Monday, August 29, 2016


Sultry chorus girl Nona (Arline Judge) is stranded in an African village, having lost her passport and been deserted by her manager. Hotel owner Simmons hires her to sing, but unknown to her, he is in cahoots with two German agents, Grozman and Belts, who are trying to start a native uprising—and who have stolen her passport, to what end, I was never sure, except so there would be some femme appeal in this movie. Meanwhile, paleontologist Larry Mason (John King) and his "gentleman's gentleman" Jeff (Mantan Moreland) arrive looking for "the missing link." Mason is warned to steer clear of Nona (bad influence and all), but when she witnesses the assassination of a British agent, she lights out for the jungle and is reluctantly taken in by Mason, even though the natives accompanying him say that the "white woman is bad juju"—of course, all it takes is for King to tell them that she is NOT bad juju, and they're appeased. It turns out that the dead British agent's report on the German spies is in the possession of Nona, though she doesn't know it. Soon, Larry' band is being hunted not only by the Germans but also by two British cops. They discover the agent's report, hide it in a human skull they find in a cave, and are promptly attacked by a gorilla and captured by a native tribe—who might be cannibals.

This B-jungle melodrama from Monogram (I almost called it an "adventure" but very little exciting actually happens) suffers from particularly cheap production values and a derivative, predictable script, but a couple of actors make up to some degree for the shortcomings. Arline Judge is a good, cocky, gruff female lead; John King is adequate—many critics fault him for being wooden, but I think it's just that he suffers a bit in comparison to the more enthusiastic performance of his leading lady. The real saving grace here is Mantan Moreland who manages, as he often did, to transcend his role as African-American dumb-guy comic relief. In fact, the last fifteen minutes of the movie belong to him as he winds up getting our heroes out of trouble when it turns out that the chief of the kidnapping tribe (Laurence Criner) is an Oxford-educated fellow who belongs to the same Harlem social club as Moreland. When Moreland is faced with a giggling female who seems to be mocking him, he retorts, "You ain’t no Maxine Sullivan yourself," a fairly obscure reference to a 30s jazz singer. But actually the woman wants to marry Moreland, which, because she's rather large, is supposed to a joke all by itself but which will be offensive to many viewers today. Another odd detail: Mason's chief native associate is named Bongo. If those last two items don’t offend you, you might enjoy this outdated but occasionally fun flick. Arthur O'Connell, later a respected character actor (Oscar-nominated for ANATOMY OF A MURDER) is unrecognizable as the doomed hotel owner. [YouTube]

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