Blaise’s Bad Movie Guide
A few years back, I went to see actor Bruce Campbell give a lecture at a local college. One member of the audience asked the question: “Why do you just make B-movies?” Bruce replied, “What if you were offered a chance to appear in a movie based on a Michael Crichton novel? It will be directed by veteran Frank Marshall. Stan Winston will handle the special effects and it will be a big budget Paramount production. Sounds good? Congratulations, you just made ‘Congo.’ ”
Ah yes, “Congo” (1995) — the movie that proves an A film can be just as bad as a B film if it puts its mind to it.
Our story begins with a bang as the scummy honchos at the TraviCom corporation send Bruce Campbell and company to the Congo to search for diamonds to power a laser. In short order, a bloody eyeball is tossed at Bruce and he and his crew are killed by a mysterious creature and it looks as though this is going to be gory horror movie. But wait — the next scene features scientist Peter Elliot (Dylan Walsh) teaching Amy, his pet gorilla, to talk using motion-capture sensors on her arm. Ah, so maybe it’s going to be a Disney-type movie (discounting the fact that Amy smokes cigars and drinks martinis). Turns out Peter wants to bring Amy back to the jungle and Karen Ross (Laura Linney) from TraviCom wants to tag along to find out what happened to Bruce and company (don’t worry, Amy gets her own seat on the plane). They’re joined by Herkermer Homolka (Tim Curry), who’s hot to locate the lost city of Zinj (alas, the usually reliable Curry sports the phoniest Romanian accent in cinema history —think Bela Lugosi as Dracula on acid, with a hangover). We also meet their guide, Monroe Kelly (Ernie Hudson), who tells his crew, “I’m a great white hunter, only I’m black.” Really, who talks like this?
So now we are ready for our expedition into the Congo. And a sorry expedition it is.
SEE: Our crew go through customs and deal with border security. When the group states its mission to a tough-as-nails border official, he replies “Liar liar, your pants are on fire.” Handed a bribe, he puts his ill-gotten cash in a paper bag and staples it with a stapler he apparently carries around for just such occasions. Maybe this movie is a political thriller?
LISTEN: Our crew becomes terrified at the sound of monkeys mating in the jungle under a full moon. “They just want to be like Elvis,” Monroe assures them. A nature documentary?
HEAR: Our crew breaks out in song for a rousing chorus of “California Dreaming” while unpacking gear. Ah, so this is “Glee.”
LEARN: How do you divert a heat-seeking missile coming toward the plane you are in? Simple, fire a flare gun. A Bond movie!
Actually, as if it were trying to be all things at once, the movie reaches a climax that includes killer apes, a volcanic eruption, boiling lava, hidden diamond mines, lasers destroying orbiting satellites and more. Is it worth it to stick around for the movie’s big finale? Well, I find the board game Hippo Attack to be more exciting than the closing scene of this film. But that’s just me.
On a final note: When I saw first saw “Congo” in the mid-’90s I bought a whole bunch of the action figures that accompanied its release, thinking they might be worth something someday. Of course I took a bath on them.
— Blaise Majkowski
Gazette page designer and B-movie aficionado