The Lost Tribe (1949)

The Lost Tribe (1949)‘The talking drums of your friends carry far, even to Dzamm.’

Jungle Jim rescues a mysterious princess from some hungry lions and two white men with guns. The hunters are part of a criminal group who are trying to pinpoint the location of the lost city where she lives. Having heard of Jim’s reputation, she has come to ask for his help… .

When MGM finally brought down the curtain on Johnny Weismuller’s almost 20 year run as the ‘King of the Jungle’, a step out of the Hollywood spotlight must have seemed likely. After all, an extraordinary athlete doesn’t necessarily make for an extraordinary actor. However, the big man had just divorced Wife no.3 and immediately married no.4, so, in all probability, there were bills to be paid. What was a poor boy to do? Simply nip behind a bush in the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, swap the loincloth for a safari suit and — ta-da! —Tarzan became Jungle Jim.

The Lost Tribe (1949)

‘Not diamonds again! Haven’t you got anything else?

It shouldn’t have been that easy, of course. Jungle Jim began life as a comic strip created by Don Moore and Alex Raymond (the illustrator behind ‘Flash Gordon’). Jim was a hunter based in Southeast Asia, rather than Africa, had a native sidekick named Kolu and often tangled with femme fatale Lille DeVrille. Not surprisingly all that was binned for the Columbia series. Instead, Jim was simply a middle-aged Tarzan, saddled with pet crow Caw-Caw and adorable pooch Skipper, whose continual survival in the jungle was a greater mystery than anything the movies had to offer.

This time around, Weismuller is recruited by pretty Elena Verdugo to protect Dzamm, yet another of the seemingly endless number of ‘lost cities’ hidden in the depths of the African jungle. As per usual, this forgotten civilisation is simply dripping with fabulous diamonds and some dodgy types who rarely shave are after the baubles. The gang is led by Calhoun (Joseph Vitale) who runs the local trading post and Captain Rawlins (Ralph Dunn) whose ship lies offshore. What doesn’t help is that the son of the city’s Head Man, Chot (Paul Marion), has been breaking tribal law to visit the post because he has a thing for Calhoun’s niece, hard-bitten femme fatale Norina (Myrna Dell). What follows are the usual shenanigans for this type of picture, including exotic beasts appearing courtesy of reams of grainy stock footage, and a cast who speak almost entirely in that awkward language called plot exposition.

This was only the second film in the series produced by the legendary Sam Katzman, and that perhaps accounts for the fact that it’s a little better than most of the later entries. For a start, there’s a fair amount of action. Weismuller takes to the water quite often; fighting both an unconvincing crocodile to save Skipper the indestructible dog and a shark that appears courtesy of a no doubt reasonably priced film library. He also wrestles with a less than energetic lion, who seems rather more enthusiastic when our hero is replaced by his stunt double. Actually, that was a risky job; reportedly one of Weismuller’s stand-ins died when performing a clifftop dive on ‘Tarzan and the Mermaids‘ (1948).

The Lost Tribe (1949)

‘No thanks, love, I’m already on wife number four…’

The big man also gets to flex his acting muscles when he resists Dell’s womanly wiles, but it’s fair to say they do appear to be a little out of condition. Dell falls for him anyway, tries to help him escape and ends up on the wrong end of her uncle’s knife instead. All this is rushed through in about five minutes flat and, given that the under-used Dell is second-billed, it seems likely that some scenes ended up on the cutting room floor.

We also meet Simba the Gorilla (inevitably played by Ray ‘Crash’ Corrigan in his own monkey suit), who brings some hairy buddies along for the surprisingly energetic, if rather ridiculous, climax. It was probably unconscious but these closing action scenes do provide a faint echo of Edgar Rice Burroughs, who introduced some very silly elements into his later ‘Tarzan’ books, and believe me, some of those were very silly indeed.

