Joanne Dean, Josephine Parra,
William P. Wilkerson,
Running Time: 67 minutes
Copyright Date: Oct. 31, 1952; Renewed 1980
Release Date: November 1952
First showing in Canada: June 29, 1953
Le Tigre sacré [Fr]
La Tigre sacra [It]
O Tigre sagrado [Pg]
El Tigre sagrado [Sp]
British Museum research writer, Phyllis Bruce, is trying to study the Dambullah tiger cult which Jungle Jim is trying to break up.
Complicating matters is a supposed trader, Carl Werner, who, in reality, is the only surviving member of a Nazi quartet who absconded with French art treasures. The US army representative, Major Bill Green, is closing in on him, as are three notorious art thieves.
To save himself from capture, Werner hijacks a plane in which four chorus girls, a dancer named Shalimar and her trained tiger are passengers. Werner forces the plane inland and the plane eventually crash lands in Crescent Valley - the Valley of Head Hunters. All aboard would have been killed but for the tiger, which has freed itself. Shalimar uses her influence with the tiger to prevent further human sacrifices, the natives taking her for a voodoo priestess.
News of the forced landing reaches the authorities who immediately dispatch a search party under the leadership of Jungle Jim. Miss Bruce and Major Green accompany him. Meanwhile, the art thieves enlist the aid of Wombulu, blood brother of the headhunter chief, who will do anything to thwart Jungle Jim.
The search party is killed, but Jim, Miss Bruce and the major are captured for sacrifice. Shalimar, once again prevents this, but Jim is forced into a voodoo trial with a lioness, which he kills.
Shalimar sets her tiger on the headhunters to give her and the survivors time to escape. The art thieves retrieve Werner after killing Wombulu. Jim and Major Green waylay them and get Werner away from them. The Headhunters come upon the art thieves and kill them, then pursue the others. Jim resets a dynamite charge at Dundee Pass intended for him earlier, and the explosion causes an avalanche putting a quick end to the pursuit.
Shalimar and the girls take off for Cairo (we never learn what happened to the tiger), Major Green and Phyllis Bruce get together and Carl Werner, alias Colonel Heinrich Schultz, is ready to disclose the location of the stolen art treasures.
It is interesting to note what cultures view differently. When Voodoo Tiger went before the Indonesian censors, they wired Katzman that they intended to cut the initial torture scene as well as the worshipping of the tiger idol. Apparently, these scenes offended the censors, or else they feared that such scenes might give cultist groups some dangerous ideas.
“Jungle” Sam had already featured tiger scenes in two earlier Jungle Jim films, which had undoubtedly garnered him some criticism because it was pointed out to him that the striped felines were strictly Asian. Always one to turn errors into profits, he had Samuel Newman concoct a yarn about a tiger turning up in the jungle when a plane transporting the animal crashes, thus forestalling any further criticism. And he worked into the film another sub-plot involving a Nazi war criminal, and art thieves anxious to get their hands on some valuable paintings stolen by the Nazis during World War II.
To helm the film, Katzman chose veteran serial director Spencer Gordon Bennet (1893-1987), who had come to Columbia from Republic in the mid-forties and was directing most of Katzman’s serials. He ranked as one of Hollywood’s most able action directors. There is a peculiar artistry in limited budget films. They never win awards. But to manufacture an entertaining feature in eight days, or an entire chapter play in three to four weeks, and for it all to be consistently enjoyable and interesting requires a special talent and experience. When one compares Bennet’s work in the Jungle Jim films and the earlier films by William Berke when subjected to a rapid shooting schedule, one can note the superiority of Bennet’s continuity. This resulted because of Bennet’s uncanny ability to visualize the whole film in such a way that there was much less waste of film. In fact, Bennet told Katzman: “You aren’t paying me anything on these pictures. I'm saving you my salary on the lab bill.”
