DVD Review: Konga

The world needs more mad scientists. They may screw up once in a while and unleash some huge terror that rampages through a major metropolis, but it’s all worth it. Besides, who else could come up with a movie like Konga and label it entertainment besides the criminally insane? And what would we do without it?

With the added “a” at the end of the title to avoid phone calls from legal types, this England-produced disaster never stood a chance. Starring the excellent Michael Gough, this “mini ape run amok until he turns into a giant ape running amok” flick features some of the worst practical special effects you’ll ever lay eyes on. There’s little doubt the budget caused things to be stretched slightly.

Sadly, the build up isn’t that bad. Gough’s character undergoes a slow transformation into the insane, taking his soon to be wife down with him. His mental problems start after crash landing onto an island where giant plants grow. Staying there and studying them for a year, he tests the extracted chemicals when he finally makes it back home. Injected into a small chimp, it causes it to grow.

For 80-minutes of this film, the title creature stays a reasonable size, ignoring the rather jarring switch from real chimp to man-in-overly-baggy monkey suit. Given that the suit doesn’t resemble anything even remotely related to a chimp, even the scientific explanation doesn’t fly. Gough sends it to extract revenge in the name of science until his wife injects the creature with far too much of the growth serum.

These final 10-minutes provide good/bad movie fans with enough ammunition for a lifetime. Once Gough is picked up by the sometimes 20/sometimes 50 foot simian, it’s blatantly clear he’s actually standing up on a floor in a studio, and then very poorly pasted into the picture. Miniature work is brief, and it’s a tough call which is worse: the super-imposed shots of the creature walking past real locales or the weakly constructed buildings on set.

The face of the ape suit is fair, and almost tolerable. It’s the body on the suit that’s at least three times the size it should be for the actor playing it (occasional suit actor George Burrows). It sags everywhere, and there is zero attempt to make this behave like an ape (or a gorilla or a chimp for that matter).

Credit has to be given again to Gough, who can’t get enough praise for keeping a straight face through the entire ordeal. That’s hardly enough to make this a recommendation given how flat out abysmal the overall product is, and especially how truly terrible the pay-off turns out to be. This is a movie for those few dedicated fans that have made the commitment to waste hours of their lives watching movies no one else would. (* out of *****)

Konga offers mixed video quality on DVD. Presented in a rare and oddball aspect ratio of 1.66:1, the colors and clarity are surprising. The biggest problems are heavy compression and aliasing that makes this look like a laserdisc at times. Everything in the crowded laboratories and cluttered sets shimmers constantly. Even when the camera doesn’t move it’s distracting. The print is marvelous, with barely any scratches present. (***)

Audio is unremarkable. It’s a standard 2.0 mono track, and with a limited soundtrack, there’s little that could go wrong. Some of the quieter speaking moments are tough to pick out, but not so bad that they’re unintelligible. (***)

Extras are barren except for two trailers. One is for Godzilla Final Wars and the other for Mirror Mask. (No stars)

If you’re desperate to see London being ripped apart, check out the far better Gorgo released the same year. That’s a monster classic, and the special effects are superb. Konga doesn’t even seem to try.

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