Verdugo was of Spanish extraction and spent most of her career playing dancers and various exotic types in b-pictures, mostly for Universal, the highlight being when she shot Lon Chaney Jr with a silver bullet in ‘House of Frankenstein’ (1944). But the studio wouldn’t sign her to a permanent contact because of her refusal to diet, and she appeared almost exclusively in black wigs as she was a natural blonde. Stardom finally arrived for her a couple of decades later courtesy of the small screen, as nurse to Robert Young on long-running hit ‘Marcus Welby, M.D.’ The role saw her nominated for two Emmys and a golden globe. The show also provided actor James Brolin with his first big break.

The Lost Tribe (1949)

‘The Lost City of Dzamm? Yeah, I’ve heard of it…’

Of course, this is little more than a cheap, formulaic b-picture, but for once the lost city actually looks a decent size (well, bigger than the usual couple of huts anyway) and there a decent number of folks in the marketplace too. Sure, a lot of the usual clichés are present, in particular the 5 minute opening narration over stock footage by actor Holmes Herbert, who explains what a jungle is for those who don’t know. ‘The mischievous monkey avoids the cunning crocodile’ he intones solemnly, probably trying hard to stifle a yawn.

The series carried on until 1958, with another 14 films. Or 11 if you want to be pedantic. Katzmann actually lost the rights to use the character’s name at the end, which was probably something to do with his notorious reluctance to open his wallet. As a consequence, in the last 3 films, Weismuller simply played a character called Johnny Weismuller instead. It’s unlikely that anyone really noticed.

Caw-Caw and Skipper were supplemented in later entries by chimpanzee Tamba (then Kimba) and eventually vanished from the films completely. Perhaps something finally ate Skipper! He was always living on borrowed time…


Ghost Crazy/Crazy Knights (1944)

Ghost Crazy (1944)‘Not only do you look like a gorilla, you’re starting to smell like one!’

A trio of carneys on their way to their next booking run across some stranded motorists by the side of the road. They help them out by giving them a lift, but their destination turns out to be a spooky mansion, and mystery and murder follows…

Painfully predictable old dark house shenanigans from low-budget Monogram studios and produced by legendary tightwad Sam Katzman. Screenwriter Tim Ryan serves up all the usual clichés we’ve come to expect from this sort of project, with the disembodied spook voice, a ‘haunted’ portrait, squeaking doors, double-takes, and characters returning with sceptical friends to the scene of their supernatural experiences, only to find that everything is normal now so that no-one believes them.

Our jolly japesters here are fat, moustachioed Billy Gilbert, ugly punching bag Shemp Howard and handsome Bernard Sell. The latter is the act’s manager, and the other two share performing duties with a real-life gorilla, which they cart around in a truck. Their act involves the old ‘gypsy switch’ with Howard standing in for the real deal in an ape costume and wowing the gullible rubes with his apparent intelligence. So, straight away, we know the ape’s going to get loose at some point and there will be plenty of hilarious cases of mistaken identity.

But it’s Sell’s insistence of playing good Samaritan that kicks off the plot, and it obviously has nothing to do with fetching blonde Jayne Hazard being one of the travellers stuck at the side of the road. Turns out she’s an heiress travelling with her uncle, his secretary and chauffeur Maxie Rosenbloom. When they arrive at the old homestead, they’re greeted by sinister housekeeper Minerva Urechal and things start to go bump in the night almost at once. Could the uncle’s shifty secretary be responsible, or is the culprit of a supernatural origin? There’s secret passages, clutching hands, a spook under a sheet and the gorilla escapes (oh, but you knew that already, didn’t you?)

This production marked the first of three pairings of Gilbert, Rosenbloom and Howard. Hard on its heels came ‘Three of a Kind’ (1944), followed by gangster comedy ‘Trouble Chasers’ (1944). Gilbert was an ex-vaudeville performer whose well-known ‘sneezing’ act led him to the appropriate voice work on Walt Disney’s ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937). This was followed by featured supporting roles in the classic ‘His Girl Friday’ (1940) and Charlie Chaplin’s ‘The Great Dictator’ (1940). Rosenbloom was an ex-boxing champion who bartered his celebrity into a long and successful Hollywood career as ‘Slapsie Maxie’, mostly in comedies but occasionally in dramas such as the James Cagney/George Raft prison classic ‘Each Dawn I Die’ (1939). Of course, the most famous of the trio is Howard, who re-joined brothers Moe and Larry in the Three Stooges just two years later as a replacement for the ailing Curly. He had previously been part of the act in its earlier incarnation in the 1920s and 1930s, when they backed Ted Healy.

