Dr. Karen Ross has one aim: get some sweet blue diamonds and save her ex-fiance from the Congo. Dr. Peter Eliot has one aim: get his beloved talking gorilla Amy back to the Congo. These aims run headlong into each other just as a volcano is erupting… in adventure. Can they get in and out of the Congo before it’s too late? Find out in… Congo.
How?! Just when TravisCom gets in contact with their employees deep in the jungles of the Congo (and in possession of extremely valuable and powerful blue diamonds) they are horrified to find that they have been killed by some mysterious gorilla-like beasts. Dr. Karen Ross agrees to go in so that she can find out whether the leader of the group (and her ex-fiance) are still alive. Meanwhile, Dr. Peter Eliot has secured funding from a sketchy dude with a deep, fake-sounding accent to bring his special gorilla Amy back to the Congo. Amy can talk with the help of a sign language machine, but has suffered severe nightmares that Peter thinks is connected to the place she was born. When the sketchy funding falls through, Karen makes up the difference and joins the group, using it as a front to get into the war torn country before the borders close. Using all her connections they are able to bribe their way onto a plane and barely escape the army by parachuting over the border. As they trek across the Congo they encounter all kinds of adventures like with leeches and hippos and many more animal friends. On the way they also encounter a member of the previous TraviCom group who dies instantaneously of fright upon seeing Amy (bum bum bum). When they finally arrive they realize that Amy has led them to the lost city of Zinj, the legendary location of King Solomon’s Mines. Almost immediately though they are attacked by horrifying and aggressive grey gorillas and learn that they are descendents of the trained animal guards of the mine which eventually overthrew their trainers and destroyed the city. As their group is slowly picked off one by one and the volcano near the city becomes more active, it becomes a matter of simply surviving as the gorillas attack their camp. Before they can leave, though, they end up trapped deep in the mines with the gorillas and volcano looming. Enter: laser beams. Using the blue diamonds Karen is able to power a laser and blast those gray gorillas no prob. They manage to barely escape with the lava hot on their heels (I swear this is real). Realizing her employer only cared about money, Karen destroys his satellite with the laser beam and they all hop in a hot air balloon to escape, while waving goodbye to Amy who has joined her gorilla brethren… like for real. THE END. This might be my favorite recap of all time.
Why?! I guess I already told you in the recap. Peter wants to return Amy to the Congo, while Karen wants to see if her ex-fiance is still alive and, secondarily, complete the job of getting the special blue diamonds. Tim Curry also has the added motivation of discovering the Lost City of Zinj, but really he’s just a kooky guy who’s destined to have his face ripped off by a crazed gary gorilla. So who cares.
Who?! Delroy Lindo has a substantial speaking role and goes uncredited. Not sure why (although his accent is crazy so that might give a hint). The more interesting thing is that as I mentioned Crichton sold the rights to the film before writing it and eventually delivered a crazy techno-ape-thriller. By the time they actually got the production figured out he was distanced from the project and didn’t even get a screenplay credit on the film. Just a “based on” credit.
What?! Solid MacGuffin here in the blue diamonds which hold such amazing powers that if TraviCom can get their hands on even a few it will produce a money-making laser that will save the company. That’s all well and good but when one of Amy’s paintings is on sale online you start to get your hopes up that her nintendo power glove might be out there too *stares wistfully into the distance* alas, no such luck.
Where?! A+ setting alert! Congo all up in there. Can’t imagine this is ever dethroned for the Congo mapl.de.map. That is until Patrick and I make Congo 2: Double Trouble where it turns out that after the volcano erupted there were only two gray gorillas left alive… twins. The evil gorilla is set on revenge and sets off to California to hunt down Peter, while the good twin gorilla attempts to stop him. Eventually they find common ground through their discovery of McDonald’s and the twin gorillas reconcile with Peter and get power gloves of their own… although the movie I just described isn’t really set in Congo… primarily set in a California McDonald’s. Wouldn’t even win the McDonald’s entry for mapl.de.map as Mac and Me has a stranglehold on that spot.
When?! It’s a beautiful thing when a film delivers an easy and precise way to track the time when it’s set. Periodically the explorers check in with TraviCom and the video feed has a handy dandy date right in the corner. So we know that the entire film takes place from October 16-22, 1994. Should have really hammered it home by having the characters jam out to I’ll Make Love to You by Boyz II Men… although probably needed to cut that scene to avoid an NC-17 rating.
Congo is really saved by an absolutely crazy ending where gorillas are mowed down by laser beams while another one speaks using a computer nintendo glove and a volcano erupts around them. Leading up to that point, though, it’s a much more standard adventure tale that is only betrayed a little by some fake looking gorillas and Tim Curry putting on a deep, deep accent. But if you can take out a forty minute chunk of a film and say “check this shit out,” then you’re in a pretty good spot when it comes to BMT. It just makes it a little harder to recommend the film to people. I actually read the book a little while back (when we previously thought we were going to watch it for BMT) and it’s a pretty close adaptation. What it lacks, and why I enjoyed the book quite a bit, was the Crichton-esque mix of deep science/technology and narrative. The book was super long though and by the end I was pretty sure it was unadaptable. Not only would you lose that unique narrative structure, but all you would be left with was all kinds of monster ape and diamonds and volcanoes and stuff. Easier to write than to put to screen with a straight face. What’s interesting is that he sold the film rights before writing the book… so he basically sold a studio a film and then wrote a nutso, unadaptable book for them to adapt. No wonder it took like 15 years for them to make it. Patrick?
