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Tuesday July 23rd 2024

Konga | 1961

Konga location: Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben), Westminster, London
Konga location: the giant ape heads to the nearest photogenic landmark: Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben), Westminster, London

“Fantastic! There’s a huge monster gorilla that’s constantly growing to outlandish proportions at loose on the streets.” – pity the poor actor who had to deliver that line, but it does neatly sum up the plot of this naively entertaining creature feature.

The effects are as clunky as the dialogue, but the ever-watchable Michael Gough holds it all together as the demented Dr Decker whose serum turns cute little chimp Konga into a giant – erm – gorilla. Well, would anyone take a giant chimpanzee seriously?

It’s set in London,  where plot points are signalled by news headlines, with papers being sold against such signifying backdrops as St Paul’s Cathedral and Trafalgar Square.

The Metropolitan Police operates, as it then did, out of a pair of buildings called New Scotland Yard on the Thames Embankment alongside Westminster Bridge. In 1967 the force moved to a new New Scotland Yard in Victoria and the former HQ, now known as the Norman Shaw Buildings (after architect Norman Shaw), are now used as Parliamentary offices.

‘Essex College’, where Dr Decker teaches – and indulges inappropriate feelings for student Sandra (Claire Gordon) – was Whitelands College, which has since been redeveloped as luxury apartments and, coincidentally, also renamed after its architect. It’s now the Sir Giles Gilbert Scott Building, Whitelands Park, in Putney, southwest London.

The giant Konga, clutching Dr Decker in his paw, heads to Westminster and, although he appears to be attacked by the military alongside the Elizabeth Tower (the clocktower widely though inaccurately called Big Ben), the terrified crowds below are actually huddling alongside the local shops of High Street, Croydon, about ten miles to the south.

Much of the high street has been redeveloped but you can just about recognise the stretch as the eastern side of the High Street immediately north of Croydon Flyover.