Wednesday, August 20, 2014


An explorer named Gunderson has been captured by an African tribe and is tied up as though for sacrifice, but an older man, Prof. Gerig, also being held by the tribe, comes to his rescue. He lets Gunderson go but asks him to take the journal of the late Dierdorf, whose expedition Gerig was on, back to civilization. A huge white ape—the White Pongo of the title—appears in the village and Gunderson gets away while it goes on a rampage. He makes his way to a European outpost and dies of a fever, but gets the journal delivered to a British anthropologist named Bragdon (Gordon Richards) who realizes that Dierdorf assumed the White Pongo was the missing link between ape and man. Bragdon takes an expedition out to capture the ape to take back to London. Of course, there are complications: Bragdon's daughter Pamela (Maris Wrixon) is along and Bragdon's secretary Carswell (Michael Dyne) has a thing for her. She has dallied with him in the past, but now she falls for Bishop (Richard Fraser), one of the hired riflemen; the fact that's he's rather stand-offish just inflames her interest. Along with the group is the German Kroegert who is secretly using the trip as a way to find a legendary gold mine that he can claim. And, of course, there's the menacing White Pongo, in addition to the run-of-the-mill menacing apes one finds in African jungles in the movies.

This Poverty Row adventure really has little to recommend it—no name actors, long plodding sections of people canoeing down a river or walking through jungles, not much plot—but still I stayed with it to the end, and the end is the most interesting part because [SPOILER] unlike in the average Tarzan movie, in this one the trappers get the ape and take it to England. Of course, the trappers here are scientists rather than zookeepers or hunters, so we're supposed to be on their side. There are no hunky shirtless heroes here: Fraser, ostensibly the hero, is quite bland and passive even though he turns out to be a Rhodesian secret agent on the trail of Kroegert; he's supposed to be stoic but he comes off more as petulant and boring. As the femme interest, Wrixon (pictured with Fraser) is equally bland, and for most of the movie, fairly unlikable. There is dreadful comic relief in the person of George Lloyd as a Cockney-accented ass who I kept wishing would get torn limb from limb by the apes—though I did chuckle when he called the ape the "blinkin’ missing link." The best I can say about the actors is that Dyne is appropriately slimy as Carswell who winds up going over to Kroegert's side when Pamela throws him over. The ape outfits are actually not bad, though they’re largely wasted because, aside from the opening scene, the White Pongo never really bothers anyone until the climax. Only recommended for mild novelty. [YouTube]

No comments: