Jungle Captive (1945)

Jungle Captive 1945‘Moloch is a true scientist. He understands the unimportance of a single life’.

Dr Stendahl is experimenting with bringing dead animals back to life. He arranges to kidnap the corpse of ape woman Paula Dupree so he can use it as the ultimate test of his reanimation process.

The final film in the ‘Captive Wild Woman’ trilogy from Universal’s b-picture unit. After being pumped full of glandular secretions by loony scientist John Carradine, becoming part of a circus act, losing her true love to Evelyn Ankers, being shot by police, brought back from the dead by loony scientist J Carrol Naish, getting some dialogue, going all damp over another guy who doesn’t want to know and getting killed again, it was time for a last bow for Cheela, the Ape Woman. Only this time Acquanetta had jumped ship and this completely thankless assignment went to actress Vicky Lane.

Dr Stendahl is bringing rabbits back to life in the room behind his lab in the ‘Medical Building’ when he should be doing ‘Coagulation Tests’. We never find out exactly what his job is or who he works for but he seems like a nice guy. He’s assisted in the lab by romantic lead Phil Brown who has a thing with pretty Amelita Ward. Unfortunately, Stendahl’s home life is a bit of a giveaway. He lives in a creepy old house out in the boonies and has a servant/henchman called Moloch, played by the very wonderful Rondo Hatton. This is because Stendahl is actually a loony. I know, I was surprised too.

Rondo collects the body of the ape woman from the local morgue one night but doesn’t agree with the attendant’s plan to check out his credentials with the police. This is a rather obvious tactical error on the part of the attendant. Stendahl tricks Ward into coming out to his place so he can use her blood on the ape woman who magically transforms into Vicky Lane. She comes complete with lovely lashes, sculpted brows and a gorgeous hairdo. Then he decides to pop Ward’s brain into her head, just because he can. I guess sometimes when you start something you just can’t stop.

Jungle Captive (1945)

There was a lot of clearing up to do after the party…

This is all terribly absurd of course but Otto Kruger plays it straight faced as Stendahl and brings authority to the role, even as credibility disappears rapidly toward the horizon, cheerfully waving bye bye and throwing rude gestures at the audience at the same time. Kruger was an excellent screen actor who had played in the creepy ‘Dracula’s Daughter’ (1936) and was memorable as psychic Jules Amthor in the classic noir ‘Murder, My Sweet’ (1944).

Another plus point is that this is actually a completely new movie, unlike previous episode ‘Jungle Woman’ (1944), a good proportion of which was made up of clips from ‘Captive Wild Woman’ (1943).

Rondo brings his usual presence to the part of Moloch and gets some serious screen time but his role is a purely generic one. Lane has nothing to do as the monster but wander around a bit like a zombie and the climax is a real damp squib. It is an improvement on the previous entry in the series but, with post war austerity about to bite, yes, even in Hollywood, it’s no surprise that the ape girl did not appear again.

And, if you think about it, the title makes absolutely no sense at all! Unless I missed the jungle part somehow…

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