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An especially delightful film to those of us who saw this when young
because after all it was meant for the young to watch - when viewing it
again as an adult it's better if rose-tinted spectacles can kick in. It
was the first of the 16 Jungle Jim films and later TV series chunky
Johnny Weismuller went on to do for Columbia (in the last 3 films he
had to use his own name though as they'd lost the rights) after getting
the sack from playing Tarzan for Sol Lesser. Johnny Sheffield also gave
up playing Boy to become Bomba the Jungle Boy in a series of 12 films.
Jim and party go on perilous safari to hunt down the hidden temple of Zimbalu manned by an obscure tribe of devil doctors who seem to have the secret of a poison that might also be a cure for polio. Edgar Rice Burroughs probably approved. After 16 years talking monosyllabically Weismuller seemed awkward stringing sentences together, not that it mattered. On the swift march we meet many of the interesting but generally playful denizens of the jungle, barring the sinister crocodile going to eat the leading lady with her leg caught under a twig and the surreal elephant stampede (stock footage squeezed into a corner of the frame). Skipper the dog and Caw-Caw the crow had many adventures, none of which turned out essential to the plot in case you were concentrating! The biggest problem with the film is the farcical climax, which can be exciting but also unfortunately remind you of the end of a serial part and the original excellent serial had been made 12 years prior. Although personally I wouldn't have minded this going on another couple of hours as well!
The only thing heavy about this was Weismuller; in so many ways an enjoyable kids film from the old days - not recommended for serious adults so I love it.
The first JUNGLE JIM entry is a fun vehicle and good introduction to the character.Johnny Weissmuller at 44,was still fit and rugged,but a little too hefty to play Tarzan anymore.The part of JUNGLE JIM was as close as he could get to playing Tarzan and being able to age a bit.The JIM films were made at Columbia studios,so they have that low-budget look that 3 Stooges fans are used to seeing.A lot of stock footage,scenes from earlier films repeated and even some of the Stooges' sound effects make these films very campy and silly.JIM was always more interested in battling the crooks and making the Jungle safe,but he always had some pretty starlets along for the adventure.In this entry Virginia Grey plays a lady scientist and Lita Baron plays a sexy native girl.(Acquanetta,Tarzan's nemesis in LEOPARD WOMAN was originally offered the part.)Also along for the ride are Rick Vallin as Kolu,the native guide(He would repeat this part in future entrys)and JIM has a pet dog and crow for comedy relief(later Tamba the chimp would appear).JIM takes time out for a swim and shows off his still impressive physique. The villain is played by George Reeves(soon to play Superman on TV).All in all,a fun introduction to the adventures of JUNGLE JIM.
JUNGLE JIM (Columbia, 1948), directed by William Berke, introduces
Olympic swimming champion, Johnny Weissmuller, in the title role based
on Alex Raymond's comic strip character. After a span of sixteen years
and twelve films enacting his most famous one of all, that of "Tarzan"
for both Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (1932-42) and RKO Radio (1943-48),
Weissmuller, assumed a new jungle hero in another theatrical series.
Though not in the same league as the "Tarzan" adventures, especially
those made over at at MGM, "Jungle Jim" served as the type of
entertainment popular for the Saturday matinée crowd. Although "Jungle
Jim" was first introduced on screen in a weekly 12-chapter serial
format for Universal in 1936 starring Grant Withers, it's the one
portrayed by Weissmuller that's better known to many.
In this initial entry, which opens with off-screen narration, a frightful native is seen running through the jungle, soon attacked by a leopard, as witnessed by monkeys sitting on trees. Jungle Jim (Johnny Weissmuller), a white hunter, arrives too late to rescue him. Noticing the dead man's hand still clutching onto a small golden vile inscribed with hieroglyphic writing, Jim has it analyzed. The vile, revealed by Geoffrey Marsden (Holmes Herbert), a district commissioner of Nagandi, to be from ancient times containing gummy dark substance, a poison that's not only a cure for infantile paralysis, but the key to the hidden treasure buried in the temple of Zimbalu. Jungle Jim is soon hired as a guide for Hilary Parker (Virginia Grey), a scientist out to obtain the valuable drug in Zimbalu for her experiments. Also on the expedition are tribesmen, Kolu (Rick Vallin) and his sister, Zia (Lita Baron), a native dancer with a crush on Jim. Trouble lurks when Bruce Edwards (George Reeves), a photographer who had squandered away his fortune appears, staging a series of "accidents" to rid Jungle Jim and the safari in order to obtain the treasure for himself.
