Jungle Princess (1936)

JUNGLE PRINCESS (1936)
Article 1936 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-3-2006
Posting Date: 11-30-2006
Directed by Wilhelm Thiele
Featuring Dorothy Lamour, Akim Tamiroff, Ray Milland

An adventurer injures himself in the jungle, and is rescued by a jungle woman who keeps a tiger as a pet.

This wasn’t Dorothy Lamour’s debut movie, but it was the first one where she wore a sarong, and she would become famous for it. The fantastic content is mostly centered around the fact that when the tiger would appear, natives would hear the laughter of the native girl and think it was the tiger, thus spawning a legend about a laughing tiger; other than that, the fantastic content is mostly of the type that is common to jungle movies; namely, that their view of life in the jungle had very little in common with reality. The plot doesn’t have much in the way of surprises, but it’s solidly directed and acted (with a particularly strong turn from Akim Tamiroff), and has some memorable scenes; it is, in fact, one of the better jungle movies you’re likely to see. The climax of the movie is especially exciting; there are have been several movies in which villages have been destroyed by a stampeding elephants (in fact, this movie opens with such a scene), but the final destruction here comes from a totally unexpected group of animals. Lamour and Milland would rendezvous again in the jungle two years later with HER JUNGLE LOVE.

 

Junior G-Men of the Air (1942)

JUNIOR G-MEN OF THE AIR (1942)
Serial
Article 1925 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-22-2006
Posting Date: 11-19-2006
Directed by Lewis D. Collins and Ray Taylor
Featuring Billy Halop, Gene Reynolds, Lionel Atwill

A group of street kids find themselves facing off with an organization of Japanese saboteurs called the Black Dragon.

This, the last of the three Dead End Kids / Little Tough Guys serials, must have gone into production shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. It’s very heavy on the propaganda, with stirring pronouncements made over the opening credits about the bravery of these boys in dealing with the horrible Japanese threat. Oddly, it takes place before Pearl Harbor; the acts of sabotage are meant to coincide with the attack. Once again, I find a bit of novelty value in that the main characters here are a bunch of street kids rather than the usual serial hero, and there’s also some fun in having familiar faces Lionel Atwill and Turhan Bey as the main baddie and one of his henchmen. The science fiction elements are sporadic, though the development of a muffler for an airplane is the most prominent. It starts out well, gets rather dull in the middle sections, but then picks up again in the final episodes, where an army-load of stock footage comes into play. Keep your eyes pealed for a cameo of Billy Benedict, once again playing a character named Whitey; he first used the name in THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL , and it would remain his character name during his stint with the Bowery Boys. Not bad, but I always find myself wishing that Leo Gorcey had been in the mix somewhere.

 

Jungle Girl (1941)

JUNGLE GIRL (1941)
Serial
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.

Jane Eyre (1944)

JANE EYRE (1944)
Article 1867 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-25-2006
Posting Date: 9-22-2006
Directed by Robert Stevenson
Featuring Orson Welles, Joan Fontaine, Margaret O’Brien

Jane Eyre, an orphan, after years of suffering and abuse, becomes the governess at Thornfield Hall, a gloomy estate presided over by the imposing Edward Rochester. Jane falls in love with Rochester, but there is a secret hidden behind the locked walls of the estate…

No, JANE EYRE is not a horror movie, but it is not totally out of the question to include it with this series, especially as the story belongs to that genre of moody Gothic romance that was in some ways a precursor to horror. The theme of madness does pop up at one point, and there are plenty of ominous shadows and some swirling ground fog to add further to the atmosphere. Furthermore, it’s pretty hard not to get a strong sense of horror during the scene where Jane swabs the blood from the chest of an injured visitor while an unseen and malevolent presence rattles a nearby door. The movie itself is excellent, with fine performances from all. It’s almost hard to pick favorites among the actors, but you won’t soon forget Orson Welles, Joan Fontaine, Henry Daniell, or Agnes Moorehead in their respective roles. The opening of the movie is pretty Dickensian, with Jane being shunted off by an aunt to to the cruel harshness of a charity school. Which brings up one of those “lesser of two evils” types of question: If you were a child, who would you rather have watch over you, Agnes Moorehead or Henry Daniell? Now, if that isn’t a scary choice…

Jack the Ripper (1959)

JACK THE RIPPER (1959)
Article 1795 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-12-2006
Posting Date: 7-12-2006
Directed by Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman
Featuring Lee Patterson, Eddie Byrne, Betty McDowall

A serial killer called Jack the Ripper is loose in London, and the police try to discover the identity of the killer.

