Tuesday, August 02, 2011


During WWII, animal collector Frank Buck (playing himself) is sent by the government to Malaya to find out what's behind a rash of tiger attacks that is freaking out the locals and slowing work on a rubber plantation, which is in turn hurting the production of Allied war materials. The plantation manager (J. Farrell McDonald) and his handsome nephew (Howard Banks) and lovely granddaughter (June Duprez) are anxious to help Buck and his sidekick (Duncan Renaldo). The natives believe that the tiger attacks are due to the phenomenon known as "djinndaks" (spelling uncertain), the tigers having been possessed magically by the souls of dead Japanese soldiers. We discover quickly that the tubby Gratz (Dan Seymour), head of the Asiatic Animal Export Company, is actually in league with a Nazi doctor (Arno Frey); they poison tigers that they've caught, then let them out of their cages so they'll run crazy and cause havoc. Can Buck and his friends catch them and stop them, and more importantly, can they rescue Duprez when a panther is let loose in her bedroom?

Frank Buck was a real-life adventurer and collector of exotic animals whose slogan (and title of his bestselling book) was "Bring 'em back alive!" He also appeared in a few documentaries and later played himself in a couple of B-films. On the evidence of this one, he couldn't act his way out of a paper bag, but his presence gives the film an aura of authenticity, despite having been shot on a studio backlot with stock footage inserted here and there. He reads his lines one of two ways: 1) like he's reading them off of cue cards: "Thanks for all your…. help, Pete"; 2) or with a little too much growly melodramatic enthusiasm: "That Gratz smells like a Hun!" Duprez (pictured with Renaldo), who gave decent performances in AND THEN THERE WERE NONE and THIEF OF BAGDAD, is almost as bad as Buck. The young Banks, who should be the romantic hero, has nothing to do. This means that the best and most charismatic performances are given by the bad guys, Seymour and Frey. Of course, the writing is not particularly strong; early on, when Buck is told that tigers are carrying off children and killing men and women, he replies, "And the natives are taking it badly?" The film is slow going for a while but the last 20 minutes (out of a one hour running time) are filled with action, and there are two particularly effective scenes, one of a tiger mauling a native and another of an elephant stampede in which a bad guy gets crushed to death inside a cabin. Recommended only as a B-movie novelty. [DVD]

No comments: