Cast and Credits

Jungle Jim
Barton
Joan Martindale
Mahala
Hakim
Silva
Reverend E. R. Holcom
Elderly Villager
Village Drummer

Johnny Weissmuller
Buster Crabbe
Anita Lhoest
Rick Vallin
John Dehner
Rusty Wescoatt
Nelson Leigh
Frank Lackteen
Stanley Price

 

Producer
Director
Screenplay
Art Director
Music Director
Sound Engineer
Camera
Editor
Set Decorator
Assistant Director
Unit Manager
Grip
Gaffer

 

Sam Katzman
William Berke
Carroll Young
Paul Palmentola
Mischa Bakaleinikoff
Josh Westmoreland
Ira H. Morgan, A.S.C.
Henry Batista
James Crowe
Paul Donnelly
Herbert Leonard
Ray Rich
Seldon White

Running Time: 73 minutes

Filming begins October 4, 1949
Completed October 13, 1949
Copyright Date: July 30, 1950; Renewed August 1, 1977
Release Date: July 1950 (Premiere in Los Angeles April 27, 1950)
First Showing in Canada: January 29, 1951

Captive de la jungle [Belg]
Captive parmi les fauves [Fr]
Die Dschungelgöttin [Gr]
La laguna della morte [It]
A Lagoa dos mortos [Pg]
La Mujer Leopardo [Sp]

Synopsis

Jungle Jim agrees to search for a wild white girl thought to be the daughter of missing archćologists. A local missionary believes that the missing scientists were sacrificed by a witch doctor cult in the forbidden Lagoon of the Dead. The Bokonji cult is headed by Hakim, and Jim's involvement coincides with the return of the tribe’s young chieftain, Mahala

Treasure hunter Barton, is also looking for the lagoon — for its treasure.

While Jim and Mahala are hot on the trail of the leopard girl, Hakim comes upon Barton diving for treasure. The latter seizes the opportunity of playing Jim and Hakim against each other. He promises the witch doctor not to interfere with the latter’s plans to kill his adversaries.

Meanwhile Jim and Mahala find Joan. On their way back, they are captured by Hakim and Jim falls over a cliff. The intrepid adventurer survives and races back to the lagoon where Hakim is preparing to sacrifice Joan, Mahala and a few of the latter’s loyal followers. Jim releases them underwater, but is forced to fight Barton. The latter drowns when he becomes entangled in his gear, and his men desert. Jim, Mahala and the tribesmen, aided by a horde of monkeys that have been summoned by Joan, attack and vanquish Hakim’s witchmen. Hakim himself is killed by Jim, who hurls him into the lagoon where he drowns. Joan, before leaving the jungle, turns the treasure over to Mahala and his people.

 
Commentary

This film for years might have been titled Jungle Jim and the Mystery Girl, because the eponymous Miss Lhoest never made another film, and accordingly was not required to join SAG (the Screen Actors Guild). Sadly, I learned a little more about her when I chanced upon her obituary on the Internet. 

Born January 31, 1931 in Hollywood, California, Anita Lhoest began swimming at the age of four and was already locally known by age six. In 1947, she won a national championship in the 100-meter freestyle, set a national record in the 440-meter freestyle event, and was considered a likely prospect for the 1948 Olympics. Two years later, Katzman grabbed her for the title role in Captive Girl. She already knew Johnny Weissmuller from their association with the Los Angeles Athletic Club. Her acting ability, considering she had no theatrical background, was promising.

She was to star as Daisy Mae in a film based on the comic strip Lil Abner, but it was never made. She won the role over Marilyn Monroe.

She studied History at the University of Southern California, and spoke fluent French.

A natural beauty, Anita was featured in Esquire magazine

Married three times, Miss Lhoest's interests included the piano, the cello, which she played with the Los Angeles Women's Symphony Orchestra, animals and travel, and she continued to swim daily until that was curtailed by pancreatic cancer. She passed away in Hermosa Beach September 19, 2000 at the age of 69.