‘Ello everyone! Laser beams and talking apes is all I really needed to hear before watching Congo. Let’s go!
P’s View of the Preview – I’ve seen this film before and it is great. There’s a talking gorilla, there is a laser gun, and … wait yeah, not only is that all I remember, that is also all I care about, and that is also all you need to know. This is a film where a gorilla named Amy talks and they cut gorillas apart with a laser gun at the end. Boom. What were my expectations? Seriously? I just told you: talking gorillas and laser beams. Let’s gooooooooooooo!
The Good – Hmmmmm, I’m trying to think through this without falling into the trap of thinking something that is ironically good is actually good, you know? The film is a fun adventure film, and as far as a poor man’s Jurassic Park it does an interesting job at being just that. I loved Laura Linney and Ernie Hudson in their roles, as very specific Crichton archetypes (the suave adventurer and the corporate scientist / CIA agent). And the ultimate payoff in the Lost City of Zinj was just enough to satisfy (although they really closed the book on the franchise huh? No Lost World: Congo 2 was going to happen after the conclusion I would think). Best Bit: Laura Linney and Ernie Hudson.
The Bad – I could have done without the main character (who, no offense to him, came across as Steve Guttenberg but not as good). I understand he was a necessary bit of getting Amy the gorilla into the situation, but you definitely needed a better actor in the role to pull it off. The effects were incredibly subpar. The final scenes are so laughably bad it somehow makes the film better, but, again, that is ironically and shouldn’t be confused with the film actually being good. I love seeing people blast some evil white gorillas apart with a laser beam, but that doesn’t mean it is a good movie. I’ll also just through out that the entire bit about getting into the Democratic Republic of Congo is extremely troublesome if you know anything about the political issues colonization caused that country, all the way down to the poorly names “Hotel Leopold” they have to bribe their way out of. Fatal Flaw: Laughable effects.
The BMT – This is an incredibly hilarious film. It’ll be slow going for a bit, but then the laser beams and evil gorillas will pop up and all of your concern about the film will just melt away. It is one of those films where you’ll be like “you should watch this, it is hilarious” to someone, and they’ll sit down and for the first hour be like “what was this guy going on about again?” And then the laser beams and gorillas will show up and it’ll all make more sense. BMT Hall of Fame level hilariousness? Maybe, maybe no, we’ll see five years from now, but it certainly earns its BMeTric in my opinion. Did it meet my expectations? Given that I had seen the film before how could it not? And in reality, yes, there were indeed gorillas and laser beams, so … there it is.
Roast-radamus – I’m going to give a shout out to our Pseudo-Planchet (Who?) played by Grant Heslov who just really really really wishes he wasn’t in The Democratic Republic of Congo throughout the film. Hugely great A+ Setting as a Character (Where?) for The Democratic Republic of Congo, and a pretty rare Africa setting in general. A legendary (literally) MacGuffin (Why?) concerning the Lost City of Zinj filled with eeeeeevil guardian gorillas. I think this is a great BMT film in the end.
StreetCreditReport.com – The cred for Congo was off the hook. With an 50+ BeMetric and 80+ Notability it is one of the largest releases of 1995. Top 3% in BMeTric and Notability among the top 250 of that year, the only film with a higher BMeTric and Notability is Batman Forever. That’s the level of cred we are looking at here. Two things stand out in the connection on IMDb. First is the Sega Saturn game Congo the Movie: The Lost City of Zinj. I should have really watched a playthrough of that for the You Got Schooled section, but such is life. The other is that in the 2018 episode of the show A.P. Bio the kids have a Congo themed school dance complete with Amy the talking gorilla. Now that is cred, still getting dem sweet refs 23 years later!
You Just Got Schooled – Instead of watching a playthrough of a bad Doom clone, I instead went for another bad gorilla bash in Rampage. I had resisted Rampage mostly because I watched Skyscraper on a plane and it was awful, and if that was the expectations of a Dwayne Johnson film then hard pass. Having watched it though, Rampage isn’t necessarily awful. It has a lot of heart and The Rock, as usual, has an incredible amount of charisma which saves the film. The action is mostly Transformers level and your brain shuts off eventually. I suppose the only daring thing about it is that they really don’t mince words: like hundreds of people die during the film. That’s an interesting strategy, especially when one of the heroes (George the giant ape) is one of the animals doing all that killing. Regardless, much better than Skyscraper, and what more could I really ask for? C. Still not a good video game film, sorry.