Savage Mutiny (1953)

Savage Mutiny (1953)‘Well, Major, you’ve no doubt been wondering about the scientific expedition I brought in here last week…’

Leading a force of government troops, Jungle Jim wipes out a cell of foreign agents living in the interior. This clears the way for ‘Jungle Project X’; the first atom bomb test to be made in Africa. But some of the enemy spies are still around and plan to disrupt the project by stirring up the local population…

The tenth of the ‘Jungle Jim’ series finds muscle-bound ex-Tarzan Johnny Weismuller in gainful employment as some kind official enforcer for the Anglo-American government. Yes, he’s no longer working as a trail guide (specialising in the discovery of lost cities, fabulous diamonds and missing scientists) but rooting out the Commie threat on behalf of Uncle Sam. Uncle Sam Katzman, that is. Yes, the penny-pinching producer serves up yet another slice of no-budget jungle fun with the help of veteran director Spencer Gordon Bennet and writer Sol Shor.

After clearing out the local Red Threat (or so he thinks!), Weismuller heads back to HQ for to his next mission. Chief of Staff Major Walsh (series veteran Lester Matthews in yet another different role) is under orders too; those of ‘radioactivity expert’ Dr Parker (Nelson Leigh). The boffin is planning to drop an atom bomb on the island of Tulonga (the name of which has been helpfully added to the printed wall map in marker pen). Matthews points out that the island is inhabited, but Leigh assures him that it’s the perfect place to test the effects of radioactivity, so it’s all fine. The native tribe can just come to the mainland for a holiday. They might have never left the island before, but Matthews reckons Weismuller can relocate them all in a couple of days.

Savage Mutiny (1953)

‘Come on, lads, we’re only 4-0 down and we’ve got the wind with us in the second half…’

Obviously, it’s not entirely fair to impose modern day attitudes on a piece of entertainment more than half a century old, but it’s still eyebrow-raising when Wesimuller simply goes along with all this. Especially considering he’s supposed to be a long-time friend of the tribe’s headman, Chief Wamai (Charles Stevens, born in Arizona). Still, I guess that uprooting a unique indigenous people from their natural environment and obliterating their culture and homeland with an atom bomb isn’t that bad, is it? The government are going to rebuild their village and let them move back a week or so afterwards!

Also on the plus side, they’re going to get inoculated against any nasty, civilised germs by Angela Stevens from the World Health Organisation. Unfortunately, she loses her ‘carrying case containing the vaccine’ during the journey. Yes, Weismuller retrieves it from some stock footage hyenas, but the description kind of suggests that one shot of something is all they’re going to get anyway. With that quality of medical care, it’s no surprise they start getting seriously ill once they’ve made the trip, but it’s actually because they’ve been sprayed with radioactive dust by despicable commie trader Kroman (played by Gregory Gaye; a real live Russian, ladies and gentlemen!) All of which goes to show that the nasty effects of radiation exposure were even known to Hollywood scriptwriters at the time. As was the fact that you can survive a nuclear explosion by turning your back and simply looking the other way. You don’t even have to lie down. Which is good to know.

Director Bennet was a Hollywood veteran who spent many years working on movie serials, and there’s a sequence in a burning hut that will ring a bell with any fans of that medium. Likewise, author Shor was a regular on the staff at Republic Studios, contributing with a stable of writers to such classic chapter plays as ‘The Adventures of Captain Marvel’ (1941), ‘The Drums of Fu Manchu’ (1940), ‘The Mysterious Dr Satan’ (1943) and ‘The Crimson Ghost’ (1946). But the presence of these two stalwarts adds little that’s new to the seasoned formula; Bennet having already directed ‘Voodoo Tiger’ (1952) in the series, and going on to helm ‘Killer Ape’ (1953) and final entry ‘Devil Goddess’ (1955).

One of the better entries in the ‘Jungle Jim’ series when viewed today, but most of the enjoyment comes from the dated aspects of the story, rather than from anything that the filmmakers put up on the screen intentionally.

Tamba (the talented Chimp) probably does more backflips in this one than any other, though. So,there is that. You know, for die-hard Tamba fans…

The Magic Carpet (1951)

The Magic Carpet (1951)‘Put me down, you image of a hippopotamus.’

A caliph’s baby son escapes when his father is slain in a palace uprising. Unaware of his true identity, the child grows up to oppose the new regime, who are crushing the people with violence, intimidation and unreasonable taxation. Collecting a band of loyal followers, he casts himself as mysterious bandit the Scarlet Falcon. Planning a full revolution, he targets a caravan of weapons meant for the palace…

lt’s time to play the spot the cliché in this tired ‘Arabian Knights’ knock-off from Columbia Studios and infamous skinflint producer Sam Katzman. Unconvincing studio sets doubling as the mystical expanse of the desert? Check. A wicked caliph living inside a matte painting palace with a harem of studio starlets? Check. An evil, dark-bearded vizier imposing ridiculous taxes on a starving populace? Check. A feisty low-born flower of the desert matching wits with a handsome, strong jawed sword-wielding hero? Check.

The Magic Carpet (1951)

‘Honestly, I’m going to buy some furniture soon…’

The story opens with the usual treachery in the throne room with the good ruler murdered by a flying dagger at the instructions of court official Raymond Burr, taking a break from providing muscle in film noirs and just a few projects away from his hook up with the Big G for the U.S. release of ‘Godzilla’ (1954). Unfortunately for him, the caliph’s infant son escapes on a cheap special effect, specifically a flying carpet that’s the only nod to magic in the entire film.

Fast forward a couple of decades and he’s grown into cult movie legend John Agar, who’s a physician by day but a desperado by night, running around in a scarlet bedsheet. His sidekick here is familiar face George Tobias, whose firebrand sister is played by Patricia Medina. She tries hard to help the rebel cause but, given the vintage of the film, it’s little surprise that her efforts only succeed when she dons a gauzy costume and dances seductively for the caliph. Apart from that, all she really manages to do is fall off her horse so she can be rescued by the never more wooden Agar and join him in some lame romantic banter.

So far, so forgettable you might think. But the film is remembered. Unsurprisingly, it’s not got all that much to do with what’s actually on the screen. No, it’s the participation of famous comedienne Lucille Ball that elevates the film to cult status. She’d started in films as early as 1929 but her career had never really taken off. Sure, there’d been leading roles in semi-decent noir ‘The Dark Corner’ (1946) and opposite Boris Karloff in murder-mystery ‘Lured’ (1947) and she was working regularly, but her big break never came. Signing a contract with Columbia Pictures in the late 1940s proved to be a big mistake as she constantly clashed with studio head man Harry Cohn. She spent most of her energy over the next few years arguing for better roles in better pictures. With one film left on the deal, Cohn had Katzman put together this project for the sole reason of punishing her for what he saw as her unreasonable behaviour! To everyone’s surprise, she simply accepted the part without a fuss and got on with it. In truth, she was pregnant and desperate to move into television after giving birth. It was a career decision that turned her into a household name almost overnight and made her one of the biggest stars in U.S. entertainment of her generation.

The Magic Carpet (1951)

‘At least after this, I’ll be out of my contract. Touch wood.’

Here, Ball is saddled with the role of the evil caliph’s scheming sister, who gets the hots for Agar before she discovers his real identity. It’s a thankless, half-baked part but Ball goes through the motions willingly enough, delivering her lines with a withering, dry sarcasm that she’d probably much rather have directed towards Cohn and his front office. Elsewhere, Medina seems to be the only one who realises this is all supposed to be fun and her attempts to inject some life into the weary proceedings are probably the only reason to watch, apart from the curiosity value. The film is also presented in a garish ‘new process’ called Cine-Color, which looks terribly cheap and accentuates the ‘pink’ end of the visual spectrum!

It’s an inoffensive enough way to spend 80 minutes but it is sad to see director Lew Landers reduced to such a generic project when he’d been the man behind the megaphone (as Louis Friedlander) on Lugosi-Karloff classic ‘The Raven’ (1935). He’d also delivered some interesting low-budget pictures in the horror arena in the early 1940s. However, any spark of invention or creativity is only notable by its complete absence here.

Swashbuckling on a tiny budget without any of the required dash, style or dynamism. Not perhaps as bad as its reputation would suggest but very feeble stuff nonetheless.

Jungle Manhunt (1951)

Jungle Manhunt (1951)‘Ever think of selling blow up patches for bubblegum?’

A series of native villages are mysteriously attacked by living skeletons, burnt to the ground and their men kidnapped. Meanwhile, a young photo-journalist engages Jungle Jim to help her search for a flier who disappeared nine years earlier when his plane went down…

We’re back in the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden again for the ninth film in the ‘Jungle Jim’ series with ex-Tarzan Johnny Weismuller. As per usual, this no-budget extravaganza is brought to us by legendary penny-pinching producer Sam Katzman, who teams up here with director Lew Landers. Under the name Louis Friedlander, he’d delivered Karloff-Lugosi classic ‘The Raven’ (1935) but his subsequent career was almost exclusively in b-pictures, although he did work on interesting projects such as ‘The Return of the Vampire’ (1943) with Lugosi, and horror-comedy ‘The Boogie Man Will Get You’ (1942) with Karloff and Peter Lorre. Unfortunately, by the end of the 1940s, his name was attached to such forgotten programmers as ‘My Dog Rusty’ (1948), ‘Adventures of Gallant Bess’ (1948) (about a heroic horse), and a number of Westerns with fading cowboy Tim Holt.

This picture comes at us from the typewriter of Samuel Newman, who was making his debut with the series. However, it’s no surprise that his story doesn’t stray from the well-established formula, although we are spared the usual opening five minutes of library footage accompanied by actor Leland Hodges explaining what a jungle is. Instead, we’re straight into the action with tribal Headman Rick Vallin (a white man born in what is now the Ukraine!) having his Friday night out spoilt when his village is raised to the ground by a war party of nasty natives led by a trio of skeleton men waving burning torches. Women and children are bloodlessly slaughtered and the men carried off.

So what’s going on? Well, it turns out that dastardly mad scientist Lyle Talbot (‘Plan 9 From Outer Space’ (1959)) needs slave labour for his secret mining operation. He’s discovered a way to turn volcanic rock into diamonds (just add water, apparently!) but the workers get radiation poisoning and drop dead after a couple of days. Now, I’m fairly sure these working ‘terms and conditions’ contravene at least some applicable employment statutes, even those in place in 1951, and I doubt that he was offering medical insurance or a good dental plan either. So he’s forced to adopt rather aggressive recruitment procedures and these are carried out by his own tribe of native minions, although why they follow his orders is anybody’s guess. Also I’m not at all certain what purpose the skeleton men serve in his operation. Perhaps Katzman had some Halloween costumes left over from another production and was determined to get full use out of them before returning them to the shop.

Jungle Manhunt (1951)

‘Blimey! Who does he think he is?!’

