Thursday, July 11, 2013

Kongo (1932)

For dark, rotting depravity, look no further than this sound remake of Tod Browning's 1928 collaboration with Lon Chaney, West of Zanzibar. Both tell the same story, but in Kongo, Walter Huston reprises the same role he originally performed on stage (and which West of Zanzibar was based) and he has a delicious time hamming it up. Huston looks like a deranged pirate with a wicked, mischievous glint in his eye, an insane prototype of Dennis Hopper's Frank Booth.

Huston is "King Deadlegs" Flint, a paraplegic planning revenge in an African swamp, manipulating the natives with magic tricks and living with man-hungry Lupe Velez and two Lupe Velez-hungry henchmen.

If you haven't seen West of Zanzibar or Kongo, I won't give away the plot's twists and turns here. I will say that drug addicted-Conrad Nagel and Virginia Bruce get caught in Huston's web and, like so many Tod Browning-related films, the ending is EC-like in its ironic justice.

All in all, Kongo is probably not as strong as the more tightly constructed West of Zanzibar. Where Kongo excels is in atmosphere; the sweaty and heated look of the film is downright claustrophobic.

Kongo has been released on Warner Archives DVD-R.

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