Category Archives: Jungle Jim

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

DVD News #404: The Jungle Jim Films (1948-1955).

The Jungle Jim puzzle is complete!

Here in the States, you can get six of Sam Katzman’s Jungle Jim movies in a terrific DVD set from Critics’ Choice. But in Australia, Umbrella has brought all 16 pictures out in three sets (six in Volume 1, five each in 2 and 3).

The Jungle Jim Series
(With Volume # for each title; CC marks the ones in the Critics’ Choice set)
Jungle Jim (1948) V1
The Lost Tribe (1949) V2

Mark Of The Gorilla (1950) V2, CC
Captive Girl (1950) V2
Pygmy Island (1950) V2, CC
Fury Of The Congo (1951) V3, CC
Jungle Manhunt (1951) V2, CC
Jungle Jim In The Forbidden Land (1952) V3
Voodoo Tiger (1952) V1
Savage Mutiny (1953) V1
Valley Of The Head Hunters (1953) V3
Killer Ape (1953) V3

Jungle Man-Eaters (1954) V1, CC
Cannibal Attack (1954) V1
Jungle Moon Men (1955) V3, CC
Devil Goddess (1955) V1

The transfers on these are terrific and these discs are (I’ve heard) Region Free. We’ve been on a real Katzman kick around here of late. These cheesy little films come highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under Angela Stevens, Columbia, Critics' Choice Collection, DVD/Blu-ray News, George Reeves, Johnny Weissmuller, Jungle Jim, Karin Booth, Lee Sholem, Lyle Talbot, Myron Healey, Sam Katzman, Spencer Gordon Bennet

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

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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.

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

DVD News #314: The Jungle Jim Movie Collection (1950-55).

The Jungle Jim Movie Collection from Critics’ Choice Collection gives us six of Sam Kaztman’s Jungle Jim pictures starring Johnny Weissmuller.

Mark Of The Gorilla (1950)
Directed by William Berke
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Trudy Marshall, Onslow Stevens

Pygmy Island (1950)
Directed by William Berke
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Ann Savage, David Bruce, Steven Geray, William Tannen, Tristram Coffin, Billy Curtis, Billy Barty

Fury Of The Congo (1951)
Directed by William Berke
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Sherry Moreland, William Henry, Lyle Talbot, John Hart

Jungle Manhunt (1951)
Directed by Lew Landers
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Bob Waterfield, Sheila Ryan, Rick Vallin, Lyle Talbot

Jungle Man-Eaters (1954)
Directed by Lee Sholem
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Karin Booth, Richard Stapley, Richard Wyler, Bernie Hamilton

Jungle Moon Men (1955)
Directed by Charles S. Gould
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Jean Byron, Helene Stanton, Bill Henry, Myron Healey

The transfers on these films are usually terrific. Let’s hope Jungle Man-Eaters (1954) and Jungle Moon Men (1955) are widescreen. They were 1.85 in theaters.

A few years ago, Umbrella Entertainment in Australia put out a six-movie/three-DVD set, The Jungle Jim Movie Collection. Get both sets and you’ll have 11 of the 16 Jungle Jim pictures.

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Filed under 1950, 1951, 1954, 1955, Columbia, Critics' Choice Collection, Johnny Weissmuller, Jungle Jim, Lyle Talbot, Myron Healey, Sam Katzman

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

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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.

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

DVD News #273: The Jungle Jim Movie Collection.

Boy, am I stoked about this! Umbrella Entertainment in Australia has put together a six-movie/three-DVD set, The Jungle Jim Movie Collection, something Sam Katzman fans have been screaming for for years. It includes:

Jungle Jim (1948)
Directed by William Berke
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Virginia Grey, George Reeves, Lita Baron

Voodoo Tiger (1952)
Directed by Spencer G. Bennet
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, James Seay, Jean Byron

Savage Mutiny (1953)
Directed by Spencer G. Bennet
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Angela Stevens, Lester Matthews, Nelson Leigh

Jungle Man-Eaters (1954)
Directed by Lee Sholem
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Karin Booth, Richard Stapley

Cannibal Attack (1954)
Directed by Lee Sholem
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Judy Walsh, David Bruce

Devil Goddess (1955)
Directed by Spencer G. Bennet
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Angela Stevens, Selmer Jackson

The six pictures in the set range from the first to the last of the 16 Jungle Jim movies. Every indication is that this is Region Free. This is the kind of stuff that will make 2020 a very good year!

Thanks to Graham Carter for the news.

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Filed under 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, Angela Stevens, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, George Reeves, Johnny Weissmuller, Jungle Jim, Lee Sholem, Sam Katzman, Spencer Gordon Bennet, Virginia Grey

Happy Birthday, Sam Katzman.

Sam Katzman
(July 7, 1901 – August 4, 1973)

Here’s producer Sam Katzman with Little Richard on the set of Don’t Knock The Rock (1956). It’s a Rock N Roll picture directed by Fred F. Sears. Little Richard does “Long Tall Sally” and “Tutti-Frutti” in it. You need to see it.