Ghost Crazy (1944)

‘If only we could have got Ray ‘Crash’ Corrigan…’

Screenplay writer Ryan had an unusual professional career for classic era Hollywood. As well as penning many ultra low-budget programmers, including entries in the ‘Bowery Boys’ series, he was also a successful radio and movie actor. His career in front of the camera did mostly involve dozens of bits as cops and bartenders, but he also appeared in ‘Champion’ (1949) with Kirk Douglas and had a minor, but featured, role in Oscar-winner ‘From Here To Eternity’ (1953).

Probably the most interesting aspect of this tired and cursory production line effort is its many connections with horror icon Bela Lugosi. For a start, the film was in the capable directorial hands of William ‘One Shot‘ Beaudine (he didn’t do re-takes!) who also delivered Lugosi as ‘The Ape-Man’ (1943), a film which also starred Urechal. In the ape suit here is actor Art Miles, who also donned the costume for the Ritz Brothers-Lugosi comedy ‘The Gorilla’ (1939) at 20th Century Fox. And, if all that wasn’t enough, Ryan was the guy who scripted ‘Bela Lugosi Meets A Brooklyn Gorilla’ (1952)!

A weak and formulaic bottom of the bill programmer. Totally forgettable.

Devil Goddess (1955)

Devil Goddess (1955)‘This land taboo! You go!’

Screen legend Johnny Weismuller is recruited by a scientist and his daughter to help find an old colleague who has been lost in the African jungle for seven years. Rumour has it that he is being worshipped as a god by one of the tribes deep in the interior, and that he is conducting experiments of a supernatural nature…

After turning in his loincloth at the MGM gates in 1948, it would have been no surprise if Johnny Weismuller had backed away from the movie business and gracefully retired. He’d enjoyed 17 years as the undisputed ‘King of the Jungle’ and he certainly was no actor. He proved as much when mixing it up with Larry ‘Buster’ Crabbe in Cajun confrontation potboiler ‘Swamp Fire’ (1946), his one attempt at a different kind of role. Unfortunately, Weismuller had considerable financial commitments (four ex-wives may have been involved!) and so it was off to Columbia to star in a series of 16 pictures as ‘Jungle Jim’ with legendary skinflint Sam Katzman producing. By the time this final entry rolled around, Katzman had even lost the rights to the character’s name so Weismuller played exactly the same part…only as Johnny Weismuller!

Typically, this picture strays very little from the previous ones in the series; they had a formula and they were sticking to it. Weismuller is roped in to a mission by a beautiful woman (in this case Angela Stevens) which involves travelling to somewhere forbidden where the locals are aggressive but misguided, usually by superstition or the villain of the piece. There is always something valuable hidden nearby (it’s usually jewels but, almost as often it’s Nazi treasure) and there’s some faceless and unscrupulous white men out to get it. There’s some fisticuffs and a gunfight or two as Jim (sorry, Johnny!) tangles with them and everything is tied up just as the local Commissioner and his native troopers arrive.

On this occasion the natives are in thrall to Ed Hinton and his collection of smoke bombs as he lives it up as the local volcano god. He’s no longer playing with a full test tube, but does at least look after the string of nubiles that the local witchdoctor insists on providing, rather than using them as his personal harem. At least, we assume he doesn’t do anything untoward. Perhaps best not to go there. The film certainly doesn’t. Anyway, he has a few beakers on a bench in a cave so he must be doing experiments. Or something. Although there’s no evidence of anything supernatural, of course.

Devil Goddess (1955)

‘Wipe that stupid smirk of your face, you big ape!’

Production values aren’t high, which is no surprise on a Katzman picture, and the sacrificial ceremony bears an uncanny resemblance to the one carried out in ‘Voodoo Tiger’ (1952), the 9th film in the series (although it could have been lifted from something even earlier, I guess!) Johnny is assisted by chimpanzee Kimba (replacing Tamba in a crucial casting change), although it is fair to say that neither is fit to pick the fleas off Cheetah.

Hinton inevitably reminds the audience of ‘Tim the Enchanter’ from ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ (1975), even if he doesn’t possess such impressive headwear, and none of the library of wildlife stock shots are as deadly as the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog.

Columbia had already moved into television by the mid-1950s and so the decision was made to relocate the character to the small screen. Katzman was not involved, so the rights to use the character’s true name were successfully renegotiated with King Features, and ‘Jungle Jim’ debuted a few months later, running for 26 episodes. When it was over, Wiesmuller finally called it a day and worked his celebrity into a long career of making personal appearances.

Oh, and the title of this film? Completely meaningless. Par for the course for a Katzman production!

Voodoo Tiger (1952)

Voodoo Tiger (1952)‘Breaking Voodoo’s Savage Spell!’

Jungle Jim teams up with the local authorities in pursuit of a suspected Nazi war criminal who has been running a trading post deep in the jungle. Other parties are also interested, as he is the only person who knows the location of priceless art treasures hidden by the Nazis at the end of World War II. Meanwhile, local natives have become obsessed by a voodoo cult, centred on the totem of a tiger…

Johnny Weismuller dons the safari suit once again to battle bad medicine, angry natives and conniving crooks in the depths of darkest California, sorry, I mean Africa. This 9th entry in the film series produced by Sam Katzman is burdened with a story that’s little more than a series of awkward plot contrivances, but is surprisingly more entertaining than most of the series. This was probably due, in part, to the no-nonsense direction of Spencer Gordon Bennet, the so-called ‘King of Movie Serials’ who gets in, gets the shot and exits via the final credits with some haste.

Here the story setup is brilliantly random, the script by Samuel Newman (a veteran of the series) presenting us with a native tribe who make human sacrifices to a voodoo tiger god (or a tatty imitation from the prop department, to be precise). The voodoo religion did flourish in West Africa as well as the Caribbean, so we can give Newman a pass on that one, but a tiger god in Africa? Not all that likely. But Newman isn’t finished there; introducing a real tiger as one of the group of survivors of a convenient plane crash, which also includes our fleeing Nazi (Michael Fox)! Yes, he’s one of those pesky SS men, who spent their time hiding treasure in the jungle when on the retreat from the Allied Forces. What they were doing having treasure with them in the first place is one of history’s greatest mysteries. l would have thought ammunition and weapons to be a tad more useful in the circumstances.

Voodoo Tiger (1952)

‘I’l get this flea collar on you if it’s the last thing I do…’

Jim is accompanied on this adventure by the usual group of faceless lawmen in pith-helmets, Tamba the chimp and Jean Byron on assignment from the British Museum. Although you might think the jungle is rather large, they quickly catch up with Fox, James Seay’s crooked gang, and the other survivors of the plane crash. Unfortunately, they are all captured by the natives, led by headman Mombulu (Charles Horvath), and sentenced to die in praise of the now very real tiger god.

Luckily, the big cat defers to nightclub dancer Shalimar (Jean Dean) as he was part of her act (see, it all makes sense really!) and execution is stayed, provided Jim can defeat a sleepy lion in unarmed combat.

This is all hopelessly cheap and cheerful, of course, as everyone expects from a Sam Katzman production, but having said that, it’s certainly not a dull watch. Sure, the head-hunters look more Hispanic than African (and Horvath was born in Hungary), but it is fun to see them discover that worshipping a real tiger instead of one of the stuffed variety is actually a rather challenging proposition. Byron ends up making goo-goo eyes with square-jawed Major Robert Bray, rather than our jungle hero, but that was always the way. Jim never got the girl. Perhaps it was Weismuller’s numerous marriages and subsequent alimony bills that put him off!