Katzman, whose primary goal was spending as little as possible, thereby earning more, granted Bennet more autonomy than the serial director had had at Republic, a condition that Bennet appreciated. However, there were constraints. His serials had a meagre time frame, and the features, especially the Jungle Jim films, had to work in as much stock footage as possible. In the case of Voodoo Tiger, this meant using Frank Buck’s tiger footage from films like Bring ’em Back Alive, especially the battle sequences like tiger vs. water buffalo, tiger vs. leopard, and tiger vs. gavial (crocodile). Some of these sequences had been used in Captive Girl (50). The results weren’t half bad.
Jean Byron was cast as research writer Phyllis Bruce, on assignment for the British Museum. Born Imogene Burkhart on December 10, 1925 in Paducah, Kentucky, Jean and her family moved to Louisville when she was still quite young, and then to California when she was 19. She appeared briefly as a singer on radio, but studied drama from 1947 to 1950. Then she did a stint with the Players Ring, a theatre group that did not pay well, but which did offer the performers needed exposure. It was here in a play titled Merrily We Roll Along, that she came to the attention of Harry Sauber, Sam Katzman’s elderly talent adviser. She was asked to read from the script and imitate a British accent, which she did. And right then and there she got her union card. When asked her name, she replied Imogene Burkhart. Katzman didn’t care for it, so she volunteered the stage name, Jean Byron, which she had been using, and which the Columbia brass found more palatable. Voodoo Tiger was her first film. Following this, she made a few more films like Jungle Moon Men (also with Weissmuller), Serpent of the Nile, Johnny Concho, The Magnetic Monster, There’s Always Tomorrow, and Invisible Invaders.
Then came television. Jean appeared on Mayor of the Town, Pepsi Cola Playhouse, Studio ’57, The Millionaire, TV Readers Digest, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, Science Fiction Theatre, Fury, My Friend Flicka, Cheyenne, Dobie Gillis playing Ron Howard’s mom in the first season and a math teacher named Miss Burkhart (her real name) in the second, Full Circle, 77 Sunset Strip, Bourbon Street Beat, Hawaiian Eye, Tightrope, Laramie, Batman, Pat Paulsen’s Half a Comedy Hour, Ransom for a Dead Man, The Mod Squad, The Death Squad, Policewoman , The Brady Brides , The Jeffersons, and Advice to the Lovelorn.
In 1963, Jean became a regular on The Patty Duke Show, playing Patty’s mother Natalie Lane, a role which lasted through 1966. When a reunion episode was planned in 1997, Jean agreed to join the cast in Montreal, Canada to shoot it. She enjoyed the reunion immensely, and still stays in touch with the cast members. This reunion has rekindled her interest in films and television.
After leaving The Patty Duke Show, Jean performed on the dinner circuit. Her last appearance was in the 1988 TV film The Perfect Match, after which she retired to Alabama, where she lived with her mother and pets. Jean had been married only briefly to actor Michael Ansara, when she was quite young, and had no children. Through the 90s, the independent Miss Byron cared for her ailing mother, who passed away in 1999 at the age of 93.
In a telephone interview, Jean explained to me that she adored the animals in Weissmuller’s films, even the tiger, which as she recalled was quite old. She remembered sitting with the animal’s trainer and hearing him weep as he told her that the poor animal wouldn’t be around much longer. And she added that Peggy, the Chimp, simply adored her. And she admired Johnny, saying that despite his age, he still managed to do a number of his own stunts.
According to pressbook publicity, Katzman placed a want ad in the trade papers which ran “... beautiful, athletic girl, not afraid to wrestle a tiger, for feminine lead in new jungle film.” Jeanne Dean answered the ad assuring Katzman that she was not afraid of tigers.
The titian-haired beauty was only fifteen years old when Alberto Vargas first painted her portrait, and she became the first Esquire ‘Varga girl.’ Throughout WWII, her pictures and those of other Varga girls were copied by GIs onto aircraft, tanks, and ships as good luck emblems. Later, Jeanne travelled with the USO to entertain troops in Europe. The photos attracted the attention of MGM and she soon appeared in her first film The Pirate with Gene Kelly (48).