With a new character in familiar surroundings, Jungle Jim is very much like Tarzan, only fully clothed and conversing in complete sentences. The screenplay carries on in the "Tarzan" tradition by having Jungle Jim battling leopards, sea serpents, crocodiles and a hungry lion inside a pit; saving damsels in distress from wild animals, elephant stampedes (through stock footage) and sphere throwing natives; and attempts saving tribesmen, held captive hanging upside-down by their rope tied ankles before being sacrificed. As a reminder from the "Tarzan" movies, Jim does underwater swimming (in bathing suit instead of loincloth) with Zia (Lita Baron)in the manner Tarzan did with his mate, Jane (Maureen O'Sullivan), at MGM. While Tarzan had a chimpanzee named Cheta as comedy relief, much of the same is devoted to Jungle Jim's animal companions, Caw Caw (the large black crow) and Skipper (a dog). Without their antics, this 73 minute adventure might have served as a 55 minute featurette.
What makes JUNGLE JIM watchable is not only the pairing of Weissmuller and George Reeves, but having Reeves, best known as TV's "Superman" from the 1950s, as a villain. Virginia Grey, as a serious-minded scientist sporting pulled back hair and glasses, logging her daily report on a typewriter (amusingly key pecked by Caw Caw at one point), makes her third and final appearance with Weissmuller, following TARZAN'S NEW YORK ADVENTURE (MGM, 1942) and Weissmuller's first non-Tarzan role of SWAMP FIRE (Paramount, 1946). With Grey's character not being Jim's "idea of a scientist," their differences of opinion finds them at odds with one another, adding some amusement to the screenplay by Carroll Young. Grey's Hilary Parker breaks away from her librarian appearance by showing off her womanly figure in bathing suit in her attempt to attract Jungle Jim's attention away from Zia. JUNGLE JIM is most enjoyable when not taken seriously, as indicated by its situations at hand.
While many of the plots provided in subsequent "Jungle Jim" adventures were offbeat and forgettable, the one provided here is satisfactory, especially by the presence of troublesome Reeves. After the series expired, Weissmuller turned out to be the logical choice resuming his "Jungle Jim" role in television series that premiered in 1955, keeping him much in the public eye as "King of the Jungle."
The sixteen "Jungle Jim" movies, having been absent on the television screen since the 1970s (commonly broadcast on New York City's WNBC, Channel 4, between 1968 and 1972, as part of its late movie lineup of "The Great Great Show"), were brought back in later years on American Movie Classics (1997-2000). Turner Classic Movies brought forth three in the series May 27, 2009: JUNGLE MANHUNT (1951), THE FORBIDDEN LAND (1952), and of course the one that started it all, JUNGLE JIM. Next installment: THE LOST TRIBE (1949) (**)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As a kid growing up, I'd watch Johnny Weismuller's Tarzan movies every
chance I got, but I can't recall ever seeing any of his Jungle Jim
films. TV quality in the 1950's was a dicey affair, and you never knew
if antenna reception would be favorable or not. The only other jungle
adventures I can recall seeing were those of "Ramar of the Jungle" and
"Sheena: Queen of the Jungle"; something about those jungle flicks and
wild animals that captured my imagination. Having just gotten my hands
on a bunch of the Jungle Jim movies, I'll be watching them in order of
release to see how the series progressed.
