The King of the Kongo

The King of the Kongo (1929) is a Mascot film serial, and was the first serial to have sound,[1] although only partial sound ("Part Talking") rather than the later (and now standard) "All-Talking" productions with complete sound. The first episode was a "three reeler" with the remaining nine episodes being "two reelers" (approximately 15 minutes per film reel).

The King of the Kongo
Directed byRichard Thorpe
Produced byNat Levine
Written byHarry Sinclair Drago
Wyndham Gittens
StarringJacqueline Logan
Walter Miller
Richard Tucker
Boris Karloff
CinematographyErnest Laszlo
Ray Ries
Distributed byMascot Pictures
Release date
August 9, 1929 (1929-08-09)
Running time
10 chapters (213 min)
CountryUnited States


Independently, the two protagonists, Diana Martin and Secret Service agent Larry Trent are searching the jungle for missing relatives, her father and his brother. Tied up in this plot are ivory smugglers and a lost treasure hidden in the jungle.



The King of the Kongo was the first film serial to have any sound element. Larger serial-producing studios (for example, Pathé and Universal Studios) were reluctant to change away from silent production (although Universal released their own Part-Talking serial, Tarzan the Tiger, later in the same year) while smaller studios could not afford to do so. Legend has it that producer and studio-owner Nat Levine carried the sound discs in his lap from Los Angeles to New York City, by train and aeroplane, for them to be safely developed. For financial reasons, these discs could not have been repaired or replaced if anything had gone wrong.[1] This was two years after the first Part-Talking film, The Jazz Singer (1927), had been released and a year after the first "All-Talking" film, Lights of New York (1928).

Despite an announcement that two versions of this serial would be released, (a "Part Talking" version and a silent version intended for theatres not yet equipped for sound), no evidence for a silent version ever being released exists. Some of the video bootlegs of the film are the sound version with the sound credits excised.

King of the Kongo is sometimes misreported as an alternate title for the 1931 serial King of the Wild, which also starred Boris Karloff.[2]


Chapter titles

  1. Into the Unknown
  2. Terrors of the Jungle
  3. Temple of Beasts
  4. Gorilla Warfare
  5. Danger in the Dark
  6. The Fight at Lions Pitt
  7. The Fatal Moment
  8. Sentenced to Death
  9. Desperate Choices
  10. Jungle Justice

Preservation status

Updated status as of 6/2014. The complete picture for this serial exists, but the sound does not. This is a current listing of the sound known to survive.

Chapter 1 (three reels) • Into the Unknown (no sound known to exist)
Chapter 2 (two reels) • Terrors of the Jungle (no sound)
Chapter 3 (two reels) • Temple of Beasts (no sound)
Chapter 4 (two reels) • Gorilla Warfare (sound disc for reel 2 survives)
Chapter 5 (two reels) • Danger in the Dark (sound discs for both reels survive) restoration was finished in 2013
Chapter 6 (two reels) • The Fight at Lions Pit (sound discs for both reels survive) National Film Preservation Foundation project began Fall 2014
Chapter 7 (two reels) • The Fatal Moment (sound disc for reel 2 survives)
Chapter 8 (two reels) • Sentenced to Death (sound disc for reel 2 survives)
Chapter 9 (two reels) • Desperate Choices (sound disc for reel 1 survives)
Chapter 10 (two reels) • Jungle Justice (National Film Preservation Foundation restoration project began as of 6/14)

In 2011, collector/historian Eric Grayson, owner of a 16mm silent print, restored the sound to several scenes of the film, using discs from Ron Hutchinson's Vitaphone Project. These reels were Chap 5 r1, Chap 5 r2, and Chap 6 r2. The results of some of the talking scenes have been posted on YouTube.[3]

In 2012, a Kickstarter[4] successfully helped fund a restoration of Chapter 5. National Film Preservation Foundation grant is underway for Chapter 10.[5] A grant for Chapter 6 was issued in June 2014.[6]


  1. (Re)search My Trash: Mascot Pictures retrieved 29 June 2007
  2. Harmon, Jim; Donald F. Glut (1973). "14. The Villains "All Bad, All Mad"". The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury. Routledge. p. 351. ISBN 978-0-7130-0097-9.
  3. "King of the Kongo clip (with sound!)". Retrieved 2011-05-11.
  4. "King of the Kongo film and sound restoration".
  5. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. Missing or empty |title= (help)
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.