Recently, Balladeer’s Blog examined the 1937 Jungle Jim serial as well as the first six Jungle Jim movies starring former Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmuller beginning in 1948. Here are the remaining ten Weissmuller films as the pre-Indiana Jones and pre-Crocodile Dundee, but post-Allan Quatermain hero.
JUNGLE MANHUNT (October 1951) – This seventh Jungle Jim feature film is one of the best examples of how the franchise combined fun escapism with outlandish “So Bad They’re Good” film antics. After rescuing female reporter Anne Lawrence (Sheila Ryan) when her boat overturns, Jungle Jim agrees to guide her on her search for Bob Miller – played by real-life football star Bob Waterfield, Jane Russell’s husband.
Football hero Miller’s plane vanished over the jungle years earlier and Anne is determined to enhance her career by finding him and writing up the story. It turns out that Miller has spent the time serving as a one-man Peace Corps, helping a remote village with engineering and other efforts.
During the expedition to find the missing football player/ pilot, Jungle Jim and company get mixed up in a battle between a shark and a large octopus IN AN INLAND BODY OF FRESH WATER! The shark wins and then Jim must kill that creature in a very unconvincing underwater battle.
Our hero and Anne also encounter dinosaurs – yes, dinosaurs – in the jungle region where Bob Miller’s plane went down. Much of it is stock footage from One Million B.C. but at one point, Jungle Jim clashes with an upright-walking, man-sized dinosaur who looks like the model for the Gorn Captain fought by Captain Kirk years later. Or maybe Barney the Dinosaur.
Dinosaurs not enough for ya? Well, there’s also Lyle Talbot as mad scientist Dr. Mitchell Heller, an industrial chemist with a bad accent and a method for using uranium to transform lesser stones into diamonds. Heller employs an army of men who sport body paint (really costumes) that makes them look like living skeletons.
The Skeleton Men have been raiding African villages, killing all the women and children, then abducting all the men to use as slave labor in Dr. Heller’s uranium mine. Exposure to the uranium causes the abductees to die fairly swiftly, so new slaves are constantly needed.
The most recent target of the Skeleton Men’s raiding was the village in which Bob Miller was stranded, and Miller helps Jungle Jim and Anne Lawrence defeat the vile Dr. Heller and his army. They also thwart his plan to corner the world market in diamonds with his transmuted gems. Heller falls to his death while trying to escape.
For the crowning touch in campiness, Quarterback Bob Miller gets to use his skills to throw coconuts rigged up as Molotov Cocktails at the Skeleton Men during the final battle, while Jim uses more conventional tactics against the bad guys. For once our hero is not the apple of the eye of the tale’s heroine, since Anne stays with her new beau Bob Miller to continue his humanitarian efforts.
The overly cutesy Tamba the Chimp is once again along for the ride, reminding me how much I miss Jim’s earlier animal sidekicks, Caw-Caw the Crow and Skipper the Dog. (66 minutes)
JUNGLE JIM IN THE FORBIDDEN LAND (March 1952) – Jungle Jim Bradley is once again the object of lust for both a “good” woman and a “bad” woman. The former is anthropologist Dr. Linda Roberts (Angela Green), while the latter is known simply as Denise (Jean Willes), a campy, vampy villainess in league with the movie’s bad guys.
Dr. Roberts wants our mercenary hero to guide her to the Forbidden Land, in which dwell “giants” who are really just furry tall people. Linda believes the giants are the Missing Link and wants to prove it. Denise and the villains of the tale want to raid the Forbidden Land with their troops in order to slaughter the many, many elephants of the region just to get their ivory tusks.
As the story unfolds, Jungle Jim clashes with a (stuffed) panther, and a mass of berserk hippos. Believe it or not, this is something the Jungle Jim stories actually got right – hippos, though they don’t eat people, are the animal kingdom’s greatest killers of humans. As if to make up for it, the flick also shows a South American jaguar in Africa. (Vacationing, I guess.)
Throw in a crooked jungle commissioner who wants the ivory bonanza, and the usual overuse of stock footage. (65 minutes)
VOODOO TIGER (November 1952) – This Jungle Jim installment is possibly the most unfocused and incoherent. It also recycles too many elements of prior entries.
