Kong Island (1968)

Kong Island Title

Directed by Roberto Mauri

Written by Roberto Mauri and Walter Brandi

Run Time: 82 minutes

Tagline: From the forest came the terror of…

Other Titles: King of Kong Island

"I can hardly wait to find out if there really is a sacred monkey."

– Diane

Yes, I know: sorry about the screen-shot quality. This movie is part of the "50 Sci-Fi Classics" which, despite its plethora of enjoyable "classics", has generally poor transfers onto the DVD. But that won’t stop us from getting through today’s stinker.

Brad Harris Burt Dawson (Brad Harris)

Burt is the wronged-hero bent on revenge…and a little disco dancing if there’s time. Will Burt be able to punish the man who destroyed his life? Only if he can first get by a couple guys in gorilla suits.

Esmeralda Barros Eva, the savage girl (Esmeralda Barros)

Eva, the legendary ‘Sacred Monkey’ runs free and wild in the jungle…with no explanation why. But who cares? She’s cute!…although her hair always seems to be strategically covering her breasts.

Marc Lawrence Albert Muller (Marc Lawrence)

Albert, the evil power-hungry man bent on world domination. With $300,000 dollars in his pocket and 2 radio-controlled gorillas, will Albert manage to conquer the world?

Paolo Magalotti Turk (Paolo Magalotti)

Turk, Albert’s right-hand man and goto-guy, spends most of the movie either hiding from Burt or trying to kill him. Will Turk vanquish Burt in the Final Showdown deep in the bowels of Albert’s Cave of Monkey Madness? Read on and find out!

Yes, ok, open with 3 mercenaries, Burt, Albert, and Some Dude driving around in a jeep somewhere in Italy, sorry, (cough) Africa. The action quickly commences as the 3 men set up an ambush and waylay a payroll jeep carrying a whopping $300,000. ("We’ll never have to work again!" notes one of the thieves. Hmmm…I’m sure that $300,000 was a lot of money in 1968, but I don’t think you could retire on it. Maybe if you eat macaroni & cheese for every meal. Hell, I survived 4 years of college that way, so maybe it’s possible.) As the bandits celebrate their success, Albert whips out his machinegun and kills the payroll guards, Some Dude, and shoots Burt in the back for good measure before absconding with the moola.

But wait! One of the men is still alive, I wonder who it is…is it Burt or is it Some Dude? It’s Burt! Huzzah! He’s alive! I wonder if Albert is going to regret the fact that he didn’t check to see if they were dead before driving off! Ack! I hate that crap.

Cut to opening credits which are accompanied by some pretty cool Polynesian-style music, which is odd since this movie takes place in Africa! (If you want to here the movie’s theme song…here you go. NOTE: Open this link in a separate tab and play the loop over and over while you read this review and it will help you get through it.)

Jump cut from the credits to see Albert and his right-hand man, Turk, performing an operation on an anesthetized guy in a gorilla suit. Oh, wait. Yeah. That’s a real gorilla. Sure it is. After draaaaaaaaaaaaging out this scene way to long, Albert implants some sort of radio-control device in the monkey’s head just behind its ear. Yup. Good plan. That could never backfire on you. Nope. [Note From the Future: Do I really need to mention that it does?]

Cut to somebody’s house where we see Burt lounging in a woman’s bedroom chatting with the admittedly beautiful Ursula. (Burt appears completely recovered from his wound, so this must be some months in the future. I guess. The director obviously didn’t feel the need to let the viewer in on this bit of information.) Anyway, Burt explains that he’s back in town looking for his old "pal", Albert, so he can, er, have a chat with him…if you know what I mean.

(Burt hints to Ursula as to the real reason he wants to find Albert by pulling up his shirt and showing her the gunshot scar on his collar bone, even though he was clearly shot in the middle of the back earlier in the film. Strange how that happens, eh?.)

Well, Ursula remarks that nobody knows where Burt’s "mad doctor friend" happens to be. Just then, in strolls Ursula’s old man, Theodore, who starts accusing her of being interested in Burt again and blah, blah, blah. Subplot Alert! Subplot Alert!

Kong Island Title

We’re just chatting, Theodore, just chatting…

Sensing that he should maybe get out of Ursula’s bed room as Theodore continues going nuts, Burt strolls downstairs and runs into a pair of his old friends Diana and Robert, who are preparing for the next day’s safari. (We find out much later that Diana and Robert are actually Ursula’s kids. This relationship really doesn’t matter though, because it’s brought up in a throw away line and never really mentioned again. It’s all just so strange. I guess by creating the characters as family they could all live together in the same house thus cutting down on shooting expenses…or what? Hell, I don’t know.)

"Tomorrow I’m hunting big game," says Diana,"…sacred monkey!"

Diana explains that this legendary creature is found in the "forbidden part of the jungle…forbidden to white men!"

(Oh, ok, yeah, that forbidden part.)

So anyway, Robert insists that Burt tag along on the safari because, well, Burt’s the hero and his character hasn’t really done anything worthy of a hero’s status since being shot in the back. Alas, Burt has bigger fish to fry, i.e., Albert, so he gracefully declines Robert’s invitation. As the scene staggers to an end, Robert mentions that there’s a guy named Turk hanging around the local bar from time to time. "You remember, Albert’s friend, the one with the scar on his face," Robert helpfully reminds the viewer. (Yeah, it’s been a whopping 2 minutes since we last saw the guy.) So…moving to the next page of the script, Burt says goodnight and heads off to the bar to try and find Turk.

Kong Island Title

Burt and his alter ego…

Jump cut to the local African disco bar filled with the usual complement of disco dancers and man, this is supposed to be Africa? Did they have disco bars in Africa in the late 60’s? Whatever, the music is again pretty cool, which is the only positive thing about this stupid movie, so you might as well enjoy it.

Let’s see, why, in walks Diana who makes her way to the bar and starts flirting with Burt. (Yeah Diana, the best way to prepare for a huge safari the next day is to go disco dancing.) Since this movie was made in the 60’s the required disco dancing scene now takes place, and boy, I wish I could have found that scene on YouTube but I couldn’t. Too bad. Buy the movie if you want to see it.

To further muddy the plot, a Mystery Man keeps staring at Burt from across the room. Why, who is he? I have no idea. And neither do you. And we won’t know for another hour so just place it out of your mind for now – the same as all the other pointless subplots this movie tosses at you.

Why, look who just happens to walk in: Turk. Who wooda thunk it? Burt immediately spots his old "friend" (even though there’s a gazillion people crowded into the place) and gives chase, leaving a puzzled Diana stranded on the dance floor.

Burt, not realizing that chasing a known murderer out into the dark is a Bad Idea ©, runs outside into the night and is quickly overpowered by a pair of Turk’s thugs who hold him down and prepare to chop his head off with a machete.

But, Lo! It’s Mystery Man! Who apparently had followed Burt outside and now helps Burt beat up and disperse the bad guys into the darkness.

"Thanks," says Burt.

Mystery Man nods and replies, "My pleasure."

Wow. Give yourself a minute to reflect on that last exchange and really, really take in all of its nuances.

The next day, yes, the day of the Giant Sacred Monkey Safari, we see Diane, Robert, and some bored movie extras driving a jeep through the African savanna and also through absolutely the most stock footage I’ve ever seen in my lifeand I’ve seen all of Bert I. Gordon’s films…so I know what I’m talking about!

It’s truly amazing. It’s like clockwork:

"Look! An elephant" (Insert shot of an elephant.)

"Look! A pair of lions!" (Insert shot of a pair of lions.)

"Look at those birds!" (Insert shot of some birds.)

"Look! Zebras!" (Insert…well, I think you get the idea.)

Anyhoo, after exhausting the studio’s extensive wildlife stock-footage archive, the director moves the action into the jungle itself. And boy, if watching people walk through bushes is your thing, then boy, is this movie for you. It almost makes you wish for some animal stock footage to break up the monotony. Almost.

Unbeknownst to our friends, Turk is spying on them from a nearby hilltop. (Now, that was convenient. How the hell did Turk know that, out of the entire jungle, they would be exactly there?) Oh wait! My wish has been granted! Somebody must have found some Disney footage on the floor and dutifully inserted it in at this point. (The footage shows a lion cub playing with a jaguar cub…yeah, I’m sure that happens all the time in the wild. )

Lion cub

This is very common in Africa

Did I mention that they’re still walking through the jungle? I did? Ok.

Hey! It’s a shot of a jaguar! From a different movie. Cool.

Well, let’s get back to walking in the jungle. Ah, that’s more like it.

Seriously though:

SOMETHING HAPPEN ALREADY!!!! GOOD GRIEF!

Ahh, after an exhausting stretch of walking footage it’s now time…are you all a-tingly yet?…to watch them set up camp. Boy, you really can’t appreciate seeing a tent go up until you’ve seen this movie. It’s magical, I tell you.

After setting up camp the native porters become restless. The lead porter, Maloomba, explains that his men don’t want to continue deeper into the jungle because of a local taboo. (Wasn’t this part of the jungle forbidden for white men? What’s the problem then?) When Robert offers to double their pay if they keep going, they grudgingly comply. Wow. That was an exciting scene. Somebody get me a cigarette…

Later that night (I think it’s night, the whole movie is so poorly lit it’s hard to tell at times), a couple of stage hands clad in gorilla suits viscously attack the camp, slaughter a couple of hapless porters, and scatter the safari party. During the tumult, Diana, screaming her cute little head off, is carried away by one of the monkeys. (Due to budget constraints, the director opted not to film the savage gorilla attack…arggh! Now that would have been worthy of a couple of screen shots!)

As Robert surveys the devastation, Turk materializes out of the brush and warns him to get his wounded ass back to Nairobi and stop monkeying around in the jungle (ha ha). Furthermore, Diana will be killed if Robert doesn’t go back to town and betray Burt by luring him into the jungle and thus into Albert’s clutches. Did you get all that? Yeah, I know it’s a pretty complicated plot, just try to hang in there.

Back in (cough) Nairobi, Robert recalls the previous evening’s events to Burt, "One of the gorillas carried Diana away, the other gorillas was attacking the camp…it was…almost human! They behaved like they had a plan!" (Ahhh yes, Plan 29B: Kick Everybody’s Ass and Bring Me The Girl…hey, I kinda like it.) When Burt finally hears that Turk was responsible for Diana’s kidnapping, he quickly agrees to follow Robert back into the wilderness to rescue her.

The next day, Burt and Robert head out into the brush which leads to yet more stock footage…incredible!

"Look at that!"

Kill Wildlife

Burt and Robert relax by killing anything that moves

As they relax on the trip down the river to the destroyed camp site, Robert chills out by taking random potshots at whatever unlucky animal just happens to pass by:

"A crocodile!", Robert shouts as he fires his rifle (BOOM!)…

"You gotta hit the eye," Burt laughs.

Ahhh, you really have to respect a pair of nature lovers like these 2 clowns.

After Robert steers the boat to the riverbank, he leads everybody to the abandoned campsite. But wait, we see some dude trailing them… I think it’s Mystery Man from the bar, but I’m not sure. Great movie. I know there’s only 5 characters to keep track of, but hey, how about a little help here?

After endlessly stomping through the jungle, oh, and with a few "scares" involving a stock-footage snake and baby chimpanzee, which one of the natives confuses for the Sacred Monkey!, our intrepid hero reaches the ravaged camp. Somehow nobody manages to spot the topless, savage white woman perched in a tree only a few yards away. Man, these guys truly are master hunters.

Savage woman in tree

Something easily overlooked

As Burt searches the wreckage for clues, Robert sneaks off and confronts Turk to make sure he sticks to his part of the deal now that he’s led Burt into trap. And, yadda, yadda, yadda. We get it already. We know you’ve betrayed your friend. We know Turk is untrustworthy. Sheesh. Give us a little credit.

Jump to night time. As a shirtless Burt dozes on a cot, Savage Woman manages to creep into his tent and touches his manly muscles before sneaking back out again. Naturally, nobody sees her. Obviously our hero didn’t feel it necessary to organize a night watch since it’s been, oh, 24 hours since 2 maniacal killer gorillas were here and killed everybody at this exact location!

The next day, after having a nice peaceful night’s sleep while for all they know Diana is being tortured to death by monkeys, the search party heads out in the bush to find Diana. After being nearly attacked by a stock-footage lion, black panther, and elephant (good grief, enough already!!!) they continue walking

and walking

and walking

(intercut with shots of Savage Woman playing with a baby chimp…what does this have to do with anything?! Maybe they ran out of stock footage??!! Oh please, oh please, oh please…)

Suddenly, the jungle gets deathly quiet, i.e., the freakin’ non-stop foleyed cricket chirps are dropped from the soundtrack. This sudden calming of the local insect population is enough to send the native porters bolting in fear because of an "evil spirit legend". Whatever. I guess it’s the legend of the Quiet Crickets, because otherwise everything else is exactly the same as it was a moment ago.

Not too far away, Mystery Man straggles off on his lonesome and is attacked by the same raggedy looking gorillas. You’ll note that even though Albert supposedly has created an "army" of gorillas, you only ever see 2 at a time because the film makers had only 2 gorilla suits to work with. – Dennis smiles –

Now it’s Burt’s turn to come to Mystery Man’s rescue. Can you now see the absolute brilliance of this story? The give and take? The ebb and flow? Brilliant! After being saved from the gorillas, Mystery Man introduces himself as Interpol Agent Forrester, who is also searching for Albert because of the payroll robbery a year before. By the way, would the local authorities contact Interpol for a payroll heist?

Oh, ok. Forrester explains that he’s also interested in locating Albert because of the rumors regarding his creating an army of radio-controlled gorillas in a bid for world domination. (Now that I could see Interpol being interested in.)

"The results could be disastrous," Forrester warns…(No kidding, just look at this film! * Rimshot *)

Forrester offers to pardon Burt for the bank job in exchange for his assistance in finding Albert. Burt, seeing a way to kill 2 birds with one stone, i.e., rescue Diana and get his ass off the hook for the robbery, wisely agrees to the deal.

When Burt and Forrester return to camp, they discover that the apes have attacked again. (And, again, none of the action is shown in a bid to save money. Or perhaps the gorilla suits are so cheap looking that even the director realized that it would be prudent to show them as little as possible.) Burt cradles his mortally wounded friend in his arms, and with his dying breath, Robert confesses that he was helping Turk and Albert is dangerous, and blah blah blah (die already!), but before Robert can divulge too much Turk pops up out of nowhere and shoots him.

If that wasn’t impulsive enough for you, out of the bushes jump 3 or 4 spear waving natives (WTF?!) who promptly take Burt and Forrester captive. After tying them up and trussing them to some long sticks, the natives carry them off (walking…walking…walking…) and then, for no reason I can discern, put them down and untie them!

"Why are they untying us?" Forrester asks.

"They’re savages, they expect us to run for our lives!…let’s go!" Burt shouts as he and Forrester hop to their feet and run away while the natives half-heartedly toss spears in their general direction. (Talk about padding out a movie…cripes! What the hell was that all about?!)

With Forrester done spewing his exposition in the previous scene, his character is now superflous so he’s perfunctorily killed off with a spear to the gut. Burt wisely continues beating feet into the jungle until he comes across a waterfall and decides now would be a good time to take off his shirt and swim around a bit. Well, it has been about 20 minutes since we’ve seen his muscles, so…..

(What about the natives? Oh, and what about your verbal agreement with the late Agent Forrester to have your bank robbery charges dropped? Too bad you didn’t get that in writing, eh, Burt?)

After Burt treats us to a few minutes of watching him splash around and flexing his massive pecs, he discovers a plate full of fruit laid out on a nearby rock. Not thinking that this strange in the least, despite the fact that Turk is out to kill him, Burt strolls over and quickly gulps down a banana.

MusclesFruit plate

Burt (left) and a plate of fruit.

