Running Time: 69 minutes
Completed June 30, 1950
Copyright Date: February 9, 1951; Renewed April 1979
Release Date: April 1951
First showing in Canada: July 9, 1951
Working title Jungle Menace
La Charge sauvage [Fr]
Hölle am Kongo [Gr]
Furia del Congo [It]
Fúria no Congo [Pg]
Furia en el Congo [Sp]
Ronald Cameron, posing as a territorial policeman, crashes his plane near Jungle Jim’s home. Rescued by Jim, he concocts a story according to which he is trying to find a missing professor Dunham, who was in this territory doing some research on a rare animal called the Okongo. Jim agrees to aid in the search.
At the Okongo village, they encounter Leta, who, in the absence of her kidnapped husband, leads the women of the tribe. They are determined to find and free their men. Convinced of Jungle Jim’s sincerity, Leta accompanies him and Cameron on the search.
En route, Cameron kills one of the natives who escaped, and another escapee is killed by a leopard. Finally, Jim has to contend with a desert spider of immense size during a blizzard. But eventually, they locate the professor.
While Jim chases one of the renegades, Cameron unwittingly confesses his real identity, and Leta escapes before he can stop her. He takes the professor back to the camp, while two of his men pursue Leta. She is rescued by her women, and together they prepare to aid Jungle Jim.
Jim tries to release the prisoners that night, but Cameron has foreseen this and has laid a trap. Jim is captured and forced to lead the bandits to a herd of Okongoes.
Jim tricks Cameron into shooting at him in a tree, and this causes a stampede. A desert storm adds to the confusion, and the prisoners are able to escape. In a general melee in which Leta and her women take part, the bandits are killed, and the professor is rescued. A feast is planned to which Jungle Jim promises to return after helping the professor to return to Cairo.
Fury of the Congo was the first Jungle Jim feature I remember seeing as a first-run film. I recall perusing the entertainment section of the Saturday newspaper and spotting the ad that read Here Come the Amazons! Right away I was hooked. My memories returned to Tarzan and the Amazons, and I envisaged a hidden city and warrior maidens clad in leopard skins. I intended to be there at the Downtown theatre Monday morning to see Fury of the Congo and its companion feature The Man from Planet X.
|A July 9 ad from the Toronto Daily Star 1951|
I arrived in time for the 9:00 a.m. opening, and if memory serves, had to watch the Sci-Fi film first, but I liked it. It was an unusual film that had its own eery mood. But I was there to see my idol Johnny Weissmuller as Jungle Jim. Then it came on, and I was surprised to discover that these women were not real amazons, but a gaggle of femmes whose mates had been kidnapped to hunt down a strange animal called the Okongo that narcotics thieves were after for their own nefarious reasons.
Still I enjoyed the film, and spent most of the day there. That was the era of the continuous showings, and the ushers didn’t care who stayed and who didn't since during a workday the audience was minimal. But it was July 9, 1951, and school was out for the summer. When I finally left the theatre, it was dark; I had spent the whole day there. Needless to say, I knew the film quite well by the time I left. It was to be added to my other favourite Jungle Jim films — The Lost Tribe and Captive Girl.
The only thing that puzzled me as a nine-year-old was the fact that after the “amazons” rescued Leta from her pursuers, the band headed in the direction from which Leta had been running, but moments later the women were back in the cave preparing to leave to help free their men, and Leta was not there. Of course, years later I realized that this was an editor’s blunder, no doubt caused by Katzman’s desire for a rushed product, but at the time it simply made no sense.
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As Katzman was working on Pygmy Island, he told the Hollywood Reporter in his own inimitable way: “I’ve put in a call for two dozen Amazon dames.” He was referring to the next Jungle Jim film, Fury of the Congo.
Cast as the chief’s mate was lovely Sherry Moreland, who had come to Hollywood via Broadway, where she had had some theatrical experience in shows like Blithe Spirit, Yes, My Darling Daughter and Over 21. She did a commendable job in this low-budgeter, and was recognized for it by the critics, but she was a lower-rung Columbia contract player, and spent her time on screen in a couple of two-reeler comedies, one of which was titled Nursey Behave, and in When the Redskins Rode as Jon Hall’s love interest. A year earlier, she had appeared in Rocketship X-M (50) as the screaming, blind Martian woman, and a year later she had a brief and uncredited role in the Abbott & Costello vehicle Lost in Alaska (52) and then in the cult classic Mesa of Lost Women (53). A decade later she made a Spanish film called Pyro (64), to be followed by Git! (65). While her credits include Stop! You're Killing Me! (52) and A Night in Heaven (83), in both these films either she’s hidden in a crowd scene, or more likely her appearance remained on the cutting room floor. She also had a couple of shots at television in The Cisco Kid and The Adventures of Superman. But like so many of the heroines in the Jungle Jim series, not much has been seen of her since.