Once again a tiger appears in the African jungle, a mistake that Katzman would rectify two years later in Voodoo Tiger, in which the tiger would be imported. To call the animal, Miss Lhoest would whistle to it. The whistle would be reused in Pygmy Island, Jungle Moon Men, and in the Jungle Jim TV series. A reasonable facsimile can also be heard in the MGM film Many Rivers to Cross (55). I have not yet discovered who the talented chirper was who furnished the warble. But here it is for anyone interested in hearing it. The whistle

The pressbook hyped about the climactic scene in which a horde of simian pals of Miss Lhoest rush to her rescue, stating that “ten handlers supervised the tricky and intricate scene which took an entire day to film.” In actual fact, some South-East Asian stock footage that had been previously used in the 1936 Dorothy Lamour film The Jungle Princess was used and interspersed with this exciting sequence, Katzman had several monkeys filmed in close-up shots suggesting the battle with the witchmen. The original footage probably came from one of Frank Buck's (or sim' lar) treks to Borneo or Sumatra.

Prior to the film’s release in July, 1950, Johnny was on a 20 week tour with his Watercade. The first six dates were supposed to conclude with a swimming-talent-beauty contest, the winner getting a lead role in the next Jungle Jim film, Pygmy Island. Johnny would interrupt the tour in June to do the film before returning to the tour. Of course, nothing came of the contest, since Ann Savage was chosen to play the female lead in Pygmy Island.

And before the release of a media event added to the promotional potential of the film. The sportswriters and sportscasters of America voted Johnny the greatest swimmer of the first half century. The pressbook made note of it, and during Johnny’s tour, he stopped off at Windber, Pennsylvania, where his “adopted” home town went all out for him, including the posting of signs to declare him a native son.

Buster Crabbe once again surfaced as one of Johnny’s antagonists, the treasure hunter Barton, who “DROWNS!” while trying to do the hero in. For more information on this legendary Olympic swimmer, see the commentary on Swamp Fire (46).

Undoubtedly miscast as the mad witch doctor who drowns in his own sacrificial lake — at least from a physical perspective — was superb character actor John Dehner (né Forkum). His Nordic features could not be hidden despite the fact that it was a B/W film. In a TV guide interview in later years, Dehner seemed slightly embarrassed that his appearance in Captive Girl was mentioned.

Dehner (1915-1992) had a lengthy and productive career in many areas of show business. He started out in New York City on the stage, but soon gravitated to the west coast where he became an animator for the Walt Disney studios. Indeed, he can be seen in that role in the pseudo-docufilm Behind the Scenes at Walt Disney Studio (40), a film that made use of actors like Alan Ladd and Frances Gifford as Disney employees, and John Dehner, who WAS one.

During the war, Dehner followed General Patton around as a publicist. This led him into radio work, first as a newsman, then into music, and naturally as an actor.

His voice became a recognizable staple on radio shows like Gunsmoke and Have Gun, Will Travel. He made his first big screen appearance as an actor in 1944, in the film Hollywood Canteen, and thereafter appeared in dozens of films, playing all types of characters, although the majority of them were on the wrong side of the law. His fellow thespians readily acknowledge his professionalism, and he typified in the best sense that well known statement that “there are no small parts, only small actors.”

In the early 50s, he appeared in a number of Columbia westerns, such as Cripple Creek, Gun Belt, and When the Redskins Rode. It was during this period that he was “borrowed” by Katzman for his role in Captive Girl.

By the mid-50s, he began adding numerous TV credits to his inventory. And in addition to many top-notch westerns, he lent his presence to Perry mason, 77 Sunset Strip, The Aquanauts, The Twilight Zone, Surfside Six, Hawaiian Eye, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Ron Ely's Tarzan, Mission: Impossible, Mannix, The Immortal, The Magician, The Night Stalker, The Adventures of Ellery Queen, Columbo, Quincy, Hart to Hart, and Hardcastle and McCormack. His dry sense of humour even found an outlet as a regular on The Doris Day Show.

Emphysema and diabetes claimed the life of this multi-talented gentleman in February 1992, just six days before his 77th birthday.

Rick Vallin appeared once again, this time as a native chieftain returning to his tribe after spending years studying in the white man’s school. For more information on him, see the commentary on Jungle Jim.

As a minor bit actor at Columbia, Norman E. “Rusty” Wescoatt (1911 - 1987) often appeared as a henchman to the principal villain, first in serials from 1947, and then in the studio’s B-films like Last of the Buccaneers, When the Redskins Rode, Hurricane Island, Brave Warrior and Thief of Damascus.

