Jungle Jim is accused to the murder of a native who has been providing a mad scientist with innocent animals to be used in his experiments. The killing was actually committed by a ferocious "Man-Ape" that is terrorizing the jungle. Written by
Marty McKee <email@example.com>
My granddaughter and I caught only the last half, or so, of this film, so it's possible that we may have missed something that would cause me to reconsider what I say about it here. What might we have missed that would make a difference? Perhaps a plot, or at least some logical premise to explain what is going on.
This film must rank as a minor classic in the jungle-epic-filmed-in-a-garage genre. Although most of its action ostensibly occurs outdoors, there's hardly a scene in the film--apart from stock footage of rampaging animals--that isn't claustrophobic. Lots of interior shots in tents, huts, caves, dense jungle cover, etc., and even the exterior shots look like they were filmed indoors.
No point in being coy. Everything about this film is bad: cheesy production values, bad acting, hopeless script. Its only redeeming value is Carol Thurston (1923-1969; not the writer of the same name), who plays some kind of "native" princess. She's a babe. Wearing a skin-tight sarong, she looks more like she belongs in a Crosby/Hope "Road" movie than a "Jungle Jim" flick, but anyone who suffers through this turkey ain't likely to complain. She's good-looking, has a great body, and moves likes she's fully aware of all of the above. When you watch the silly film, you'll probably find yourself expecting J. Jim (Johnny Weismuller) to ask, "What's a classy babe like you doing in a jungle like this?" (You can answer that by checking her film credits on IMDb--all turkeys.)
The film's plot--so far as I could make it out--has several storylines. First, there's a giant "man ape" that is killing everything that enters his valley. Next, there's a group of unprincipled scientists who are collecting animal specimens as part of an evil plan to control the world with a serum they have discovered. Next, there is a "tribe" of ethnically mixed people (Arabs? Persians? Africans? Tahitians?) who are unwittingly helping the evil scientists by selling animals to them. Into this mix is thrown Jungle Jim, the world's first eco-tourist, who does his best to save the fight the bad guys, help the natives, and save the animals. (Unfortunately, he has a thing for the man ape and does his best to kill the poor beast. Never mind that the man ape might have some rights, too. Did he invite anyone into his valley?)
What I most enjoy about this silly symphony is its rhythms and patterns of movement. At any given moment, it seems like at least one character is being held captive by another character. As a result, there are escapes galore, and much of the time half the characters are fleeing, while the other half are chasing. What makes all this fun, is that it's absolutely unclear where the heck anyone is going. Characters seem to criss-cross the jungle in random directions with the inevitable result that they are constantly running into each other (and that includes the man ape, who usually grabs anyone who comes near him).
An interesting motif is hiding, or taking cover. J. Jim spends a lot of his time ducking behind jungle ferns, rocks, or passages in the cave that serves as one of the film's main sets. Although characters are hiding much of the time, no one chasing them ever thinks to look behind a rock or fern, so the hiders' presence goes undetected until they pop out into the open--which they always do. I'd like to see someone set this film to music.
If anyone ever writes a treatise on caves in films, they shouldn't overlook this film. Its cave is something special--the sort of place for which the word "cavernous" was coined--like the one in the old "Star Trek" episode about the Horta, or whatever it was called. Actually, this cave may have been used as a set for the "Dr. Who" TV series, though I don't recall spotting any Dalleks lurking anywhere.
Things to watch out for if you see this film:
* In the climactic fight between J. Jim and the man ape, see if you can tell if there is anything in any of the cardboard boxes they throw at each other (they all looked empty to me)
* when the wizard character shows Thurston the "baby dinosaur" in a cigar box, notice that it's a California alligator lizard
* in fact, see if you spot anything in the film--except for stock footage--that wasn't shot in Southern California
* keep an eye on the knife J. Jim drops when the man ape knocks him down; does it land at an angle that would pose a threat to anyone who accidentally falls on it?
* notice how J. Jim holds his chimp's hand every time they go somewhere together; why does he need to hold the hand of a chimp smart enough to understand him when he says, "Run back to the camp and get me knife"? Is it possible that the real chimp wouldn't follow Weismuller if he weren't holding onto him?
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