White Pongo (1945)

White_Pongo_(1945)‘You’ve got a lot of British spunk in you.’

An explorer is about to sacrificed by a remote African tribe when he is saved by a white man who lives with them. The price of his freedom is to return to civilisation with the diary of a previous expedition that tells of a fabulous white gorilla living deep in the jungle.

This tropical adventure was directed by PRC workhouse Sam Newfield, who also produced as Sigmund Neufeld. He helmed 269 movies in a sparkling career that included ‘classics’ like ‘Radar Secret Service’ (1950), ‘The Flying Serpent’ (1946) and midget western ‘The Terror of Tiny Town’ (1938). Writer Raymond L. Schrock has only 173 credits (the slacker!) and, amongst them is ‘Bad Sister’ (1931) an early outing for both Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart.

Library stock footage is not at ridiculous levels (for once) but clichés in the script certainly are. The diary prompts a new expedition into the interior to find the legendary White Pongo (the gorilla) or is it called White Ponga? This point remains unclear. The leader of the enterprise is a British nobleman and big game hunter who has a daughter and she insists of going along for the ride. She supposed to be paired off with her father’s secretary but, of course, he’s a whining twit and she’s more interested in a rugged rifleman, who seems to be a gentleman fallen on hard times. Rifleman hates her at first of course and the only spark of originality in the proceedings is that she chases him fairly aggressively (for the 1940s at least). She also packs an evening dress for a safari, which is sufficient to get our hero all wobbly and weak at the knees. He’s played by Richard Fraser; a decent second lead in classic features ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ (1945) and Boris Karloff’s ‘Bedlam’ (1946). It’s a shame to see him in such a generic enterprise as this.

"I don't know about you, luv, but I couldn't 'arf murder a curry right now...'

“I don’t know about you, luv, but I couldn’t ‘arf murder a curry right now…’

Points of interest are few and far between. The film was shot at the Los Angeles Botanical Gardens and that looks very nice. There is some casual racial stereotyping; a German guide who is up to no good and a head porter called ‘Mumbo Jumbo’! Ironically enough he’s played by Juel Fuelien, who was a black activist. Best of all, though, is White Pongo himself, depicted with his usual flair by an uncredited Ray ‘Crash’ Corrigan. What would ‘B’ studios have done without his uncanny simian impersonations?

Unfortunately, the story plays out like a collection of script pages from other movies in the same genre mechanically and carelessly assembled.

It’s hard to imagine another film so lacking in any creative or artistic ambition. But I expect I’ll find it one of these days…

Buy ‘White Pongo’ here


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