Click it make it legible.

Sam Katzman was born on this day back in 1901. As a little kid, I noticed that his name turned up in the credits of a whole lot of movies I really liked. And for all the joy his cheap little pictures have given the world — everything from the Batman serial to the Jungle Jim movies to The Werewolf (1956) to Harum Scarum (1965) with Elvis, he should have a postage stamp, a national holiday, something. He sure made my world a better place.

Incidentally, today is Fred F. Sears’ birthday, too. Wonder if a great big birthday cake was ever shared on the Columbia lot?

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Filed under 1956, Elvis Presley, Fred F. Sears, Jungle Jim, Sam Katzman

DVD Review: The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters (1954).

Directed by Edward Bernds
Produced by Ben Schwalb
Written by Edward Bernds and Elwood Ullman
Music by Marlin Skiles
Cinematography: Harry Neumann
Film Editor: William Austin

Cast: Leo Gorcey (Terrance Aloysius ‘Slip’ Mahoney), Huntz Hall (Horace Debussy ‘Sach’ Jones), David Gorcey (Chuck Anderson), Bennie Bartlett (Butch Williams), Bernard Gorcey (Louie Dumbrowski), Lloyd Corrigan (Anton Gravesend), Ellen Corby (Amelia Gravesend), John Dehner (Dr. Derek Gravesend), Laura Mason (Francine Gravesend), Paul Wexler (Grissom), Steve Calvert (Gorilla)

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This post is dedicated to my friend Dan Conway. A while back, he and I got to talking about The Bowery Boys, which prompted me to task myself with a series of posts on the Boys and their movies. This is the first.

The basic plot point of Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) — that Dracula needs a simple, pliable brain to put in the head of the Frankenstein monster, so naturally he’s after Costello — is pure genius. Wish I’d come up with it. Evidently, so did the folks behind The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters (1954), because they took that idea and ran with it. If one monster after a brain was funny, how about a bunch of monsters after a couple of brains?

The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters goes like this. Slip and Sach wind up at the creepy old mansion of the Gravesend family. Turns out each Gravesend is in need of a brain or body. A brain that’ll fit inside a gorilla’s head. Another brain for a robot. Some meat for a carnivorous tree. And, of course, somebody always needs some fresh blood. The boys are encouraged to stay at Chez Gravesend, and the chase begins — with the rest of the Boys coming to the rescue.

The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters comes from the back end of the Boys’ filmography, when everyone was getting a little tired. But if you find this stuff funny, you’ll find something to laugh at here. Everything you expect is in place: Slip’s butchering of the English language, Louie’s Sweet Shop, some kind of chase, and so on. The addition of monsters and the typical old-dark-house stuff — and yet another guy (Steve Calvert ) in a gorilla suit — add a certain something. You’ve got the usual folks behind the camera — Edward Bernds directed from a script he wrote with Elwood Ullman. Harry Neumann shot it, obviously in a hurry, but he was always dependable. Great character actors like Lloyd Corrigan, Ellen Corby and John Dehner do a lot for this movie, and it looks like they were having fun.

Let’s talk about the gorilla. Steve Calvert, a bartender at Ciro’s, bought Ray “Crash” Corrigan’s ape suits and turned monkeying around into a career. He was in several of the Jungle Jim pictures with Johnny Weissmuller, starting with the first one, along with Road To Bali (1952), Bela Lugosi Meets A Brooklyn Gorilla (1952) and the late-in-the-game Republic serial Panther Girl Of The Congo (1955). I love these gorilla suit guys. Luckily, someone interviewed Calvert before he passed away.

Of course, every frame of this movie is stupid. Which is a good thing. The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters is included in Warner Archive’s The Bowery Boys, Volume Two. This terrific four-volume series packs 12 movies on four discs in each set. They look terrific — Meet The Monsters is even presented widescreen! — and if you’re a fan of this stuff, they’re absolutely essential.

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Filed under 1954, Bela Lugosi, Bowery Boys, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Edward Bernds, Gorilla suit guys, Johnny Weissmuller, Jungle Jim, Monogram/Allied Artists, Warner Archive

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.

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

Jungle Jim.

I’ve been wanting to dive into Sam Katzman’s Jungle Jim series, but have been waiting for someone to put out a set of all 16 pictures (released from 1948 to 1955) and the single-season TV show. That hasn’t happened, and the single discs are way too expensive and take up way too much shelf space.

Figure this summer is a good time to take em on, along with the Bowery Boys. First will be Johnny Weissmuller in either Cannibal Attack (1954) or Jungle Moon Men (1955), a couple of the later ones.

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Filed under Columbia, Johnny Weissmuller, Jungle Jim, Lew Landers, Sam Katzman, Spencer Gordon Bennett