Director: Frank Agrama

At the same time of Dino de Laurentiis' multi-million dollar remake of KING KONG (1976), a British/Italian co-production that spoofed the RKO classic was about to be unleashed. Titled QUEEN KONG, the almighty de Laurentiis filed a lawsuit to halt its release in many countries and consequently making it unseen in many territories. By the mid 1970s, most British comedies weren't distributed in the U.S., but this opus bearing the "Kong" name would surely have gotten stateside distribution. Not seen in this country for over 25 years (and only recently surfacing on the VHS gray market), QUEEN KONG is now available thanks to that life-altering phenomenon known as DVD. Ironically, it still has not been released officially in Great Britain.

Injected with ample helpings of British humor, QUEEN KONG is a comic retelling of the "King Kong" legend, only the genders have been switched and the tale has been executed as a bawdy satire with impromptu musical numbers and enough verbal site gags to make Mel Brooks blush. Robin Askwith (HORROR HOSPITAL) stars as "Ray Fay," a longhaired London vagabond who catches the attention of pompous filmmaker Luce Habit (Rula Lenska, remember her "Alberto V05" commercials?) after stealing an "original reproduction" of a KING KONG poster. Fay is drugged, dragged aboard her private boat with a crew of cuties, and they sail to the jungles of Lazanga ("where they do the Konga").

Luce, Ray and the gals meet up with a tribe of mostly Anglo natives lead by Valerie Leon (BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY'S TOMB), looking delicious in a bikini and headdress. The natives capture Ray and leave him on a giant picnic table inside a cake for Queen Kong as a sacrificial snack, but she loving nabs him instead. After battling the worst-looking Tyrannosaurs since the one in THE MIGHTY GORGA and a hook-legged Pterodactyl, the lady gorilla falls in love with Ray, and she is brought back to the London to feed the media frenzy. Of course, Queenie gets loose, stomps over the city, smashes an airplane, climbs Big Ben with Ray in hand, and becomes a symbol for women's lib.

Though reports had been disapproving, QUEEN KONG is an enjoyable comedy with ambitious production values and scope, despite its modest budget. The humor is much like a "Carry On" film, and some of the musical numbers with remind you of Benny Hill's "Hill's Angels." Askwith is fun and hammy, obviously comfortable with comedy by this point (after numerous appearances as Timothy Lea in the "Confessions" films), and Lenska plays it Joan Collins-esque. The gags are endless, poking on things like JAWS, THE EXORCIST, American politics, the Queen, etc. Although not politically correct, there is no nudity and no really offensive language, so this would probably pass with a PG-rating today. Another Hammer starlet, Linda Hayden (TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA) does an unglamorous bit as a "Singing Nun" in a take-off of the "Airport" flicks.

Retromedia's DVD of QUEEN KONG looks fantastic, their most attractive release since THE DEATHMASTER. The overall appearance is very clean with sharp detail and nicely defined colors. The film only jumps in quality during the chroma key effects scenes, as they were obviously shot with TV video cameras and then transferred to film. The film is presented letterboxed at 1.85:1, nicely preserving its original hard-matted photography. Audio is clear as a bell with no noticeable defects.

Included is a commentary with director Frank Agrama and Fred Olen Ray. Although the talk is well-spirited, there's erroneous information abound (Agrama's insistence that the film was shot in the early 70s for instance), and it sometimes plays more like a view-along rather than an actual commentary. There are some nice behind the scenes tidbits (the gorilla was played by a female dancer!), but I wish Agrama would have went more into details about the actors, the special effects and other aspects of the production. Also included is an original theatrical trailer which was most likely only seen in certain parts of Europe. (George R. Reis)