In the wake of Jurassic Park (1993), any big-budget movie based on the writing of Michael Crichton seemed like a sure thing.
But director Frank Marshall bit off a bit more than he could chew with his 1995 adaptation of Crichton’s 1980 novel Congo referred to by one reviewer as a “bungle in the jungle”.
It’s one thing making a blockbuster about dinosaurs in the present day – it’s quite another when the centrepiece is an ape who can talk through a machine that deciphers sign language.
Karen Ross (Laura Linney) – who works for communications giant TraviCom – is searching (who knows why) for flawless blue diamonds, as well as her ex-fiance, the son of surly boss RB Travis (Joe Don Baker), who was mysteriously lost on a similar mission.
Peter Elliot (Dylan Walsh) is a gentle, naive, tree-hugging primatologist who feels so guilty about having taught Amy the gorilla to talk that he has decided to return her to her jungle home.
Moviegoers expecting a Jurassic Park-style thrill ride would doubtless have been disappointed with the amateurish acting, stilted dialogue and cheesy special effects.
Despite the best efforts of makeup and visual effects master Stan Winston, the numerous apes are transparently just people in state-of-the-art monkey suits who come off more like bad-tempered Pomeranians than worthy successors to King Kong.
Congo is a weird, inconsistent and silly film, but it’s certainly not short on novelty value. On top of Amy – the talking ape with a taste for Martinis – we have Ernie Hudson doing a plummy English accent as the shotgun-savvy African guide, Tim Curry playing a Romanian soldier of fortune searching for the lost city of Zinji (the site of King Solomon’s fabled diamond mines) and – the surest sign of B-movie status – a hammy cameo from Bruce (Army of Darkness) Campbell.
That’s not forgetting Congo’s rampaging hordes of white apes and what has to be the largest-scale hippo attack in Hollywood history.
Dr Karen Ross
Dr Peter Elliot
Captain Monroe Kelly
Joe Don Baker
Lola Noh (as Lorene Noh)
Mary Ellen Trainor
Amy the Gorilla
College President/Elliot’s Boss
Prof. Arliss Wender
Lawrence T. Wrentz
Rudy (TraviCom Security)
Claude from Mombasa
Jay Speed Forney
Brian La Rosa
John Munro Cameron
John Alexander Lowe
David St. Pierre.
Christopher ‘Critter’ Antonucci