A woman goes on safari in the jungles of Africa to search for her lost fiancée, not knowing that the expedition’s guide has a secret mission to investigate ivory poaching. Meanwhile, the fiancée has fallen in love with the Queen of a tribe of white skinned Amazons, grown up survivors from an old shipwreck.
Every now and then in the universe of low budget moviemaking, you encounter a film that really achieves something, a film that pushes the boundaries and takes it further than anyone else has ever dared. Some of these ‘achievements’ can be of a slightly… dubious nature and the one attained by this jungle adventure certainly falls into that category. But they are still to be admired anyway. Sort of.
So what has ‘Queen of the Amazons’ (1947) got than sets it apart? Old stock footage. Yards and yards of it. Minute upon minute upon minute. At a guess, I would hazard that at least a third of the 60 minute running time is made up from old grainy library shots of lions, tigers, gazelles, zebras, monkeys, elephants, riverbanks, natives dancing, natives hunting, natives marching, natives milling around aimlessly, etc, etc. Tigers? In Africa? Surely, by 1947, filmmakers weren’t that ignorant. Well, no, of course not. Our heroine starts her journey in India, where she finds out that her fiancée has actually gone on safari in Africa. Easy mistake for her to make I suppose.
Our leading lady is the lovely Patricia Morison (later a big musical star on Broadway), who is usually remembered these days in terms of film for ‘Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Code (Dressed to Kill) (1946). In this ‘epic’, she is often reduced to pointing off-screen or looking through binoculars and saying: ‘Look at that!’ or something similar. One hilarious moment has her commenting about how fast a herd of gazelles are running, only for the next shot to show them moving in slow motion! Presumably, the clip was too brief to show otherwise. Events are tied together by a ponderous narration. Sometimes this informs us of things that actually might have been nice to see in terms of the plot development.Leaving aside the more ‘technical’ aspects of the production, can it be saved by the story and the performances? Well, no, not really. Morison and male lead Robert Lowery try hard but their dialogue is mostly silly as he swaggers about playing the alpha male and she struggles hard to cope with her new found feelings for him. Because she’s supposed to be in love with the missing fiancée, right? The supporting players are completely colourless with the exception of J Edward Bromberg as the philosophical cook.
The Amazons are not really all that convincing either. Apparently, there’s a whole tribe but we only see 3 of them and they all are slightly built and perfectly coiffured. Hardly prime specimens of rugged female power. The Queen is played by petite French(?) actress Amira Moustafa, whose weak performance may have had something to do with language difficulties.
In a less than thrilling climax, the girls cower helplessly as our masculine hero takes on the villain in a bout of the usual fisticuffs. There are some truly wonderful reaction shots of Morison in this sequence. She looks like she’s watching the most violent, bloody scrap of all time rather than two stuntmen lurching clumsily around an unconvincing set trying not to hurt each other.
Director Edward Finney actually has far more credits as a producer. It’s interesting how common that is in the world of bad film. It’s perhaps simplistic to cast producers in the role of non-creative, penny pinchers with no artistic ability but there is some evidence out there to support this view…