Jungle Man-Eaters (1954)

Jungle Man-Eaters (1954)‘Keep your mind off monkey business, Tamba!’

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!

Jungle Man-Eaters (1954)

The poster promised ‘Jungle Jim Against The Cannibals’. Well, you do get Jungle Jim. Cannibals? Um…not so much.

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 Wyler’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.

Jungle Man-Eaters (1954)

It was dress down Friday at the precinct…

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.

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Valley Of Head Hunters (1953)

Valley of Head Hunters (1952)When the Romans attacked the Carthaginians, Hannibal thought of a lulu of a tactic.’

Unscrupulous slave traders discover low-grade oil in the jungle and plan to secure the mineral rights at any cost. They persuade a native chief to reform an ancient tribe of head hunters and seize control of the region…

After almost two-decades as MGM’s ‘Tarzan’, ex-Olympic multi-gold medallist Johnny Weismuller took the short bus ride from Culver City to Gower Gulch, where he signed with Columbia Studios to appear in a series of films as ‘Jungle Jim.’ These cut-price African adventures were made under the watchful eye of producer Sam Katzman and his independent film company. Katzman had begun in low-budget Western programmers in the mid-1930’s before graduating to Monogram Studios where he supervised movie serials and horror quickies with Bela Lugosi. His ‘cash careful’ approach caught the eye of executives at Columbia and they signed him to a deal in 1948.

This 11th entry finds Weismuller teaming up with old friend and interpreter Ellen Shaw (Christine Larson) and clean-cut Lt Barry (Steven Ritch) who has just returned from military school. Their mission? To bring cold-blooded trader Arco (Robert C Foulk) and his right-hand man Pico Church (Joseph Allen) to justice. But these wicked pair have plans of their own. While executing his usual business model of kidnapping native women, Allen has stumbled across a pool of oil in the jungle. It might be low-grade stuff but it can be used to refine copper. Sensing a mineral bonanza, Foulk sets out to stir up unrest and move in. He’s got previous too; orchestrating the native uprising that took the life of Larson’s father.

Valley of Head Hunters (1952)

Events as at the weigh-in had got out of hand…

The ‘Jungle Jim’ series was pretty much the definition of ‘conveyor belt’ filmmaking and here the main creative team includes director William Berke (six in the series) and writer Samuel Newman who wrote five in total. However, although it shares many of the elements (and even some of the footage!) of other episodes, there’s something a tiny bit different going on here. You see, if you’re looking for straight drama, this is probably the best in the entire series.

For a start, it takes its story pretty seriously and there’s definitely an edge to proceedings not present in other entries. In the opening sequence, Allen callously empties his revolver into a wicket basket containing a helpless native girl when the police close in. We even see the corpse later on. When he catches up with the murderer, Weismuller puts him in a lion trap that will snap his neck if he doesn’t talk. Also the ‘friendly’ natives use their spears on the bad guys when they’re lying stunned on the ground. All of which is a little darker than what the films usually had to offer.

But then there’s Tamba, the Talented Chimp. Tamba gets an oblivious Weismuller to carry his pack, Tamba shoots the hat off our hero’s head, Tamba steals Larson’s clothes when she’s having a dip, Tamba gets hopped up on ether which allows him to somersault in slow motion! Ok, so he does free Weismuller by making like a bush but he is more of a hindrance than a help and his usual comedy schtick is strangely at odds with what’s going on elsewhere.

And yes, of course, Larson gets her foot caught in a tree root (women, eh?) and faints when she’s threatened by a panther. And, of course, Weismuller has to fight the stuffed toy, which must have been a chore as he’d already killed it in at least two of the previous films. I guess the big cat just couldn’t take the hint. Worse still, the second act really drags on as our heroes visit various tribes in an attempt to secure their mineral rights, and this effectively kills off any vague sense of excitement that the film possesses.

Valley of Head Hunters (1953)

‘Do you have to tread on my feet every time?’

Larson did lots of ‘b’ pictures, mostly Westerns and retired in 1958. She’s probably best remembered now for an alleged love affair with Ronald Reagan when he was first married to Nancy Davis. Ritch was a jobbing actor, who enjoyed more success as a writer, penning a couple of noir movies including the inventive ‘Plunder Road’ (1957) and episodes for hit TV shows like ‘Wagon Train’. Foulk enjoyed a long and very successful career as a TV character actor, appearing on ‘Lost In Space’, ‘The Big Valley’, ‘Rawhide, ‘Perry Mason’ and ‘The Twilight Zone’ among others. Newman delivered a dry run for ‘Night of the Living Dead’ (1968) with ‘Invisible Invaders’ (1959) and tangled with goofy intergalactic ‘big as a battleship’ buzzard puppet ‘The Giant Claw’ (1957).

There are no Nazis, Moon Men or cave men with furry wellington boots here, but, of course, those are the elements that provide the greatest entertainment when watching Jim’s exploits today. Instead, we have a fairly standard jungle adventure enlivened by some surprisingly dark moments.

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…

Jungle Jim In The Forbidden Land (1952)

Jungle Jim In The Forbidden Land (1952)‘That sounds like a lot of rifles being shot.’