Meanwhile, Weismuller is saving pretty brunette Sheila Ryan after her boat capsizes. Her small safari is being bankrolled by a millionaire who wants to find his lost nephew. This lad was a pilot and football star who was lost in the jungle almost a decade earlier. Of course with Weismuller’s help, she runs across him in about ten minutes flat. He’s adopted his own tribe (just like Talbot) but has brought them some of the key benefits of Western Civilisation instead, including sidewalks, explosives and the clothes line.

Rather brilliantly, he turns out to be played by real-life Los Angeles Rams star Quarterback Bob Waterfield in his only movie role. Now, l can’t comment on whether Waterfield was as good on the field as Kurt Warner (or even Jared Goff for that matter!) but I can tell you about his acting ability. He didn’t have any. I suppose it was fortunate that he was married to Hollywood icon Jane Russell, who had enough talent in front of the camera for the both of them. A few years after this, they formed a production company together, their first release being big hit ‘Gentleman Marry Brunettes’ (1955).

Given the general lack of charisma on display from our male leads, a lot of the drama’s heavy lifting falls to Ryan. Thankfully, she was an actress with bags of experience, getting her big break opposite Sidney Toler in Charlie Chan thriller ‘Dead Men Tell’ (1941), supporting Laurel and Hardy in ‘Great Guns’ (1941) and ‘A-Haunting We Will Go’ (1942), singing in musicals like ‘The Gay Caballero’ (1942) and appearing in a string of B-Westerns. She’s the best thing in this film by a mile, providing a nice line in light sarcasm, charm and the personality that the rest of the project so desperately lacks. Talbot also adds another cad to his rogue’s gallery of low-budget villains, and must take a lot of credit for his straight-faced delivery of the surprisingly detailed explanation of his scientific process. Personally, I have my doubts as to the validity of his experimental model, especially considering that all it has produced is enough diamonds to fit in a couple of film cans!

Toward the end of the film, our heroes take a complete left turn into the desert, doubled superbly by the ranch belonging to stuntman and famous Gorilla-suit actor Ray ‘Crash’ Corrigan. This detour seems solely for the purpose of meeting up with some old friends; the battling giant lizards from ‘One Billion BC’ (1940). As usual, they’ve given nothing else to do apart from fight, and some of their moves and choreography are beginning to look a bit tired and predictable more than a decade after their debut. How they must have longed to do a drawing room comedy or a light period musical! Still, it was a living, l suppose. We’re also treated to a fight between an octopus and a shark, both of whom aren’t usually found in African rivers. Perhaps they escaped from a local aquarium.

Jungle Manhunt (1951)

‘I told you, I only kiss on the first date.’

There is one more thing. If you watch the trailer for this film, you’ll catch a very brief glimpse of Weismuller fighting a man-sized dinosaur behind some of the credits. The creature looks a little like a Tyrannosaurus Rex but a lot more like someone dressed up to entertain kids at a toddler’s birthday party. Perhaps it was even played by Corrigan, intent on extending his range.

The sequence even featured on the poster, and a production still survives. Sadly, it didn’t make the final cut, thus depriving the world of what looks like one of the most hilarious bad movie moments in the history of cinema. For shame, Mr Katzman, for shame!

Also starring Tamba (the Talented Chimp).

Fury of the Congo (1951)

Fury Of The Congo (1951)‘l hear talking drums of jungle people speak of you. They say you are man to trust.’

Jungle Jim saves the life of a police inspector who crashes his plane into a lake. The agent’s mission is to locate the lost expedition of a college professor, who set out to find a rare animal and the tribe that worship it…

We’re back on the dark continent (heroically portrayed by Southern California) in the company of Johnny Weismuller, making his sixth appearance as the comic strip character created by Alex Raymond. Behind the camera are the triple-threat of producer Sam Katzman, writer Carroll Young and director William Berke. Katzman was on board for the entire 16-film series, with Young and Berke involved in about half of the films each (although not always at the same time).

The plot on this occasion revolves around the Okonga, wild, equine creatures whose ingestion of an unusual plant creates a strong, addictive narcotic which can be extracted from their glands, and sold on the open market. Of course, this provides motivation for the usual bunch of unshaven white men to kidnap members of the local tribe to hunt the animals for them. They’ve also got their greedy mitts on the good Professor (Joel Firedkin), forcing him to obtain the drug for them. It all seems a little more inconvenient than stealing fabulous diamonds from a lost city or recovering lost Nazi art treasures, but no matter!

Weismuller teams up with local girl Leta (a wide-eyed Sherry Moreland), handsome lawman William Henry and comic chimp Tamba to defeat these dastardly villains, but finds his work cut out for him. A group of lions from a reasonably priced film library attack the native village, Tamba knocks him into some quicksand and he’s menaced by a hippo (statistically Africa’s most dangerous animal, folks!) But, on the upside, he retains a spotless, white shirt after a (suspiciously familiar) fight with a killer leopard. He also swings through the trees at one point; sure it’s a little sedate, but it’s a pleasing throwback to his ‘Tarzan’ heyday.

In the film’s strangest sequence, Weismuller is attacked by a giant spider during a desert storm. It’s quite probably a prop left over from another movie and, after an initial ‘puppet’ walk, appears even less animated than our well-chiselled hero. Another interesting point is the role of the local tribe’s women. Instead of staying at home in their caves worrying about their abducted men, they make some weapons and go out to fight to get them back! And fight they do! Of course, they still look like they spend most of the day at the local beauty parlour, but they get in on the action, and that’s quite radical for a b-movie of the 1950s.

