Cast and Credits

Jungle Jim
Bonnie Crandall
Inspector Geoffrey Bernard
Zuwaba
Leroux
Commissioner Kingston
Zulu
Chief Boganda
N'Gala
Diamond Mine Partner
Morro Native

Bits

Johnny Weissmuller
Karin Booth
Richard Stapley*
Bernard Hamilton
Gregory Gay
Lester Matthews
Paul Thompson
Vince M. Townsend, Jr.
Louise Franklin
Rowe Wallerstein
Woody Strode

John Merton, Gil Perkins

á
Producer
Director
Screenplay
Assistant Director
Camera
Art Director
Film Editor
Special Effects
Set Decorator
Musical Director
Unit Manager
Sound Engineer

á
Sam Katzman
Lee Sholem
Samuel Newman
Charles S. Gould
Henry Freulich
Paul Palmentola
Gene Havlick
Jack Erickson
Sidney Clifford
Mischa Bakaleinikoff
Herbert Leonard
Josh Westmoreland

*Richard Stapley is also known as Richard Wyler.

Running Time: 68 minutes

Original Title: Jungle Maneaters

Shooting begins December 8, 1953
Completed December 14, 1953
Copyright Date: March 30, 1954; Renewed January 23, 1982
Release Date: June 1954

Les Aventuriers de la jungle [Fr]
Urwald in Aufruhr [Gr]
Cašadores de cabešas ou na selva dos diamantes [Pg]
La Tribu salvaje [Sp]

Synopsis

Jungle Jim has been asked by the government to locate a missing diamond mine owner. Aiding him is inspector Bernard of Scotland Yard. Coincident to this request is the formal inauguration of the Gambesi chieftain, Boganda. Accompanying the commissioner are a young doctor, Bonnie Crandall, who has been asked to look after N’Gala, the wife of the chief’s son, who is soon to give birth, and a Mr. Leroux, ostensibly a trouble-shooter for a diamond syndicate, but in reality, a murderer, hoping to gain control of the diamond mine for his own purposes. To help him achieve this is Zulu, chief of the Morros, a warlike tribe with animosity towards the government and the Gambesi tribe.

Since the diamond mine is on Gambesi land, Zulu’s first job is to drive the Gambesis from it. To do this he starts a fire, kills the chief and kidnaps the heirs. When Jim and Bernard rescue them, N’Gala is very weak, and even though she is flown to a hospital, she dies, giving birth to her son.

Jim is subsequently captured several times, and escapes each time. He is finally able to disrupt Leroux’s plans, by killing Zulu, dynamiting a cliff to prevent a Morro attack, and pursuing Leroux to the top of a cliff from which the latter falls to his death.

Commentary

This film is unquestionably the poorest of the films Weissmuller did for Columbia. I find myself in complete agreement with the Hollywood Reporter critic who wrote:

“It is not the business of a trade paper reviewer to pile up witticisms at the expense of the industry’s product. The temptation is vast in this instance, but it will be avoided. However, Jungle Man-Eaters contains nothing to inspire the praise of any critic who wishes to mean anything to exhibitors.” (Jack Moffett: Hollywood Reporter: May 20, 1954)

The film boasts a title that is not borne out by the script — there are no cannibals, no maneaters, despite the ads. In fact, except for a minor plot switch and a change of names, this is but a slapdash variation of the first Sanders of the River rip-off Valley of Head Hunters, made a year earlier. But the film does provide black actors Vince Townsend and Paul Thompson a second paycheck from Katzman. And a pre-Starsky and Hutch Bernie Hamilton is given the dubious role of prince of the Gambesi tribe and does show the black actor in his youthful and slim prime before the hefty addition to his weight got him a desk job on the hit TV series, Starsky and Hutch. Scripter Samuel Newman was credited for this film as he was for Valley of Head Hunters.

Other borrowed footage includes the coastal scenes from The Lost Tribe (49), thereby giving Gil Perkins another day’s pay. The fight with the crocodile is taken from Pygmy Island (50) and The Lost Tribe (49), and the avalanche is lifted from One Million B.C. (40). There is also some airplane footage borrowed from one of the African documentaries, and Woody Strode appears briefly as a Morro native to do battle with Jungle Jim. The one exciting sequence, a battle between a penned steer and a lion was borrowed from the Buster Crabbe film King of the Jungle (33). And the villain’s name morphed from Monet to Latour, and finally to Leroux.

Studio backdrops replaced the trips to Corriganville and the Arboretum. And Richard Stapley and Karin Booth offer a tepid romance, somewhat similar to that of Steve Ritch and Christine Larson in Valley of Head Hunters (53), although this one is punctuated by some routine banter.

But what puts this film at the bottom of the rung is the series of clumsy sequences making Weissmuller a first-class klutz. This is an unacceptable transgression in the eyes of the fan.

And this time Katzman got some help in the lickety-split shooting schedule with the hiring of Lee Sholem, better known as Roll ’em Sholem. Legend had it that he could put a film in the can before anyone. In this case, it shows. It is perhaps noteworthy to add that he also directed Karin Booth in Tobor the Great, also filmed in 1954.

Finally, Joseph Dubin’s intro music is all but absent as a soundtrack from an American Indian tribal dance accompanies the African dances provided by the footage from Sanders of the River.