Our busy hired jungle guide is leading Phyllis Bruce (Jean Byron) from the British Museum in a tour of the African jungle. From there events snowball, involving Jim in a clash with a combined tribe of Voodoo practitioners/ Headhunters/ Tiger Worshippers, a Nazi war criminal trying to recover plundered art treasures that he hid in the jungle years earlier, and international art thieves who want the stolen art for themselves.
There’s also a plane crash that strands a handful of chorus girls in the same stretch of jungle as the rest of our characters. One of the ladies, Shalimar (Jean Dean), had with her the trained tiger that is part of her act. In one of the most eye-rollingly stupid parts of any Jungle Jim film, the Tiger Worshippers/ Headhunters/ Voodoo practitioners suddenly regard the tiger as having come from the sky and worship it as their Tiger God come to Earth.
That results in the Tiger Worshippers, etc. briefly helping out Jim and his allies AND in the trained tiger fighting multiple jungle animals, including a jaguar. Ultimately, the angry Voodoo folks kill most of the bad guys, the Nazi is captured and the plundered art is recovered. Along the way we got Jungle Jim forced to fight a lion inside a cage. (67 minutes)
SAVAGE MUTINY (February 1953) – The previous movie recycled the Nazi treasure theme from Mark of the Gorilla, and this one is a Cold War flick that provides Soviet agents like the earlier Jungle Jim entry Pygmy Island. An Anglo-American project plans to test a nuclear bomb on an island off the coast of Africa and hires Jim to evacuate the island’s natives before the test.
NOTE: Hilariously enough, the natives are assured they can move back to the island “in a few days or weeks.”
Soviet spies led by Gregory Gaye try to sabotage Jungle Jim’s evacuation efforts, hoping to score a propaganda victory over the West. The communists also subject the hapless natives to covert biological warfare agents that replicate the effects of radiation poisoning so they can blame the U.S. and U.K. for the fate of those natives.
Angela Stevens portrays Dr. Joan Harris, Jim’s latest leading lady, who is helping him evacuate the island. While thwarting the Soviets and getting all the natives off the island alive, Jungle Jim also clashes with a black panther, a hyena takes on a bear and everyone from Spaniards to Native Americans are passed off as indigenous Africans. (73 minutes)
VALLEY OF HEAD HUNTERS (July 1953) – WAY too much Tamba the Chimp in this Jungle Jim adventure. White government and corporate honchos hire Jim to guide them through the jungle on their expedition to negotiate rights to mine for copper on an indigenous tribe’s land. Jim’s gal pal this time around is Ellen Shaw (Christine Larson).
Enter the villains – unscrupulous, even criminal, businessmen and their African mercenaries. The bad guys, led by a man named Arco, want that same land, but to drill for oil rather than mine for copper. To spoil the peaceful copper negotiations and hopefully force the natives to sign over their land’s oil rights, the villains have their mercenaries pose as Head Hunters.
The fake Head Hunters unleash all manner of violence, but Jungle Jim naturally counters all their moves and exposes the villains’ plans. And he has to do it despite the stuffy, bureaucratic interference from Lieutenant Barry (Steven Ritch), a spit and polish young officer.
The indigenous people, outraged over the way they were being manipulated by the oilmen, slaughter the bad guys that Jungle Jim hasn’t managed to take out yet. Weird flick with more lame Tamba antics than action and adventure. (67 minutes)
KILLER APE (December 1953) – Jungle Jim discovers crocodiles, then elephants and other animals, behaving strangely and discovers that they are suffering from odd diseases. Our hero traces the source to mad scientists led by Andrews (Nestor Paiva) who have been using captured jungle animals as experimental subjects in a plot to develop a biological warfare agent that will let them conquer the world.
Jim approaches the tribe that has been hired by Andrews to capture test subjects for him and tries to talk them out of working for the scientists. Andrews manipulates circumstances to instead pit the tribe against Jungle Jim.
Further complicating the situation is the fact that Andrews and company have set up their HQ in the Canyon of the Man Ape, and that figure begins preying on both tribesmen and villains alike. Wrestler Max Palmer plays the Man Ape in a dumb costume and fur boots that make him look like a 1953 version of Richard Kiel as Eegah.