He also appeared in four consecutive entries of the Jungle Jim series, beginning with Captive Girl. He was given screen credit for all but the last, Jungle Manhunt, in which he played uncharacteristically a native, but as usual, one of the “bad guys.”

Wescoatt first gained prominence as a swimmer at the University of Hawaii where he purportedly won 20 letters. He swam from San Francisco to Oakland, California in 1935 in two hours and five minutes. By 1936 he was into wrestling, but was defeated for the first Junior Heavyweight championship in November 1937 by Oki Shikina. Rusty always met a timely demise at the hands of either the hero, or one of his would-be victims. One of his last appearances on the big screen was in The Three Stooges Meet Hercules (62). Among his many TV credits are the early westerns like Hpalong Cassidy, The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, The Roy Rogers Show, The Gene Autry Show, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, and later Maverick. His last TV appearance was as a blacksmith on The Legend of Jesse James, which aired in November 1965.

Another minor actor (actually from Asia Minor), although far more prolific than Wescoatt, was Frank Lackteen (1894 - 1968). The scrawny, cadaverous actor began his minacious brand of performing in 1916, and continued to do so for most of his career. His accent, even though unplaceable as to origin, was nevertheless unmistakable, and he prowled the movie sets as an Arab, Indian, Latin or aborigine. In later years, he appeared in a number of Columbia's comedy shorts, a couple of which involved The Three Stooges.

Playing in the jungle serials Jungle Girl (40) and Congo Bill (48), he menaced first Frances Gifford, then Cleo Moore, but he always got his come-uppance before it was too late.

As an elderly villager in Captive Girl, Lackteen departs from his usual villainous role, and defends the young chief, Mahala, against the would-be usurper, Hakim. Five years later, Lackteen would help close the Weissmuller series, as a semi-bad guy in Devil Goddess.

Reviews

Motion Picture Herald

As another in the series of "Jungle Jim" pictures from Columbia, this has Johnny Weissmuller in search of a beautiful young girl who was orphaned as a child by the murdering of her parents at the hands of an evil witch-doctor. She is eventually found and the savage and his men are killed. At the same time Buster Crabbe enters the scene as the villain in search of lost treasures and provides additional obstacles for Weissmuller to surmount.

Except for some good animal shots, which have little to do with the development of the story, and some underwater photography, the picture emerges as a routine adventure film at best. It was photographed in sepia.

Sam Katzman produced and William Berke directed. Carroll Young wrote the screenplay based on the newspaper feature, "Jungle Jim," as present by King Features.

Variety

Jungle Jim, in the person of Johnny Weissmuller, is at it again, this time in "Captive Girl," a yarn about a white leopard goddess who uses a tiger as a pet. For juve trade, it is satisfactory.

Stock tale sends Weissmuller into the jungles to locate the goddess before a native witch doctor can find her. Also mixed in with the plot is Buster Crabbe, an unscrupulous adventurer seeking treasure at the bottom of a sacrificial pool. Between Crabbe and the witch doctor, Weissmuller has his troubles trying to find the goddess and before he can wrap up the case he has to be aided by a horde of monkeys and a native king.

Weissmuller does okay by Jungle Jim, as does Crabbe by his role. Anita Lhoest, a third swimming name, makes a trim blonde goddess. Rick Vallin, native chief; John Dehner, the mad witch doctor, and others answer demands of the Carroll Young script.

William Berke's direction gives the sequences that are not stock a good pace, but overall unfolding is slowed by continued reprisal of stock footage. Producer Sam Katzman permits the footage to be prolonged far beyond its natural course by repetition and decisive scissoring is needed to trim 73 minutes down to requirements of secondary market. Okay lensing in sepia was contributed by Ira H. Morgan and the other credits are standard.

[Unknown]

"Switch: Credit someone at Columbia with coming up with a refreshingly new plot twist in"Captive Girl," the forthcoming Jungle Jim adventure which features three super swimmers - Johnny Weissmuller, Anita Lhoest and Buster Crabbe. To put it simply, Crabbe the film's villain gets his just deserts by drowning."