This was Byron’s film debut, and she joined Weissmuller again in rather silly later entry ‘Jungle Moon Men’ (1955), having already faced ‘The Magnetic Monster’ (1953) and the ‘Serpent of the Nile’ (1953). She was also the female lead of cult classic alien horror ‘Invisible Invaders’ (1959). But she was to find her greatest recognition on television in the 1960s, starring in over 100 episodes of ‘The Patty Duke Show’ as the heroine’s mother. She also played Major Linseed’s wife on the Adam West ‘Batman’ TV show.

Another production line jungle adventure, but the left-field plot developments help to make a slightly less painful experience than most of the series.

The Wizard of Baghdad (1960)

The Wizard of Baghdad (1960)‘I’m an Eni-Meni Geni, an Eni-Meni Geni am l.’

A hopeless genie with a liking for the wine jug is sent on a mission to Baghdad to ensure that Prince Hassan and Princess Yasmin ascend to the Caliph’s throne as prophesied. When he bungles the job, he’s condemned to a mortal existence until he can make the prophecy come true.

Dismal ‘Arabian Knights’ fluff from legendary low-budget producer Sam Katzman and starring nightclub entertainer Dick Shawn. Unfortunately, the film’s in trouble even before the opening credits have finished, with Shawn flying in on a magic carpet (supported by clearly visible strings) singing what is probably one of the most irritating ditties in film history. He’s our title character, a Iovably useless genie who prefers to get wasted than get on with tasks set by his chief William Edmonson. He ends up (literally) in the last chance saloon, but prefers to sample the juice of the grape rather than pay attention to invading Sultan John Van Dreelan, who murders the Caliph of Baghdad and forces the adolescent Hassan into exile.

After having his magic removed, Shawn hangs around hoping for a chance to put things right and regain his powers, but his clever strategy involves spending most of his time with a talking horse and pretending to be a wizard. Seven years pass and the adolescent Prince Hassan has turned into handsome Barry Coe, and the Princess Yasmin into dark-eyed beauty Diane Baker. Can our useless hero bring them together and frustrate the schemes of Van Dreelan and Baker’s toadying father?

If this was supposed to be a comedy showcase to launch Shawn’s burgeoning film career, it had the opposite effect than intended. This is truly a half-assed, juvenile experience, which attempts laughs by making knowing pop culture references and rehashing boring, obvious gags that were old a good two decades earlier. Production values are low, with the larger crowd scenes and one battle obviously lifted from another film, and the sets often somewhat threadbare, something you wouldn’t usually associate with the inside of a palace. The only mildly entertaining scenes are those in which Shawn is side-lined by what little plot there is; specifically the banter and romance between Coe and Baker, who tried hard to wring something out of the lifeless script.

The Wizard of Baghdad (1960)

The Royal Motor-bath was powered by extra towels.

The biggest surprise here is that the weak screenplay is from the pen of Jesse Lasky Jr, a Hollywood veteran who’d worked on several Cecil B DeMille productions, like ‘Reap The Wild Wind’ (1942), ‘Samson and Delilah’ (1949) and ‘The Ten Commandments’ (1956). In later life, he wrote mostly for UK television, including episodes of hit shows like ‘The Saint’, ‘Danger Man’ and ‘Space:1999’. Strangely enough, this film is entirely omitted from his autobiography.

Shawn had a big following as a singer and entertainer on the nightclub circuit, but his acting career turned out to be mostly ‘gag appearances’ that traded on his name, most notably in ‘lt’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’ (1963). His only notable credit is as the actor who plays Adolf Hitler in the show put on by Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder in ‘The Producers’ (1967). Baker had a long and successful career as a character actress, including parts in Hitchcock’s ‘Marnie’ (1964), ‘Courage Under Fire’ (1996), many guest roles on television and a bit in ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ (1991).

Coe’s subsequent exploits were considerably less notable, although he did have a leading role in weird horror indie ‘Dr Death, Seeker of Souls’ (1973). Director George Sherman managed 128 credits over a long career, but only one notable film; ‘Big Jake’ (1971) with John Wayne, although it’s rumoured that The Duke helmed at least some of that himself.

