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Borneo (1937)

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Expeditions in Borneo by Mr. and Mrs. Martin Johnson show the terrain, flora, fauna and lifestyle of Borneo as the Johnsons search for a huge orangutan.


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Complete credited cast:
Martin E. Johnson ...
Osa Johnson ...
Lowell Thomas ...
Serious Narrator
Lew Lehr ...
Interrupting Narrator
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
James Laneri ...
First pilot


The last travelogue/documentary/exploitation film shot by the husband-and-wife team of hunters/trappers/explorers/film-makers Martin and Osa Johnson, albeit Mrs. Osa Johnson pieced together another one of all-archive footage, taken from previous films, in the early 1940s. This time out they are in Borneo searching for an orangutan to capture and sell to a zoo, but film everything in natural sight and stage a few other items. Martin Johnson died shortly after the Borneo expedition but his widow sold the footage to 20th Century-Fox's newsreel department and they took it from there. The fad for semi-real/semi-staged exploration/exploitation films was long over by 1937, and the people at Fox decided to jazz this up a bit in hopes of getting better bookings...and the Johnson-name still had an audience of its own. Lowell Thomas, a newsman who practically made an icon out of T. E. Lawrence all by himself and the lead commentator on Fox newsreels, was assigned the narration, after the studio ... Written by Les Adams <>

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BEWITCHING! Gorgeous native maidens in the fiery "marriage dance" See more »




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Release Date:

3 September 1937 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Bornéo  »

Filming Locations:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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User Reviews

humorous and disturbing
11 January 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

A very good depression-era propaganda film disguised as an anthropological and natural study which lies somewhere between King Kong and a Margaret Mead journal. As Mr & Mrs. Johnson travel upland and upriver they encounter flying snakes, various simians and apes, climbing fish, tree oysters and indolent natives. A scientist with a fake German accent gives explanations. Assumed to be filmed on location, the natives converse in rehearsed, broken English and are dressed according to Christian decency. Lowell Thomas' narration is quite humorous at first until the real reason for their expedition is divulged. The film culminates in the American management of the capture of a 300lb. orang-utan (literally meaning the "wild-man of the jungle") who will live the rest of his life in "some American city zoo lazily eating bananas". The scene is powerful and disturbing.

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