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Suspecting that a safari guide is a wanted killer, undercover policeman Geoffrey Bishop joins a safari led by the suspect for a scientist that hopes to find and prove that a fabled white gorilla is a missing link. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Sam Newfield, director of White Pongo, had a long and productive career, spanning from the mid-1920s to the mid-1960s. Averaging 3-4 films per year (a total of 7 in 1951), he apparently did not have a great deal of time to waste with art, script refinement, and cinematography. His most well-known films achieve a relatively high rating here on IMDb (4), and are all within the horror genre (e.g. Dead Men Walk), but he did occasionally branch out into Sci-Fi (Lost Continent) and made a decent number of respectable war and western films in the last ten years of his career. Although I have not seen many of Newfield's films, and remember even fewer, I am willing to wager that White Pongo is fairly representative of the lot.
There are essentially two weakly developed plots. First - an expedition of upper crust white guys and a beautiful young woman are out in the jungle searching for a missing link (an albino gorilla whose only truly distinguishing characteristic is bad costuming). Since this plot had been done several times previously in equally bad films and the excellent King Kong, the screenwriter included a rather over-dramatic romantic quadrangle between the young lady, a privileged jerk to whom she is apparently betrothed, a decent young laborer, and - of course - the albino gorilla. Raymond Schrock, who had been writing for film since the teens gets the only credit I can give anybody in the production team for giving the actors something reasonable to work with. Schrock is an interesting character. Most of the films he was involved with are very obscure and difficult to find, but those which remain in the light seem to rate pretty highly here on IMDb. Sadly, White Pongo was made within the last five years of his career. and, in terms of plot, it's a very predictable, unoriginal, mess.
The cinematography is fairly standard for the jungle adventure genre as it stood in the middle of the 20th century. In other words, it is quite limited by available technology and set problems. The directing exemplifies the term "pedestrian", and the acting, though uninspired, is not nearly as bad as might be expected from the largely unknown cast. Those interested in the history of African American participation in film may be interested to see activist actor Joel Fluellen playing an unfortunate stereotype "Mumbo Jumbo" in this film, and will appreciate the irony that the only two 'ethnic' actors in this film (Fluellen and Al Eban) outlasted the rest of the cast. Fluellen appeared in some fairly good roles in Oscar and Grammy nominated films late in his career.
Best viewed with the aid of intoxicants and friends with good senses of humor. Otherwise - to be avoided.
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