Monday, August 07, 2017


As HIDDEN JUNGLE opens, we see Tarzan (Gordon Scott) taking a leisurely morning swim with some hippos, and later, when he has rescued a baby elephant shot by two hunters, he philosophizes to his chimp pal, "Cheeta, why man always want to kill?" The two hunters work for Burger (Jack Elam) who has been hired by to collect animals for their hides and fat. But because Tarzan has been stymieing them when possible, they decide to head across the river to the territory of the Sukulus, who worship jungle animals, meaning there is an abundance of game for the men to hunt. However, Sukululand is dangerous for white men, so Burger and his associate DeGroot pass themselves off as wildlife photographers and get Dr. Celliers, the only outsider trusted by the Sukulu, to let them come with him as he delivers medicine. Their plan is to split off and kill as many animals as they can to take back to their camp. After they leave, Celliers' daughter (Vera Miles) finds out about the scam and recklessly heads off to find them, but her jeep gets stuck in mud. It's up to Tarzan to bail out the good guys and being justice to the bad guys.

FIGHT FOR LIFE uses a medical subplot of HIDDEN JUNGLE as its main story. Dr. Sturdy has been supplying medical care to a village of natives, but Futa, the local witch doctor, has slowly been convincing the natives to distrust the doctor, and has even gotten most of the doc's associates to leave his employ. Sturdy's daughter Ann is upset about the situation and wants to leave, but her fiancé Ken, just back from two years of study in England, understands why the doctor can't just give up. Tarzan, friend to the natives and their ruler, tries to intervene but can't fully counteract Futa's influence. Two medical emergencies arise: Tarzan's mate Jane get appendicitis, and the young boy destined to rule the native tribe falls ill. Futa has some medicine stolen from Dr. Sturdy to use as backup in case his magic fails to work on the boy, but Futa can't read the label on the stolen jar: Virulent Poison.

After the aging Johnny Weissmuller was eased out of the Tarzan role, the younger Lex Barker took over for a run of five decent films. Gordon Scott came next, and these are the first and third of his five movies in the role. Scott is beefier than Barker but less effective as an actor, so on balance there seems little difference between the two. By the end of Scott’s run, he had become a fairly somber Lord of the Jungle, but these films both still have a kiddie matinee feel, especially FIGHT FOR LIFE in which Tarzan suddenly has a Jane and a Boy who were not present in Scott's first two movies. The special effects are rather sparse—in HIDDEN JUNGLE, when one character is tossed into a Sukulu lion pit, it's clearly a stuffed dummy than lands among the lions—and as is usually the case, the use of African stock footage is too obvious. Acting standouts, such as they are, include Vera Miles in the first film—though she looks more like a young Mariette Hartley than like herself a few years later in PSYCHO—and Woody Strode in the second film as Ramo, a native torn between loyalty to Sturdy and the ravings of the witch doctor. Neither is essential viewing, thought the FIGHT FOR LIFE plot is slightly more interesting. [DVD]

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