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Saturday, March 05, 2011

Kongo (1932) - William J. Cowen

Kongo is a brutal and disturbing movie that pushes the limits of film from the thirties; it is a wonder that MGM allowed a movie with this kind of content to be released. By today's standards this movie is pretty tame, but in the context of the time in which it was made the images are shocking. The movie deals with all sorts of topics ranging from racism to drug abuse and the brutality of the death scenes stick with you.

The movie is about a deranged and tyrannical man who runs a village in Africa with an iron fist from the security of his wheelchair. He keeps all those around him paralyzed with fear which he perpetuates by performing "magic tricks" like decapitating women and reanimating their bodies. He kidnaps the daughter of his rival, and then terrorizes her and a stranded doctor for most of the film.

The treatment of race is a big issue here too which may be a reason why this movie is difficult to find on DVD or VHS. The maniacal madman constantly berates the natives and constantly presumes that "whites" are smarter than "blacks".

The movie is a remake of the Lon Chaney drama West of Zanzibar; the difference here being the horror inserted into Kongo's plot. I was completely surprised by this movie; what I expected was another standard 1930's horror flick, but what I received was a compelling movie that kept me up until the wee hours of the morning looking up the history of the film. I highly recommend this movie. 

"I wouldn't waste Gin on that tribesman, that's kerosene!"

  • Virginia Bruce and John Gilbert were married on set during the filming.
  • The film is also based on a play of the same name, that opened in the mid 20's.
  • The movie got away with much of its content because it is Pre-Code.

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