Fury Of The Congo (1951)

‘He’s dead, Jim…’

This is formula stuff, but it’s better filmed than most of the series, and a good number of extras give the film some sense of scale. The locations are not close to authentic, but the desert scenes shot at Ray ‘Crash’ Corrigan’s ranch are quite striking. Unfortunately, it seems likely that the rare Okongo were ranch ponies that the former cowboy and gorilla-suit actor had to hand! And the ‘zebra’ stripes daubed on them aren’t a convincing disguise.

Henry was a seasoned character actor who began with an unbilled bit in ‘Lord Jim’ (1925) and finished almost half a century later on an episode of ‘The Six Million Dollar Man.’ Unfortunately, Moreland’s career was considerably less successful, with this as one of her only credited roles, and she did appear as one of the nameless title characters on the disastrous ‘Mesa of Lost Women’ (1953). Lyle Talbot appears as the foreman of the villainous gang, another illustrious credit in a career that also boasts appearances in dire early serial ‘Batman and Robin’ (1943) and Ed Wood’s triumphant ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space’ (1959).

Not one of Jungle Jim’s more memorable escapades but, as the films tend to be remembered for all the wrong reasons, perhaps that’s no bad thing!

Pygmy Island (1950)

Pygmy Island (1950)‘Sometimes white lady talk, Makuba no understand.’

After some local trouble involving the appearance of supposedly supernatural ‘Bush Devils’, Jungle Jim comes across the dog tags of a missing army captain and a native lasso of unusual manufacture. When he sends the items to Washington, an army unit are dispatched to investigate and Jim is drawn into a conflict involving a lost tribe and some enemy agents…

Johnny Weismuller’s fifth outing as a middle-aged Tarzan in a safari suit sees the big lug in a tussle over the Nagoma plant, a previously unknown piece pf greenery that makes fireproof rope with incredible tensile strength. Well, it makes a change from fabulous diamonds, I suppose. On this outing, he’s assisted by Tamba the chimp, replacing annoying crow Caw-Caw and cute pooch Skipper, these household pets presumably having finally met their makers after surviving four movies roaming a jungle filled with some of the deadliest predators in the world.

Proceedings open with the usual five minutes’ worth of solid exposition. Spinning headlines tell us: ‘Army Captain Vanishes’ (obviously a slow news day at the ‘Evening Dispatch’!) and a radio announcer explains that Captain Kingsley has vanished in Africa while on a confidential mission (not all that confidential then). Pentagon bigwigs convene at The Bureau of Strategic Materials, probably the most convincing public office since Boris Karloff headed up the ‘Department of Queer Complaints’ as Col. March of Scotland Yard.  But no matter! The boffins decide that the lasso sent by Jim has considerable military potential and send a unit to the jungle to acquire the plant its made from, with Jim joining as a guide. Actually, his role is mostly to ‘go and have a look around’ and solve all the problems, while the soldiers flounder in his wake, making camp and presumably digging latrines.

It quickly turns out that the missing Kingsley is – gasp! – a woman (Ann Savage), but thankfully we don’t get a lot of the usual sexist rubbish for once. Ok, she needs saving by Jim on one occasion and stays out of the fighting, but she’s presented as professional, business-like and she’s not handed a tiresome romantic subplot with clean-cut army major David Bruce. Our heroes are pitted against the gang of Leon Marko, the apparently friendly white man who runs the local trading post (and no, it’s not a spoiler— in the world of Jungle Jim, white men who run trading posts are never to be trusted!)

Swinging the scales in the favour of the angels, however, are the lost tribe of the title. Rather against expectations, they turn out to be a band of white men and women in cheap black wigs led by Billy Curtis, the Munchkin in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939) who allegedly made off-screen passes at Judy Garland! He also starred in dreadful ‘midget western’ ‘The Terror of Tiny Town’ (1938) and appeared in later series entry ‘Jungle Moon Men’ (1955). Actually, he appears a lot happier here as, despite the idiotic dialogue and his ridiculous hairpiece, he gets to be the hero and save the day on more than one occasion. It’s refreshing to see his character portrayed in a positive way, rather than just as some cheap comic relief. He’s probably best-remembered now as Mordechai in the Clint Eastwood classic ‘High Plains Drifter’ (1973).

Pygmy Island (1950)

The casting call for Madonna’s new video was very popular.

Elsewhere in the cast, Savage starred in classic low-budget film noir ‘Detour’ (1945), and lesser known thrillers such as ‘The Spider’ (1945), and ‘The Last Crooked Mile’ (1946). One of the heavies is Tris Coffin, who famously donned the ‘Commando Cody’ flying suit as the ‘King of the Rocket Men’ (1949). Bruce appeared in the title role of horror quickie ‘The Mad Ghoul’ (1943), one of the weakest offerings from Universal’s (usually) highly dependable b-movie unit.

Probably the film’s most famous scene finds Weismuller facing off against a gorilla on a rope bridge over a canyon. It’s highly reminiscent of a scene from Stephen Spielberg’s ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ (1981), if by ‘highly’ you mean ‘extremely vaguely’. Aficionados of these kind of films could be forgiven for believing this simian adversary to be our old friend Ray ‘Crash’ Corrigan, but apparently it’s not! In the late 1940s, Crash sold one of his ape costumes, and it’s Hollywood bartender Steve Calvert who appears here. The two even starred together in ‘Bela Lugosi Meets A Brooklyn Gorilla’ (1952). But even if he didn’t appear in front of the camera, Corrigan was still involved in this production. Some of it was shot on location at his ranch!

This conveyor belt effort was produced by no-budget ‘auteur’ Sam Katzman, and directed by William Berke, who delivered another half dozen in the series. The writer was Carrol Young, who has a total of 20 film credits. There were five Tarzan pictures, seven with Jungle Jim and one starring Bomba, the Jungle Boy. Even one of his other seven pictures was ‘The Jungle’ (1952), with Rod Cameron and Marie Winsor!

Formulaic stuff then, but at least the ‘pygmy island’ is different from all the numerous lost cities Jim tripped over in the course of the series. Or it would be if it ever appeared. All of the action takes place in the jungle instead. Not an island in sight!

Loose In London (1953)

Loose In London (1953)‘Tally ho! Tally ho! After the gallant fox! Yoikes! After the little beggar, by gad!’

A badly ill English nobleman summons his relatives to his side so he can decide how to divide his wealth when he dies. One invite goes to a young man in New York, who brings his friends across the pond to visit the ancestral home of his forefathers. However, on the first night, he gets a frosty reception from the English upper classes and he is attacked by the ghost of the family executioner… . .

Sidney Kingsley’s play ‘Dead End’ about a group of kids growing up in the poor part of New York City was a massive hit on Broadway after opening in 1935. When Hollywood film director William Wyler set about casting a film adaptation, he was unable to find the correct talent locally and so hired half a dozen of the original theatrical cast, including Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall, signing them to two year contracts. However, by all accounts, the boys misbehaved so badly on set that their contracts were immediately sold on to Warner Brothers.

There the group made 6 films as the ‘Dead End Kids’, including the classic ‘Angels With Dirty Faces’ (1938) opposite James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart. More hi-jinks on set led to them being loaned out to Universal as the ‘Little Tough Guys’ and eventually their contracts were sold on (again!), this time to Monogram where they became ‘The East Side Kids.’ A series of low-budget programmers followed, under the guidance of everyone’s favourite penny-pincher producer Sam Katzman. These include two features with horror icon Bela Lugosi: ‘Spooks Run Wild’ (1941) and ‘Ghosts On The Loose’ (1943), which also showcased the acting talents of a teenage Ava Gardner! When Katzman refused Gorcey’s request for a pay rise (surprise, surprise!), the actor quit and the series ended.

Forming their own film company, Gorcey and Hall rebranded themselves as ‘The Bowery Boys’ despite being in their mid to late 20’s by that time. A staggering 48 films followed in the space of the next 12 years! Many ‘kids’ had come and gone over the years, of course, and the ‘Boys’ also had a revolving door approach to gang recruitment. By 1953, it was Leo’s brother David and Bennie Bartlett making up the numbers, both engaged in the important duty of standing at the back and propping up the scenery.

This entry finds our heroes involved in a typical ‘old dark house’ mystery firmly set in Merrie Old England, although they first have to negotiate an Atlantic crossing enlivened by accidental stowaway Louie, played by Leo and David’s father, Bernard Gorcey. On arrival, they stop for an extensive sightseeing tour of Olde London Towne, provided courtesy of the local film library, a couple of cheap sets and some dodgy back projection. Arrival at the home of the Earl of Walsingham (Walter Kingsford), finds Hall making an immediate hit with the old man, but unpopular with his grasping relatives.

Yes, it’s the tired old ‘fish out of water‘ plot-line, but, to be fair to Hall, he does play it for all its’ worth. His clowning is good natured and enthusiastic but possibly may prove a little too much for some tastes! The only real wit and invention on display is some of Gorcey’s word play, which boasts a level of smarts the rest of the project doesn’t even approach. Both story development and jokes surprise only in their sheer predictability, with every time-worn cliché and pratfall trotted out for inspection. There isn’t even any real effort with the mystery either, as we know from the get go that the haunting is just the other relative’s device to try and get Hall out of the way.

Loose In London (1953)

‘Gadzooks! Forsooth! Yadda, yadda, yadda…’

Still, at least we are spared any awful mangling of the English accent as the vast majority of the supporting cast are British ex-pats working in Hollywood. It’s a harmless enough film really, but is nothing more than a bottom of the bill entry knocked out on the cheap in the quickest time possible. No real effort made to do anything but the obvious, and a British audience in particular may find the reinforcement of national stereotypes rather tiresome.

Just for the record; very few of us have ever been fox hunting and most of us hate the whole idea. In fact, it’s illegal here now; not that it’s actually stopped happening or anyone who does it ever gets arrested or prosecuted. We drink more coffee than tea, it doesn’t rain all the time, we have perfectly good teeth (in a World Health Organisation report in 2015, the UK rated considerably higher for dental hygiene than the US for example) and very few of us live in ancestral halls that come complete with dungeons, suits of armour and a guillotine. Also quite a lot of us really don’t like the Royal Family. Mainly because they get a lot of our tax money which would be much better spent on public services, and more than one of the extended membership employs various tax avoidance schemes so they don’t have to pay a penny back into the country’s treasury themselves.

More tea, vicar?

The Beat Generation (1959)

The Beat Generation (1959)‘You’re the most, but there’s no tomorrow, not while the sky drools radiation gumdrops.’

A serial rapist terrorises the housewives of L.A. attacking them in their homes. A detective on the case finds that the trail leads to a club frequented by beatniks. When the perpetrator targets the policeman’s wife, the case gets personal to the point of obsession…

Seriously oddball exploitation flick that tries to deliver about four separate movies for the price of one. Firstly, we get the usual police procedural with rugged ’tec Steve Cochran trying to run down a serial sex offender that the press has dubbed ‘The Aspirin Kid’. He’s played by the handsome, smooth talking Ray Danton, who is too old for the part but certainly knows how to flash his pearly whites and fill out a sharp suit. And don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler; one of the few things the movie doesn’t try to provide is a ‘whodunnit’ kind of mystery. Danton’s motivation is just ‘kicks’ (Daddio!), so he targets Cochran’s wife, played by Fay Spain.

The Beat Generation (1959)

‘Look, doll, I’m gonna sit here ’til I meet someone under thirty, dig?’

And Danton’s attack on Spain gives rise to our second film: a daring commentary on ‘social issues’. Spain is pregnant after the rape and doesn’t want the kid because Danton might be the father. Abortion was still illegal in California at the time, and Cochran is conflicted (and completely useless, more concerned with the letter of the law than supporting his wife). So it’s down to local parish priest (an unbilled William Schallert) to do a little pro-life speech to change her mind.

But the most interesting aspect of the film is different again. Cochran is a seriously dedicated policeman; so dedicated in fact that it’s already cost him one marriage. He takes no responsibility for the failure of that relationship at all; believing his first wife was a ‘tramp’ because she played around. The fact that he was never home had nothing to do with it, of course. And we soon have plenty of evidence that he thinks of all women in the same way. Unforgivably, he harasses all the victims of Danton’s attacks with the insane justification that they will contact him again (because actually they enjoyed it, right?) This is a mirror image of Danton’s own attitude to the fair sex and makes for a potentially intriguing character based drama that was considerably ahead of its time. It’s highly likely these interesting elements were the contribution of author and co-screenwriter Richard Matheson, whose other credits include the original novels of ‘I Am Legend’ and ‘The Incredible Shrinking Man’ as well as screenplays such as the neglected ‘Fanatic’ (1965), the Christopher Lee classic ‘The Devil Rides Out’ (1968), and Steven Spirelberg’s ‘Duel’ (1971). He also contributed scripts for TV shows ‘The Twilight Zone’, ‘The Outer Limits’, ‘Star Trek’ (the original series) and ‘The Martian Chronicles.’

Unfortunately, any possibilities of the movie attaining any level of quality are firmly torpedoed by the final element of the project. As you may have gathered from the title, the main aim of notorious low-budget producer Albert Zugmsith was to cash-in on the short-lived ‘beat craze’ of the late 1950s. So Danton is a hep cat who hates ‘squares’, quotes Schopenhauer and makes the scene at happenin’ beach front joint ‘The Golden Sealion’ (is it a nightclub or a coffee shop? You decide!)

The Beat Generation (1959)

Mamie kept having flashbacks to ‘The Navy Vs The Night Monsters’

The climax features Cochran tied up in the backroom with potential victim Mamie Van Doren while Danton takes a break to play bongos in the ‘beat hootenanny’ taking place next door! When Cochran gets free, he finds his efforts are hampered by various ‘beats’ who engage him in a slapstick wrestling match whilst playing some kind of bizarre version of ‘ring-a-ring-a-roses’ (or are they trying to start a conga?) Anyway, it’s beyond ridiculous. You do have to give Zugmsith credit for one thing, though. Perhaps inspired by big-budget monolith ‘Around The World ln 80 Days’ (1956) in which every part (however small) was played by a Hollywood star, he assembled what is probably the most bizarre and eclectic supporting cast of all time.

The film opens with the Golden Sealion’s house band delivering the theme song, which is probably the best thing about the movie. Why? Because they are played by Louis Armstrong and his All-Stars of course! Satchmo even gets a couple of lines of dialogue at one point. Also in the club is Ed Wood veteran, TV host, and cool cat Vampira who appears out of her usual ghoulish make up to deliver a poem with a white rat on her shoulder. It will make you flip, man. Tying up the phone as an over-age, semi-stoned ‘beat’ is Charles Chaplin Jr, and performing on guitar is Dick Contino, who in real life was a famous accordion player with links to the mob. He was later immortalised in stories by ‘L.A. Confidential’ author James Ellroy.

The Beat Generation (1959)

‘Steve, can’t you keep these photographers out of your dressing room?’

Familiar Hollywood heavy and ex-champion prize fighter ‘Slapsie’ Maxie Rosenbloom is also on hand, as is Norman Grabowski who once featured in ‘Life’ magazine and does a mean impression of a motorbike. ls that enough for you? No? Ok, Danton’s sidekick is played by Jim (eldest son of Robert) Mitchum and down the street we get a song from hitmaker Cathy (daughter of Bing) Crosby. Cochran’s partner at fuzz central is Jackie Coogan, who became a star at the age of 7 as ‘The Kid’ (1921) opposite Charlie Chaplin. Finally, Spain’s best friend is played by Irish McCalla, who was more familiar as a blonde in leopard skin playing TV’s ‘Sheena, Queen of the Jungle’!

Overall, performances are variable with most of the above merely supplying extended cameos and leaving the heavy lifting to Cochran (who glowers a lot), Van Doren (certainly a lot better than she was in hilarious train wreck ‘The Navy Vs. The Night Monsters’ (1954)) and Spain who manages well in a one-note, thankless ‘victim’ role. On set entertainment was apparently supplied by Cochran and Van Doren who vanished into his dressing room for a quick bunk up every chance they got.

This is a strangely fascinating compilation of disparate elements, none of which gel into anything that’s even remotely convincing. The ‘counter-culture’ scenes are tame beyond belief; the closest we get to any recreational substances being the aspirin that Danton uses as part of his criminal M.O. ls it all supposed to be a satire? Given the time that’s gone by, that’s hard to say. More likely it was a once-serious script hijacked by Zugsmith who grafted on the trendy trappings with box office returns firmly in his mind.