William Henry was cast as the leader of the villains. This was his first appearance with Weissmuller since 1936. For further information, check the commentary on Tarzan Escapes.
Henry’s chief aides in the baddie department were Lyle Talbot and George Eldredge.
Talbot had been a Hollywood staple since the silent era, and was part of the gang that formed the Screen Actors Guild.
Born in 1902, Lisle Henderson was “kidnapped” from his teenage father by his grandmother, when he was but four months old. She felt his father was too young to care for an infant.
Starting out as a magician, he gravitated towards acting and joined several stock companies before settling in Hollywood. (Hollywood was his grandmother’s maiden name by the way.) His first contract was with the Warner Bros., where he played villain and hero alike. Throughout his lengthy career, he became a film regular, and like many actors of his ilk, never felt that a role was beneath him.
Ubiquitous on television, he became Ozzie’s next door neighbour in The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and also appeared regularly on The Burns and Allen Comedy Show. Indeed, despite the fact that he portrayed a villain more often than not, his preferred genre was comedy, especially in live theatre.
In 1984, his children contacted the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce hoping to have a star set up for him on the Walk of Fame, but the Chamber wanted $2500, and Talbot declined the honour saying “There are far lesser lights than I enshrined there.” Indeed, the Walk of Fame has become laughable of late. Like so many other aspects of Show Business, it has become a publicity ploy, and seems to have little to do with merit.
Talbot made his final screen appearance in 1995 in the film The Haunted World of Edward D. Wood, Jr., and passed away on March 2 the following year. He is the father of actor/producer Stephen Talbot, who produced a PBS documentary called The Case of Dashiell Hammett, in which Lyle played Hammett.
Like his brother John, George Eldredge was equally at home playing a villain or good guy. His career began in the mid-thirties and he played essentially in B programmers and serials. He is a convincing villain in Fury of the Congo, and plays just as convincing a good guy in Jungle Jim in the Forbidden Land (52), making his final appearance as the Commissioner in Valley of Head Hunters (53). His last screen appearance seems to have been in a film called Air Patrol (62). On television he popped up throughout the 50s chiefly in children’s westerns.
Senior citizen Joel Friedkin makes his only jungle appearance as the kidnapped professor. Born in 1884, Mr. Friedkin started his film career in 1940, and throughout the decade appeared in mostly B westerns. One of his last films was in the Ronald Reagan film Bedtime for Bonzo.
Supporting Sherry Moreland on the Amazon front was Guatemalan actress Blanca Vischer, who had managed to garner some minor footage in films starting in 1932. She appeared with the Argentinian tango king Carlos Gardel in the Mexican film El Tango en Broadway (34) a year prior to his untimely death in a plane mishap. In 1935 Fox’s Darryl Zanuck borrowed her from RKO for a small part in A Message to García, allegedly to replace Rita Hayworth who was put on an eight-week layoff. She also appeared in the Three Stooges comedy short Cuckoo Cavaliers (40). Oddly enough, she was one of 54 celebrities whose black and white photo was placed on English Ardath tobacco cards in 1939. Outside her Spanish language films, her roles went mostly uncredited. The last appearance I have for her was in the Rock Hudson film Gun Fury (53).
Of all the minor actors appearing in this film, John Hart rates more than a passing mention. The handsome actor had developed his thespian interest when, as a senior elementary school student, he played the miser Scrooge in The Christmas Carol. Then at South Pasadena High School, he and fellow student Bill Beedle (a.k.a. William Holden) decided to study drama despite the fact that the course was being taught by an “old buzzard.” (Hart’s words)
Soon he and other hopefuls were working at the famous Pasadena Playhouse where Hart’s mother often appeared to review a play. His affability and charm ingratiated him with the people with whom he came into contact, and this helped get him into the studios.
His first memory as a film actor was in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Buccaneer (37). He had been earning eight dollars a week as a truck driver, working six days a week, when luck smiled on him, and he was cast in a small part in the film. The famous director took a liking to the charming young man, and kept him on salary for three or four months, although there were no great parts. Later when Beedle became a film star as William Holden, he too took time to find work for his high school pal.
In 1938, Hart was under contract to Paramount, and found himself saddled with a producer who insisted on searching for just the right vehicle for the young actor; consequently, he had few roles. It was only after Hart left Paramount that regular work started coming his way.
Then came the draft. Since this was prior to Pearl Harbor, draftees were allowed to choose the branch in which they wished to serve. Being an avid skin-diver and surfer, Hart chose the Coast Artillery, a branch that would keep him near a beach. And having entered the service with some military experience, he quickly advanced to the rank of 1st sergeant. He spent the next five years in the service.
He was first sent to the Philippines and Okinawa, before being seconded by some military brass, anxious to use him to produce entertainment for servicemen. He was transferred to an Air Force post in Texas, and given almost carte blanche to work on the project.
To get the performers he needed, he went to New York, where friend Morey Amsterdam helped put him in touch with the burlesque circuit. It was from there that comics and gals were found for the show. The resulting entertainment was rather raunchy, although not quite as lewd as the chaplain felt, the latter regularly trying to have the show shut down. Finally, the camp colonel put a leash on the chaplain, and the show continued to be immensely popular with the GIs.
During his stint in Texas, Hart got a furlough to go to Hollywood where he helped make some training films at the Hal Roach Studios. Following the Surrender of Japan, Hart found himself stationed there. He never wore his stripes in public, fearing it made him too tempting a target. To help pass the time, he organized a spectacular show with the help of an art director, a good friend from the Pasadena Playhouse. It had an orchestra with singers and dancers. The show played all over Japan. He was quite proud of the fact that he could go into an airplane hangar and within three hours turn it into a theatre.
Following this project, he returned home and left the service. He had lost a lot of weight, and was wondering how to get back into the movies when another good friend, Jon Hall, came to the rescue. The latter got him a small part in Universal’s The Vigilantes Return (47). Hart stayed on salary for six weeks. But then he was at liberty again. By now, Jon Hall had got the lead in a Columbia film Last of the Redmen, and he got Sam Katzman to hire Hart as his stunt double. This was the beginning of his association with the penny-pinching producer. But while other studios paid twice as much, there was much more steady work at Columbia. These words have been echoed by Pierce Lyden, who also became a fixture at the studio.
And Hart remembers and admires Lenny Katzman especially, the son of Sam’s brother Dave, saying he was one of the nicest guys, another statement wholly endorsed by Lyden.
In addition to working as a stunt double, Hart also got acting roles, occasionally starring, but usually uncredited, in Katzman’s low budgeters, especially the serials. His first major one was in Jack Armstrong as the title character, and his last one was in The Adventures of Captain Africa (55), also as the title character. This serial was supposed to be titled The Phantom. But after filming it, Katzman discovered he did not have the rights to the comic strip, and had to change the title and the character.
And in addition to Fury of the Congo, Hart had uncredited roles in films like Jungle Jim in the Forbidden Land (52), Thief of Damascus (52), and scores of others.
Other actors whom Hart got to know quite well were Rick Vallin and Rusty Wescoatt, and when he returned from shooting Hawkeye in Canada, Hart was saddened to learn that Vallin had become addicted to prescription drugs, and had completely changed from the wonderful person he had known in younger days. Vallin passed away in 1977.
When television opportunities came along, Hart had a regular role in Fury with Peter Graves, William Fawcett and Bobby Diamond. Then he replaced Clayton Moore in The Lone Ranger, when Moore was having salary disputes with the producers. Finally Hawkeye came along, and he made 39 episodes. During the first year it was released, it made the list of the top twenty shows, but because of bickering between the producers and the sponsors, it was discontinued. So Hart returned to California with his Canadian-born wife and bought a nice house.
When he wasn’t in films, he was making them. He says he made dozens of travel films, three about Hawaii.
His final major endeavour was as associate producer of the popular TV show Quincy, starring Jack Klugman, in which he was involved in post production.
Luck was on his side once again, when a heart attack nearly ended his life. He says that he had been declared clinically dead. But he survived, and following bypass surgery, Hart was able to resume a normal life once again, becoming the spokesman for Hunt-Wesson’s Manwich.
John Hart passed away in September 2009. One thing he told me over lunch was this: “I never really had a chance to be a good actor, but I got the job done. And I did it believably.” — I think that says it all.
