Along with Mighty Joe Young, Konga, also known as Attack of the Giant Ape from the Land of the Black People Part IV, illustrates the evolution of minority roles from older giant ape films like King Kong and Son of Kong. In the more recent flicks, the black natives who inhabit the monkey’s homeland are much less menacing (portrayals of African tribesmen as malicious savages having become passé), but their roles are also much more peripheral.
Konga is an extreme example of the “out of sight, out of mind” treatment of minorities in ’50s and ’60s horror; the Africans are shown on screen only as part of a documentary film within the film. Even though British botanist Charles Decker (Michael Gough, or Batman’s Alfred to you and me) is rescued from a plane crash by the tribesmen and proceeds to spend a year living with them, they appear on screen for only about a minute, and no contact between them and the white lead is ever shown. The magical land of Africa (in this case, Uganda), though, is the key to the whole film, as it’s there that the doc is introduced to a Miracle-Gro serum by a local witch doctor. “Don’t ever be fooled by the word ‘primitive’ as applied to so-called witch doctors,” he tells his lab assistant Margaret (Margo Johns) after he arrives back in the UK. “This one knew things that made me seem backward.”
He puts the growth serum to good use in his greenhouse — and, more likely than not, in his pants — but the real payoff comes when Decker’s tests on Konga reveal that the solution can turn a live chimpanzee into a man in a gorilla suit! Mad with power, the doc hypnotizes the beast (How a monkey knows to follow the pen light with its eyes, much less how it can understand the doc’s instructions, is beyond me.) into killing off all of his enemies.
Margaret, however, discovers that he’s planning to dispose of her as well in favor of a younger, sexier assistant, so she injects Konga with an shitload of serum. The ape grows to roughly the size of Big Ben and proceeds to stroll gently through the streets of London, nary touching a building nor stepping on a single person. It’s the most polite rampage ever filmed! As is typical with giant ape movies, the beast can’t hack it in the “civilized” world, but crazy-eyed killer Konga is the least sympathetic of the bunch — even if his actions are influenced by hypnosis. In other words, Konga is a tool. And what a tool.