Cast and Credits

Johnny Weissmuller
Nora Blakely
Prof. Carl Blakely
Nels Comstock
Joseph Leopold
Ralph Dixon
Teinusi
Nkruma
Sarabna
Chief of the Kirundis
Malu, Chief of the Matuas
Henchmen

Bit

Himself
Angela Stevens
Selmer Jackson
William Tannen
Ed Hinton
William M. Griffith
Abel M. Fernandez
Frank Lackteen
Vera M. Francis (a.k.a. Viejah)
Max Reid
Paul Marion [cameo]
John Cason, George Berk(e)ly, Lynton Brent

Sue England


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


Sam Katzman
Spencer G. Bennet
George Plympton
Dwight V. Babcock
Leonard Katzman
Henry Freulich
Paul Palmentola
Henry Batista
Jack Erickson
Sidney Clifford
Mischa Bakaleinikoff
Leon Chooluck
Harry R. Smith

Running Time: 70 minutes

Original Title: Demon of Fire

Shooting begins December 14, 1954
Completed: December 21, 1954
Copyright Date: April 8, 1955; Renewed Jan. 25, 1982
Release Date: Oct. 1955

L'…nigme de la jungle [Fr]
A Deusa pag„ {Pg]
La Diosa pagana [Sp]



Synopsis

Johnny Weissmuller leads Professor Carl Blakely and his daughter Nora into Kirundi land to search for a missing scientist, Ralph Dixon, who they believe has become involved with the fire-worshippers.

En route, they encounter Joseph Leopold and his men who are illegally in the territory searching for lost Arab treasure.

Meanwhile, the natives are preparing a human sacrifice to the fire demon. The latest “flame goddess” is the betrothed of Teinusi, a friend of Johnny’s. The pair manage to rescue the girl temporarily, but she is soon recaptured and given to the fire demon, who turns out to be the missing professor.

Leopold and his men find a chest of treasure and try to leave, but are captured and killed by the natives.

When the natives try to sacrifice Nora and Teinusi at their village, Dixon distracts the villagers, while Johnny releases them. Then the fire demon warns the Kirundis to leave their village before a volcano erupts. They follow his advice. Later, in gratitude for his having saved them from the eruption, the natives turn over to Dixon the treasure that Leopold had unearthed. He plans to turn it over to his museum back home.

Commentary

The final film in the Weissmuller-Katzman series used the cut-and-paste technique. And the casting of Angela Stevens as the femme interest brings to mind the chicken or the egg debate.

There is a 5 minute sequence borrowed from Savage Mutiny involving Weissmuller and Stevens, so one has to ask: Did Katzman use the sequence because of Steven’s casting in the film, or was the attractive blonde cast because Katzman wanted to use the Savage Mutiny sequence. Whatever the answer, the voice overs necessary to convert the “Jungle Jim” references to “Johnny Weissmuller” were only a little better than those done for Cannibal Attack.

Aside from Savage Mutiny, Katzman lifted substantial chunks from Mark of the Gorilla (50), Captive Girl (50), Pygmy Island (50), Jungle Manhunt (51), Voodoo Tiger (52) and Killer Ape (53). He also made use of South Pacific hurricane, and volcano stock footage. These added to a lengthy introduction with three apes, one of which was an Asian orangutan, made up about fifteen minutes of the 70 minute time slot.

And for the last time as a group, the middle-aged, mostly out-of-shape Samoan contingent that had populated most of the earlier entries, were used as the Kirundi tribe with Max Reid given lines for the first and last time as the chief. They spent most of their time on camera chasing one or more of the various intrusive parties. And during the sacrificial sequence near the conclusion, a number of the Samoans were given close-up shots.

Paul Marion appeared in a cameo shot, possibly for the same reason – as a farewell.

Abel Fernandez plays the part of the Kirundi warrior who seeks Weissmuller’s help in rescuing his betrothed. Of Mexican-American origin, Fernandez was raised in East Los Angeles, and after a spell as a heavyweight boxer, spent most of his career on television first in the TV series Steve Canyon, and then as Treasury agent William Longfellow in The Untouchables. He also appeared on The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, Gunsmoke, Zane Grey Theater, The Adventures of Jim Bowie, Wagon Train, Have Gun Will Travel, 77 Sunset Strip, Bonanza, Daniel Boone, The Time Tunnel, Hondo, Batman and Lassie. Some of his big screen appearances include Rose Marie (54), Many Rivers to Cross (55), and Fort Yuma (55). After a long hiatus he came back in 1986 to appear in a film titled Quicksilver.

Fernandez’ betrothed was played by Vera M. Francis, a.k.a. Viejah. Despite a fair amount of media coverage from 1950 through 1953, the aspiring actress made very little headway, appearing in a few films that never made national distribution. And, curiously, her one line in Devil Goddess notwithstanding, a Variety film critic singled her out as someone to watch in the future.

Ed Hinton (1919-58) portrayed Joseph Leopold, the head villain. In the previous entry he had been one of Myron Healey’s henchmen. The rugged actor first appeared in Cry of the City (48) as a cop, and the following year did some stunt work in Samson and Delilah. He appeared mostly in westerns, and in the early- to mid- fifties he worked in a spate of Columbia films, including the Weissmuller vehicles. His final big screen role was again as a cop in Universal’s Gidget, released in 1959.

