Congo (film)

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Congo movie poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFrank Marshall
Produced by
Screenplay byJohn Patrick Shanley
Based onCongo
by Michael Crichton
Music byJerry Goldsmith
CinematographyAllen Daviau
Edited byAnne V. Coates
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • June 9, 1995 (1995-06-09)
Running time
109 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$50 million
Box office$152 million

Congo is a 1995 science fiction action-adventure film loosely based on Michael Crichton's novel of the same name. It was directed by Frank Marshall. It stars Laura Linney, Dylan Walsh, Ernie Hudson, Tim Curry, Grant Heslov and Joe Don Baker. The film was released on June 9, 1995, by Paramount Pictures.[1][2] Congo received quite negative reviews but performed better than Paramount expected.[3]


While testing a communications laser in a remote part of the Congo jungle, TraviCom employees Charles Travis (Bruce Campbell) and Jeffrey Weems (Taylor Nichols) discover the ruins of a lost city near a volcanic site. Karen Ross (Laura Linney), assisting at TraviCom's headquarters, does not hear back from their team and activates a remote camera at the camp, discovering the camp destroyed and numerous corpses; something large suddenly knocks over and destroys the camera. Karen alerts TraviCom's CEO and Charles' father, R.B. Travis (Joe Don Baker), who informs her that the group was really there looking for a rare blue diamond only found there which would greatly enhance their capabilities, but does not offer any hope to rescue them. Travis implores Karen to lead an expedition and she makes Travis swear that he is sending her to look for Charles, not the diamond. She warns him if he is lying, she will make him sorry.

Meanwhile, Peter Elliott (Dylan Walsh), a primatologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and his assistant Richard (Grant Heslov) teach human communication to primates using a mountain gorilla named Amy (voiced by Shayna Fox). With a special backpack and glove, her sign language is translated to a digitized voice. Despite the success, Peter is concerned that Amy is having nightmares and psychological problems, due to several drawings Amy has made of jungles and the Eye of Providence. Peter attempts to gain funding to take Amy to Africa, but the university is reluctant, and Peter begins inquiring elsewhere. Romanian philanthropist Herkermer Homolka (Tim Curry) offers to fund the expedition. Karen, having learned of the trip, offers to fund it as well and to come along, hoping to discover the fate of her team.

In Africa, the group meets their expert guide Captain Monroe Kelly (Ernie Hudson) but they are captured by the local authorities and militia leader named Captain Wanta (Delroy Lindo), who grants them passage for a sizable bribe. Amy detests Karen Ross and repeatedly insults her as she is threatened by another female near Peter. As the group boards another plane, Monroe reveals that Homolka has led previous safaris in search of the "Lost City of Zinj", with disastrous results. The group parachutes into the jungle just before their plane is shot down by Zairean soldiers.

On the ground, they encounter a native Ghost Tribe. The tribe leads them to Bob Driscoll (John Hawkes), a member of Charles' expedition, who they have been attempting to revive from his catatonic state. On seeing Amy, Bob begins screaming and soon dies. They continue by boat, and learn that Homolka is interested in finding Zinj and its fabled diamond mine (King Solomon's Mines). Homolka believes that Amy's drawings suggest she has seen the mine and hopes she will lead them there. After an attack by hippos, they find the ruined camp and Zinj nearby. While searching the city, Richard is attacked and killed by a killer grey gorilla, which the rest of the team take down. They take shelter at the ruined camp, other grey gorillas kept at bay by automated sentry guns set up by Karen.

When day breaks, they return to the city, discovering hieroglyphs that say that the people had taught the grey gorillas, a unique species due to the volcanic environment, to guard the mine and kill anyone that approached it. The group suspects that the gorillas turned on their masters but still protect the mine now. They find the diamond mine and Homolka starts to collect large diamonds, but a pack of gorillas appear and kill him. Monroe, Karen, and Peter fight off the gorillas and flee deeper into the mine, where they discover Charles' body, holding a giant blue diamond. As Amy helps to fend off the gorillas, Karen is able to fit the diamond into a portable laser, using it to fire and ward off the gorillas. The volcano begins to erupt, and Monroe, Karen, Peter and Amy escape as the city is flooded with lava, killing the gorillas.

Karen contacts Travis to report on finding the diamond and confirming Charles' death. When she sees Travis was only interested in the obtainment of the diamond all along and does not care about Charles at all, she uses her laser to destroy the TraviCom satellite. In the nearby wreckage of a cargo plane, they find a usable hot-air balloon, and prepare to leave. Peter sees Amy watch a troop of mountain gorillas nearby, and lets her go, telling her goodbye. The three take off in the balloon, and Karen has Peter throw away the diamond as they leave.