In this, the first movie of the franchise, Jungle Jim leads an expedition to locate the legendary ancient temple of Zimbalu following the discovery of a vial made of pure gold. Of more significance though is the vial's contents, a poison that might hold the key to a cure for polio. That's of special interest to Dr. Hilary Parker (Virginia Grey), who's willing to brave the dangerous trek into the wild for the secrets Zimbalu may hold. For those whose only experience of George Reeves is that of Superman in the 1950's TV series, one might be surprised to see him cast here as villain Bruce Edwards, especially when he tries to push Jungle Jim over a cliff feigning a dizzy spell.
Something I could never figure out, even as a kid, was how movies featuring lots of wildlife found it impossible to maintain geographical integrity for those that appeared in the story. Here, it didn't take long for a North American mountain lion to show up along the expedition trail. Granted, it was stock footage, as were virtually all of the animal scenes, but I did get a kick out of the wild elephant stampede. The opener with Jim wrestling the leopard was a little more realistic looking than I would have expected.
Say, here's a few questions that crossed my mind while watching. Why was everyone so surprised that Dr. Hilary turned out to be a woman, I mean she had a woman's name, didn't she? And if Kolu (Rick Vallin) was the chief of his Masai tribe, how did the tribe get along without him while he was off serving as Jungle Jim's guide? Then in one of the film's goofier moments, why would Edwards, who made his escape from the Zimbalu warriors out of the temple, wind up coming back? Not a good career move as it turned out. Is it just me, or did Zia's (Lita Baron) fireside dance remind anyone else of that 'Seinfeld' episode where Elaine does the goofy dance?
Still, as far out as this story tends to get, there's nothing like it for good campy fun, except of course for stuff like Flash Gordon, the Adventures of Superman, and a good dose of the Bowery Boys. Not a bad way to escape reality for a quick hour at a time.
Say, I don't recall Jungle Jim's last name ever being mentioned in the story - it was Bradley.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
PROBABLY THE MOST logical step in the film career of Olympic Swimmer
Extrodiniarre, Johnny Weissmueller, JUNGLE JIM (Columbia, 1948),
provided us with further Jungle Adventure thrills from someone who had
by then become known as Tarzan to the world. The series, as has been
said before, was essentially Mr. Weismueller still playing the Apeman;
but now, sans the loin cloth.
IT WAS SURELY a natural for Johnny and, in addition to exploiting the Weismueller name, it did provide a good deal of fodder for his fans. It also serves to extend the shelf life of the beloved vine-swinger; who was, alas, going the way of all men!
IT WAS A MATTER of how his parents were treating him; 'Parents' in this case mean "Mother Nature" and "Father Time."
CHOOSING AN AVAILABLE property for adaptation to the Silver Sceeen, Columbia Picrures and super-frugal producer, Sam Katzman chose yet another popular Comic Strip from Hearst's King Features Syndicate; that being Alex Raymond's JUNGLE JIM.
COMING FROM THE same creative team as Raymond's immortal FLASH GORDON, JUNGLE JIM usually occupied the lower third of the same page that the Space Saga did. The JJ story also split time with Flash in the Radio adaptations. There was little doubt that the title was well known and popular with the public. The addition of Weissmueller in the lead would assure success in getting this initial movie made.
BUT WE SURELY don't think that producer Katzman and Columbia Mogul Harry Cohn ever thought that they were empowering a franchise to create what would be a 16 movie series and even a short lived JUNGLE JIM Television Series (Screen Gems, 1955); all staring the venerable MGM/RKO Tarzan star!
AS FOR THIS picture,we have the usual sort of themes of scientists (this time lovely, Virginia Grey), distant & lost cities, hostile natives, secret satanic cult and renegade Whites (portrayed by no less than the future Superman, George Reeves). As a sort of contemporary twist (for 1948), the object of the Jungle Jim lead safari is a possible cure for Infantile Paralysis; now much better known as Polio!
MUCH IN THE same manner of THE LONE RANGER and THE GREEN HORNET, Jim has an assistant who is of another race. In this case, versatile supporting character actor, Rick Vallin, portrays Jim's turbaned Indian right hand man.
THE INHERENT FRUGALITY of this production is clearly evident as we see much of the same ground used in many a Western; now pressed into service as being the thickest rain forests, darkest jungle and most forbidding savannas! The transformation from 'the Old West' to 'Darklest Africa' was accomplished with plantings of the Castor Bean plant as well as well placed potted palms, banana plants and flowering cannas. (They added some grape vines; just for good measure!)
INSPITE OF OUR criticisms, we did enjoy the movie. We can see how it was so well received in the post WW II movie theatres. It was the perfect choice for the top of the bill; but not in the evenings. Along with some cartoons, a serial chapter and the likes of a Bowery Boys entry, this would make for a great Saturday afternoon matinée!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILERS*** Being a bit too old, at age 44, and somewhat paunchy,
around the midsection, former movie Tarzan Johnny Weissmuller put on a
safari outfit and took on the identity of top African jungle guide and
big game hunter, or is it trapper, Jungle Jim.
In his initial movie adventure Mr. Jim is out to find this poisonous paste that despite being able to kill a person within seconds can also cure polio if used in minute doses. With lady scientist Dr. Hilary Parker, Virginia Gray, and good friend Chief Kolo, Rick Villin, together with members of his Matusie tribesmen Jim goes out into the deep jungle to find where this poisonous paste, used on darts and arrows, is made. Unknown to Jim one of those on the safari with him Bruce Edwards, George Reeves, is up to no good. Edwards is in fact trying to do in Mr. Jim and his entire group in order to get his hands on the treasure that's in he Temple of Zimbalu where the Devil Doctors, who produce the poisonous past, reside and preform daily human sacrifices!
What makes "Jungle Jim" so hard to take is that its villain photographer Bruce Edwards is so out in the open to do in Mr. Jim and his safari members, including Dr. Parker, that it's hard to believe that the very on top of things Mr.Jim is so naive not to recognize it. That even when Edwards, who wants to get his hands on the Devil Doctor's gold before Mr. Jim & co. does, purposely pushed Jim off a cliff where he almost fell to his death! That with Edwards later almost letting loose Kolu's feet, that he was holding on to, who was attempting to, and despite all of Edwards efforts to prevent it, rescue Jim as he was hanging on for his life on a three branch!
With Mr. Jim battling man eating leopards lions and crocodiles in the movie he finally has it out with the Devil Doctors lead by their leader Tex Mooney in the Temple of Zimbalu where they made the back-stabbing Edwards their God! Edwards using his camera to impress the very not with it, in not quite knowing what's going on in the civilized world, Tex and his Devil Doctors by taking and then developing their pictures!
***SPOILERS*** It's when Jim's pet crow stole Edwards camera lens that the Chief and his boys finally got wise to him in Edwards not being able to photograph them! Caught with his hands in the cookie jar, or the Devil Doctor's treasure chest, Edwards knows that his goose is soon going to be cooked. That leads to the exciting climax in the movie where Jungle Jim has it out with the entire group of Devil Doctors who were just about to sacrifice Dr. Parker together with Chief Kolu and his native tribesmen! It's then that the evil Bruce Edwards desperately tries to save his rotten neck by trying to have them, Jim and the Devil Doctors, used as interferences in, by them fighting each other, covering his escape! This time around things didn't turn out as well for Edwards as they did for him all throughout the movie with him ending up getting everything that he so rightfully deserved!
