Jungle Moon Men (1955).

Directed by Charles S. Gould
Produced by Sam Katzman
Written by Dwight Babcock and Jo Pagano
Cinematography​: ​Henry Freulich
Film Edit​or: ​Henry Batista

Johnny Weissmuller (Johnny Weissmuller), Jean Byron (Ellen Marsten), Helene Stanton (Oma), Bill Henry (Bob Prentice), Myron Healey (Mark Santo), Billy Curtis (Damu), Michael Granger (Nolimo), Frank Sully (Max), Ben Chapman (Marro), Kenneth L. Smith (Link), Ed Hinton (Regan), Kimba

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Nobody’s ever going to accuse Johnny Weissmuller of being a good actor, but he made plenty of entertaining movies. He chose to retire after Sam Katzman’s Jungle Jim films, 16 cheaply-made (the norm for Katzman) adventure pictures that make liberal use of stock footage, and the later syndicated TV series. Jungle Moon Men (1955) is the next-to-last Jungle Jim picture, and Weissmuller goes by his real name instead of Jungle Jim. Go figure.

In this one, Weissmuller sings on as a guide for Ellen Marston (Jean Byron), a researcher who wants to explore the Baku country — in search of the Egyptians’ secret to eternal life.

They come across the Moon Men — a pygmy tribe armed with poisonous darts, a necklace bearing Egyptian hieroglyphics and a big fat diamond, and some bad guys (Myron Healey is one of them) out to get that diamond. All this nonsense takes us to a cave where Jim/Johnny and the others meet the Baku High Priestess Oma (Helene Stanton) — who must remain in the cave to avoid the wrath of the sun god Rah. It’s rather weird, to say the least, and it’s all wrapped up in 69 minutes.

Director Charles S. Gould had a long career as an assistant director — he worked on number of the classic Universal monster movies, among other things. Jungle Moon Men is one of the few features he directed. The later Jungle Jims are a fairly ramshackle bunch, with (even) less money and attention going into making these things. Gould probably did the best he could with what he had to work with.

Jean Byron, the researcher here, is known for playing Patty Duke’s mom on The Patty Duke Show. Helene Stanton was in The Big Combo and New Orleans Uncensored (both 1955), highlights of a very short film career. She’s the mother of Dr. Drew Pinsky, the radio/reality show guy. Myron Healey made a pretty good living playing bad guy parts like this. And Billy Curtis — who’s in everything from Terror Of Tiny Town (1938) to Superman And The Mole-Men (1951) to High Plains Drifter (1973), along with a previous Jungle Jim picture, Pygmy Island (1950) — plays Damu, the leader of the Moon Men.

There’s not a lot to the Jungle Jim movies, and Jungle Moon Men is one of the lesser ones. But there’s something about these things — probably Weissmuller himself — that really appeals to me. Others must agree: calls for a DVD or Blu-Ray set of these is one of the most common wants I get around here.

3 Comments

Filed under 1955, Columbia, Johnny Weissmuller, Jungle Jim, Myron Healey, Sam Katzman

3 responses to “Jungle Moon Men (1955).

  1. Walter

    Toby, as I’ve said before, I’m a life long JUNGLE JIM fan of both movies and TV. I still have some of the VHS tapes of the movies.

    The reason for Johnny Weissmuller using his own name in the last three movies is because of the rights to use the name of Jungle Jim Bradley had gone to Screen Gems, which was the television arm of Columbia Pictures. Producer Sam Katzman was not producing the TV show. The three features were produced concurrently with the JUNGLE JIM TV series starring Weissmuller produced by Columbia’s Screen Gems and the series now had the rights to Jungle Jim Bradley. I’m sure this is clear as mud now.

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    • Thanks for helping to clear that up. I knew it had something to do with either the TV show or Sam Katzman being cheap — or perhaps both!

      As I hinted at it in my post, I can’t figure out what I enjoy these crummy little movies so much. But I do.

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      • Walter

        Toby, as we know the rights thing seems always to complicate things. Too few companies own too much of what’s out there.

        Why do we like these small second and third rate precious stones? Sam Katzman and other producers made these movies for prepubescent and barely pubescent kids that wanted to see fun and entertaining stories of the “fantastic.” Katzman and others gave these to us. You know, I still like them because back there somewhere in my brain is the kid in me that still survives and continues to enjoy these silly little precious stone flicks, right down to the ground.

        I think I should go and hunt up my VHS copy of FURY OF THE CONGO(1951). Yes, I know there is DVD-R out there, but I haven’t got around to buying it yet. This movie is pretty good. The lovely Sherry Moreland co-stars in the role of an “Amazon” leader of a cult of natives who worship an unknown species of animal called Okongo, which looks like a fake zebra. There’s also a giant spider in a windstorm. Also, you have Lyle Talbot as the villian and throw in John Hart and Pierce Lyden for good measure and you just can’t go wrong.

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