Konga (1961)

Konga
Directed by John Lamont
Written by Kaben Kandel and Herman Cohen
1960/UK/USA
Merton Park Studios
First viewing/Netflix rental

 

Dr. Charles Decker: Margaret, I can’t stand hysterics. Especially in the morning.

Every person’s comfort viewing is different.  Mine is apparently bad movies featuring men in ape suits.

The movie begins with an airplane exploding in a ball of flames as it hits an African jungle. The accident appears unsurvivable but one year later the passenger, botanist Dr. Charles Dekker (Michael Gough), makes his way back to London.  His year in the Heart of Darkness and study of carnivorous plants has given him the key to the link between plants and humans.  He also has Konga, a cute baby chimp, in tow.

Dekker begins growing specimens in his greenhouse with the assistance of his faithful housekeeper and frustrated girlfriend Margaret.  He is quickly able to distill the serum and test his theory on Konga, who grows up to be a man in a gorilla suit.  He hypnotizes Konga and then “tests his obedience” by sending the ape out to kill his enemies.  Margaret is rapidly wise to the doctor’s scheme but keeps quiet in exchange for a proposal of marriage.  But Dekker is mad in every sense of the word and soon is making a fool of himself over blonde co-ed Sandra.

This movie is thoroughly bad but has plenty of goofy charm.  It is kind of a bargain basement combination of Frankenstein, King Kong, and The Murders on the Rue Morgue. The cross-eyed ape is irresistibly silly.  The special effect miniatures are endearingly terrible. And Gough’s overacting is the icing on the cake.  Only for fans of this kind of thing.

I also enjoyed all the stock footage of Papua New Guinea tribes, here standing in for exotic Africans!

Trailer

1961

Screen great Gary Cooper died at the age of 60 of cancer. George C. Scott  became the first actor to decline an Oscar nomination, for his performance in The Hustler. Nevertheless, his name remained on the ballot, though he lost to George Chakiris. TWA exhibited the first in-flight feature film on a regularly-scheduled commercial airline. It was John Sturges’ By Love Possessed.

Director William Wyler’s controversial The Children’s Hour with its muted theme of alleged lesbian homosexuality, was released and given a seal of approval by the Production Code – now amended to allow homosexuality as a screen subject. Joseph Losey’s Victim was the first important British film with a non-judgmental homosexual theme and the first English-language film to use the word “homosexual.”  As it pushed the boundaries of permissiveness, it was denied a ‘seal of approval’ from the MPAA for its US release in 1962.

A search commenced for the first James Bond actor.  Cary Grant, James Mason, Patrick McGoohan, and David Niven, were considered for the role, ultimately given to 30 year-old Sean Connery.

John F. Kennedy was sworn in as President of the United States on January 20.  He established the Peace Corps in March.  The Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba was launched by Cuban exiles and the CIA and failed in April.  Alan Shephard became the first American in space on May 5 and Kennedy announced his goal to put a man on the Moon before the end of the decade May 25. He sent 18,000 military advisors to South Vietnam in November.

U.S. Freedom Riders began interstate bus rides to test the new U.S. Supreme Court integration decision.  The rides sparked angry protests and violence across the South and riders were arrested on disembarking their bus in Mississippi for “disturbing the peace”.

Harper Lee won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature for her only novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Tad Mosel won for drama for his play All the Way Home.  “Tossin’ and Turnin'” by Bobby Lewis was Billboard’s #1 Hit Single of the year, spending seven weeks atop the charts. John F. Kennedy was Time Magazine’s Man of the Year.

Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space on April 12.

In July, U.S. President John F. Kennedy gave a widely watched TV speech on the Berlin crisis, warning “we will not be driven out of Berlin.” Kennedy urged Americans to build fallout shelters, setting off a four-month debate on civil defense.  Construction of the Berlin Wall began In August.

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Here is the list of films released in 1961 that I will select from.  I have previously reviewed Yojimbo on this blog.

Montage of stills from the Oscar winners

Montage of stills from the nominees for the major Oscars (special treat – listen to Roy Orbison singing “Crying”)

Bobby Lewis sings the #1 Hit (several years later – DYN-O-MITE!)