Saturday, September 11, 2010


Turhan Bey is a modernized Indian prince and Army officer who sets off on a safari into the heart of the forbidden jungle of Combi with the daughter of the Maharajah (Gail Russell). He wants to capture animals to bring back to civilization and she wants to capture their images in photographs. Once they arrive at the village of Combi, the animals sense the presence of the intruders and become uneasy, as does Sabu, a local prince who does not wear the trappings of royalty and seems to live a Tarzan-like existence among the jungle animals. When his attempt to talk Bey out of his mission fails, Sabu goes on a midnight raid to free all the animals, though his favorite tiger friend is wounded while escaping. Sabu hits it off with Russell and eventually takes her deep into the jungle under the pretext of showing her a bejeweled temple in a lost city, while actually holding her hostage until Bey and his men leave the region. This plan backfires when Bey retaliates by holding the entire village hostage and, in a Nazi-like tactic, threatening to execute every third male unless Sabu brings Russell back alive. Russell slowly comes around to Sabu's ways, but Bey is made of harder stuff, and things build to a fisticuffs climax on the treacherous mountainside of the lost city, where the wounded tiger returns to have the final say.

Though this is a grade-B cross between Tarzan and The Jungle Book, it doesn’t look bad (it would have looked much better in color) and it moves along well with little wasted time, although the jungle chase which makes up the last half-hour could have been tightened up a bit. The backlot jungle scenes, with the usual Hollywood mix of tame animals and stock footage, look better than in the average Tarzan film, and the sequence in the lost city, though obviously shot using matte paintings, is very nicely done, a less effective black & white version of what Michael Powell did in the studio in BLACK NARCISSUS. Sad to say, Sabu, only 25, was losing his looks and presence, and the fact that he spends the entire film dressed in baggy diapers (pictured above) doesn't help. He's playing a variation on his Mowgai character from the 1942 JUNGLE BOOK, but what was charming then becomes rather stiff and tedious here. Still, no one watches these films for the acting, and overall it's a more than tolerable Saturday afternoon adventure movie. [TCM]

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