Erstwhile model June Hoffman (later Katharine, then Karin Booth) (1919-92) was cast as doctor Bonnie Crandall to act as the love interest with British import Richard Stapley. After an auspicious beginning first at Paramount, then at MGM, Booth was quickly reduced to uncredited roles, or given costar status in minor melodramas, mostly for Columbia, until her retirement from films in 1959. I have only one television credit for her in a 1958 Perry Mason episode. Her big screen appearances include Louisiana Purchase (41), This Gun for Hire (42), Holiday Inn (42), Swing Shift Maisie (43), A & C in Hollywood (45), Wonder Man (45), Last of the Buccaneers (50), Cripple Creek (52), Let's Do It Again (53), Tobor the Great (54), Seminole Uprising (55), and Beloved Infidel (59).

Richard Stapley (1924 - 2010) plays Geoffrey Bernard, a Scotland Yard inspector, on the trail of a murderer. The British-born actor first appeared on the stage in 1941. Five years later, he went to New York to get into the movies. By the 50s, he was appearing in a few minor films primarily at Columbia. In fact, he appeared again with Karin Booth the same year in Charge of the Lancers. Other films in his resume are Little Women (48), The Three Musketeers (48), The Strange Door (51), King of the Khyber Rifles (53), The Iron Glove (54), and D-Day, the Sixth of June (55). Despite having billing , this was a one-liner for the dapper Stapely. So in 1958, tired by his inability to secure better roles, he returned to England, changed his name to Richard Wyler and continued his film career both on the large and small screen. He had a long run as the star of the British-made TV series The Man from Interpol (1960 - 61). Then came a string of films shot in Germany, Italy, and Spain, in which he was often cast as the villain. After these roles became less available, Stapley tried his hand once again at a major film. In 1971, his agent got him a role in Alfred Hitchcock's film Frenzy, but the role turned out to be little more than a cameo, as he played the role of a truck driver. This marked the end of his career as a lead actor.

Bernard Hamilton (1929 - 2008) was one of the 50s black actors who had the good fortune to be favoured with meaty roles as time went by. By 1975, he made the big time with the recurring role of Starsky’s and Hutch’s superior. His films include The Jackie Robinson Story (50), Mysterious Island (51), Congo Crossing (56), Let No Man Write My Epitaph (60), Underworld USA (61), Captain Sindbad (63), One Potato, Two Potato (64), Sullivan’s Empire (67), Syanon (65), Stranger on the Run (67), The Swimmer (68), The Organization (71), Scream, Blacula Scream! (73). On television, besides Starsky and Hutch, Hamilton appeared in Jungle Jim, The Twilight Zone, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Virginian, Cimarron Strip, and All in the Family. After leaving films, he became a music producer.

Rowe Wallerstein, who went on to become a television director, had a brief scene as a human target for Gregory Gaye.

Reviews

Motion Picture Herald

Johnny Weissmuller as Jungle Jim pits his native wiles and physical prowess against a sinister diamond smuggler threatening the stability of the world market. This Sam Katzman production rates pretty much on a par with the previous films in this series. The slapdash tale has some good action and rugged outdoor appeal and as such serves a need and will appeal to the fans despite the shortcomings.

In the pursuit of the villain who tunes native against native in order to further his own devious end, Weissmuller has the food fortune to make friends with Richard Stapley, a Scotland Yard inspector, and pretty Karin Booth, a doctor. A slight source of humor has been provided by Jungle Jim's chimp companion always getting tangled in medical equipment.

In the course of Weissmuller's chores he subdues a rampant lion and demolishes a meddlesome alligator. All his jungle shrewdness is called upon as he gets in and out of violent entanglements with the sinister Gregory Gay. The climax finally arrives about as the two come to grips at a cliff's edge. In eliminating the villain Weissmuller also brings peace to the jungle.

The Samuel Newman screenplay was directed by Lee Sholem.

Variety

Parring the course for Columbia's "Jungle Jim" entries, this latest Johnny Weissmuller starrer finds him in his familiar hero role, going through standard derring-do amidst appropriately cut in African stock footage.

Picture has a certain exploitation potential for its lowercase market in the stock footage showing a fight between a lion and a bull, in which the king of beasts gets his comeuppance from the toro before Weissmuller closes in for the hand-to-hand combat and kill.

The hero also gets in his licks in a crocodile battle for good effect.

Samuel Newman's screenplay, which Lee Sholem directs generally to good advantage, and which makes fast use of stock reelage, is woven about the round-up of a diamond smuggler who threatens the stability of the world market after a jewel strike in the midst of the jungle. Jungle Jim, who enters the case after the natives he oversees are drawn into the heavy's machinations, is assisted by a Scotland Yard inspector, sent to Africa to investigate the matter. The plot is off to a deadly slow start but picks up after a while.

Weissmuller takes on man and beast in equal deadpan stride. Richard Stapley is convincing as the Scotland Yard man and Karin Booth is the particularly pretty doctor in love with him. Gregory Gay is a persuasive heavy, without being too villainous. Bernard Hamilton scores as Jim's chieftain friend and Lester Matthews is okay as the commissioner. Tamba the chimp is in for the usual laughs.

Henry Freulich's lensing meets the demands of the picture and Gene Havlick expertly cut in the stock footage which the Sam Katzman production uses so generously.