Everybody captures everybody else and everbody also escapes from everybody else amid chase scenes, fight scenes and voguing by beautiful Carol Thurston as Shari, wife of the tribal chief. Tamba leads a chimp army against the bad guys in the finale, then Jim throws empty cardboard boxes at the Man Ape before burning him alive to prevent him from ravishing Shari. Dumb on every level. (68 minutes)
JUNGLE MAN-EATERS (June 1954) – Buy this movie for the Starsky & Hutch fan in your life so they can see Bernie Hamilton (Captain Dobey) as a native character saved from a bull by Jungle Jim. Woody Strode has a non-speaking role as a bearer if you’re interested.
Despite the frantic claims of CANNIBALISM! and the like in the trailers for this film, there are no cannibals, just the formerly cannibalistic tribe who get manipulated by the white villains. Jungle Stampede might have made a better title for Jungle Man-Eaters, given all the stock footage of stampeding giraffes, lions, elephants and other animals.
A French diamond-smuggling ring locates a diamond field that sports enough diamonds to cause the global market to collapse. To keep any other diamond miners from moving in on their find, the French villains set a former cannibal tribe on a rampage, provoking a multi-tribal war.
A tired and even pudgier than usual Jungle Jim, helped by another lady doctor – Dr. Bonnie Crandall (Karin Booth) – manages to defeat villainy and survive against assorted wild animals, many of them not supposed to be in Africa. (68 minutes)
CANNIBAL ATTACK (November 1954) – It’s Meta Time! In real life, Columbia Pictures no longer had the rights to use the Jungle Jim comic strip character by this point. The previous film was technically the last Jungle Jim movie, but Weissmuller was still under contract to Columbia for three more movies. For those final three flicks, Weissmuller was Jungle Jim in everything but name as he was just referred to as Johnny, his chimp’s name was changed to Kimba instead of Tamba, but all other elements remained the same.
Most of the action in this film takes place along a river that runs through a fictional country ruled by the colonial government of an unknown western power.
Jungle Jim Johnny discovers half-eaten human remains in Cannibal Valley and fears that the local indigenous people have returned to their ancient ways.
The colonial governor assures our hero that in reality crocodiles have been attacking and devouring people in boats being rowed down the river. Many of those boats were transporting cobalt from nearby mines, so Johnny suspects a plot. He’s right, since the crocodiles turn out to be local cannibals in elaborate crocodile disguises that let them hijack the cobalt shipments and satisfy their taste for human flesh at the same time.
Cult actress Judy Walsh portrays Luora, the mixed-race Cannibal Princess who flirts with our hero. Amid clashes with the amphibious cannibals, a giant eagle and various jungle beasts, it turns out that the cannibals are stealing the cobalt in preparation for an uprising against the colonial government. The twist is that the governor is secretly mixed-race himself and he wants to help his indigenous brethren take over the country and rule themselves.
Perversely, in 1954 this makes them the bad guys according to Hollywood’s racism, so Johnny thwarts the uprising, finds the stolen cobalt and welcomes the new colonial governor at the end. A huge explosion wiped out the mountain lair of the rebels. (69 minutes)
JUNGLE MOON MEN (April 1955) – Johnny and Kimba are hired by female archeologist Ellen Marston (Jean Byron playing another character) and her group to guide them through the Baku Jungle. Ellen’s research has convinced her that a splinter branch of Egyptians may have settled in the area thousands of years ago.
Mark Santo (B-movie regular Myron Healey) leads the villains who are only tagging along in order to rob the fabled wealth of the hidden city. It turns out that the former Egyptian colony, largely underground, is now inhabited by midgets playing pygmies like in Pygmy Island, but this time in body paint. Billy Curtis and Angelo Rossitto return as pygmies once more.
The pygmies call themselves Moon Men because they worship the Moon Goddess Oma, portrayed by Helene Stanton. In H. Rider Haggard fashion, Oma is really a one-time mortal who has drunk of a Baku potion that made her immortal provided she stays out of sunlight.
Our hero and his colleagues are captured. When it looks like Oma may let everyone go free but Johnny – whom she wants as her new mate – Mark Santo ruins it for everyone by trying to steal some of the city’s treasure. Executions in the Moon Goddess’ temple are carried out by a pride of lions.
