Certainly an intense movie, but not quite as horrifying as I expected. The worst barbarities are implied, not shown. In some respects Huston’s megalomaniac character reminded me of Brando’s in Apocalypse Now. Both carve out jungle colonies for themselves, ruling as demi-gods.
The magic and elaborate use of ritual works well, establishing authenticity as well as the source of Rutledge’s (Huston’s) power over the natives. The masks are frightening–especially the double-decker mask with the skull ears. Rutledge slithering around with the elephant mask was a creepy bit too.
The mystery of Ann’s origins adds an interesting twist. Rutledge realizes that he has only hurt himself, and not Whitehall, by subjugating Ann. That she never learns that he is her father hurts him more deeply. His change of heart is believable perhaps because he’s been so monstrous. The terror he’s nurtured by using the natives ultimately becomes so powerful that they’re uncontrollable.
The atmosphere in Kongo was amazingly palpable. The natives bring the setting to life; the whites all seem to be slowly dying. It did seem a little suspect that Ann and Kingsland can shift so abruptly from being zoned-out on drugs to a normal state of mind. It is established though, that time has become meaningless here; maybe there’s weeks that go by between scenes.
The scenes involving Whitehall’s death, the imminent threat to Ann, and her escape with Kingsland build to a superb climax. Kongo is fascinating, creepy, and well-acted. Rutledge’s character could have been strictly two-dimensional, but even this completely evil person has some nuance. Well-worth watching, especially for the rituals. 7/10.