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Kongo (1932)

Passed  -  Drama | Horror  -  1 October 1932 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 421 users  
Reviews: 27 user | 5 critic

This remake of West of Zanzibar (1928) made four years later tries to outdo the Lon Chaney original in morbidity. From a wheelchair a handicapped white man rules an area of Africa as a ... See full summary »


(as William Cowen)


(screen play), (based upon the play by), 1 more credit »
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Title: Kongo (1932)

Kongo (1932) on IMDb 6.9/10

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Complete credited cast:
Conrad Nagel ...
C. Henry Gordon ...
Mitchell Lewis ...
Forrester Harvey ...
Curtis Nero ...


This remake of West of Zanzibar (1928) made four years later tries to outdo the Lon Chaney original in morbidity. From a wheelchair a handicapped white man rules an area of Africa as a living god. He rules the local natives through superstition and stage magic and he rules the few white people through sadism, keeping them virtual prisoners. He lives for the day he can avenge himself horribly on the man who stole his wife and crushed his spine. Strong and macabre stuff in a nearly forgotten horror film. Written by Mark Leeper <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

magic | africa | leech | paraplegic | savage | See more »


Drama | Horror


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

1 October 1932 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Kongo  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


The original play opened in New York on 30 March 1926, with Walter Huston in the role of Flint. See more »


Tula: [Tula has just given a drink of "gin" to a tribal chieftain; he refuses to return the bottle] I hate to see good gin wasted on a dried-up monkey like that.
Cookie Harris: That's not gin I gave him - - that's kerosene.
[Cookie and Tula look at the chief, happily drinking the "gin," and both giggle]
See more »


Features West of Zanzibar (1928) See more »

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User Reviews

KONGO (William J. Cowen, 1932) ***
15 April 2006 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

This is a talkie remake of WEST OF ZANZIBAR (1928) which, alas, is one of the few of the legendary Tod Browning/Lon Chaney collaborations which has eluded me thus far. To begin with, I was shocked to learn that William Cowen (who only directed 6 films during his brief career, this being his most substantial effort) made the lackluster OLIVER TWIST (1933; which I watched only a few weeks ago) soon after! Anyway, KONGO is not really a horror film – but, with the accent being on sadism and degradation, it certainly makes the most of the liberal Pre-Code attitude of the time. Besides, you can almost feel the humid jungle atmosphere: actually, apart from a few of the Chaney films and this one, MGM did several other African-set adventures during this time including TRADER HORN (1931), RED DUST (1932) and the Johnny Weissmuller/Maureen O'Sullivan "Tarzan" films (1932-42). Walter Huston is as commanding as ever in Chaney's old role (though he had originated it himself on stage!) – even if he wasn't quite his equal, I think, particularly where pathos is concerned. Interestingly, the film's plot is also quite similar to that of THE SHANGHAI GESTURE (1941) – which also stars Huston but where his role is more or less reversed! The entire cast is excellent (C. Henry Gordon' role, replacing Lionel Barrymore from the original, is brief but pivotal) including, surprisingly, the 'romantic' leads (Virginia Bruce and Conrad Nagel) – though that's because their roles are complex rather than insipid, as was the norm during this time. As for Lupe Velez – who had been Chaney's daughter in WHERE EAST IS EAST (1929) – the passage of just 3 years has seen her relegated to 'other woman' types and, despite receiving second billing, her role is basically a supporting one (especially since Velez practically disappears during the latter stages of the film).

The film drags in spots and is perhaps overlong for its purpose; however, there's an abrupt passage of time – in which we never get to see Bruce's descent to the skids at Huston's hands – which confused me at first into thinking that she was actually her own mother! Huston exerts his grip on the fearsome, gullible natives by the use of magic tricks (including, ironically, the decapitation routine I had seen only a couple of days earlier in Browning's THE SHOW [1927]!; could this have been used in WEST OF ZANZIBAR, too?) and a lot of rather silly chanting of mumbo-jumbo. While I knew of the plot revelation, it's still very effectively handled; indeed, given Cowen's non-reputation, I have to wonder how this film compares scene by scene with the original, i.e. whether the director here consciously copied Browning and that's why KONGO is so powerful! Curiously, Huston's comeuppance at the hands of the natives he had exploited for so long is strikingly similar to that of ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1933) – though it's considerably less graphic (also because here we're not told what really happened to him {is it the same with WEST OF ZANZIBAR?}, whereas we know what Dr. Moreau's fate is going to be without having to actually witness it).

I doubt that the film's reputation is solid enough to justify a stand-alone (and most probably bare-bones) DVD release from Warners – and, despite the obvious connection, I would think it'd be out of place on an eventual second set of Lon Chaney vehicles; still, I would very much like to have an official DVD edition of this one, also because my copy froze for an instant during a crucial scene…

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