Showing posts with label Lita Baron. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lita Baron. Show all posts

14 September 2011



949/Director: Ford Beebe/Writers: Ford Beebe, Roy Rockwood

Cast: Johnny Sheffield, Allene Roberts, Lita Baron, Charles Irwin, Harry Lewis

When it comes down to the end of the day and I am not sure what to pop into the DVD player there are few genres that I know will appeal to me like good old school jungle adventure. The only type of movie that comes close are sword and sandal/peplum films. I know they will be low budget and cheesy as hell but I also know I am going to get something out of the movie even after multiple viewings. This may be in part due the fact that I grew up on these movies as a kid on Saturday afternoon TV shows. I am sure I have seen all of the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films a half a dozen times or more in life. Only recently I have I begun to seriously consider other actors –like Lex Barker and Gordon Scott- as viable Tarzans even, and I am just referring to films made before, lets say, 1970 only. After that jungle movies just lost their appeal to me. Some of this, I think, is due to the fact that later jungle films all become shot outside studios, on location so to say, though all the jungles began to look like somewhere in the US more than Africa by then. I loved the old studio jungle sets and matte paintings and even how stock footage was mixed into the shots. Only recently did I get the Jungle Jim series and have seen most of them and have begun posting them here. A little harder to track down are the Bomba the Jungle Boys films starring Boy from the Tarzan films himself, Johnny Sheffield. I do have three of the films finally; Bomba on Panther Island, The Lost Volcano and Bomba and the Lost city, numbers 2, 3 and 4 respectively in the dozen film series put out by Monogram Pictures.

By the time the next to last  Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan film, Tarzan and the Huntress,  came out in 1947 Sheffield just was not boyish enough to be boy any longer and he left the movie series to complete high school. Actually I am not sure if he left or was asked to leave by producer Sol Lessor, but in any case the then RKO produced Weissmuller Tarzan films were about over and Weissmuller would go on to do the Jungle Jim films for Columbia Pictures. A young and buff Sheffield was soon snatched up in 1949 by Monogram producer Walter Mirisch to play Bomba the Jungle which was to be loosely based on the paperback series by Roy Rockwood – a pen name used by Stratemeyer Syndicate and used by several writers I assume- but seemed to be more an extension of the Tarzan series and of Sheffield’s boy role. Like any good jungle movie the hero was white, had been lost in the jungle as a baby and raised by animals, learns English somehow but speaks haltingly with few prepositions or articles and has become a legend among the superstitious natives in the African jungle. Bomba is young and full of innocent curiosity, not as cynical as Tarzan yet. Sheffield is in great shape and his Bomba prefers a spear to a knife. Like Tarzan he is curious about white men (‘other’ white men of course. Even in the Jungle Jim series Jim is always referring to ‘white men’ as something other than himself, as though he were closer to local natives he routinely beats the shit out of) and more trusting but uncompromising in his respect for the laws and ways of the jungle he grew up in. And like any good jungle movie the film is loaded with bad bwanas who want to exploit the jungle and its inhabitants in pursuit of lost treasures or untapped resources.

04 September 2011


I have almost all of the Jungle Jim series, or sixteen movies, with Johnny Weissmuller expect for one episode which right now I forget the title of (NOTE: I have since acquired the missing film called Voodoo Tiger). The films are basically God awful on the most basic level and yet charming and lots of fun on another. You cannot really deny the cheesiness of the productions or Weissmuller’s sour expression in most scenes. Nor can you ignore Weissmuller’s obvious lack of acting skills as he misses dialog cues and tends to stand around and stare blankly at what is going on around him. That is not to say that what is happening around our bemused hero requires all that much concentration on our part and the stories are often the same plot done over from episode to episode. People who hate bad movies will want to steer clear of the entire series but if you’re like me and love to lay back and watch a film full of stock footage and Neanderthal level dialog then you will want to try to check some of these out. The films do plod along more than Weissmuller’s Tarzan films, even the latter Tarzan films like Tarzan and the Mermaids. As far as I know Tarzan and Jungle Jim were the only roles Weissmuller ever played.

This series of posts will introduce three of the films at a time with a bit of a review, screen captures and poster art and any trivia I can dig up online, but that is not much really. There is a little information but it is sorely wanting. Maybe my humble effort here can generate a little interest in the series amongst B-movie mavens. If you have never seen a Jungle Jim feature the best way to describe one is that Weissmuller’s Tarzan got a little older and fatter and was offered a job as a tour guide or game warden or something. Jim still has animal buddies that include a couple chimps, a little mutt and a crow named Caw Caw. More info on the other animals later since there are some changes that occur over the series. In fact Caw Caw does not even last that long and by the 4th or 5th Jungle Jim movie (can’t remember exactly) Caw Caw only appears a stuffed bird mounted and wobbling on Jim’s shoulder. The dog –whose name escapes me at the moment but I will be watching the films over before I do the review and provide you with all that priceless information- just vanishes from the stories without explanation and soon there is only Tamba the chimp whose behavior makes Cheetah look down right saintly. Seems as if the chimp’s name changes too in the series but I forget the second chimp’s name. Kimba maybe. If that is not confusing enough Jungle Jim actually changes his name in the last few episodes from Jungle Jim to -are you ready for this- Johnny Weissmuller! Man was I confused. This change was due to some legal issues and ownership of the name after the films became a television series starring Weissmuller. The Jungle Jim series was also produced, as the latter Tarzan films, by Sam Katzamn and we will explore Katzman at a later date.
Before taking at look at our first three Jungle Jim films there are a few recurring themes or situations in each film and I will expound on some of these in later posts: