Jungle Girl (1941)

Article 1898 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-26-2006
Posting Date: 10-23-2006
Directed by John English and William Witney
Featuring Frances Gifford, Tom Neal, Trevor Bardette

The father of a woman who was born and raised in the jungle returns to civilization to tend to his ailing twin brother. However, his twin brother is not ailing, and the doctor is killed. The twin brother then impersonates the doctor and goes to Africa. It’s all part of a scheme to get hold of a fortune of diamonds. However, the doctor’s daughter, Nyoka, begins to suspect something is up…

One of the main reasons I was disappointed with VOODOO TIGER yesterday had little to do with the movie itself. When watching serials, I watch an episode as a predecessor to the actual movie of a given day, and on the day I watch the last episode of the serial, that becomes my Movie of the Day, and part of this series. It was an episode of this serial that I watched immediately prior to my viewing of VOODOO TIGER.

Now, a blurb on back of the DVD case for this serial has someone claiming that this is the best jungle serial of them all. I’m inclined to agree with him. I’m not surprised that Frances Gifford was chosen as a substitute Jane figure in TARZAN TRIUMPHS ; with her role as Nyoka here, she had already proved that she was quite adept at jungle movies and Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptations. She is fun and engaging here; she’s one of those serial heroines that does a lot more than wait to be rescued.

I like a lot of things about this serial. Unlike most serials, the villainy isn’t the work of a single mastermind and a series of interchangeable henchman. There are at least three main villains, and even though the fake doctor (Trevor Bardette) is something of an underling to Latimer (Gerald Mohr), he doesn’t really have much loyalty to him and is apt to play his own game. Furthermore, the witch doctor Shamba (well played by Frank Lackteen) has his own agenda which sometimes puts him in cahoots with Latimer, and at other times at odds with him. Tom Neal does a fine job as the heroic pilot, and even the comic relief sidekick (Eddie Acuff) and the little kid (Kimbu) are handled well and prove heroic on occasion. The natives are an unpredictable lot, and there are three sets of them; Shamba’s men, Chief Lutembi’s tribe and lion men in the cave of Nacross, and with the exception of Shamba’s men, you never know whose side they’ll be on at any given moment. It’s this type of unpredictability that can go a long ways towards making a serial enjoyable to me. Furthermore, chapter nine is one of those great episodes which actually manages to deliver non-stop excitement.

And that’s why I was so disappointed with VOODOO TIGER; this serial quite frankly puts it to shame.

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