Jungle Jim attends the coronation of a tribal chieftain and plans to go lion hunting afterwards. Meanwhile, an unscrupulous smuggler fans the flames of a native uprising to provide a diversion from his efforts to exploit a secret diamond mine…
The 13th, and last, of the ‘Jungle Jim’ series, featuring everyone’s favourite ex-Tarzan and Olympic swimming great Johnny Weismuller. But l thought there were 16 films, you cry in confusion and outrage! Well, yes, there kind of was. And, then again, there wasn’t. Legendary cash-conscious producer Sam Katzman lost the rights to use the character after this entry. But that didn’t stop him, of course! Rather than pay out any money, he just carried on for three more films, changing only one thing; the name of the main character. ‘Jungle Jim’ simply became ‘Johnny Weismuller.’ Yes, the King of the Jungle ended up playing himself!
This entry finds our rugged hero clashing with a mysterious, and dastardly, smuggler (just who is he?) This unseen villain has recruited renegade native Zulu (Paul Thompson, born in Chicago) to burn down a native village near the secret mine. French diamond merchant Leroux (Gregory Gaye) provides the necessary exposition: two of the three explorers who originally discovered the mine have already been killed in London while staking their claim, but the third is on the loose somewhere in the jungle. Weismuller gets the gig from Commissioner Kingston (Lester Matthews), teaming up with policeman Richard Stapley and doctor Karin Booth. Along with Tamba, the Talented Chimp, of course.
lt’s a difficult mission, to be sure, although their main challenge seems to be wading through yards upon yards of stock footage. Strangely enough, despite Katzman’s notorious penny-pinching, previous films hadn’t been filled to the brim with scratchy old shots from the local film library, but this entry more than makes up for this terrible omission. To begin with, we get an awful lot of the tribal coronation ceremony, including a preamble featuring plenty of canoe action on the river. There’s also a lot of inserts of wild animals (some African species, some not!) and a lengthy sequence of a village on ﬁre and the burning jungle. Apparently, a lot of this footage was lifted from ‘Sanders of The River’ (1935). Perhaps it was on sale that week!
The plot is remarkable only for its sheer predictability. Weismuller gets to ﬁght a stuffed lion when it threatens Chieftain’s son Bernie Hamilton. Later he wrestles a rubber croc in the river (a strangely familiar sequence). Stapley and Booth get the usual ‘goo-goo eyes’ for each other (they even agree to get married before the end of the ﬁlm!) leaving Weismuller firmly out in the cold as usual.
Even Tamba gets some action in this one as he hooks up with a hot female chimp as the credits roll. lt hardly seems fair after he accidentally knocks Weismuller out with a flying rock in the middle of a fight sequence. Still, he does partly redeem himself by channelling Lassie for a ‘Timmy’s fallen down the well’ moment a bit later on. He also gets to sit on Stapley’s lap when he flies a plane! Whichever way you look at it, it should have been Tamba with his name above the title!
Stapley is better known as Richard Wyler; the name he used when playing Eurospy ‘Dick Smart 2.007’ (1967) and appearing in Jess Franco’s dreadful ‘Sumuru’ picture ‘The Girl From Rio’ (1969). He was also a novelist, theatrical impresario, motorcycle racer and a descendant of the man who signed the death warrant of the English King Charles the First! Matthews and Gaye had both appeared in earlier entry ‘Savage Mutiny’ (1953); Gaye as a Commie agent (he was a real Russian!) and Matthews as an army major. Strangely enough, Matthews had already played Commissioner Kingston in ‘Jungle Jim in The Forbidden Land’ (1951), so why he was given in a different name in ‘Savage Mutiny’ (1953) is a bit of a mystery. lt’s exactly the same part.
Booth played dozens of uncredited bits, including a hat-check girl in ‘Holiday Inn’ (1942) before her big break in ‘The Unfinished Dance’ (1947) with Cyd Charisse. Sadly, it was all downhill after that via films like ‘The Cariboo Trail’ (1950), ‘Charge of the Lancers’ (1954) and kids sci-fi favourite ‘Tobor The Great’ (1954). Hamilton, on the other hand, became a household name over two decades later as the volatile boss of TV cops ‘Starsky and Hutch’.
This was director Lee Sholem’s first gig on the series, but not in the jungle. When Weismuller was sacked from the ‘Tarzan’ series in 1948, it was Sholem who was behind the mega phone for reboot ‘Tarzan’s Magic Fountain’ (1949) with Lex Barker and subsequent entry ‘Tarzan and the Slave Girl’ (1950). His subsequent career included ‘Superman and the Mole-Men’ (1951), ‘The Pharaoh’s Curse’ (1956) and a lot of TV work, mostly Westerns. Apparently, when working on the ‘Tarzan’ series, he attempted to persuade producer Sol Lesser to cast a young blonde as the new Jane, having her read for him multiple times. Lesser was unimpressed and refused. The girl’s name? Marilyn Monroe.
Without the goofier aspects that give some of the other entries in the series a certain entertainment value, this is a tired and listless venture, seemingly just assembled around the stock footage that was available at the time.