The trailer for this movie tries to make it sound like it was going to be an accurate account of the Jack the Ripper story; still, even the trailer made it look as if the movie was more fictional fabrication than fact. This feeling was backed up by the fact that the movie is based on a story rather than true events. Those looking for a reenactment of the Ripper events had best turn elsewhere. As a fictionalized version of true events, it is entertaining enough, though, Apparently, the movie was considered somewhat controversial, and I think that is because there is a certain degree of savagery that comes through even when the movie isn’t explicit. As for the killer, there are a number of suspects to wonder about, from the troublemaker who wants to torture anyone he suspects is the Ripper to the mute hunchback to the doctor who performs the post-mortems on the victims. There is about one second of color footage towards the end of the movie. Oddly enough, the movie did poorly in the US, despite the fact that it was given heavy promotion and saturation booking.

Johnny the Giant Killer (1950)

JOHNNY THE GIANT KILLER (1950)
(a.k.a. JEANNO L’INTREPIDE)
Article #1721 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-30-2005
Posting Date: 4-29-2006
Directed by Jean Image and Charles Frank
No voice credits

A young boy sets out with a bunch of friends to defeat an evil giant, but they are all trapped and reduced to a tiny size.

Uh-oh, here’s another one where my original review seems to have vanished; I may have to make it a point to start saving copies of these to another place as well just to be on the safe side. Still, this one made enough of an impression on me that it still lingers in my memory. It’s a truly strange animated feature; the first half of the movie is incredibly surreal, with the improbable traps in the giant’s castle being a distinct highlight. The second half of the movie largely deals with Johnny’s encounter with a civilization of bees, whom he must win over if he has any hope of getting their help to save his friends still trapped in the castle. The animation is utterly unlike anything you might see in a Disney film, and I have to admit that I found this one to be rather intriguing.

Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962)

JOURNEY TO THE SEVENTH PLANET (1962)
Article #1712 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-21-2005
Posting Date: 4-20-2006
Directed by Sidney W. Pink
Featuring John Agar, Carl Ottosen, Peter Monch

A group of astronauts on a mission to explore the planet Uranus discover a startling Earth-like paradise, the creation of an alien brain with sinister intentions.

There is something about the movies that came from Sidney Pink and Ib Melchior that makes me wish that they had been better directors and writers. There’s the occasional neat idea, the colorful photography and the sometimes surprising storylines that make me wish they were better presented, but there’s always something to be enjoyed. Here, the concept of an alien that can create complex illusions is a novel touch, even if owes quite a bit to Ray Bradbury’s story “Mars is Heaven!”. There’s also a startling scene where a man starts to recount a memory of an old village, and we see the village appear in the background as he describes; this scene is the high point of the movie. Unfortunately, the story is a muddle (though the alien makes it clear at one point that he means to take over the Earth, I haven’t a clue as to how this whole set-up will help him accomplish this goal), the dialogue is laughable (especially whenever the men start talking about or flirting with women), and the pacing is terrible; there are so many gaps of dead air between the lines of dialogue that I bet you could cut ten minutes out of the movie just by editing them out. Yet, because of the good moments, the movie never becomes unwatchable. And I will give credit to the director for one thing; he has the cast pronounce the name of the planet so that it rhymes with the phrase “You’re honest.” rather than using the more common pronunciation (the one used in HERCULES AND THE CAPTIVE WOMEN, for example). At least he kept the movie from turning into an inadvertent series of sphincter jokes.