Though slightly under par for the Jungle Jim series, Fury of the Congo packs enough excitement and color to please the juvenile and action fans. Sam Katzman, as producer, gives the film a satisfactory mounting and utilizes to advantage stock shots of animals and special effects, one of which, a desert wind storm, is pictorially superb. The direction of William Berke is geared to lure as many thrills as possible from the fumbling amateurish script. Johnny Weissmuller is his usual righteous Jungle Jim, a man who protects himself and his friends with his physical prowess and knowledge of the wilds.[...]
Sherry Moreland is good as the native girl. She is
attractive and shows promise as an actress. William Henry is slickly
villainous, and Lyle Talbot, Joel Friedkin and George Eldredge give
Motion Picture Herald
This latest Jungle Jim picture produced by Sam Katzman is largely juvenile in appeal. Its major asset is the fact that it is based on a well known comic strip and Johnny Weissmuller, the erstwhile Tarzan of the films, is very much in evidence as the hero of the piece. William Berke directed the screenplay by Carroll Young.
Weissmuller rescues a pilot following a crash landing. William Henry, the pilot, passes himself off as a police inspector assigned to find Joel Friedkin, a biochemistry professor, who has disappeared. Henry is actually the leader of the narcotics ring that has captured the professor and is forcing him to make a drug from a gland excretion if the Okongo, an animal sacred to a tribe that has been enslaved by the gang.
Weissmuller, after a series of narrow escapes from both the gang and a fantastically large desert spider, manages to effect the capture of the gang and the death of its ringleader. The natives are free again.
Latest in Columbia's Jungle Jim series, "Fury of the Congo," shapes as mediocre filler fare at best. Johnny Weissmuller, in title role, is pitted against the countless perils which the comic strip's followers might expect to befall their hero, but the story is just too slight to hold interest. Film's overlength doesn't help, either.
Carroll Young's script pits Jungle Jim and some five dozen African natives against a gang of narcotic smugglers. Latter group has hi-jacked a scientist to the wilds of Africa in order for him to tap a certain gland of a rare animal which releases the narcotic fluid. Natives, hi-jacked at gun-point to locate the animals, consider the creatures to be holy. Jim is just naturally against any evil doings and therefore a natural ally for the natives. After dodging knives and bullets, then tangling with a giant desert spider, a tiger and quicksand, Jim rights the wrongs, the crooks are either captured or killed, and peace returns to the natives and the land.
Neat production mantling usually associated with the Jungle Jim series is lacking here, the exteriors looking quite unlike Africa, and a series of stock shots included for no apparent reason. Direction, too, is off, and goes overboard in forcing the action. Final 15 minutes of footage finds entire cast -- both human and animal -- running furiously and aimlessly about the screen.
Weissmuller is spotted to okay advantage as Jim and receives competent support from remainder of cast. Top features of pic are topflight camera work of Ira H, Morgan, and stint of Sherry Moreland in femme lead. Actress, cast as a sarong-clad native gal, combines good looks and sex appeal with a convincing performance.
Variety (a second review)
A mythical animal and a mythical drug springboard Jungle Jim's latest adventure in "Fury of the Congo." results just get by as program fare for the smaller situation.
The animal is the Okongo, a jungle hybrid. Seems when it eats a narcotic jungle plant the drug takes on added potency during digestion. A gang of smugglers are after the secretion and kidnap a bunch of Okongo-worshippers to help in rounding up the hybrids.
Johnny (Jungle Jim) Weissmuller gets wind of the plot while helping to look for a missing professor, also prisoner of the heavies. After battling leopards, monstrous desert spiders, sandstorms and the villains, the hero brings tranquil peace again to the Congo.
Director William Berke and Carroll Young's script keep the players constantly walking and running as a substitute for genuine story movement. The substitution reaches its climax in the finale when all factions chase each other -- native women coming to free their husbands and sweethearts, already escaping the heavies, Jungle Jim chasing William Henry, the top villain, and stampeding Okongoes chasing them all, with a sudden sandstorm adding to the frenetics.
Sherry Moreland does a comely native girl and aiding Henry's dirty work are Lyle Talbot, George Eldredge and others. Joel Friedkin is the suffering professor.
Ira H. Morgan lenses the Sam Katzman production, and camera work, along with other technical credits are standard for the budget.
“Jungle” Sam Katzman takes a lunch break with his “Amazons.”
Tamba loves his human pals.