Jungle Jim (1948)
** (out of 4)
After growing too old for Tarzan, Johnny Weissmuller headed over to Columbia where he started the Jungle Jim series with this one being the first of sixteen movies. This time out Jim is leading a female scientist (Virginia Grey) through the jungles looking for a poison that might just be the cure for polio. I had heard this was an extremely goofy and at times rather poor series but this here was my first venture into it and I will go along with the goofy part. There are so many logical plot holes here that you could drive a semi through them but the biggest problem is th best thing going for the film. The problem is that this thing is 100% camp and that's where the entertainment value comes from. You can tell this was an extremely low-budget movie because there's so much stock footage edited in that after a while you actually get a headache from it. The majority of the animal footage is all stock footage but the film's greatest scene is one where Grey isn't paying attention when a crocodile sneaks up on her. As far as Weissmuller goes, he's pretty bad. As a visual level it's certainly easy to watch him but his line delivery is just so incredibly bad that there were a couple times where I had to laugh at him. It was fun watching him but the performance just adds more camp value. Lita Baron plays a jungle girl who adds a lot of sex appeal to the film. George Reeves plays the bad guy here and does a very good job, nearly stealing the film. The film is clearly modeled after a Tarzan movie from start to finish and this includes a swimming scene clearly trying to impersonate the one from TARZAN AND HIS MATE. Even at only 71-minutes the film seems a tad bit long but if you like goofy fun then you'll certainly want to check it out.
Jungle Jim was Johnny Weismuller's vehicle after he became too old to play
Tarzan, and passed the mantle to younger actors. As Jungle Jim, he stays in
his African milieu, dons safari clothes and has a series of numbskull
adventures mostly saving ladies in distress. This is the first of the
series, in which Jungle Jim helps a lady scientist discover a cure for
(remember that Jungle Jim is made in 1948 before the discovery of the Salk
vaccine). In this, it may be ahead of its time; first having a smart female
character, and second, finding cures to disease in tropical plants. The
villain is played by the pre-Superman George Reeves.
Where Jungle Jim is behind the times is its portrayal of Africans, in this case Masai, who look like white people, and the idiotic portrayal of wildlife. Nonetheless, it's a laugh. But if you're looking for something serious pass it by.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As Johnny Weissmuller got too portly to wear loin clothes (looking more
like Elmo Lincoln's 1914 Tarzan than his 1934 version), he covered
himself up and took on a new identity, disillusioned photographer known
only as Jungle Jim, no last name identifiable. While screen son Johnny
Sheffield got Monogram studios, Weismueller got the B unit of rising A
studio Columbia, and an opening segment of a series much better than
even the best of the mediocre Bomba series.
Jungle Jim is sort of a poor man's Indiana Jones, and in this opening segment, he is in danger of finding his temple of doom, a burial ground that comes with supposed curses. There's the typical element of nature at its cutest: puppies playing with baby monkeys, stalking alligators, and an animal of the most predatory kind, the human female, played here as a pretty but bespeckled scientist, veteran actress Virginia Grey. Far past just passable, this is a superb adventure with mystery surrounding a gold vile found in the hands of a dead native. While I can't imagine the series remaining as good as this, the opening is amazingly well done and suspenseful.
Future TV Superman George Reeves gets to be the bad guy, with Lita Baron as a jungle girl (think Bomba in a sarong) with eyes on J.J. and daggers towards Grey. While obvious stock footage is intermixed with the newly filmed material, it is actually a lot more interesting than stock footage utilized in other jungle series films. One memorable sequence has Jungle Jim rescuing a member of his party from a den filled with sleeping lions. The snarl of the awakening lion, as if to say "How dare you disturb my smile!", is both riveting and humorous. I'll take stocky Johnny W. over scantily clad Johnny S. any day, most definitely my all important Saturday morning viewing which B films like this were designed for.
Oh, how I enjoyed the Jungle Jim movies and television show when I was a youngster. Action, adventure, a far away location, wild animals and well trained and entertaining pet animals - what more could a kid ask for? The shows were perfect entertainment. Of course, now I see a lot of stock footage, silly plot, unbelievable fight scenes, and stereotypical characters. And, of course, Johnny Weismuller has to be the most famous bad actor. But his Tarzan and Jungle Jim characters were so affable, so good, and so competent who cares he couldn't act? This series entry was fun for three reasons: the antics of the marvelously well trained crow (Caw Caw) and the dog, Skipper; 2) it features a woman searching for a cure for polio - played by the always good actress Virginia Grey and 3) the chance to see Superman George Reeves as a villain. A harmless, pleasant diversion that brings back fond childhood memories. I like Jungle Jim still.
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