Olive Films once again hails the Republic (Pictures) in releasing the 1955 12-part Saturday matinee serial "Panther Girl of the Kongo" on Blu-ray on February 21, 2017. This Blu-ray treatment follows Olive doing the same for the (Unreal TV reviewed) Republic serial "Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe." "Cody is notable as being feature on the late 80s - mid '90s classic film-riffing cable series "Mystery Science Theater 3000."
The Wikipedia entry for "Kongo" tells us that it is the 65th of the 66 Republic-produced serials and that it uses a great deal of the stock footage from the 1941 Republic serial "Jungle Girl." This entry does not explain the alternate spelling of the titular African nation.
The following YouTube clip of the spoiler-containing original trailer for "Kongo" provides a good sense of the retro fun in this one.
The lore of the terrifically restored classic cliffhanger is that the titular cougar is Jean Evans, who is staying with an African tribe in the titular country for the purpose of using a movie camera to photograph the local wildlife. The first chapter, which is titled "The Claw Monster," explains how Evans comes to get her titular identification.
The first chapter also introduces the titular beast, which is a giant crawdad. First contact with this enormous crustacean sends the natives fleeing in terror and Jean literally calling in the big guns by asking her big-game hunter friend Larry Sanders to come help.
A strong Scooby-Doo element comes in early in this roughly 2.5 hour epic saga. The audience learns that mad scientist Dr. Morgan is using a growth formula to create the beasts to scare away the members of the tribe who have adopted Jean. The motivation for this is to allow Morgan to resume operating an abandoned diamond mine.
A strong western serial element exists courtesy of Morgan henchmen Cass and Rand. This nefarious duo keep their association with Morgan secret and are posing as big-game hunters who are seeking permission to expand the area in which they are allowed to engage in that activity.
Each roughly 15-minute adventure centers around a scheme of Team Morgan either to kill Evan and Sanders or to thwart their efforts to disclose the existence of the claw monster. This often leads to an attempted ambush or a more subtle trap, which leads to a cliffhanger in which Evans and/or Sanders face imminent doom. Examples of this include an actual saloon fight ending with Sanders falling off a second-story balcony toward sharp spikes and another chapter that leaves him sinking into quick sand. For her part, the perils of Jean include the claw monster grabbing her and a gorilla about to maul her. The joint dangers of out heroes include getting trapped in the aforementioned mine.
The feminist aspects come in to play via Evans being easy on the eyes but tough in a fight. She does not hesitate to rush in where others fear to tread and is as likely to rescue Larry as he is to be her knight in a shining safari ware.
"Kongo"easily passes the "one more" test to the extent that all 12 chapters go by quickly and leave you wanting more. The aforementioned stock footage, the clear recycling of scenes made for "Kongo," and the general 50s-style kiddee adventure vibe of the production provide the wholesome cheesy fun that make it easily good fodder for "MST3K and a Saturday matinee in your living room.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Kongo" is encouraged to email me. You also can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.