DVD Review: Jungle Jim (1948).

Directed by William Berke
Produced by Sam Katzman
Story & Screen Play by Carroll Young
Based on the newspaper feature Jungle Jim
Director Of Photography: Lester White, ASC
Art Director: Paul Palmentola
Film Editor: Aaron Stell

Cast: Johnny Weissmuller (Jungle Jim Bradley), Virginia Grey (Dr. Hilary Parker), George Reeves (Bruce Edwards), Lita Baron (Zia), Rick Vallin (Kolu – Chief of the Masai), Holmes Herbert (Commissioner Geoffrey Marsden), Tex Mooney (Chief Devil Doctor)


After 16 years and 12 movies (six for MGM, six for RKO), Johnny Weissmuller’s days are Tarzan came to an end with Tarzan And The Mermaids (1948). (It was a troubled production, shot in Mexico, well worth reading up on sometime.)

That same year, Sam Katzman came along to offer Weissmuller the part of Jungle Jim, a big game hunter featured in Alex Raymond’s comic strip. It was perfect for the former Olympic swimmer, now middle aged — a chance to trade his loin cloth for khakis. Jungle Jim had already hit the screen as a 1937 serial from Universal (there was a radio show, too). Katzman had in mind a series of short, characteristically cheap features for Columbia. He’d recently added features to his duties at the studio; he’d been in charge of their serials since ’45. 

In this first picture, called simply Jungle Jim (1948), Weissmuller is hired to help Dr. Hilary Parker (Virginia Grey), a medical researcher, find the source of a rare poison that might point the way to a cure for polio. Bruce Edwards (George Reeves) comes along as a photographer. Jim brings along Kolu (Rick Vallin) and his sister Zia (Lita Baron). As they make their way through the jungle to the temple of Zimbalu and its “devil doctors,” they tackle a crocodile, elephants, a lion and more — including the “devil doctors.” And it turns out George Reeves would rather take the treasures of Zimbalu than take pictures of them. 

Virginia Grey had been in Tarzan’s New York Adventure (1942) with Weissmuller. George Reeves was still a few years way from playing Superman. And Lita Baron was Mrs. Rory Calhoun at the time. Of course, Weissmuller gets plenty of chances to swim, and he’s still incredible in the water.

Director William Berke started out writing silent Westerns. He became a prolific B director, cranking out tons of movies and TV shows before having a heart attack on the set of his last film, The Lost Missile (1958). He was only 54. Berke directed several of the Jungle Jim movies, along with Robin Hood Of The Range (1943), Dick Tracy (1945) and Cop Hater (1958).

Carroll Young had written some of the later Tarzan pictures and hopped right into the Jungle Jim series. He also wrote a couple of the better Regalscope pictures, She Devil and Apache Warrior (both 1957).

Jungle Jim was successful enough to spawn 15 more films (1948-1955) and a single-season TV show. Weissmuller would retire after the last one, Devil Goddess (1955), and the series.

The movies are as fun as they are dumb. I love them, even though Weissmuller can’t act and you see the same elephant, monkey and crocodile footage over and over and over. This first one is available in Volume 1 of the three-volume set from Umbrella out of Australia. It looks nice. If you know these films, I don’t need to recommend them — you know what you’re getting into. 

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14 Comments

Filed under Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Johnny Weissmuller, Jungle Jim, Sam Katzman, Tarzan

14 responses to “DVD Review: Jungle Jim (1948).

  1. Walter

    Toby, yes, I know these films and I know what I’m getting into. What wonderful fun!

    Like

  2. John W Hall

    George Reeves just owns this film. One of my favorite “bad guy” performances.

    Like

  3. john k

    Lovely to see Sam Katzman still rules on the H8 and Fifties
    Westerns I might add.
    Always like to see Virginia Grey and I also enjoyed Jean Byron
    in JUNGLE MOON MEN.
    Harry Cohn considered William Berke the best B Movie director
    in the business. I’d love Mill Creek/Critic’s Choice to release a
    set of those underrated Russell Hayden/Bob Wills Westerns.

    Like

  4. john k

    Dear H8 Crew Friends
    I’m gonna be off line until the end of the week but will leave y’all
    with some exciting news some confirmed,some not.

    First the confirmed bit in November Studio Canal UK will release
    Joseph Losey’s THE SLEEPING TIGER on Blu Ray from a brand
    new 4K restoration.
    I adore Losey’s early work-and this is contentious I feel apart
    from ACCIDENT his work declined when he switched to color.
    For me THE GO BETWEEN is overrated the leads are vapid,
    apart from an always wonderful Redgrave and Losey’s vision
    of the English countryside look like it comes from a cider
    commercial; just compare Peckinpah’s stark English
    landscapes in STRAW DOGS-far from a perfect film,I might add.
    ALL Studio Canal Blu Ray’s are region B locked.
    Now please bring the complete version of THE INTIMATE
    STRANGER (Finger Of Guilt)
    My American Friends there has never been a better time to
    BUY BRITISH the £ is down to 1.7 against the $ and predicted
    to be lees than the $ soon.

