Konga is a 1961 British/American international co-production science fiction horror film directed by John Lemont and starring Michael Gough, Margo Johns and Austin Trevor. It was shot at Merton Park Studios and in Croydon for Anglo Amalgamated then distributed in the United States by American International Pictures (AIP). Anglo Amalgamated and AIP each provided half the funding for the US$500,000 film with each studio receiving distribution rights in their respective hemispheres.
The film was the basis for a comic-book series published by Charlton Comics and initially drawn by Steve Ditko (prior to Ditko's co-creation of Spider-Man) in the 1960s.
British botanist Charles Decker goes insane after he discovers a serum that turns his chimpanzee subject Konga into a ferocious gorilla-sized ape. To further his hideous experiments, Decker mesmerizes the chimp and sends it to London to kill all his former enemies. Among his targets is Bob Kenton, the lover of Sandra Banks, the woman the doctor wants for himself. After Konga strangles Bob to death, Decker attempts to make Sandra his own. This doesn't sit well with Margaret, the botanist's assistant and current girlfriend, who attempts to get even by giving Konga an enormous amount of the strange serum and turns him into an enormous monster, though she becomes his first victim. Just before going on a rampage, the super-sized ape grabs Decker in one of his enormous hands, while Sandra is bitten by Decker's carnivorous plants. His rampage comes to a stop when he and Decker are killed by the British army. Upon his death, he reverts to a chimpanzee.
Michael Gough as Dr. Charles Decker
Margo Johns as Margaret
Jess Conrad as Bob Kenton
Claire Gordon as Sandra Banks
Austin Trevor as Dean Foster
Jack Watson as Superintendent Brown
George Pastell as Professor Tagore
Vanda Godsell as Bob's mother
Stanley Morgan as Inspector Lawson
Grace Arnold as Miss Barnesdell
Leonard Sachs as Bob's father
Nicholas Bennett as Daniel
Kim Tracy as Mary
Rupert Osborne as Eric Kenton
Waveney Lee as Janet Kenton
John Welsh as Commissioner Garland
Steven Berkoff as Student on field trip (uncredited)
Following the incredible success of Herman Cohen's previous British made film Horrors of the Black Museum that also featured Michael Gough, Nat Cohen (who was no relation to Herman) of Anglo-Amalgamated asked Cohen for another exploitation film.
As Cohen had long admired King Kong he thought of a giant ape film shot in colour. Due to Cohen's success with his I Was a Teenage Werewolf, AIP used I Was a Teenage Gorilla as the working title. Cohen paid RKO Pictures $25,000 for the rights to the name of Kong for exploitation purposes. Cohen recalled that the special effects for the film that was one of the first giant monster movies shot in colour took 18 months to complete.
Novel and Comic series
A novelization of the film was released in paperback at the time of its original release (Konga by Dean Owen (Monarch, 1960)).
From 1960 to 1965 Charlton Comics published 23 issues of the comic Konga. It included work by Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko. The series was renamed Fantastic Giants with issue #24, which turned out to be the last issue of the series.
Konga also appeared in a three issue mini-series that started off as The Return of Konga, before it was renamed Konga's Revenge with issue #2. The series ran from 1962-1964. This was followed by a one shot reprint issue in 1968.
In 1990, Steve Ditko illustrated a back up story in Web of Spider-Man annual #6 called Child Star. In this story Captain Universe creates huge versions of toys based on Gorgo and Konga to battle giant monsters that are attacking the neighborhood. For copyright reasons Konga's name was altered to "Kongo". This sequence was Ditko paying homage to his earlier work with these characters from the 1960s Charlton Comics comic books.
Some of these issues were reprinted (in black and white) in a trade paperback in 2011 called Angry Apes n' Leapin Lizards.
In August 2013, IDW Publishing reprinted all the issues that artist Steve Ditko worked on (issues 1,3-15 and Konga's Revenge #2) as a deluxe hardcover collection called Steve Ditkos Monsters: Konga.