Additional roles followed with the smaller studios. Jeanne appeared in The Bride Goes Wild (48), Sundown in Santa Fe (48), Texas, Brooklyn and Heaven (48), Radar Patrol vs. the Spy King (49), Angels in Disguise (49),Hot Rod (50), Starlift (51), Never Wave at a Wac (52), Hold That Line (52), Clipped Wings (53), GOG (54), Chicago Confidential (57), and Blood of Dracula (57).
Jeanne also did some television work in the early 50s in series like The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, The Cisco Kid, The Roy Rogers Show, The Adventures of Superman, 26 Men, and Dragnet.
An avid horsewoman, Jeanne was also an award-winning poet. Her book Now Is Only a Heartbeat won the Golden Poet Award for her in San Francisco, and it was presented to her by Milton Berle. Emphysema claimed her life in 1993. Her husband at the time was actor Eddie Norris.
In the film Voodoo Tiger, Jeanne’s burlesque dance before the tiger idol must have heated every warm-blooded male’s libido. Leave it to Katzman not to miss a trick.
James Seay (1914-92) [pronounced see-ay] was already working for Columbia when Katzman earmarked him as principal bad guy in Voodoo Tiger. In fact, only a year earlier, Seay's unmistakable voice had been commandeered to narrate the introduction to Fury of the Congo.
The debonair actor lent his suave presence to many a role, whether as villain, doctor, or even George Washington [q.v. When the Redskins Rode (51).] Fans will remember him as Kris Kringle’s kindly physician in The Miracle on 34th Street (45).
In an interview following Seay’s passing, fellow actor Peter Graves reminisced about him and his quiet, gentlemanly demeanour, adding that he had a marvellous sense of humour that could be sharpened by a couple of drinks.
In addition to his numerous film appearances, usually in westerns, Seay was equally omnipresent on the small screen. He made episodic appearances in shows like The Cisco Kid, The Adventures of Superman, Science Fiction Theatre, and Perry Mason. And he had recurring roles in series like Wyatt Earp and Fury.
He-man Robert Bray (1917-1983) was Jean Byron’s romantic interest in Voodoo Tiger. Under contract to RKO studios in 1946, Bray was considered a potential replacement for Gary Cooper, although in looks he more nearly resembled Herman Brix (a.k.a. Bruce Bennet). He never really made the big time, but found plenty of work in minor roles. Perhaps the highlight of his big screen appearances was as the bus driver in Bus Stop, in which he teaches an egocentric Don Murray a lesson in manners. On television, he was visible in numerous shows of the 50s and 60s, but is best remembered for his role as ranger Corey Stuart in Lassie (64-69).
Michael Fox (not to be confused with Michael J. Fox) (1921-1996) plays the Nazi war criminal who manages to get all the actors (except Kipling) into the territory of the headhunters. The versatile Yonkers native had done grade school plays, but then had aspirations to becoming a history teacher. Instead, he got a job as a brakeman for several of the railroad lines before ending up in Los Angeles, where the acting bug got hold of him long enough to see him through several ‘little theatre’ plays. This led him to a Players Ring production of Home of the Brave in which he not only acted, but also directed. Harry Sauber, who had invited Jean Byron to test for Voodoo Tiger, saw the play and recruited Fox for Columbia as well.
Fox began his film acting career in A Yank in Indo-China (52). His next film was Voodoo Tiger in which he not only acted the role of the Nazi war criminal, but also used his mimicry talent for the voice of the BBC radio announcer, giving him a British accent. More savings for Katzman?
One of Fox’s lines in Voodoo Tiger was to have been “Sit tight, and nobody’s gonna get hurt.” He was to say this to the dancers on board the plane he was hijacking. In an 1996 interview, Fox recounted how he went to the director and said that the line was not something a German colonel would say, especially with an accent. So he suggested another line instead. Whether or not Fox used it in a shooting of the sequence, it was never edited into the film. The only speech Fox makes is to Bill Klein, the co-pilot. When he enters the plane, he doesn’t speak to the passengers at all.