The late 1950s as seen through the eyes of a low-brow producer of low-budget b-movies.

Voodoo Island (1957)

Voodoo Island (1957)‘You’ve no room left inside you to be a woman, think like a woman, feel like one.’

A millionaire is planning to build a hotel on a South Pacific Island, but the initial survey party meet a mysterious fate. Only one member returns, and he appears to be a zombie.

Pretty dismal B-picture featuring the master of menace himself, the legendary Boris Karloff. Here the great man is Professor Knight, a famous academic and debunker of myths and legends, who heads out to the island to put an end to all this voodoo nonsense. Along for the ride are his mousy assistant Beverly Tyler, company man Murvyn Vye, cynical blonde Jean Engstrom, nervy local businessman Elisha Cook Jr and bitter (but handsome) boat captain Rhodes Reason.

The film’s first act isn’t actually too bad, with Karloff giving his expert a touch more arrogance than was usual in his characterisations, and the production obviously competent and professional in the hands of experienced director Reginald Le Borg. The first warning signs come when it becomes obvious that the film’s in no hurry to get us to the island, in fact it’s half way through before the expedition sets foot there. However, some plane trouble does serve to rope in a pre-stardom Adam West, who plays a weather station radio operator in his first ever film role.

By the time we (eventually) reach the island, the relationship dynamics of the principals are all fixed, and they are as tiresomely formulaic as you might expect. ln a less than riveting subplot, we already know that the nerdy Tyler is going to blossom into a major babe by the fade out, and will be resting comfortably in the arms of reformed drunk Reason who will happily quit the bottle to make for the usual Hollywood ending.

Voodoo Island (1957)

It was the morning after the night before for the production team behind ‘Voodoo Island.’

Apart from that, pretty much all that happens is a few half-hearted encounters with the deadly local flora and fauna. These mostly comprise of the female members of the cast writhing about with rubber branches and screaming at plastic crab things. The monster SFX are not impressive. lt’s also nice to see the women doing the cooking and complaining about the bathroom facilities, while the men go off on heroic quests like getting the supplies from the boat.

There’s also a nagging suspicion that the production ran out of money before the end of filming. There is simply no climax at all, and with the film running about 75 minutes, it may be that the intended finale was never filmed. Having said all that, Le Borg was actually a capable director who had made some decent ‘B’ thrillers back in the day, including entries in the ‘lnner Sanctum’ series like ‘Weird Woman’ (1944), as well as some of Lon Chaney Jr’s academic ruminations on Egyptian mythology in ‘The Mummy’s Ghost’ (1944). But without the backing of a major studio, there’s little he can do to paper over the cracks of the half-baked story. Scriptwriter Richard Vaughan also gave the world the dire ‘Frankenstein 1970’ (1958), with Karloff again, but mostly worked on TV, writing episodes of ‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’, ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’, ‘Cannon’, and several others.

Actually, on closer inspection, proceedings don’t make a whole lot of sense either, with an isolated tribe on the island seemingly able to affect matters on the mainland despite being completely cut off from the world. It’s the power of voodoo I suppose, which is quite remarkable since the practice never got anywhere near the vicinity of the South Pacific!

Karloff gives a typically authoritative performance here, but really this project is simply not worth his time. Checking his films of the period, it does appear that he made decisions based on exotic filming locations, rather than the material involved, with this one being mostly filmed on location in Hawaii. Perhaps he simply enjoyed travelling! Reason top-lined Japanese Kaiju classic ‘King Kong Escapes’ (1967) and appeared on an episode of the original series of ‘Star Trek’ as well as plenty of other TV properties.

But please spare a thought for actor Glenn Dixon who plays the catatonic survivor of the first expedition. Almost his entire part consists of staring wide-eyed while remaining motionless. When he does get to do something it mostly involves standing up out of a chair, walking a few steps and then falling flat on his face. Still, it was a living I suppose.

A very minor entry in the Karloff catalogue.

Killer Leopard (1954)

Killer Leopard (1954)‘Better go easy on the grog, guv’nor, it don’t mix with the ‘eat.’

An American movie star sets off into the jungle in pursuit of her errant husband, who has embezzled money and is trying to buy illegal diamonds to cover his crime. Meanwhile, a man-eating leopard is roaming the region, terrorising the natives…

We’re back on the Dark Continent with Bomba the Jungle Boy! Yes, former child star Johnny Sheffield dons the loin cloth for the eleventh time to stare off-camera at library footage of African wildlife and go mucking around again in the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. This time around he’s joined by Beverly Garland, just a couple of years before she became Roger Corman’s go-to gal for fighting intergalactic carrots and crab monsters. Our heroic couple are in pursuit of naughty Donald Murphy (‘Frankenstein’s Daughter’ (1958)) who’s linked up with dodgy cockney sparra jungle guide Barry Bernard (‘Return of the Fly’ (1959)) to get some illegal sparklers off Harry Cording (‘Dangers of the Canadian Mounted’ (1948)).

‘Bomba the Jungle Boy’ was the creation of a publishing syndicate who wanted a rival to ‘Tarzan’ so it seemed a logical choice when the character made the transition to the big screen to give the title role to Sheffield, who had played ‘Boy’ to Johnny Weismuller’s ‘King of the Jungle’ over at MGM. In fact, Sheffield barely stepped out of the jungle (or the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens) in his entire film career, although that probably had as much to do with his lack of charisma as typecasting. Here, he is a little better than usual, exchanging slightly flirty dialogue with Garland in what are probably the film’s best scenes.

