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Film / Kongo

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Not having a good time.

Kongo is a 1932 drama film directed by William J. Cowen and starring Walter Huston.

Flint (Huston) is the thoroughly evil owner of an ivory business somewhere in the heart of Africa, presumably the Belgian Congo. Flint has also made himself out as chief priest of the local voodoo religion, impressing the credulous natives with cheesy magic tricks. As the story opens, Flint has summoned his ward, an innocent 18-year-old girl named Ann (Virginia Bruce), from the convent where she's grown up, on the pretext that she is to finally meet her father. A two-year Time Skip reveals the formerly sweet and innocent Ann to now be a sex slave and an alcoholic wreck, having been brought to this low point by the unspeakably cruel Flint. What makes this even worse (if it can be worse) is that Flint doesn't have anything against Ann; he has degraded and abused her as part of a revenge plot against a man named Gregg. Flint is in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down, and Gregg is the reason why.

Kongo is an adaptation of the 1926 Broadway play of the same name, which had starred Huston. It was previously adapted for the screen as West of Zanzibar, a 1928 silent film starring Lon Chaney. It is a remarkable example of a film from The Pre-Code Era, featuring murder, sex slavery, allusions to prostitution, drug addiction, and Lupe Vélez continually on the verge of falling out of her sarong.

Not to be confused with Michael Crichton's novel Congo, or the film adaptation of the same name.


  • Addled Addict: Dr. Kingsland, a traveler who arrives at Flint's compound, is a wild-eyed, twitchy, hollow shell of a drug addict, hooked on "bhang root". Kingsland says that he was actually sent to the Congo to fight drug addiction in the colony, but at some point he "just stopped fighting."
  • The Alcoholic: Two years in Flint's clutches has left Ann a desperate alcoholic, continually begging Flint for the liquor that's her only escape.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: Dr. Kingsland treats Harris the cook for a "floating kidney".
  • Best Served Cold: Flint's revenge plot involves waiting until Gregg's lost daughter Ann has reached adulthood, and bringing her into debauchery and alcoholism before presenting her to Gregg as a ruined woman. The plan goes awry.
  • Darker and Edgier: West of Zanzibar was already a pretty dark and edgy tale, about a bitter, rage-filled man who takes custody of a little girl and turns her into an alcoholic whore as part of a revenge plot. Kongo, amazingly, manages to make this even darker. The Chaney film includes an opening act that shows the protagonist (named Phroso in that film) as a decent and honorable man, who is then dumped by his wife and crippled in a fight with his wife's lover. This film omits that whole opening act, which served to humanize the protagonist, and instead opens with Flint already in Africa, an evil cripple scheming to destroy an innocent woman as part of a revenge plot. The addition of Tula, Flint's slutty companion, and Dr. Kingsland with his crippling drug addiction also serve to make this film even nastier than the already nasty 1928 version.
  • Darkest Africa: Played to the hilt—jungles, alligators, voodoo, and savage cannibal tribes.
  • Evil Cripple: Wheelchair-bound Flint, who is about as evil as they come, with the murder and the sex slavery and whatnot.
  • Evil Slinks: Flint usually is in a wheelchair, but sometimes he crawls around like a snake.
  • Going Cold Turkey: Flint wants Kingsland to perform surgery on him to relieve pains from his paralysis, but Kingsland is a drug-addled wreck, unable to function due to being hooked on bhang root. So Flint has him tied to a post in the swamp, and sticks leeches on him to suck out his presumably drug-soaked blood. It works.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "Love's a queer thing."
  • Heel Realization: Flint has this when he finds out that Ann isn't Gregg's daughter, she's his.
  • He Knows Too Much: One of the natives, lurking about Flint's room, hears him discussing his scheme to debase Ann as revenge on Gregg. Flint shoots the native in the back.
  • Hollywood Natives: The Africans, who wear grass skirts or short pants, decorate their dark skins with white facepaint, and speak in pidgin You No Take Candle English. This movie is very very racist. How racist? Flint's loyal African servant is named "Fuzzy". But really, just how racist is this movie? In addition to the cheap magic tricks, Flint keeps the natives in line by giving them...sugar cubes.
  • Human Sacrifice: Flint's tribe practices a form of human sacrifice in which, after a man dies, his female relations (wife, daughters) are sacrificed along with him. This becomes important when Gregg, whom the tribe believes to be Ann's father, dies.
  • In Medias Res: This film omits the entire opening act of West of Zanzibar and instead opens with Flint in Africa, preparing to bring poor Ann into his clutches.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Flint assumes that Ann is Gregg's daughter. She isn't.
  • Mighty Whitey: Some third-rate magic tricks (the highlight is Tula's fake decapitation) are all it takes for the natives to worship Flint.
  • Rape Discretion Shot: Although there isn't really a lot of discretion. Flint sits and watches as Hogan, his lead thug, drags poor Ann into a side room. Then he sits at the door and laughs as she screams.
  • Revenge Through Corruption: Raising your enemy's daughter to be an alcoholic prostitute is certainly one way to go about it.
  • Sex for Services: An unusual gender-reversed example. Tula demands, and gets, sex from Dr. Kingsland in return for giving him bhang root.
  • Third-Person Person: Tula has a habit of slipping into this habit when she's trying to seduce a man. Fuzzy also does this as part of his You No Take Candle shtick.
  • You No Take Candle: The Africans, including right-hand man Fuzzy, who responds to orders by saying things like "Fuzzy, for big boss will do."
  • Your Son All Along: Flint decides to get his revenge on his wife's lover by turning their love child into an alcoholic prostitute. So he feels just a teensy bit guilty when he finds out that she's actually his daughter.