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  Konga Help! Put Me Down!
Year: 1961
Director: John Lemont
Stars: Michael Gough, Margo Johns, Jess Conrad, Claire Gordon, Austin Trevor, Jack Watson, George Pastell, Vanda Godsell, Stanley Morgan, Grace Arnold, Leonard Sachs, Nicholas Bennett, Kim Tracy, Rupert Osborne, Waveney Lee, John Welsh, Steven Berkoff
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: For a year, Dr Charles Decker (Michael Gough) has been believed dead, missing after a plane crash in the Ugandan jungle. Then news hits Britain that he has been found alive, and is returning home; he offers an impromptu press conference at the airport where he informs the reporters he has been living with a tribe who not only sustained him but also introduced him to a particular strain of carnivorous plant, specimens of which he has brought with him. Oh, and a little friend, too, a chimp called Konga who has become his constant companion...

No, this isn't a musical cash-in movie in the way of Lambada: The Forbidden Dance featuring Gough living as scientist by day, conga performer by night, although that would be just as ludicrous as what we were given here. It was the British answer to the question nobody asked, what would King Kong be like if he rampaged through London? Don't expect the pathos of that classic here though, and certainly don't expect the groundbreaking special effects work, as this was strictly man in a gorilla suit business, although Konga does start out as an actual chimp before Dr Decker gets his syringe into the creature.

This was the brainchild of emigrant schlock producer Herman J. Cohen, co-writing the script to his specifications to ensure the end result was as sensationalist as possible, even if it meant indulging the nasty streak that he often introduced to his plots, a conscious attempt to put the wind up contemporary audiences. The sheer callous attitude to the characters is quite something to marvel at even today, but most likely your reaction would be more one of hilarity as the proceedings toppled over into outright camp early on and never recovered. As with his first Cohen movie, Horrors of the Black Museum, Gough was a villain to relish, and it was roles like these that secured his cult status well before his appearances as Alfred in Batman.

Here he is in his barking mad boffin persona, one which by exaggerating the arrogance of the personality he went blithely over the top with and never looked back. His Decker not only grows the man eating plants in his greenhouse - some of which look very suggestive, as it wouldn't be a Cohen movie without the sexual element hoving into view - but he grows his pet too, and we're supposed to take it as fact that once you beef up a chimp he transforms into a gorilla. Or a man pretending to be a gorilla, whose unconcerned saunter through his scenes is not only highly amusing but in direct contrast to the tone where Decker sends out his creation to kill off anyone standing in the path of his endeavours.

The theme here is the unsteady mask of civilisation, and how it can slip to reveal the primitive nature of even the most genteel circumstances behind it. This is embodied in Decker, outwardly a sophisticated man of learning, inwardly a seething cauldron of rage and misguided pioneering of destructive methods, and yes, he has a sexual side too. Not that his housekeeper Margaret (Margo Johns) is shown that, as he agrees to marry her to keep the woman quiet when she susses that he is up to no good - no, he reserves his lusts for one of his students, Sandra (Claire Gordon), who hangs on his every word, much to the displeasure of her would-be boyfriend Bob (erstwhile pop singer Jess Conrad). In every scene, the tension between the buttoned down world of English academia is challenged by primal urges until it all explodes into action with the sidesplitting finale where Konga is inevitably given too much serum and goes on the rampage, clutching a comically yelling Decker in one paw. No, this isn't a good film, but for sheer entertainment value it's worth many more respectable movies. Music by Gerard Schumann.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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