As he enjoys his mid afternoon snack, Burt espies Savage Woman lurking around some bushes and quickly gives chase, but she’s too agile for our lumbering hero and scampers away. (Heck, she IS billed as a savage woman, right?) Oh, wait, she’s back and laughing at him while he smokes. Good lord, what the heck is going on here? Wasn’t this a movie about radio-controlled gorillas or something? Our hero finally manages to track down and overpower Savage Girl. Clasping her in his massive, manly arms, Burt asks her if she’s the Sacred Monkey. (Wow, Burt, you really have a way with the ladies…) Of course Savage Woman can’t respond because she’s Savage, duh!, so Burt christens her "Eva" and using goofy hand gestures, manages to convince her to show him where Diana is being held captive. (Because she’s savage, and she would know such things.)

Gotcha

Gotcha!

Cut to Albert’s luxurious headquarters: a dim, dank cave. Wow, Albert, don’t spend your $300,000 all at once. Albert’s favorite gorilla, Malik, busies himself by harassing some local natives being held in a handy jail cell. Feeling the Bad Guy’s Urge to divulge all the details of his entire evil plan to Diana, so she can use it against him at the film’s climax, Albert has Malik drag her out of her cell and over to the control panel where he gloats over his high-tech brain control device: A huge picture of a cut-away brain with a red light in the center. He’s a genius!

Control PanelSuper Light

Albert shows Diana his Brain Control Panel

"I can take control of all humanity with this invention! I’ll be rich and powerful!" he gloats. I don’t see what being rich would matter if you already controlled all of humanity, but let’s let Albert enjoy his 15 minutes of fame.

Meanwhile, Burt and Eva approach the cave entrance from outside and trigger the intruder alert. Way to go, Eva. Albert, speaking via a loudspeaker mounted just over this secret entrance (!), informs Burt that he’ll have the "honor of being the first man to be my slave!"

Sooooo, here comes Turk, again from out of nowhere, and starts chases Burt deeper into the caverns. Eva, left to fend for herself I guess, is quickly captured by Malik and carried down to the holding cells. (Why do they foley a lion growl when Malik is around?) But, Lo! Burt manages to trick Turk by taking off a boot and sticking its toe out from behind a rock, but when he finally grabs Turk both of his boots are back on. I guess Burt had an extra boot stored somewhere.

Anyway, Burt ends up rather anti-climatically choking Turk to death and that’s that. So long, Turk, we hardly knew ye.

Oh, and here’s a clip with just that bit of the movie because, hey, that’s how much I like you!

Back in his lab Albert gloats over his latest catch: The Sacred Monkey, which as you may have guessed is actually Eva, so yay, 2 useless plot points come together. When Albert realizes that Burt has killed Turk, he orders him (over loudspeakers which must somehow have been placed throughout the entire cave complex) to come to the lab, pronto, or else he’ll give the girls to the gorillas so they can be ripped to shreds or something.

Whoa! Into the lab bursts Ursula and Theodore! They demand that Albert release Diana from the cage…so whoa! Where did they come from?!!

Held at gunpoint, Albert is forced to listen to Theodore exposit his side of the story. Oh Joy.

Yeah, Theodore went along with the plan to get Burt out of the way because he was jealous of his wife, and blah-blah-blah. Who cares? We want killer monkeys, man!

Plot twist #23: Ursula forces Theodore to drop his gun as she explains that she’s really planning on running away with Albert, not Burt. (Oh…good grief!) So let’s see:

Ursula shoots Theodore.

Ursula hits Diana.

Eva starts fighting with Ursula.

Albert shoots Ursula because he wants Eva in one piece.

Shootout

I assume this scene made sense to somebody…

Right on cue, Burt walks into the lab and manages to walk right by the monkey cage where the gorillas have pulled the bars apart, but oh, he didn’t notice this. Nope. What a moron.

NoticeFight

Once again, Burt fails to note the obvious danger

Anyhoo, the monkeys sneak out of the cage and start choking poor Burt. "Shoot the light on the panel!" Diana shouts since she knows exactly how to free the monkeys from their brain control devices…because Albert, you idiot, you told her everything when you were gloating!

Yeah, yeah, Burt shoots the light bulb which causes the monkeys to go nuts and the computer to explode. (?!)

