|Index||3 reviews in total|
Animals, natives, guns, quicksand, and the inevitable damsel in
distress...what else could you want? When I was a kid in the 1960s I
thought this show was as exciting as it got. I remember watching it
every week, although I was a bit confused about when Tarzan turned into
Jungle Jim. (And where were Jane and boy?) Johnny Weissmuller was
unshakably cool, whether threatened by poachers, hungry natives or wild
animals. Plus, he had a great safari suit and hat. A 70s fashion plate
20 years early.
I remember when the series Daktari premiered I got all excited thinking it would be like Jungle Jim, and was really disappointed at how bland the scripts were by comparison.
I guess today this series would be viewed as a monument of inaccuracies and racial stereotypes, but I will always remember it as an exciting and exotic escape into wonder for a small boy from Brooklyn.
As Johnny Weissmuller got older and a bit flabbier the Tarzan loincloth
didn't quite fit his figure any more. Still he was a box office draw,
but he knew he couldn't continue in the series. In the late Forties he
signed with Columbia Pictures to do a series of films based on the King
Features Cartoon character Jungle Jim.
In the films Weissmuller's only friend was a chimpanzee named Tamba, shades of Chetah from Tarzan. But when the film series ended, Columbia which had by now gone into the television business, put Weissmuller in a half hour series as the intrepid jungle guide who got into all kinds of adventures.
In the Jungle Jim television series Jim got some human co-stars in the persons of Martin Huston as his son Skipper and Dean Fredericks as good friend and assistant Kaseem. Jim was not confined to Africa, some of the shows had Indian, South Sea, and even South American locations, depending on who wanted him to guide.
Weissmuller was real particular, no hunting expeditions, no shooting of animals except with a camera. Apparently he was that good a guide, because that sure cut his income considerably.
Though there were female guest stars, I never recall any romantic plots in any of the episodes. The show ran for one season, but it was in syndication for several years.
My guess is that with all of his marriages, Weissmuller had considerable alimony to pay out to his numerous ex-wives. It's why he took the series. After that he was in demand for a lot of personal appearances, he was still the most well known Tarzan of them all and set the standard for Olympic swimming champions down to today.
Jungle Jim was a good kid's show and even as got into his Fifties Weissmuller still looked better than most fifty somethings.
As a child of the early Fifties, I caught the last few years of the Saturday matinée double features. I missed Weismuller as Tarzan. Lex Barker had taken over the loin cloth by then. But I knew Weismuller had played Tarzan, based on stories I heard from my father. I knew him as Jungle Jim in the Columbia Pictures series. These were low budget action features, but they had the speed and the excitement of a serial. Lex Barker was more of a jungle lothario, fooling around with Jane or some other actress, only to be interrupted at a crucial moment by Cheeta. Weismuller was usually a no nonsense hero always ready to help out the Commissioner in tracking jungle renegades, hostile natives, or whatever. But when he came on television, the action content slowed down and he became more of a father figure with his son Skipper. While it was enjoyable, the TV version lacked the excitement of the theater versions. When AMC finally got around to re-running them, it was usually on Sunday mornings about 8 a.m. Nevertheless, my VCR was set and ready to go. The Ramar of the Jungle films were exciting, but their stereotyped natives and the overuse of the word "Oomgowa" got more laughs than cheers. Jon Hall, who had been Maria Montez' main squeeze in a long running Universal series in the Forties, played Ramar and I believe, owned half interest in the series. Similar to Weismuller's arrangement. While TV's Jungle Jim could probably be run today and attract some attention, I don't think Ramar of the Jungle and its' image of African natives would get a good reception.
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