6.8/10
23
5 user 2 critic
The Johnsons in the first talking African jungle movie play jazz records in between filming animal sequences. Two rhinos charging towards the camera is the highlight. Thousands of flamingos and pygmy life are also included.

Director:

Martin E. Johnson
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Cast

Cast overview:
Martin E. Johnson Martin E. Johnson ... Himself
Osa Johnson ... Herself
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Storyline

The Johnsons in the first talking African jungle movie play jazz records in between filming animal sequences. Two rhinos charging towards the camera is the highlight. Thousands of flamingos and pygmy life are also included.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

african tribe | africa | See All (2) »

Taglines:

The One and Only Talking Picture Entirely Made In Africa See more »

Genres:

Documentary

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

7 August 1932 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Adventures Among the Big Apes and Little People of Central Africa See more »

Filming Locations:

Democratic Republic Of Congo

Company Credits

Production Co:

Fox Film Corporation See more »
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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Celebrated ballroom dancers Chester Towne and Helen Knott are pictured on the sheet music cover for the song "Congorilla". See more »

Connections

Edited from Simba: The King of the Beasts (1928) See more »

Soundtracks

Congorilla
Lyrics by Al Bryan (as Alfred Bryan)
Music by Louis De Francesco (as Louis E. DeFrancesco)
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User Reviews

 
Unga bunga bonga boo.
15 January 2003 | by F Gwynplaine MacIntyreSee all my reviews

The 1930s saw a vogue for documentary films about remote corners of the world, with an emphasis on wild animals, exotic terrain and primitive people with unusual cultures. Despite the logistics of transporting a film crew to a distant and dangerous place, and then bringing 'em back alive (with the film footage), such films were often much cheaper to make than were conventional Hollywood features ... because there were no expensive sets, costumes, or high-priced movie stars.

The most successful makers of such films (artistically and financially) were the team of Martin E. Johnson and his wife Osa, who made several documentaries (sometimes with blatantly staged events) in Africa and Asia. The Johnsons' safari films were extremely popular, inspiring several parodies ... most notably Wheeler & Woolsey's "So This is Africa", in which the very sexy Esther Muir plays a character named Mrs. Johnson-Martini (instead of Martin E. Johnson, geddit?). Although several other filmmakers were producing safari documentaries at this time, the Johnsons' films were the most popular in this genre because they relied heavily on humour. Viewed from our own more enlightened (I hope) standpoint, this is a serious flaw in the Johnsons' documentaries: there are too many scenes in which the funny little brown or yellow people are made to look complete idiots who are easily outsmarted by the clever white bwana Johnson and his wife.

One definite asset of these movies is the presence of Osa Johnson. Ten years younger than her husband, she manages to seem young enough to be his daughter. While certainly not as attractive as the shapely blond Esther Muir, Osa Johnson was a pert brunette who gave ingratiating performances in front of the camera in all the films she co-produced with her husband.

'Congorilla' is probably the best of the Johnsons' films. The shots of the Congo are interesting and have some historical value as evidence of what this environment looked like in 1930. The shots of the Pygmies and other natives are also interesting, although these suffer from the Johnsons' penchant to stage events in a manner that makes the natives look 'wild' and alien.

The best (and funniest) scene in 'Congorilla' is an improvised sequence in which Osa Johnson attempts to teach a jazz dance to some Pygmy women. (The dance is the Black Bottom, no less ... the same dance which Bob Hope famously taught to Daisy and Violet Hilton, the conjoined twins.) Wearing jodhpurs, riding boots, and a pith helmet, Osa Johnson starts scat-singing while she does high steps and slaps her knees in her attempt to teach this dance to the African women. Meanwhile, they just stand there staring at her, apparently wondering what this crazy white woman is trying to accomplish. It's a very funny scene, but it has unpleasant undertones. Osa Johnson is doing a dance that was invented by black Americans: the implication seems to be that black Africans should instinctively be able to perform this dance after a brief demonstration (using natural rhythm, I guess) because it's in their blood, or something.

I'll rate 'Congorilla' 4 points out of 10. This film says a little bit about African life in the 1930s and rather more about American cultural perceptions in that same decade.


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