Fox also talked about the lions in the film, saying that they had one to do the moving, and another poor old one that could barely stand. [Since there was only one lion, he may have been referring to the aged tiger that Miss Byron talked about]. He also stated that Spencer Bennet told him that the reason behind the use of sepia tone was the fact that the stock footage did not blend in well with the new material. It’s interesting because in Canada none of the Jungle Jim films was released in sepia.
Other film credits include The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (53) in which he was also the dialogue director, a job he had in other 50s films, GOG (54), Top Secret Affair (57), A Tiger Walks (64), and The Longest Yard (74). His last film was Skinheads (89).
The versatile actor was even more in demand on television, appearing regularly as Sasha on Casablanca and as a medical expert (autopsy surgeon/coroner) on Perry Mason. He had a recurring role on Falcon Crest (1988-89), and is perhaps best known for his role as Saul Feinberg on the daytime soaper The Bold and the Beautiful from 1989 until his death in 1996.
Michael J. Fox once explained on the Johnny Carson show that he was forced to use his middle initial because the elder Fox — whom he described as having played in pictures like The Brain That Ate Cleveland — was the first to register the name with SAG. This so tickled the elder Fox that he wrote to Carson (who read the letter on the air) “I was never in that picture — but if somebody had sent me a script, I was undoubtedly available.”
Fox also founded the Theater East Actors organization. Mr. Fox succumbed to pneumonia at the Motion Picture Home in Woodland Hills.
Charles ‘Moose’ Horvath (1920-1978) started his career as a stuntman following WWII, but by the early 50s had obtained speaking roles. He appears briefly in a fight sequence in Pygmy Island (50), doubling for one of the minor villains. He spent a good deal of his career at the Columbia studios, usually in westerns. He is the genie in Allied Artists’ Aladdin and His Lamp (52), he plays an Indian chief in Audie Murphy’s The Guns of Fort Petticoat (56), and he is one of the ‘creatures’ in Creature with the Atom Brain (57).
Horvath’s TV credits are numerous and include The Wild Wild West, Lost in Space, I Spy and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Horvath was a good choice for the role of a voodoo priest, because he gets to rough it up with the hero. While Paul Stader probably stood in for Weissmuller in the distance shots, it is unlikely that anyone had to double for the burly Horvath.
I have no details concerning his death at the relatively young age of 58.
Alex Montoya (1907-1970) was another frequent Columbia player who popped up in Mexican or Indian characterizations, or as one of the natives that populated Katzman’s jungles. I seem to recognize him as a guard in Tarzan’s Desert Mystery (43), and he was a native in the serial King of the Congo (52). Television added to his acting sphere in series like The High Chaparral, It Takes a Thief, The Time Tunnel and Perry Mason.
John Cason (1918-1961) was a boxer from Texas who entered the movies in 1941. After winning a Golden Gloves tournament he turned pro and following one of his fights, his contract was bought by screen heavy George Raft, and Hugh Herbert. Considered by his peers as one of the best of the fight men, Cason appeared mostly in westerns. He doubled Bill Williams in a number of the TV Kit Carson episodes. Undoubtedly selected for his role in Voodoo Tiger because of his fighting prowess, he has two major fight scenes in this film, along with Paul Hoffman and James Seay. But while his co-villains were doubled for the long shots, he was not. He died in an auto mishap in 1961.
Although uncredited, William R. Klein had a substantial role as the pilot who crash lands his plane with four showgirls, a Nazi fugitive and a tiger on board.
Born in 1924 in Detroit, Michigan, Klein served with distinction as a member of the 100th bomb group during World War II, completing an impressive 31 missions in Europe. After his discharge, he headed for Hollywood, got himself an agent determined to pursue a career as an actor. Under his real name he appeared in Twelve O'Clock High (49), When Willie Comes Marching Home (50), Purple Heart Diary (51), People Will Talk (51), The 49th Man (53) and Sky Commando (53), in addition to Voodoo Tiger.