  • Laura Linney as Karen Ross, an electronics expert for TraviCom, and a former CIA operative, who hopes to find her ex-fiancé lost in a previous expedition to the Congo.
  • Dylan Walsh as Peter Elliott, a primatologist of Berkeley, California who wants to return his gorilla, Amy, to her birthplace in the Congo's Virunga region.
  • Ernie Hudson as Captain Monroe Kelly, the "Great White Hunter" and mercenary who leads the group.
  • Tim Curry as Herkermer Homolka, a Romanian man who offers to finance the expedition. He poses as a wealthy philanthropist, but is soon revealed to be in dire financial straits. His real aim is to find the mythical Lost City of Zinj, where he lost another expedition some years before.
  • Grant Heslov as Richard, Peter's research assistant.
  • Joe Don Baker as R.B. Travis, TraviCom's CEO, Charles' father and Karen's boss. He wants to find the diamond mines to finance and expand his satellite technologies.
  • Lorene Noh and Misty Rojas as the in-suit performers of Amy, a female mountain gorilla, born in the Virunga region, who is studied by Peter in the United States. She likes to draw scenes from her dreams, in which the Lost City of Zinj often appears.
  • Mary Ellen Trainor as Moira
  • Stuart Pankin as Boyd
  • Carolyn Seymour as Eleanor Romy
  • Romy Rosemont as Assistant
  • James Karen as College President
  • John Hawkes as Bob Driscoll
  • Peter Jason as Mr. Janus
  • Jimmy Buffett as 727 Pilot
  • Kevin Zinter 727 Co-Pilot
  • Thom Barry as Samahani
  • Kevin Grevioux as Roadblock Officer
  • Bruce Campbell as Charles "Charlie" Travis, Karen's ex-fiancé and R.B.'s son.
  • Taylor Nichols as Jeffrey Weems, Charlie's friend who was in the previous expedition with Charlie.
  • Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Kahega, Munro's deputy and leader of the expedition's African porters.
  • Joe Pantoliano as Eddie Ventro, an American living in Central Africa who hires Munro, and organizes the group's transportation and materials.
  • Delroy Lindo as Captain Wanta (uncredited), a corrupt African military officer whom the group must bribe in order to gain safe passage.


  • Shayna Fox as Amy
  • Frank Welker provided the vocal effects for gorillas.
  • Gary A. Hecker and Peter Elliott provide the gorilla vocalization.


After the success of The First Great Train Robbery, Crichton decided to write a screenplay specifically for Sean Connery, as the character of Charles Munro, an archetypal "great white hunter" akin to H. Rider Haggard's hero, Allan Quatermain.[4] The film was envisioned as an homage to classic pulp adventure tales, and Crichton successfully pitched the movie to 20th Century Fox in 1979 without a fleshed out story.[4] However, the film ran into problems when Crichton learned that he could not use a real gorilla to portray the character of Amy, which led to him leaving the project.[4] From there, it was offered to several directors including Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter who both declined.[4] A brief attempt was made to revive the project in the late 1980s but to no avail.[4] Eventually, Frank Marshall directed the film with little, if any, involvement from Crichton.[4] The film's teaser credits John Patrick Shanley and Crichton as co-screenwriters, but the subsequent trailer and the film itself credit Shanley alone.


In the US the film grossed $81,022,101. The final worldwide gross $152,022,101 worldwide versus a $50,000,000 budget.[5]


Rotten Tomatoes retroactively collected 49 reviews to give the film an approval rating of 22%.[6] Metacritic rated it 22/100 based on 19 reviews, meaning "generally unfavorable reviews".[7] Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times rated it 3 out of 4 stars. He called the film a splendid example of a genre no longer much in fashion, the jungle adventure story.[8] It was also nominated for seven Golden Raspberry Awards. Hal Hinson of the Washington Post called the film a "Spielberg knockoff...shamelessly lifting themes and ideas from a handful of Steven's greatest hits."[9] Hinson also criticized Amy the gorilla as "the most disappointing 'performance' of all" and opined that the supporting actors, Tim Curry and Ernie Hudson, stood out more than the lead actors.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Subject Result
Golden Raspberry Award Worst New Star Amy the Talking Gorilla Nominated
Worst Supporting Actress Nominated
Worst Supporting Actor Tim Curry Nominated
Worst Original Song Jerry Goldsmith "(Feel) the Spirit of Africa" Nominated
Worst Screenplay John Patrick Shanley Nominated
Worst Picture Kathleen Kennedy
Sam Mercer
Worst Director Frank Marshall Nominated
Saturn Award Best Science Fiction Film Kathleen Kennedy
Sam Mercer
Best Director Frank Marshall Nominated

In other media[edit]

A video game based on the film, Congo The Movie: The Lost City of Zinj, was released in 1996. A different game for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis was in development, but was cancelled.[10]

A pinball machine named Congo was produced that was based on the film.[11]


  1. ^ Turan, Kenneth (1995-06-09). "MOVIE REVIEW : They Took Crichton Out of the 'Congo'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
  2. ^ Doll, Pancho (1994-10-13). "REEL LIFE / FILM & VIDEO FILE : Crichton 'Congo' Crew Beats a Path to Simi Ranch : A menagerie helps create the setting of a jungle airstrip. Another thriller is shot at a Potrero Road house". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
  3. ^ Natale, Richard (1995-06-12). "800-Pound Gorilla Takes a Seat on Box-Office Bus : Movies: Ape tale 'Congo' opens huge despite bad reviews, bumping 'Casper' to second place. 'Bridges of Madison County' takes third, shows promise of a long life". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-08-02.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Lambie, Ryan. "The strange prehistory of 1995's Congo". Den of Geek. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  5. ^ Eller, Claudia (1995-06-13). "Company Town : At the Box Office, Literary Prestige Is One for the Books". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
  6. ^ "Congo". Retrieved August 31, 2018.
  7. ^ "Congo". Metacritic. 2016-08-02.
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (1995-06-09). "Congo Movie Review & Film Summary (1995)". Roger Ebert. Retrieved 2017-09-17.
  9. ^ Hal Hinson (1995-06-09). "Congo Review". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-03-09.
  10. ^ "Congo: The Secret of Zinj". Retrieved December 15, 2015.
  11. ^ "Williams Pinball machine "Congo" in the Internet Pinball Machine Database". Retrieved April 8, 2017.

External links[edit]