A dreary, tired and slightly wretched experience.

Captive Girl (1950)

Captive Girl (1950)‘Speak or you die! Where is she-devil?’

Jungle Jim is recruited by the local authorities to find a mysterious white girl who has been seen in a remote part of the jungle. Allegedly, she is accompanied by a tiger and has been terrorising the witchdoctor of a local tribe, whose young chief is returning home after being educated in America.

It’s Tarzan vs. Flash Gordon as Johnny Weismuller faces off against Larry ‘Buster’ Crabbe in a ferocious fight to the death in a sweltering Jungle Hell where life is cheap and production values are even cheaper. Yes, it’s another trip to the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanical Gardens for the fourth in the ‘Jungle Jim’ series from legendary skinflint producer Sam Katzman, and, for anyone who has seen one of these pictures, this one holds no surprises whatsoever.

As usual, we begin with the story; a five minute exposition scene that tells us all that we need to know, and allows us to turn off our brains for the next 73 minutes. Our villain is evil witchdoctor Hakim (John Dehner from Staten Island) who is hunting jungle girl Anita Lhoest (from California) because she may have witnessed him murdering a couple of explorers many years earlier who may have been her parents. No prizes for guessing if that’s all true or not. Returning tribal chief Mahala (Rick Vallin from modern day Ukraine) is travelling into the jungle so he can turn his people from superstition to enlightenment. Weismuller is recruited to escort him back and to find the girl. Dastardly treasure hunter Crabbe is also in the area looking for the Lagoon of the Dead where Dehner has been sacrificing his victims.

So it’s business as usual with Weismuller accompanied on his journey by black bird Caw Caw and cute little dog Skipper, whose continued survival in the jungle is seriously impressive. We also get what seems to be an unofficial introduction to chimpanzee Tamba, who turns up from somewhere after a while and Weismuller calls by name. Although Lhoest has been evading everyone for years apparently, in the best Edgar Rice Burroughs tradition Weismuller finds her in less than ten minutes. Along the way, he gets to wrestle a crocodile again, although he keeps his shirt on this time around. But it is a nice echo of his Tarzan heyday.

Director William Berke had nine other pictures released the same year, including two more in this series; ‘Mark of the Gorilla’ (1950) and ‘Pygmy lsland’ (1950). ln fact, he ended up directing almost half of the 16 of Jungle Jim’s adventures. In a way, Crabbe’s presence in the picture is a pleasing one; as he’d already battled Weismuller in the big man’s only non-Jungle role, the bayou melodrama ‘Swamp Fire’ (1946). ‘Flash Gordon’ and ‘Jungle Jim’ were the most famous creations of artist Alex Raymond, who also co-created the comicstrip ‘Secret Agent X-9’ with legendary author and activist Dashiell Hammett.

Captive Girl (1950)

‘What have I told you before about bringing back dead explorers?’

Rather strangely, we get the same repeated shot of Lhoest on a clifftop several times (no complaints from me, mind you) but she gets little screen time otherwise, most of which she spends skipping through the jungle. She doesn’t get all that much dialogue either, although what she has she handles well enough. I did wonder where she was getting her makeup done, though! These jungle girls always seem to be able to find a beauty parlour somewhere. On the debit side, both Dehner and Vallin play in blackface, something that would be rightly unacceptable now and must have looked pretty silly to audiences, even back in the more naive days of 1950.

Like Weismuller and Crabbe, Lhoest was a swimming champion who had beaten out a young Marilyn Monroe for the part of Daisy Mae in a big budget movie of ‘Lil Abner’. But that film was never made and this remains her only appearance on the silver screen. She certainly had the looks, with a dazzling smile and lively eyes, and filled out a two-piece tiger skin number in a very fetching way. But she preferred to devote her life to animal welfare, rather than acting.

At 73 minutes, this is actually one of the longest films of the series and boy, do those extra minutes drag. One of the dullest of Jim’s exploits and a seriously boring experience.

