Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

JUNGLE JIM (1936)

LEFT TO RIGHT: Rhodes, Brandon, Hatton and Withers















JUNGLE JIM (/12 chapter Universal serial/1937). Directors: Ford Beebe; Clifford Smith.

"I could send you to the whipping post, too." -- The Cobra.

"That's a mistake you would make only once!" -- Shanghai Lil. 

Jungle Jim (Grant Withers), who arrives on the scene warbling a tune (with dubbed voice), is importuned to go into the African jungle to find a missing heiress, one Joan Redmond (Betty Jane Rhodes). There are two things Jim doesn't know: Joan was raised by an evil brother and sister duo known as the Cobra (Henry Brandon) and Shanghai Lil (Evelyn Brent), and is herself known as the Lion Goddess to the natives; and one of her relatives, Bruce Redmond (Bryant Washburn) is also trying to find her so he can kill her off and acquire her inheritance. The Cobra operates out of a castle in the jungle, and aside from manipulating the natives via Joan, his motives and plans seem rather shadowy, but there's not much love lost between him and his sister. Joan's parents were killed during a ship wreck which is depicted in the first chapter, and features the startling sight of a tiger in the state room. [The serial is full of lively shots of beautiful lions, tigers and leopards, and the stock footage is generally well-integrated.] There's a nifty bit with a rope "bridge" -- actually just a cord of rope over a high chasm -- as well as a rock slide following a volcanic eruption, and neat footage of a tiger battling a gator. The acting from the leads is serviceable, but the serial seems full of missed opportunities. Brandon and Brent make an interesting pair of villains, but they really aren't given that much to do, and while this is fairly entertaining at times, it's not really one of the better Columbia chapterplays. Not to be confused with the full-length feature Jungle Jim, with Johnny Weissmuller playing the same role. Based on the Alex Raymond comic strip. Brent made more of an impression in Holt of the Secret Service four years later.

Verdict: If you've seen one jungle ... **1/2.

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