Saturday, March 19, 2011

Kongo (1932): A photo review

While doing research a few weeks ago for a future Lupe Velez post I came upon this film (at the suggestion of a fellow movie buff) and boy was I taken with it!  A remake of Lon Chaney's "West of Zanzibar" 1928, it makes Chaney's version timid by comparison.  When it comes to cruel, grotesque villains, Walter Huston does not disappoint and the rest of the cast adds to this being a really good early horror film.

I hope you will enjoy this photo review and if you haven't seen the film it will inspire you to give it a try.  (I'll post the movie link after the review).  Please note that there are SPOILERS in this review.

Walter Huston as King 'Deadlegs' Flint aka Rutledge
Lupe Velez as Tula
Conrad Nagel as Dr. Kingsland
Virginia Bruce as Ann Whitehall
C. Henry Gordon as Gregg aka Whitehall
Mitchell Lewis as Hogan
Forrester Harvey as Cookie Harris
Curtis Nero as Fuzzy
Director: William J. Cowen

We open to a shack out in the middle of the jungle in the Congo with these two! It's hard to tell who's the brains of the operation since they BOTH have opposable thumbs.

Theres a really sweaty girl and a slouch with either a hair sweater or bad tattoos.  They're pensive as they wait for something or someone to appear from the rafters.

This guy slithers down from the rafters and into his wheelchair where he meets up with another strange character named Cookie.  All I can say about Cookie is he does what he's told and pretty much just gets in the way.  (He's a throw away who's hiding out from Scotland Yard).  This place is like a leper colony without the lepers, just really dysfunctional people

We hear a lot of commotion outside as SweatTula is ordered to get Deadlegs his fancy Juju hat.  (I don't think this is going to be your ordinary neighborly 'meet n greet')!

The local natives come calling with the tiniest chief I have ever seen.  He's all smiles so I'm guessing it's more like an Amway party than a boil your bones party.

It appears that Deadlegs is considered a King with magic powers! He does really lame fire tricks which I'm pretty sure even the front row can figure out.  

The main act involves a giant sword and SweatTula being decapitated (for the skeptics in the back row)

Her head speaks as her body lies on the floor and the audience of 1932 screams with delight.  (It's hard to root for a woman who sweats that much).

After she gets put back together she lets the chief feel her neck because walking and talking doesn't prove you're still alive.  (He's adorable but pretty gullible).

Later that night after they gave the little chief kerosene instead of booze (Not very hospitable) they discuss how they need to trick Deadlegs into giving them a share of his ivory he's been pilfering all over Congo.

Theres a lot of sweating and painful dialogue before they decide to just get drunk.  (I'm trying not to think about how hot it must be up there in the rafters when you're wearing long pants, while lying in hay next to a hairy chimpanzee).  

Oh for crying out loud! Cookie has a 'floating kidney' after being kicked around by Deadlegs (I don't even know how thats possible).  Theres not enough rum in the world to make these three fun enough for a party.

Daddy Deadlegs is awake and giving the mean face (His only face)  They probably woke the chimp up who's a little jerk and he barks like a dog which is just weird.

Hair sweater gets called up to the rafters and assigned a special mission.  You can see by the look on his face that he's the most logical choice of the three to do something important! He's being sent to a convent to retrieve a young girl.  She's been living there for years and the daughter of Deadlegs mortal enemy.  The same enemy that stole his wife and cracked his spine.

We next see the lovely Ann who's been tricked into leaving the convent.  Say goodbye to your sanity and steal some soap on your way out.

Deadlegs sends his friend Fuzzy out in a huge costume to scare off the ivory hunters in order to steal their ivory.  

Just when you think DL can't get any more depraved he shoots one of the natives in the back after giving him sugar.  He wants to make a point about stealing from him. (All while stealing ivory from the natives and poisoning their tiny chief).  

Fuzzy is out running around in the swamps in his costume looking like a deformed Telletubbie.  Eh-oh!

The natives are spooked when they come across Tinky Winky even though they've been wading through water knee deep in crocodiles.  

Dipsy and Laa- Laa!  Apparently NOT scary enough to drop your ivory or your buffs!

Two years have past at the shack of horrors and Ann is strung out on Brandy and just broken from constant abuse.  

She still has some fire left in her which gives me pleasure as she rips this creep on rusty wheels a new one.  

DL has waited years to exact his revenge on Ann's father so he's sent word for him to head over under false pretenses.  (It's Gregg's ivory that DL and his band of misfits have been stealing over the past few years).