By 1954, he had changed his name to William (Clay) Bryant and appeared in the Columbia western The Battle of Rogue River. Other films followed: A Bullet for Joey (55), Operation Petticoat (59), as well as a couple of Jack Lemmon starrers Good Neighbor Sam (64) and How to Murder Your Wife (65). And for four decades, he appeared either as a regular or a guest actor in numerous television series, ranging from juvenile westerns like The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin to mid-70s science-fiction like The Bionic Woman and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. He was a regular on General Hospital and Combat, and was still appearing on series television in the late 80s with the likes of Murder, She Wrote. He also found time to do radio and TV commercials, and voice overs for cartoon series like Batman.
None of this prevented him from marrying Patricia in 1958 and raising three children.
Always in great shape, the rugged actor was jogging with his daughter, when he had to be rushed to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Never one to give in, he fought the illness and soon seemed on the road to recovery, but the cancer re-emerged and claimed his life in June 2001.
Of the gals that made up the rest of Jeanne Dean’s troupe, only two seem to have had roles in other films: Josephine Parra appeared in Tarzan and the Slave Girl (50) and This Earth Is Mine (59), and Diane Garrett appeared in Stop That Cab (51), Rainbow ’Round My Shoulder (52) and The Turning Point (52). Could Joanne Dean be Jeanne Dean's sister?
The Hollywood Reporter
Sam Katzman's productions for Columbia release are known for their action-full stories and "Voodoo Tiger," another in the "Jungle Jim" series from the King Features comic strip, has movement and suspense in spades. In fact, the story contains everything but the kitchen sink, and if an excuse could be found for a kitchen sink in the African jungles, Katzman, director Spencer G. Bennet and story-screenwriter Sam Newman would have thrown it in.
The main story line concerns the hunt for an escaped Nazi war criminal who is supposed to have stolen and hidden an art treasure. Johnny Weissmuller as Jungle Jim and his constable Rick Vallin take up the trail, after a brush with natives offering a human sacrifice to the tiger god. Along the trail are a gang of international art thieves also seeking the treasure, a beautiful nightclub dancer with a trained tiger, a plane crash, headhunters, a hand-to-paw struggle with a lioness, a dynamite ambush and, of course, Jungle Jim's pal, Tamba the chimp.
Chief support is given the star by Jean Byron, James Seay, Jeanne Dean, Charles Horvath. Photography by William Whitely, art direction by Paul Palmentola and other technical credits are competent.
Based on the "Jungle Jim" comic strip, "Voodoo Tiger" stacks up as okay program filler. The jungle adventure yarn abounds with blood-and-thunder, and moppets will go for this aspect of it. For the mature minds producer Sam Katzman presents a troupe known as Shalimar and Her Dancing Girls, with the scantily clad femmes trekking all over the jungle, and Shalimar climaxing it all with a burlesque routine in the heart of the veldt.
There's quite a number of stock shots of animals in jungle fights, and Johnny Weissmuller, as Jungle Jim, tackles a lion himself. Yarn, such as it is, deals with Jim tracking down a Nazi officer in the jungle, the Nazi having the secret to the whereabouts of an art treasure heisted during occupation of France. A gang of American hoods is also breathing down the Nazi's neck, and both parties clash head-on, with the head-hunters of deepest Africa taking over. Weissmuller, virtually single-handed, eliminates both the hoods and head-hunters, and captures his Nazi.
Actors meet a fate worse than Newman's script, with all thesping wooden, only real movement being offered by Jeanne Dean as Shalimar when she wiggles wildly in the jungle dance. Weissmuller is virtually immobile in the lead, and Jean Byron, James Seay, Charles Horvath and Rick Vallin are equally statuesque in lesser roles.
Spencer G. Bennett's direction is as mediocre as the acting. Technical credits are okay, particularly camera work of William Whitley.