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The King of the Kongo

USA 1929
produced by
Nat Levine for Mascot
directed by Richard Thorpe
starring Jacqueline Logan, Walter Miller, Boris Karloff, Larry Steers, Richard Tucker, Harry Todd, Richrd Neill, Lafe McKee, J.P.Leckray, William P.Burt, J.Gordon Russell, Robert Frazer, Ruth Davis, and as gorilla Joe Bonomo
screenplay by Harry Sinclair Drago, Wyndham Gittens, music by Lee Zahler

serial

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Larry Trent (Walter Miller) is sent to a remote part of the Congo to track down a gang of ivory thieves and to track down a fellow agent who has gone missing in action while on the job - his brother (Richard Neill). Once there, Trent soon picks up a trail to the ruins of an ancient temple that is cuarded by a gorilla, the King of the Kongo, and that also seems to house a large treasure. Trent also meets Diana Martin (Jacqueline Logan), who thinks her father whom she never met - she was brought up by a priest (J.P.Leckray) - is held at the temple, and despite Trent's best efforts to dissuade her from going there, he ultimately ends up accompanying her.

At the temple it is not long before Trent and Linda run into the ivory thieves led by Scarface Macklin (Boris Karloff), who are especially interested in getting their hands on Trent because he holds a part of the treasure map, and besides that, they also have to fight all kinds of typical and not so typical jungle perils, form lions, leopards and tigers to gorillas and dinosaurs (!). Ultimately though, they win the upper hand, aided also by a native tribe Linda is friends with, and Trent manages to free his brother, who has been prisoner of the ivory thieves for years because he knew something about the treasure's location. Scarface Macklin meanwhile, seemingly the baddie of the picture, is allowed to die a hero's death when he saves Linda from the King of the Kongo, who then is revealed to be no gorilla at all but Jack Drake (Larry Steers), who up to now has seemed to be a harmless and benevolent adventurer but was indeed the real leader of the ivory thieves. Macklin on the other hand reveals himself to be the father of Linda on his death bed.

In the end of course, all the baddies get their just desserts while Trent gets the girl.

 

The very first sound serial, though actually it was only part-talkie, combining dialogue scenes and sound effects with silent sequences featuring title cards. Unfortunately nowadays, the only copy of the soundtrack of this serial is thought to be ina  private collection so the only way to see it is in an all-silent version (which of course makes the dialogue scenes a bit hard to follow).

All that said, apart from its technical accomplishments, King of the Kongo is above all your typical escapist adventure serial that paints a rather naive picture of Africa to tell a story that's typical pulp fiction - which is not to say King of the Kongo is bad, actually it's a pretty enjoyable chapterplay that makes the most of its rather low budget, features lots of jungle action and some pretty good sets and keeps its plot moving at a pretty steady pace. Of course, the solution of the whole story doesn't encessarily make too much sense, but then again, one doesn't watch a serial for its solution but for the excitement it delivers episode after episode - and in that respect, King of the Kongo simply does deliver ...

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
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... and for the life of it,
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WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
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out now on DVD