KONG ISLAND (1968) has also been released under the titles King of Kong Island and Eva, the Savage Venus. Every one of those titles could let viewers build a strong case for false advertising. There’s no island, no king OR King Kong and though the third title listed above may hint at something lurid, the wild jungle woman of that title has very little screen time.
Under any name, this movie appeals to most of us fans of So Bad They’re Good films. We get a regulation Mad Scientist, his army of robot/ bionic apes which AREN’T really robotic or bionic, a sultry young woman raised in the jungle by the animals and plenty of action scenes.
This Italian film was produced by Brad Harris, who also starred as the beefcake hero who shows off his bodybuilder frame in shirtless scenes. Ladies got to ogle Burt while men got to ogle Eva, who is known to the Kenyan natives as … the Sacred Monkey. (?) Years later the Hong Kong movie Goliathon would combine a jungle queen and a gorilla that really was as big as King Kong.
BURT DAWSON (Brad Harris) is the muscular soldier of fortune who hires on for any job, legal or illegal. Kong Island opens with Burt and a few accomplices on the run after robbing a payroll. They stop in the wilderness to split the loot only to be double-crossed by their colleague Turk (Paul Carter), who shoots down the other survivors of the raid.
Burt, too, catches a bullet from behind, but apparently the large sweat stain on his back stopped the bullet or something because he shows up later, with a gunshot wound on his shoulder despite being shot in the back. Go figure. Burt recovers and turns up in Nairobi, Kenya looking to hire on for any shady or dangerous job available.
ALBERT MULLER (Marc Lawrence) is the Mad Scientist villain of the story. He has his laboratory and headquarters in an extensive network of caves in the Kenyan jungle where he implants devices in the brains of gorillas, letting him control them, even remotely. He uses his obedient gorilla army against the good guys plenty of times and plans to one day control humans via similar brain implants and take over the world.
Burt and the treacherous Turk had worked for Muller on dirty jobs in the past and in fact Turk has signed back on with the evil scientist at his Kenya operation.
EVA (Esmeralda Barros) aka SAVAGE VENUS aka THE SACRED MONKEY (?) is the beautiful jungle woman who was raised by animals yet has well-shaven legs and cover girl cleanliness. She can’t speak human languages but communicates with jungle animals, especially primates.
When Eva’s former gorilla friends stop obeying her after Muller implants his devices in their brains, she comes into conflict with him. She ends up aiding the film’s heroes at the last minute after spending most of the running time just looking gorgeous plus oinking and boinking with Burt Dawson.
That’s our Big Three, but in support we have Theodore (Jim Clay), the scheming owner of a hotel/ bar, and his hot to trot young wife Ursula (Adriana Alben), who used to be Burt’s girl long ago and still has the hots for him, infuriating the jealous Theodore.
There’s also Robert (Mark Farran), Theodore’s son who is a former comrade in arms of Burt, and Diana (Ursula Davis), Robert’s sister who has had a crush on Burt for years but is finally of legal age. Throw in Forrester (Dan Doney), an Interpol Agent on the trail of the villainous Albert Muller and we’re ready to go.
Muller’s army of remote-controlled gorillas attack a jungle expedition led by Robert and his younger sister Diana as they search for the creature that the natives call the Sacred Monkey. The gorillas kill several men and take Diana to Albert’s cavern headquarters. The villain has his underling Turk inform Robert that if he or his father ever want to see Diana alive again, they’ll lure the dangerous and formidable Burt Dawson into a trap for him.
It turns out that Muller wants to use Dawson as his first human guinea pig to see if his brain implants can be made to work on human beings as well as they work on gorillas.
Hating himself, Robert plays Judas Goat and hires Burt to join him in an expedition that Dawson thinks is being mounted to free Diana from Muller and Turk. As this second expedition proceeds into the jungle, they are attacked by the controlled gorillas and also clash with hostile natives who try to hunt them down The Most Dangerous Game style.
Eva has been popping up from time to time, watching the expedition from a distance and is clearly infatuated with the beefcake mercenary Burt. She saves him, has her monkeys round up bananas and other fruits for Dawson to eat and has a romantic interlude with him in her cavern home.
In the end, Burt and Eva raid Muller’s laboratory/ hideout, free Diana and other female captives of the scientist and destroy the machinery that lets Albert control the gorillas. Those primates now go back to obeying Eva and she has them kill Muller.
Turk was killed earlier in a one-on-one fight with our hero Burt, who at last got revenge on Turk for betraying him and the rest of their payroll robbery gang at the start of the movie. Theodore gets killed by the slinky Ursula, who has secretly been working for Albert Muller the entire film, and Ursula dies, too, in the final battle.
The next day, Burt and Diana part company with Eva, who returns to her jungle queen lifestyle as Burt and Diana head back to civilization having never been to any island anywhere, nor having ever even said the word “island” at any time during the entire movie.
Kong Island is a lot of fun for fans of Bad Movies. Part of that fun comes from the way that the actors playing both our hero Burt Dawson and our villain Albert Muller have each appeared in countless films and television shows over the decades.
This is definitely worth at least one watch. My favorite part is when Burt, getting up close and personal with Eva, sultrily asks her … “Are you the Sacred Monkey?” Now THAT’S a memorable pickup line, and I think it should become the new “What’s your sign?”
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