The new Government Commissioner tries to engage Jungle Jim to take him to a valley cut off by flood waters, so he can liberate the elephants stranded there. At the same time, an anthropologist wants to use him as a guide to the forbidden land of the giant people, which is close to the isolated valley. But a group of renegade ivory hunters plan to exploit the situation to their own advantage…

The 8th film in Columbia’s cut-price jungle adventure series finds ex-Tarzan Johnny Weismuller back in the safari suit as the title character, accompanied by Tamba (the talented chimp) and legendary skinflint producer Sam Katzman. As ever, Weismuller needs to negotiate the usual dangerous combination of untrustworthy bit part actors and wild animal stock footage while taking a stroll around the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden.

In this particular effort, he’s up against the machinations of ivory hunters Jean Willies and William Tannen, who are hoodwinking Commissioner Lester Matthews and planning to cash in on the bonanza offered up by the trapped elephants. Their plot revolves around a cave that connects the land of the giant people with the flooded valley. Matthews wants to use it to lead the elephants to safety, but Willies plans to trap the animals beneath the guns of her men instead.

Unfortunately, this is all a bit of a problem when we see what’s up on the screen. We’re repeatedly told about this cave but it actually turns out to be more of a canyon. Easy mistake to make, I guess. And the ‘giant people’ are solely represented by just one couple (Clem Erickson and Irmgard Helen H Raschke), they’re only peripheral to the action and it’s only too obvious they are not giants! Sure, Erickson is a head taller than Weissmuller (in one shot anyway) but that hardly makes him a giant. Instead, this savage couple actually appear to be werewolves! Yes, cheap ‘Lon Chaney Jr’ face fur seems to be a more important attribute for a giant than height!

Jungle Jim In The Forbidden Land (1952)

In the Land of the Giant People, the Werewolf is King!

Why the script wasn’t tweaked so that  the ‘cave’ was replaced with a ‘canyon’ and the ‘giants’ with ‘beasts’ (or something similar) is not recorded. I guess the most probable explanation is that all the film’s early scenes were in the can already when Katzman realised that: a) there wasn’t any stock footage of elephants running through a cave; and b) there weren’t any giants on the books at central casting. Or, perhaps more likely, no-one really cared. The important thing was to get the film finished on time and on budget and out into theatres to earn money for the studio as soon as possible. It wasn’t as if anyone would ever be watching it again, right?

Additionally, it’s obvious that anthropologist Angela Greene has just been crowbarred into the story to give Weismuller a pretty girl to save. She does rescue herself early on by swimming to safety after her canoe is capsized by an unconvincing hippopotamus, but after that she’s simply there to be the damsel in distress. Weismuller rescues her from the water when she’s dunked by a hippo again (presumably, Katzman wanted to get full value out of this rather unconvincing prop!) and then saves her when she almost falls off a cliff for no good reason at all. Later on, he wrestles a ferocious black panther on her behalf (or a stuffed toy to be more accurate) before arranging an elephant taxi when she falls out of a tree and sprains her ankle (women, eh? Useless!) Actually, this sequence seems to exist entirely for the purpose of proving that the production had access to at least one real live elephant as Greene is skipping about again within a few minutes!

🎶When the rain is blowing in your face / And the whole world is on your case / I could offer you a warm embrace…🎵

Actually, Greene’s main role in the picture seems to be dealing with the persistent attentions of an over-affectionate Tamba! These interactions look unrehearsed but she deals with his enthusiasm very efficiently while still delivering her dialogue. She’d probably had plenty of experience in this regard when dealing with Hollywood producers. At one point her and Tamba actually seem to be forming some kind of a comedy double act, which would likely have been a lot more entertaining than the film we do get!

Subsequently, Greene became a familiar TV face with guest roles on big hit shows like 77 Sunset Strip, Wagon Train and Perry Mason, with her most famous being half a dozen or so appearances as Tess Trueheart opposite Ralph Byrd as ‘Dick Tracy’. She also enjoyed a somewhat less than impressive film career, starring opposite the Bowery Boys in ‘Loose In London’ (1953), John Carradine in ‘The Cosmic Man’ (1958) and some very cheap looking SFX in the dire ‘Night of the Blood Beast’ (1958).

Elsewhere in the cast, Willes is best remembered for her role as the nurse in the original ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ (1956) and Matthews was a veteran with a long list of credits, including appearing in Lugosi-Karloff classic ‘The Raven’ (1935). That picture had been directed by Lew Landers (as Louis Friedlander) and he’s also behind the megaphone here, his career having become trapped in the (very) low-budget arena in the late 1940s.

One point of interest to modern viewers: early on Weismuller actually retrieves a pair of elephant tusks after they are stolen by natives and gives them back to the ivory hunters! This is apparently fine because the hunters have not exceeded their export quota. It’s only when the villainous Willies plans to act outside the rules that Weismuller takes any kind of a position against her.

The ‘Jungle Jim’ features were cheap, conveyor belt fodder aimed squarely for the bottom half of the bill on the out of town theatre circuit. But this is quite definitely a candidate for the feeblest one in the entire series.

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 spends his evenings running about 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!