Elsewhere, it’s business as usual from writer-producer-director Ford Beebe, who was largely responsible for the 12-film series, directing all of them and writing about half, including this one. Leonard Mudie makes his usual appearance as Commissioner Barnes, Smoki Whitfield gets a few lines as the helpful Eli, native bearers dessert (don’t they always?) and a couple of visiting chaps in pith helmets deliver lots of (uninteresting) exposition. And, co-incidentally, that’s the film’s main problem, the script crawling from one scene of flat, lifeless dialogue to the next, with almost nothing happening in between. One of the few action sequences has Garland take a swim in the river, only to be menaced by various pieces of stock footage. Luckily, Bomba is around to drag her out as she’s suddenly become too exhausted to do it herself, despite having splashed around for less than a minute.

Killer Leopard (1954)

‘Show us the way back to the car park or else.’

Yes, this is a weak brew indeed, without any trace of the silliness that made entries like ‘Bomba and the Hidden City’ (1950) vaguely entertaining. It is good to see under-rated performers like Bernard and Cording get more to do than the usual ‘bits’ they were given, but the script is totally uninspired and the characters one-dimensional. It’s to Bernard’s considerable credit that he makes at least something out of his adventurous rogue, so the audience isn’t completely sure of his eventual fate.

In the pulsating climax, Bomba wrestles the big cat, which is brilliantly rendered through the medium of library footage close-ups and a stuffed toy. lt’s been referred to as a leopard throughout, despite being completely black, and is even referred to as a panther by one of the cast. But, before you sneer, apparently the ‘leopard’ designation is the correct one for Africa; the cats being known as ‘jaguars’ in the Americas. Panther is the general term for both. So a leopard can change its spots, after all!

A perfunctory, weary programmer, made vaguely tolerable by the professionalism of its supporting cast.

Teenage Devil Dolls / One Way Ticket To Hell (1956)

Teenage Devil Dolls (1956)‘The junkies call them Goofballs and Cassandra was about as goofed up on Seconal as the physical limitations of the human body can stand.’

A frustrated and misunderstood teenage girl joins a motorcycle gang and begins smoking reefers. Marriage to a nice young boy doesn’t work out and she becomes addicted to sleeping pills. Then her life really starts spiralling out of control…

Dreary, no budget exploitation brought to us by ’Voiceover Man’ (played by Kurt Martell in this instance) whose oh-so serious proclamations warn us of the risks of the deadly weed and the inevitability of apprehension by the forces of law and order. In fact his stern, unforgiving commentary replaces such usual filmmaking conventions as synchronised sound and actual dialogue.

The story follows a path only too familiar to anyone who has seen one of Dwain Esper’s ‘roadshow’ pictures from a couple of decades earlier. We start with the innocent, but fatally bored, Cassandra (Barbara Marks) falling into bad company and trying soft drugs due to peer pressure. Of course, this leads to dealing and hanging out with heroin addict Elaine Lindenbaum. Before too long, she’s known to the local police and ends up with a serious habit herself.

An unkind commentator might be tempted to draw comparisons between director Bamlet Lawrence Price Jr and Ed Wood, given the shoddy production values, poor camera work and terrible performances, but wait! Things are not quite what they seem. This film was not a feature release at all. In reality, it’s the Master’s thesis of a graduating UCLA film student and was filmed for the princely sum of $14,000. A lot of the cast were friends and family and, unsurprisingly, have no other acting credits. The complete lack of synchronised sound was probably down to an absence of resources rather than someone losing the voice track as apparently occurred with notorious carpet-monster trainwreck ‘The Creeping Terror’ (1964).

Giving the director the benefit of the doubt, he may have even intended the film as a kind of throwback to Esper’s kind of cinema, although there’s no evidence of anything but serious intentions. There’s even the sort of ‘warning’ caption at the end that Esper used frequently in his features.

Teenage Devil Dolls (1956)

What a trip, daddio!

Few of the cast members had a subsequent film career but Marks did, only it wasn’t in front of the camera. She worked briefly in the 1970s in a production and editorial capacity for Francis Ford Coppola on ‘The Godfather’ (1972) and ‘Apocalypse Now’ (1979). Voiceover Man Martell appeared, appropriately enough, on 4 episodes of Jack Webb’s po-faced hit TV show ‘Dragnet’ and had a couple of other minor credits as well.

What’s more interesting is that at the time of production, director Price Jr was married to MGM contract actress Anne Francis. She’d already racked up a featured supporting role in ‘The Lion Is In The Streets’ (1953) opposite James Cagney, appeared with Spencer Tracy in ‘Bad Day At Black Rock’ (1955) and played the female lead in smash hit ‘Blackboard Jungle’ (1955), which introduced the world to Bill Haley’s ‘Rock Around the Clock.’ In the very year that ‘Teenage Devil Dolls’ (1956) was made, she achieved cinema immortality opposite Robby the Robot in timeless science fiction milestone ‘Forbidden Planet’ (1956).

Perhaps it was her success that soured the couple’s Hollywood dream but, by the end of the decade, they were divorced. Francis never quite achieved the stardom that must have seemed a real possibility, but she did appear as ‘Honey West’ on the hit network TV show in the 1960s and continued working regularly until the end of the century. Price Jr on the other hand has no other film credits after this. Not a single one.

Given the circumstances of the production, it seems unfair to judge this effort too harshly. Indeed the later scenes of Marks and her pusher boyfriend fleeing through the desert as the police close in actually has a decent, documentary-type feel and some of the shot composition is fairly good.

And it is a very cool title…