DVD Review: Jungle Man-Eaters (1954).

Directed by Lee Sholem
Produced by Sam Katzman
Story & Screen Play by Samuel Newman
Cinematography: Henry Freulich
Film Editor: Gene Havlick

Cast: Johnny Weissmuller (Jungle Jim), Karin Booth (Dr. Bonnie Crandall), Richard Wyler (Inspector Jeffrey Bernard), Bernie Hamilton (Zuwaba), Gregory Gaye (Leroux), Lester Matthews (Commissioner Kingston), Paul Thompson (Zulu), Vince Townsend, Jr. (Chief Boganda), Louise Franklin (N’Gala), Tamba

__________

Critics’ Choice and Mill Creek have released a six-movie set of Jungle Jim movies (there are 16 of ’em, 1948 – 1955), pulled from the middle to the end of series (’50-’55). The next-to-last picture in the set is Jungle Man-Eaters (1954).

The later Jungle Jim movies look even cheaper than the early ones, with a very heavy reliance on stock footage. Even some of the Johnny Weissmuller shots look like footage from previous entries, given away by the new 1.85 framing. In this one, Jungle Jim (Weissmuller) gets involved in a war between tribes largely orchestrated by Leroux, a French diamond smuggler. Pretty Kari Booth (I’ve always liked her) is a doctor along for the ride, and she gets caught up in the birth of the son of one of the warring tribes’ leader. Tamba dresses up like a doctor, torments Karin Booth, does plenty of flips and eats a lot of bananas.

Despite the title and ads, there are cannibals, no man is eaten (“human banquet”) and Karin Booth’s legs are never threatened by fire.

While there are three more pictures in the series, this is the last one where Weissmuller is actually called Jungle Jim. Producer Sam Katzman has Weissmuller use his own name for the rest of the run, probably because Screen Gems had signed with King Features to use the character in a TV series, again with Weissmuller. It debuted about the time the last feature, Devil Goddess, hit theaters in October 1955.

Jungle Man-Eaters features the work of the couple of guys who toiled quite a bit on Katzman pictures: director Lee Sholem and cinematographer Henry Freulich.

Sholem was known as “Roll ‘Em Sholem” for how quickly he worked. He directed over 1,300 features and TV shows over the course of four decades. They say he never went over schedule. One of his masterworks is Superman And The Mole Men (1951).

Henry Freulich had been behind the camera since the Silents. He was a cameraman on The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (1922). He was at Columbia for years and years, shooting everything from It Happened One Night (1934) to over a hundred Three Stooges shorts to all sorts of wonderful things in the 50s — pictures like William Castle’s Masterson Of Kansas (1954), It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955), Fred F. Sears’s Teen-Age Crime Wave (1955) and George Sherman’s Reprisal! (1956).

Freulich’s work on Jungle Man-Eaters looks terrific on DVD in this set. In fact, all six boast the gorgeous transfers we’ve come to expect of cheap Columbia movies from this period. A lot of us have been waiting quite a while for Jungle Jim to make his way out of the jungle and onto DVD. This collection is worth the wait — and hopefully the first of several volumes. Recommened.

1 Comment

Filed under 1954, Columbia, Critics' Choice Collection, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Johnny Weissmuller, Jungle Jim, Karin Booth, Lee Sholem, Mill Creek, Sam Katzman

One response to “DVD Review: Jungle Man-Eaters (1954).

  1. Walter C Severs

    Toby, this is some really good fun entertainment and affordable. As you know, I’m a JUNGLE JIM fan from way back. A lot of pleasant Saturday afternoons, during the 1960’s and ’70’s, spent viewing JUNGLE JIM Movies and the TV show on WREC Channel 3, out of Memphis, Tennessee.

    Are these JUNGLE JIM programmers hokey and hooey? Of course they are and we could nit-pick them to death. Instead, I take them for what they are, just good fun, right down to the bone. JUNGLE MANHUNT(1951) is a lot of fun. Sheila Ryan makes this movie fun to watch, because she shows a lot of spirit, humorous sarcasm, charming personality, and is a go-getter. Also, she gets to wear a really neat sarong/swimming outfit, which she without a doubt, enhances. http://ekladata.com/Q5L2g0b5JNHtjPrOlwk48l7HuOQ.jpg

    All-Pro Los Angeles Rams Quarterback Robert “Bob” Waterfield makes his acting debut(he was in a couple of other movies, as himself). As an actor, well he was a really good quarterback. Waterfield(unwaxed chest) and Johnny Weissmuller provide the beefcake, but their swimming outfits just can’t compare with Sheila’s neat sarong.

    The underwater sequence is really good and I’m not going to give it away here. I even enjoyed the other stock footage used, which can always be found in JUNGLE JIM fantasy land. Add Lyle Talbot as a chemist villain, skeleton men, plenty of action, Tamba the chimp, and Sheila Ryan as the intrepid photojournalist, so what more can you ask from a fun entertaining unpretentious movie of 66 minutes.

    Like

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