PERILS OF THE DARKEST JUNGLE (1944)
(a.k.a. THE TIGER WOMAN)
Article #1115 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-3-2004
Posting Date: 8-31-2004
Directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet and Wallace Grissell
Featuring Allan Lane, Linda Stirling, Duncan Renaldo
Criminals perform acts of sabotage on an oil company which is already having trouble with hostile natives.
Here is a fun game to play with this movie; try to figure out when and where it’s taking place.
Let’s take a look at the evidence.
Time: Obviously the present. The motor vehicles and the machine guns give it away.
Place is a little more difficult.
1) The movie was originally called THE TIGER WOMAN. Tigers being native to India, one might think that that is the location of the action. Unfortunately, when you see the Tiger Woman, she is actually wearing the skins of a leopard rather than a tiger. Also, there are no natives of India to be found.
2) The other title is PERILS OF THE DARKEST JUNGLE. This implies a jungle setting, so you might think from this that it takes place in Africa. However, the tribe led by the Tiger Woman looks singularly un-African; in fact, they look more like American Indians than anything else. Furthermore, the “jungle” looks fairly sparse; in fact, there are probably more trees in my neck of the woods, and I live in Nebraska. Maybe they should have called it PERILS OF THE DARKEST PRAIRIE?
3) Does it take place in the United States? Well, since the movie takes place in the present (which is to say, 1944, the year the serial was made), and since there were not a lot of dangerous tribes of Indians at this time in history, I would say this is unlikely. Furthermore, the Indians in question worship in a great stone temple that is singularly unlike anything built by the Indians of this region. Also, the last episode of the serial has someone talking about returning to the United States.
4) Maybe it takes place in Mexico, or some place in Central or South America. This may well be the case; after all, they do have a character named Jose (Duncan “The Cisco Kid” Renaldo), and the temple looks more the work of the South American Indians rather than the North American ones. However, since all the “jungle” action seems to take place just five minutes away from a town named “Belleville” (a town name which sounds distinctly un-Mexican) which is mostly populated by English-speaking Americans, I draw a blank here as well.
Conclusion: It takes place in that fantasy-land that exists only in the mind of the makers of Hollywood serials and B-westerns.
All right, I’ve had my fun with the movie, so I’ll lay off of it and admit that this serial is very good indeed. It moves along at a nice clip, it’s always entertaining, and the fight scenes are well-choreographed. The Tiger Woman herself proves to be pretty feisty and just doesn’t stand around waiting to be captured by the men; she’s in there fighting with them. The body count is surprisingly high in this one; lots of characters get killed on both sides of the fence, and I found myself a little bit amused at times when the law (which acts only passively on the situations that develop) actually holds someone for murder. Of course, the character is released again once it becomes convenient for the plot. I also had to laugh a little at how many times the bad guys end up shooting their own men in this one; good thugs must be hard to find.
Nonetheless, this is perhaps one of the most entertaining serials I’ve seen to date, and is safely nestled in my top ten list for the form.