Free of Albert’s evil electronic mind grasp, Eva regains control over the monkeys the "natural way" by shouting "Na-ha-na!" Na-ha-na!" This phrase must be monkey-speak for "kill Albert" for that’s just what they do.

Back outside, Burt leads the girls back to the boat…and, with the weird Polynesian music playing again, Diana and Burt climb aboard and abandon Eva on the shore, because she’s, you know, "savage" so it’s better for her to live in the wild where it’s full of predators and disease instead of taking her back to civilization where she can get a shirt and learn how to disco dance.

I’m outta here.

The End

Dennis Grisbeck (October 2010)

Afterthoughts

A cheapo movie about monkey-mind control that started ok, but went way, way off the tracks by the time the whole mess was over. All the ridiculous sub-plots that add nothing, not to mention the unbelievable amout of stock-footage that eat up minute after boring minute… Oh, dear reader, avoid this one.

And what a bunch of sad, worn out monkey suits. I mean, really…was that the best they could do?

On the positive side, both Brad Harris (Burt) and Marc Lawrence (Albert) did decent jobs given the quality of the material they had to work with. Both were obviously comfortable in front of the camera, and Marc Lawrence hammed it up and chewed the scenerary like few others could do.

I guess the only other positive thing about this movie is the fact that at 82 minutes it’s short to sit through. Oh, and being a rather obscure title, you probably won’t accidently stumble across it and slip into a coma while watching it.

Final thought: Avoid at all costs.

Read more about Kong Island at

IMDB

11 comments to Kong Island (1968)

  • guts3d

    …Burt hints to Ursula as to the real reason he wants to find Albert by pulling up his shirt and showing her the gunshot scar on his collar bone, even though he was clearly shot in the middle of the back earlier in the film. Strange how that happens, eh?.

    Well, they couldn’t have Ursula pull up her shirt and expose a bullet wound, or they would get an “R” rating. I guess they wrote the script as they shot this. That would explain much… Nice review! And you are right about the African / Polynesian music, it seems jarringly out of place.

  • I don’t think they had too much of a script at all

  • Ah yes, I remember reviewing this movie for my blog a while back. It really sucked. I mean reeeeeeaaaaaaalllllllyyyyyy sucked. This movie is just so damn boring and when you are offering a movie about mind controlled monkies, that is certianly not a good thing.

  • I always detest these travelogue type movies where there’s more “look at the ____” than actual plot. Pity to see Brad Harris involved so heavily; I liked him as both Hercules and Samson in other flicks.

  • @Information Geek:
    Yeah, this movie was really boring, as you know…long, long stretches of nothing happening, just people saying “Look! An Elephant! Look! A Lion!”…Arg! It’s really tiring to try and write a (hopefully) entertaining review when there is just so little to work with.

    @Randy:
    Yeah, Brad actually did a decent job here, like I said, he seemed completely comfortable with the role and certainly had a cool, confident demeaner to him. Hell, if I were going up against a pair of killer gorillas I certainly wouldn’t mind having him in my corner.

  • guts3d

    If I was going up against a pair of mind controlled killer gorillas, you can bet the farm that my @ss would be going as fast as it could in the opposite direction!

  • I just went and googled Brad, and I’m surprised to see not only is he alive and kicking, he’s got exercise products, a website and lol, the man is still at it.

    And I had no idea he had an appearance in Lou Ferigno’s HERCULES. Now I gotta watch that next…

  • Yes, Brad has not just rested on his laurels after Kong Island!

  • guts3d

    On a local note, http://www.chillertheatermemories.com/1963.html is a link to a local “Count Floyd’s Monster Chiller Horror Theater” like show that started my love of bad movies, sci-fi in particular. Bill Cardille is a local legend, and his crew of Terminal Stare, and the rest bring back such fond memories of trying to stay awake on a Saturday night.

  • Barry

    Loved Brad Harris’ muscles. Love all movies where Brad took his shirt off!

  • guts3d

    … I guess it’s the legend of the Quiet Crickets, because otherwise everything else is exactly the same as it was a moment ago.

    Hehe! Missed that one the first time!

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