Devil Goddess (1955)

Directed by Spencer G. Bennet
Produced by Sam Katzman
Screenplay by George Plympton
Story by Dwight Babcock
Director Of Photography: Ira Morgan
Film Editor: Aaron Stell

Cast: Johnny Weissmuller (Johnny Weissmuller), Angela Stevens (Nora Blakely), Selmer Jackson (Prof. Carl Blakely), William Tannen (Nels Comstock), Ed Hinton (Joseph Leopold), William M. Griffith (Prof. Ralph Dixon), Abel Fernandez (Teinusi), Frank Lackteen (Nkruma), Vera Francis (Sarabina), Kimba

__________

A few days ago, I saw the 1955 Three Stooges short Blunder Boys (it’s a Shemp one). It featured the lovely Angela Stevens, which reminded me that I’d been meaning to write something about Devil Goddess (1955), the last of the 16 Jungle Jim movies. Miss Stevens did the Stooges short and the Jungle Jim picture the same year.

This one begins with Kimba the chimp sharing pan-fried fish and liquor with a couple of his simian pals at Johnny Weissmuller’s camp (he’s not called Jungle Jim in this one). Next, Angela Stevens comes through the jungle looking for Weissmuller — to help her father’s expedition to find a missing professor. Before long, everyone’s wrapped up in a bunch of nonsense about the Mountain Of Explosive Fire, a fire demon, a tribe that happens to have King Solomon’s treasure, and a gang of looters who want that treasure. Oh, and that tribe, they sacrifice young women to the fire god.

Shot in a week right before Christmas of 1954, Devil Goddess shows that the Jungle Jim series had pretty much run out of gas. Johnny Weissmuller, who was never a good actor, seems really disinterested here. Aside from a few cameos, this was his last feature. Incidentally, Devil Goddess was playing theaters when the Jungle Jim TV show, starring Weissmuller, made its debut in October 1955.

There’s lots of stock footage in the picture’s 68 minutes, ranging from wild animal stuff to shots lifted from previous Jungle Jim movies. The Mountain Of Explosive Fire looks a lot like Bronson Canyon. And there’s a one-take-and-let’s-move-on feel to the whole thing. All typical for a Sam Katzman production.

Spencer Gordon Bennett, one of the most prolific serial and B Western directors, called the shots on Devil Goddess. The screenplay was by George Plympton, who wrote dozens of serials, from a story from Dwight Babcock. Babcock cooked up the stories for some of Universal’s B horror movies like The Mummy’s Curse (1944) and The Brute Man (1946). He later wrote lots of TV, including episodes of Jungle Jim and The Roy Rogers Show.

Cinematographer Ira H. Morgan’s career ran from the teens to the late 50s. He shot Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936), the 1948 Superman serial and a few other Jungle Jim pictures. His last film was The Cyclops (1957). There’s no telling how many setups he was doing a day on Devil Goddess.

The Jungle Jim pictures are, for the most part, absent on DVD and Blu-Ray. An Australian set gives you six of them, including this one. Not sure how they look or if any further volumes are planned. (Some of these later entries should be 1.85, and some sources say they were released in sepia.) Wouldn’t a nice set of all 16 be a hoot?

One last thing: the title. The fire demon is as close as we ever get to Devil Goddess.

2 Comments

Filed under 1955, Angela Stevens, Columbia, Johnny Weissmuller, Jungle Jim, Sam Katzman, Spencer Gordon Bennet, The Three Stooges

2 responses to “Devil Goddess (1955)

  1. Walter

    Toby, better late than never. Well all good things finally come to an end and it was bound to happen to our beloved JUNGLE JIM series of somewhat bizarre low budget quickies, that we loved as kids. I guess it is somewhat a nostalgia trip for us, but I think there is still a touch of the kid back in a compartmentalized section entrenched in our brains, that still like these fun entertainments.

    As I think about it, the earlier movies of the series are a lot better than the so-called critics would have any potential new fans believe. Anyway, I think the whole series is harmless and enjoyable.

    I think the sets were rather good for the most part, because they weren’t restricted to Columbia Studios soundstages, unlike GILLIGAN’S ISLAND, which was filmed at CBS Studio Center in Studio City, Los Angeles. The JUNGLE JIM movies were mostly filmed in the rocky hills of Chatsworth and the .jungles of the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, which were frequent locations for such films made during this time.

    The movies may have come to and end, but JUNGLE JIM starring Johnny Weissmuller returned for a single season(1955-56) of 26 half hour episodes produced by Screen Gems Television I remember the beginning of each episode had a very memorable opening with Weissmuller, wearing his safari clothing, diving off an incredibly high cliff into a pool of water and swimming to shore, which was shot at Chicken Rock at Lake Sherwood, California.

    I remember watching the JUNGLE JIM movies and TV series on CBS affiliate WREC-TV Channel 3, Memphis, Tennessee in the 1960’s and early 1970’s on Saturdays, Those were the days.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barry Lane

      In his inimitable way, Johnny was a great actor and he has sixteen Tarzan films, most of which have a soul, to support that. The soul was Johnny’s.

      Like

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