Gregg's arrogant and greedy as he prepares to go confront this Flint about his stolen ivory.  (He acts like he doesn't know who he is). Awkward meeting ahead!

It's time to learn a new magic trick which involves finding an actual skeleton this time.  I haven't seen SweatTula in awhile so perhaps she's the skeleton.

Just in case it doesn't go off as planned heres how it's supposed to look.  

SweatTula's back and jealous that the blonde has been getting all of the attention.  She wants new bangles and silk for hanging around and being an overall pain in the arse.  

He's just not that into you unless you're volunteering to be his skeleton of course.

When Deadlegs rejects you and makes you move because you're sweating up the place thats hitting rock bottom.  

Because theres not enough people around with major issues, a drug addict shows up.  Hello Conrad Nagel, you look a mess.  He's a doctor who was working for the Gov. doing research before getting hooked on the bad stuff.  (Probably not the best place to end up at if you're wanting to get clean or live).

This is Deadlegs having an idea! He thinks having a doc around could be useful.  (He's not a psychiatrist or a plastic surgeon but okay).  I still don't know how getting kicked in the spine rips your face off but I'll be patient.

Cookie and Dopey have a conversation that ends with Dopey suggesting Cookie suck a bunch of lemons for his floating kidney.  Thats pretty sound medical advice which leads to Cookie wanting to suck every lemon in the jungle! This household needs board games and a sturdy lock on the door.

Everyone manages to contain their crazy long enough to sit down to a meal until Ann appears from solitary confinement for her brandy.

Doc takes one look at her looking like a refugee and decides she's the sanest one around to hang out with.  He wants to help her get clean which is pretty endearing.  

He decides to examine her while going through DT's himself and it's not pretty. Wash your hands if your going to touch the corneas shaky!

Poor Ann! She doesn't have much of an attention span these days and just wants to be left alone with her brandy.

Tula's jealous of the attention so she wants the good doc to examine her (self inflicted scratch) scorpion bite.  Subtle, still sweaty and rejected again!

Back to Ann who's feeling great but looking not so hot.  

Peek a boo! It might be time to fashion yourself one of those practical little coconut bras.

You just met 20 minutes ago over a bowl of gruel and an eye exam but I won't judge since theres obviously an attraction between you crazy kids  

Tula bribes the doc with his drug of choice, bhiang root which he tries to resist at first.  Go to bed and leave the non dead alone Tula!

I said "Go to bed Tula"!  (You're looking rather dry today)

Outside theres a sacrifice about to take place (You can't even go outside and enjoy the views in this film without witnessing more depravity). Apparently Fuzzy has spread the word that when Gregg arrives he's going to be killed which will lead to sacrificing a woman soon after as per custom. (I know what you're all thinking but don't shoot the messenger)!

Ann realizes that things are getting even crazier outside and wants desperately to escape.  DL has other plans which involve a skeleton and a coffin then theres that little chimp who's acting like a little A Hole and giving attitude.

Then when you think Ann has gone through enough that little chimp grabs her and starts trying to tear her blouse off.  (I'm against animal abuse of any kind but this hairy little sleaze ball with horrible manners needs a muzzle and some mittens).

King Ka-Razy gets ready for the sacrifice and now I know why he sleeps in the rafters.  The spare bedroom has been turned into a prop shop courtesy of Hanna- Barbera.  Today's sacrifice hosted by Droop A Long.

Instead of running for her life Ann has decided to stop for a bit of Improv. I raise my hand and answer "The Scream" by Edvard Munch. Yes, it's an uncanny likeness Ann but run like the wind!

She runs the wrong way and into the arms of Hair Sweater and Cookie who are still being filthy animals.  I'm cursing Tula for keeping Conrad Nagel doped up.  Somebody needs to be the adult around here and these people need to learn some boundaries.

Still short on under garments, Tula sneaks in to Doc's room to feed his addiction. 

She gets caught by the Jungle Junkyard gang and shoved around a bit.  DL needs the doctor clean so he can fix his broken spine.  (Things are finally looking up! Surely performing a surgery in this dump will lead to sepsis).

Doc stumbles out with a gun to defend his dealer but gets it quickly ripped out of his hands by DL's lassoing skills. DL decides to cut the doc's chest open so the leeches can suck out the dope over in the swamp.  (Sucking on lemons for a floating kidney is starting to sound more rational).

Ann makes her way out into the jungle where he's shackled.  I'm really rooting for these two to make it!

A couple of days later Doc's on the mend   If only her father wasn't on the way to face his revenge then eventual death.  

As adorable as these two kids are together I can't stop staring at Nagel's roving eyebrow.  I'm guessing this was the makeup departments way of letting us know he was clean. A Joan Crawford eyebrow always tells me "you're healthy"!

Everything seems calm for a moment as DL explains that he wants the back surgery so he can stand up to the man who broke his spine.  Fuzzy has been sent out to retrieve some anesthetic from Walgreens.  Hopefully there isn't a long line.  

Fuzzy got back with the drug order but Doc kept it to treat Ann! Ha Ha! Pre-OP consists of the Doc taking a shot, washing his hands with brandy and DL crawling up on the dirty bar.  (I say you're ready, lets do this). 

Theres nothing like a major surgery to bring everyone together! I love that the only light is a lamp held up by SweatTula.  

He's one tough and ugly old bird! We are to believe that one knife incision has repaired his spinal cord injury. Boy I can't wait for more rehab! We've only had alcohol and drug rehab so lets make room for a couple of physical therapists.  

No physical therapy necessary! DL is back to giving orders and makes it clear that white man Gregg is not to make it out of the jungle alive.  

Gregg's crew is getting picked off one by one so by the time he arrives he'll be out numbered.  

The greedy businessman finally arrives to retrieve his Ivory, torture and humiliation.  

He doesn't even recognize DL which is odd! 

DL explains that he's the one who got kicked in the spine, a day he'll never forget because Gregg sneered as he walked away.  Theres even a "Sneered Calendar" and everything just to prove his point.

DL shows Gregg a girl who's in bad shape as he explains how he sent her away to a convent as a little girl.  She's was kept there until it was time to torture her in every way imaginable.  It's too much to bare for Ann so she runs off.

At first Gregg is stunned by the revelation that he has a daughter with DL's wife but then he quickly realizes she's in fact not his daughter but DL's!  

Things get really strange even for this movie as DL realizes he's been torturing his own daughter and years of plotting revenge were for nothing.  

Outraged and disgusted with himself, DL lashes out at Gregg before deciding to let him go. Of course he has to show off the fact that he can actually walk.  (Nobody cares buddy, you're an ogre).

I feel sympathy for DL for just a quick second over his tortured soul. 

Ann runs in just in time to hear the natives have shot Gregg (DL's order to save him wasn't relayed fast enough).  Ann thinks Gregg is her father and DL doing one humane thing doesn't tell her the truth.

Ann gets poked in the cornea's again as they try to think of a way out of this mess.  The natives have orders to sacrifice Gregg's daughter too. With no time to explain things they're going to have to get creative. 

Fuzzy drags Gregg back with word that they will be coming for Ann shortly.  

It's too late to put everything back into the prop warehouse so let the sacrifice begin!  

DL orders these two to retrieve some dynamite just in case the magic trick goes awry.  A job that should have clearly been assigned to the barking chimp.

Doc explains to Ann that Vincent Price has opened up a nice little wax museum down the road so they're going to sneak out and head over there for a much needed vacation.  Ann loves wax figurines and thinks its a grand idea.  

Little Chief is back and quite shockingly not feeling the affects of the kerosene.  They're ready to get this sacrifice on the road before Price sells out of his admission tickets over on Lullaby Lane.

DL encourages Ann to get into the coffin then sends Doc on his way.  In a really sad scene DL and Ann have a moment where she forgives him and he looks devastated for causing her so much pain before letting her go.

Doc runs back to the prop room and spins the skeleton into place.  Boy these natives are gullible! Luckily DL was a magic man before he turned to kidnapping, torture and Ivory theft because this could really go badly if performed by amateurs.

Theres a trap door which leads to an escape route through the jungle.  

DL buys some time for everyone else to escape and the natives pick his bones clean.  I'm starting to forgive him just a little for being such a horrible human being.  

They get a big kick out of the matinée.  (This is a tough crowd!  I hope Vincent Price has his wax well prepared and a lot of it).

In one last ditch effort DL stands up but the crowds hard to turn so death and mayhem ensue.

Little Jerk is the only thing left after an explosion but he manages to stumble upon DL and his necklace.  (Apparently he's a thief and a groper).

We get a happy ending! Doc and Ann manage to escape and find a boat captain who will marry them.  They certainly did get cleaned up nicely, unless they're made of WAX!

Walter Huston certainly played the villain well and these characters kept me on my toes! There was just so much going on in this film that it kept me interested.  I think I'll have to try to find "West of Zanzibar" now and watch it.  I hope you enjoyed this photo review and please share your opinions on the movie.  If you want to watch this film it can be found in full HERE via Youtube.

Thanks for taking a ride on the dysfunction train with me.  Next stop, the Wax Museum.


  1. Hey Page,
    I love the post! I adore the movie! And I honor the writer with the "Stylish Blogger Award"! Keep up the wonderful, fascinating work!

  2. Venus,
    I'm glad you enjoyed this film too!
    So honored to be one of your "Stylish Blogger" nominees. I promise to do my best to continue to make you proud since the pressure is really on now. And who knows, I might even dress up and apply makeup from now on when I blog. Ha Ha!

  3. oh page, the price of fame... :)

  4. I can't believe it, girl, but I just watched Kongo on YouTube last week! Spent most of the movie laughing....Walter Huston is such a good actor, but my gosh this was a stinker! It stinks so much it is really fun to watch. I particularly loved your captions about Ann and the Doctor. Hilarious! I love your posts!

  5. Oh gosh, I forgot ... congratulations on your award! I didn't know you were up for one! Who gave out the award!

  6. What a fascinating site!

    Hi! I'm Nathanael Hood of Forgotten Classics of Yesteryear, a fellow CMBA member. I'm just do you capture your images? Screenshots?

    Also, I would love it if you could check out my site and tell me what you think!

  7. Becky,
    I remember you telling me about watching Kongo. It really is a movie that deserved some snark! The characters were out there then that abusive, barking monkey was hysterical. It certainly deserved this review and then some. How many movies I've seen that were so awful they were entertaining.

    The Stylish Blogger Award was given to me by Venus and her wonderful site along with six other bloggers.

    It's a pleasure to formally meet you. I've actually visited your site on a few occasions, it's very nice.

    I'm glad you enjoyed this snarky review and I hope you'll find some of the other content worth reading and commenting on. I do sarcastic photo reviews every week or so. Stay tuned! : )

    As far as the screen captures, I use the Windows Snipping Tool that's a built in feature of Windows Vista. Just type in Snipping Tool and the program will come up! It's perfect for capturing movie screen shots.

  8. Love the photo review. If you enjoyed Kongo, you'll enjoy West Of Zanzibar for sure,I've seen both & love both of them. West Of Zanzibar is a great Lon Chaney Sr./Tod Browning silent, I highly recommend it. TCM plays it at least once every year or so, so keep an eye out for it.

  9. Hi Vixen,
    I'm so glad you stopped by and that enjoyed the review! I hope to get to watch West of Zanzibar soon. If it's as enjoyable as this one I plan to do another photo review.
    I hope you'll come back often and enjoy some of the other wonderful sites on my blog roll to the right.

  10. Cheesy and pre-code? I have to check this out! Thanks for the YouTube tip; I had no idea.

  11. Huston wasn't just re-doing Chaney's role from "West of Zanzibar", he was reclaiming Flint. Walter Huston starred on Broadway in "Kongo" for 135 performances in 1926.

    I watched the movie with my jaw on the ground, unable to turn away. I can't imagine what it must have been like in a legitimate theatre.

  12. KC,
    You'll have to let me know if you like it!

    Thats really interesting info on Huston playing this role on the stage. I found very little info on this film when researching other than the fact that Ann's character was originally supposed to be kept at a brothel instead of a convent.

  13. Hooray for Page! Yet another winning review. I can't imaging watching this film would be as enjoyable as reading this post, so I'll check it off my list and move on.

  14. Cfb,
    I'm not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing that my reviews are making you run from a film. Ha Ha

  15. Wow, this sounds like a wild film! Looking forward to your upcoming profile of the Mexican Spitfire.

  16. Classic Film, TV Cafe,
    Oh, it certainly was out there but in a good way! I love these old films that just leave you wanting to share them with other old movie fans.
    I'll give Lupe some attention soon. : )

  17. Page, I'm glad I caught up with your deliciously nutzoid KONGO review! As always, I laughed out loud uncontrollably! Your snarky quips were a riot, such as "It's hard to tell who's the brains of the operation since they both have opposable thumbs;" "There's not enough rum in the world to make these three fun enough for a party;" and of course, "Deformed Teletubbie!"

    Hey, would you happen to know if KONGO was inspired by the almost equally nutzoid Gene Tierney/Josef von Sternberg drama THE SHANGHAI GESTURE? They seem to have several elements in common, including *SPOILER ALERT* a vengeful character who wants to torment the daughter of a person s/he despises, only to find out the poor sap they're tormenting is in fact the despicable person's daughter! And the main character in both films is played by Walter Huston! Anyway, great post, Page, as usual! :-)