CONGO (1995)

IMDb Rating: 4.8 / 10

Tagline: Where You Are The Endangered Species

What a year 1995 was for Bad Film. Vampire in Brooklyn, Tank Girl, Johnny Mnemonic, Judge Dredd and Cutthroat Island may have thrilled audiences nowhere across the globe, but they barely climbed to the foothills of excruciation mountain. Because atop this mighty peak stood one glorious, timeless, clueless masterpiece. A film about nature vs nurture, science vs faith, logic vs befuddlement. Yes, look on my works ye Mighty Joe Young and despair- for I am Congo, the worst thing to happen to Africa since Idi Amin.

The plot? A bonkers mélange of lost expeditions, diamonds, new technology, killer apes, Romanian villains, gruesome deaths…and hot air ballooning. All in the most indoor jungle in the history of cinema.

And a talking gorilla.

Crapula Love.

It probably sounded fine while on the page: zoologists fit a tamed gorilla with an electronic voice box which translates basic sign language into synthesised speech. Great. No problem. Now go film it. We’ll be sitting over here, failing to suppress our mocking laughter.


Ape: Shit

Amy the talking gorilla is depressed- partly because she misses the jungle, but mainly because she’s starring in Congo. She is also upset by the fact that despite Jurassic Park’s revolution in CGI two years previously, she still resembles a grubby ape suit worn by the best man on a provincial stag weekend.

The confluence of contrived coincidence that brings Amy and the other characters together is breathtaking. Somehow a secret mission to discover the key to the next generation of communication tech, the spiritual home of a long-forgotten ancient civilisation, and the precise spot where a gorilla is being returned to the wild are all apparently happening within about 400 square feet of each another. This, despite the fact that Congo contains about 180m hectares of forest- about twice the size of Turkey.


Ernie Hudson - (Get Me) Out Of Africa

Crapula notable Ernie Hudson (Shark Attack, Stealth Fighter) returns to wreak poorly-accented havoc with one of the great bad lines in bad film history, “I’m your great white hunter for this trip, though I happen to be black.” It’s a line as bewildering as the character dynamics, with each actor delivering a performance as though each is in a completely different film. Hopefully, at least some of these films will be better than Congo.

Tim Curry, an actor who fears not the lure of the bad film pay cheque, is playing the Romanian philanthropist who we know has nefarious intentions due to his goatee beard. His character’s name, Herkermer Homolka, sounds like a stroke victim trying to call for an ambulance.

Africa itself is treated in Congo as if it’s a feral wasteland where none of the locals have any food, but they’ve all got a beret and a rocket launcher. Everyone’s either a warlord or tribesmen or a member of the handy phalanx of porters who seems to be carrying absolutely anything anyone might need. From white water rafts to computerised defence systems to a hot air balloon safely tucked away in their bottomless Mary Poppins carpetbags, they appear to be lugging the contents of a Bear Grylls wet dream through the dense jungle.


Producers Discuss Audience Expectations

The one thing we expected from the trailer… and the poster… and the dustcover of Michael Crichton’s novel…was a decent, terrifying creature. Seriously, who wouldn’t fork over their cash for a killer gorilla? A King Congo? The filmmakers couldn’t fail, could they? They failed alright. Like a chimp trying to ride a unicycle. An idea incidentally, that is still better than most of the ones that made the final cut of Congo.

Producers. Kindly note a simple rule of thumb- lasers and apes should never appear in the same film.

By the time the promised ‘killer’ gorillas finally appear, we are beyond weeping with laughter. We are just weeping. These supposed monstrous apes resemble four aged stuntmen who’ve been rolled in glue and cat hair. An evening with The Wombles would have been scarier.

Watch this clip…

…and tell us, honestly, that this should be part of any film… let alone one that cost $50M.

It’s a brutal watch. In true angry primate style, you will be flinging poo at the screen by the end.

Some of it possibly your own.

As Amy herself exclaims at one point, “Ugly gorillas. Ugly. Go away.” It’s hard to argue with the dialogue or the sentiment.


The Congo trailer. This is what $50m buys you. If you have too much money:
















One Comment

  1. Nice write up.
    I actually saw this in the cinema back in ’95 and we have a good laugh, pretty much all of the way through the film.

    One thing though, I reckon Ernie Hudson, Tim Curry, Delroy Lindo and Joe Pantoliano know they are in a ‘bad movie’

    They all ham it up to the max, which is one of the reasons I enjoy it so much.

    The ‘talking gorilla’ was hilarious (so bad it’s good).

    All in all, if you sit back and take the movie for what it is, you’ll have a blast

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