Hinton added to his income by working in television as well. Throughout the fifties he appeared in The Lone Ranger, The Adventures of Superman, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, Circus Boy, The Roy Rogers Show, Tales of Wells Fargo, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp and The Rough Riders. He also had a recurring role as special agent Henderson in I Led Three Lives, the anti-communist series starring Richard Carlson.

Hinton met an untimely demise in a small plane mishap in October 1958.

Selmer Jackson (1888-1971) first appeared in the 1921 silent film Supreme Passion. He made hundreds of films during his career, often as an authority figure. He often had no more than a single line of dialogue, as in Mighty Joe Young (49), in which as the sympathetic judge he has to condemn the giant ape to death. He played in many of the series films such as Charlie Chan, Perry Mason, The Falcon and Boston Blackie. During the Second World War, he showed up in numerous war films, and serials. This was the third Weissmuller film he appeared in for Columbia, the other two being Mark of the Gorilla (50) and Pygmy Island (50). He also appeared in the 1936-37 serial Jungle Jim starring Grant Withers. Jackson’s final appearance on the big screen was in 1960’s The Gallant Hours.

Unlike most other low-profile screen actors, Jackson appeared in only a handful of TV shows, such as Annie Oakley, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, and Bonanza.

One final note: On December 15, 1954, the Hollywood Reporter stated that Filipino actor Rudy Robles (1910- 1970) had been signed for a role in Devil Goddess. The only principal roles he might have been considered for would be that of Teinusi or the chief. So either he did not appear in the film, or he may have had an unrecognizable part as a member of the Kirundi tribe.

Reviews

Motion Picture Herald

Johnny Weissmuller delivers a characteristically convincing portrayal of a redoubtable jungle hero in the latest Sam Katzman adventure presentation.

This time around, Weissmuller leads an expedition, consisting of Selmer Jackson and latter's daughter, Angela Stevens, into the forbidden jungle-domain of the fire-eating Kirundis tribe, in search of a missing scientist (William M. Griffith). Renegade whites, headed by Ed Hinton, enter the scene at about this time, looking for a fabulous buried treasure in sapphires.

To make matters interesting, the Kirundis unleash open warfare against the invaders, both good 'uns and bad 'uns, and the ever-resourceful Weissmuller, aided and abetted by the educated chimpanzee, Kimba, has his hands full smashing his many ruthless enemies. In a climactic development, he rescues Miss Stevens as she's about to be sacrificed on a flaming altar and a volcano erupts as the Weissmuller safari dashes off with Griffith and the treasure. Admittedly, this is a tongue-in-cheek adventure, in the best old-fashioned traditional classification, but George Plympton's screenplay, based on a story by Dwight Babcock, wisely permits camera stress on the hero and his comic chimpanzee aide, and the younger elements in any audience — as well as the young in heart — will find much to hold dear.

Spencer G. Bennet's direction is standard for this type of Weissmuller series entry. Production credit goes to the enterprising Sam Katzman.

[Seen at the E.M. Loew's Theatre, Hartford, where a mid-morning audience, drawn out of the rain to see "Man from Laramie," registered strong attraction.]

Variety

† There was a time, long ago, when the Tarzan pix and similar adventure yarns used to be fun. But the latest Sam Katzman entry, "Devil Goddess," is a plodding, almost amateurish attempt at making a formula theme pay off. It uses a good deal of stock footage and relies beyond reason on the ability of Kimba, the chimp, to amuse by doing endless backflips.

† Obviously, it must pay for Katzman and Columbia to turn out these quickies (this one's in sepia color), but it's hard to believe that there are adults around for this sort of hokum. Even on a small budget feature like this, they could have done better.

† Ingredients of "Devil Goddess" are standard, although George Plympton's script with its almost incredible dialog is sub-standard. Story has Johnny Weissmuller braving the African jungles to guide a girl and her professor father to the land of the fireworshippers where, the professor thinks, an old friend has holed up and is playing "god." Simultaneously, a party of villains arrive on the scene, looking for a buried treasure.

† Caught in the middle are the spear-equipped natives who ever so often break out in frantic tribal dances. Eventually, the professor finds his man; the villains meet their due, and Weissmuller and his friends return safely.

† Spliced in on suitable occasions is footage involving a fight between a tiger and a hyena, which doesn't come off any too clearly; frequent eruption of the volcano with repeat shots of rocks tumbling down the mountainside, and a dance by native girls more reminiscent of Hawaii than Africa.

† Weissmuller plays his role wooden-faced and without much enthusiasm. Angela Stevens, handed some embarrassingly naive lines, looks pretty and immaculate throughout; Selmer Jackson, Vera M. Francis, William Tannen, Ed Hinton and William M. Griffith all go through their paces with only an occasional show of conviction.

† Spencer G. Bennet's direction — perhaps wisely — concentrates on Kimba and on the fire effects. Moppets will probably get a kick out of the long opening sequence when Kimba and his pals have a go at the bottle and show it. There are also some good occasional moments when the fake "god" appears to the natives and demands a human sacrifice. (It's actually the professor's friend trying to save the girls from being sacrificed). Incidentally, Miss Francis, who plays the maiden to be offered up to the fire god, rates future attention.