Jungle Jim (1948)

Jungle Jim (1948)‘You expected a man. People always do. l find it extremely annoying.’

Jungle Jim arranges a safari for a female scientist who is searching for a lost temple deep in the jungle and a tribe that may possess a cure for infant polio. Matters are complicated by a wandering photographer and the younger sister of Jim’s Head Man.

At the age of 44, Johnny Weismuller’s reign as the ‘King of the Jungle’ seemed to be over when he was let go by MGM after ‘Tarzan and the Mermaids’ (1948). But it was back to Africa (or the LA Botanical Gardens) almost immediately as his option was picked up by Columbia Studios, who starred him in a series of 16 pictures as ‘Jungle Jim’. This was essentially a less energetic version of the same character, he simply swapped his loincloth for a safari suit and traded in Cheetah for cute puppy Skipper and pet crow Caw Caw. Unfortunately, there was one major change; a tremendous dip in budget and production values, courtesy of notorious tightwad Sam Katzman.

Given the reduced circumstances, there is a lot less ambition on show than even the later MGM films possessed, and it’s evident right from this first film. Weismuller finds a dying native in the interior who is in possession of a golden vial covered in unknown hieroglyphics. Analysis of the contents brings lady scientist Virginia Grey, who is convinced of its miraculous medicinal properties. Weismuller takes her on safari to search for the legendary ‘lost temple’ that seems its likely source.

The plot is explained within the first five minutes, never develops any further, but was good enough to be used for most of the later entries in the series as well! Just how many ‘lost tribes’, ‘lost temples’ and ‘lost cities’ were there in the jungle just waiting for Weismuller to find? Lots, obviously. Strangely enough, there were always some diamonds/emeralds/gold or hidden art treasures lying about as well. And a gang of villainous white men intent on getting their hands on them.

Jungle Jim (1948)

‘Are we there yet?’

But there a couple of slight differences from the later films. For a start, there’s a lot more wildlife stock footage. We get an elephant stampede, lots of monkeys, prowling lions, the whole bit. This is a tell-tale sign of a cheap movie, of course, but its absence in the later films is curious. Was it actually cost-effective not to use library film as inserts? Hard to believe, but then it’s equally difficult to imagine Katzman passing up the chance of saving a few bucks here and there.

The other wrinkle is a half-baked romantic interest for Weismuller in the person of Head Man’s daughter, Zia (Lita Baron). Sure, it never develops beyond some mild flirtation on her part, but it’s something completely absent from subsequent productions.  The overall gender politics are just as tiresome as you’d expect with regard to Grey’s hard-ass scientist.  She starts off all business, of course, intent on proving herself as good as a man, but it’s not long before she’s screaming at a crocodile, falling down a slope, getting trapped by a tree root and being saved by Weismuller. It’s also good to see that a serious scientist always packs her bathing costume when going on safari, even if it leads to an encounter with a strange, tentacled beastie and another inevitable intervention by our muscle bound hero. Luckily, handsome George Reeves is lounging about taking a few holiday snaps, so there’s no obligation on Weismuller to get all gooey and romantic over her.

Grey was an actress who played second lead and supporting roles in some far bigger productions, notably ‘Another Thin Man’ (1939), ‘All That Heaven Allows’ (1955) and Samuel Fuller’s ‘The Naked Kiss’ (1964). Reeves became world famous as TV ‘Superman’ before his mysterious death in 1959. Baron’s exotic looks and dance moves got her roles of different ethnicities in pictures like ‘Bomba On Panther lsland’ (1949), ‘Savage Drums’ (1951) and ‘The Treasure of Pancho Villa’ (1955). She was actually Spanish.

The closing scene strongly suggests that our surviving heroes would return for future adventures, but in the end it was only Weismuller who came back. Along with Skipper and Caw Caw of course. But perhaps the others were well out of it. After all, it takes our heroes almost an hour of wandering about before they find the ‘lost temple’ and, by then, there’s very little of the picture left!

Rather a dull trip into the jungle of b-movies.