The bad guys all get theirs, and Oma dies when the pandemonium in the city forces her to venture into the daylight. Johnny fights some human adversaries in this but battles no animals. Oddly, Ellen turns out to be surprisingly blood thirsty and kills plenty of jungle beasts with her bow and arrows. (70 minutes)
DEVIL GODDESS (October 1955) – This So Bad It’s Good series of movies sputtered to an uninspired end with Devil Goddess. Virtually no cliche is left out as our hero is hired to guide and protect Nora Blakely (Angela Stevens back again), whose father has gone missing in the jungle region of Kirundi.
Johnny guides Nora and company to the Mountain of Explosive Fire, which her father was looking for. Meanwhile, a rival expedition of plunderers are also looking for that location in order to steal the jewels of the city near the mountain. No surprises here as the heroes win, the villains lose their lives and the Mountain of Explosive Fire turns out to be a – gasp – volcano. (Well, duh!)
Our hero succeeds in evacuating the inhabitants of the city just before the volcano erupts. Predictable and boring. (70 minutes)
Believe it or not, Johnny Weissmuller returned as Jungle Jim in a TELEVISION SERIES about the character. I reviewed that program HERE.
FOR MY EXTENSIVE LOOK AT THE COMMANDO CODY SERIALS AND TELEVISION SERIES CLICK HERE.
22 responses to “TEN MORE JUNGLE JIM MOVIES”
Wow! No cliche overlooked in these! 😉 I see that they were making about three movies a year, so, would I be correct in thinking these were meant to be shown as a little entertainment before the main feature movie?
Yes, that is how such short features were used! You are right.
Thank you! I like the idea! We sit through, what seems like, an hour of ads these days. I remember when I was young that they would show cartoons before the main movie but have no recollection of when even that stopped.
I know what you mean! Episodes of Republic or Columbia, etc Serials would be shown before the main feature, too. Long ago a programming block called Matinee at the Bijou would recreate those times by showing vintage cartoons, serials, and then features.
Ah, you saying that brings to mind something I heard once that the B&W Buck Rogers series started out as something seen in movie theatres rather than tv. Does that sound about right?
Yes, in fact there were more than a hundred serials of all titles, Buck Rogers, Commando Cody, Flash Gordon, Zorro, Fu Manchu, Batman, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Atom Man vs Superman, Mysterious Doctor Satan, etc made by the studios back then and even during the silent era. The Perils of Pauline was one of the most famous serials back then.
Thank you! Many of these names I recall from Saturday morning tv as a kid but others, Capts Marvel and America, I only know from comic books! Many thanks for taking the time to answer – much appreciated! 🙂
You’re more than welcome! No problem at all!
Love that little dinosaur guy, that is priceless (Barney Gorn). Around this time Buck Rogers had the narration scroll that Star Wars got the idea from. That’s a lot of research you did. Some of these are a lot of fun.
Barney Gorn is the perfect name for him! That’s cool about the Buck Rogers scroll. Thanks for the kind words!
Loved the Johnny Weismuller films.
He was great!
Hey Balladeer!!! I swear I think I’ve seen some of these. Those skeleton people look really familiar. I’m 58 and I remember when I was around 8 or 10 or something we used to watch Tarzan or now I’m thinking it was perhaps some of these movies on Saturday mornings…..or Saturday nights. Do You remember that? We LOVED them but I had horrible nightmares about all the tortures and ways of killings they contained. 🧐 😳 Man. Yikes!!! 😂 Thank You for gifting yet another joyful blast from the past!!! Cheers! 💕
You are probably right. Some tv stations even used to have movie shows called Johnny Weissmuller Theater on which they would show all of Johnny’s Tarzan and Jungle Jim movies. And yes, the torture scenes were sometimes more explicit than you would expect from so long ago! Thanks for stopping by and commenting! It’s always so good to hear from such a kind-hearted lady.
Oh! It’s all-ways my pleasure, Good Sir!!! And right?!!! Every single one of those shows had at least one killing/torture scene that truly was explicit for the times. Never thought of it that way! I hope You have a wonderful week! 😊
I agree! And you have a wonderful week, too!
Thank You! 💕
I loved Johnny as a kid, full stop. He is still the best Tarzan to me and I ate up every moment of Jungle Jim – so bad, it’s good 😉
Weissmuller did have a lot of screen presence, that’s for sure, and he was a terrific Tarzan. It’s a shame that Jungle Jim never got his proper due as a forerunner of Indiana Jones.