    Now the unconfirmed bit I’m sure ALL will be revealed by
    Friday when I return this is not a promise it’s a THREAT!

    Mill Creek have announced for December an 8 film vintage
    Horror set on Blu Ray-speculation suggests that it’s a
    compilation of vintage Columbia Karloff titles with possibly
    some Lorre especially Robert Florey’s FACE BEHIND THE MASK
    one of the greatest B Movies ever made.
    Rumour has it that Arch Oboler’s FIVE is also included.
    I already have FACE BEHIND THE MASK and FIVE from
    Imprint and have no regrets as I LOVE both films and am
    chuffed to have them on stand alone deluxe versions.

    Mill Creek also have a 4 film Sci Fi set on Blu Ray and rumour
    suggests that it’s a trimmed down version of their DVD Columbia
    set minus THE H MAN and BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS
    which Mill Creek have already released on Blu Ray.
    This would leave
    THE 27th DAY
    NIGHT THE WORLD EXPLODED (Fred F Sears-for Toby)
    TWELVE TO THE MOON
    VALLEY OF THE DRAGONS

    Friends, this is speculation only lots can change in 5 days!

    Like

    • We’ll miss ya, John!

      Funny that The Night The World Exploded would come up — I’m going to be the guest on the Forgotten Filmcast podcast in a few days and we’ll be talking about that cheap little movie. I love seeing those Katzman films making their way to Blu-Ray.

      Both of those rumored sets sound terrific.

      Like

  5. john k

    Still unconfirmed but rumour suggests that Mill Creek’s
    Horror Blu Ray set will include the Columbia Karloff films
    plus THE BOOGIE MAN WILL GET YOU plus FIVE and
    Lew Landers’ RETURN ON THE VAMPIRE….Love that film
    would love to have it in HD
    I’ve got all the Columbia Karloff’s and FIVE in HD so this set
    is not for me.

    Warner Archive releasing ATTACK OF THE 5o FOOT WOMAN
    on Blu Ray in December.

    Columbia Horror/Sci Fi on the missing list.

    SON OF DR JEKYLL
    THE MAN WHO TURNED TO STONE arguably Sam’s worst
    Horror entry but fans will want it anyway.
    THE GAMMA PEOPLE
    Odd Sci Fi from John Gilling-would make a great Paul Douglas
    double bill with Ken Hughes’ JOE MACBETH with Ruth Roman
    doing a fine old turn as Lady M in 30’s America but filmed
    in England with Sid James and the like
    What’s not to like about about this oddball double bill-problem
    is does anyone remember Paul Douglas these days?

    Like

  6. Even with such incomplete details, I’m really stoked about this one!

    Like

  7. john k

    Those Mill Creek/Critic’s Choice DVD sets are wonderful value
    picture quality very good as well.
    I’d love them to put out the complete Boston Blackie and
    Crime Doctor films-those Columbia B Movies are so good.
    I was thinking of the major studios Columbia just has to be
    my all time favourite with Universal a close second and my least
    favourite major studio MGM.

    Like

    • I’m with ya on that, John. Columbia’s B unit (Katzman, MacDonald, etc.) really cranked out some top-notch stuff. Though there are a million sets we’d love to see, we’re really blessed with some great ones so far.

      Like

  8. john k

    I’m hoping by the time I return mid next week all will be
    revealed regarding the Mill Creek Horror Sci Fi sets
    Jeepers! they are due out in December.

    Like

  9. Bert Greene

    Another idea for a Sony-licensed Critics Choice collection could be that little batch of semi-exploitation B’s that Columbia produced in the early-1940s. All were Code-approved fare, but obviously trying to tap into that form of sensationalism. I’m referring to films like “Glamor for Sale” (1940), “Girls Under 21” (1940), “Babies for Sale” (1940), “Convicted Woman” (1940), “Girls of the Road” (1940), and “Under Age” (1941). I’m particularly fond of the last two, with that very last one nicely directed by Edward Dmytryk.

    There’s one other film that might fit in such a collection, “Missing Daughters” (1939), but I think it was a Larry Darmour production, and might likely not be part of the Columbia library proper, although the studio originally released it.

    Like

  10. john k

    These films Bert mentions sound great and I’m sure there
    is a market for these sort of films-certainly most Noir fans will
    want them MISSING DAUGHTERS sounds great and what
    a cast.
    I’m sure Mill Creek would do very well sales wise with an
    initial set containing 6 of these films.
    It’s a pity MARK OF THE WHISTLER is not available as it’s
    one of the very best of a generally strong series.
    I don’t know if some confounded “rights” issue is holding the
    film back or perhaps the master material is in too bad a shape.

    Like

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