movies like I Was a Teenage Werewolf and Horrors of the Black Museum. It won’t coma as any surprise that Konga concerns a giant ape, however thanks to what must have been a tiny budget similarities to King Kong are surprisingly few until the final reel where Konga goes apeshit and tramples through some model houses.

Michael Gough (the economy Peter Cushing) plays Dr Decker who discovers the secret of how to stimulate growth in animals with extracts of tropical carnivorous plants and experiments on Konga the baby chimp he has brought back from Uganda. Of course all this experimenting gets in the way of his teaching at Essex University, but Decker soon sorts that out by getting the by now gorilla sized Konga to murder anyone who gets in the way. Naturally it all goes horribly wrong when Margaret (Margo Johns), Deckers’ mistress catches him trying it on with student Sandra (Claire Gordon) and she gives Konga a walloping great dose of the growth serum with predictable consequences.

Somehow, despite having grown up in the 1960s and being mad for this kind of film I had never seen it before and it is a delightful mix of rubbish special effects (Konga is a bloke in a gorilla suit that isn’t even the same colour as the chimp who plays baby Konga, although it does allow for some spectacular eye rolling) and some of the campest dialogue I have ever heard, with which the cast battle valiantly. I think my favourite line was uttered by the Scotland Yard Inspector as Konga goes on the rampage.

“There’s a huge monster gorilla that’s constantly growing to outlandish proportions loose on the streets”

Thank heaven we had lots of National Service men ready to jump into the backs of trucks and take the menace of Konga down and let’s face it with all the aliens and other monsters that turned up post-war British cinema we’d have been sunk without a huge conscript army!

The Cut is a film club dedicated to previewing DVD releases of the weird. Curator Billy Chainsaw had arranged for 1960s teen idol Jess Conrad who played student Bob (Konga’s third murder victim and probably the only member of the cast still living) to introduce the movie. He did such a nice line in self deprecatory humour that he’s almost forgiven for This Pullover.

Konga is released on DVD on 13 May

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