Special stunt with Leopard
Damoo Dhotre and his leopard Sonia
Le Trésor de la forêt vierge [Fr]
Das Geheimnis von Zimbalu [Gr]
Jim della giungla [It]
Jim das Selvas [Pg]
Jim de la Selva [Sp]
Jungle Jim guides woman scientist, Hilary Parker, on a
quest for a poison that holds the key to a cure for infantile
paralysis. The poison is used by a devil doctor cult in the hidden
temple of Zimbalu.
Ne'er-do-well Bruce Edwards joins the safari ostensibly as a photographer but in reality he wants the temple's treasure, and plans unsuccessful accidents along the way to rid himself of his companions.
The safari is subsequently captured by the devil doctors and Jim is left for dead in a lion pit, but he escapes and reaches the temple just as Edwards is taking a photo of the witchmen, who revere him because of his camera. Later, Jim's crow dislodges a part of the camera and flies away with it, rendering it useless.
When Edwards cannot photograph the chief, he is forced to kill him. While the witchmen chase him, Jim is able to free his companions. and in the ensuing battle, Jim and his friends immobilize the witchmen, but Edwards is killed in the melee.
With the treasure and the poison intact, Jim and company prepare to leave for Nagandi, promising Hilary that she can accompany them anytime.
When Johnny Weissmuller donned clothes to become Jungle Jim, he descended to the third tier of movie-making studios, i.e. from the top-of-the-line MGM, to RKO, and finally to Columbia. Not only did he join Columbia, but he found himself in the hands of Sam Katzman, whose forte was to get the most with the least.
Sol Lesser had spent as much as $800 000 to produce a Tarzan film, but Katzman was prepared to spend less than half that sum. And he had the films shot in little more than a week. With such a timetable, it is amazing that the films turned out as well as they did.
Some of the gimmicks used to keep the bargain basement price tag were oodles of stock footage, lots of 'cutesy' scenes with Weissmuller's animal pals (a white terrier named Skipper, and a raven named Caw-Caw), endless trekking to a Jungle March whipped up by film composer Joseph Dubin, and a cast of lesser known contract players, many of whom would go on to find lucrative careers in television.
The break-neck speed with which the films were strung together also account for a number of errors in scene sequencing, but one cannot fault the film editor too much, as Katzman controlled just about every phase of the editing process, and in the first film of the series, continuity breaks down as the safari enters the domain of the devil doctors.
Still, if audiences recognized the incongruities, they allowed them to pass unchallenged. Indeed, of all the films Katzman produced for Columbia, he proudly reported that Weissmuller's were the most profitable.
To promote the films, the publicity department strained credulity in a number of areas, calling to mind news baron Randolph Hearst's premise that stating something as fact makes it a fact, regardless of the truth. Consequently, when a Columbia publicist reported to film critic Shirle Duggan that Weissmuller was not doubled for his fights with the wild denizens of the jungle, or when the pressbook stated that special swimming sequences were devised to highlight Virginia Grey's champion swimming and diving skills, well, Spandex could not have been stretched more.
For the series opener, the name Kolu was borrowed from the original comic strip, but the character bore no relation to the original Hindu companion; rather, it was the name of a tribal chieftain and Jim's friend. The chief had a sister named Zia, played by Latin dancer, Lita Baron. According to an article in Scarlett Magazine, actress Acquanetta had been asked to star with Weissmuller in the series, but she did not wish to be tied down to a series and so declined.
Whether or not the role of Zia would have been more substantial with Acquanetta cannot be known, but the native characters of the first film were not reused in subsequent entries. Indeed, Jim was allowed to be a loner, with only a terrier and a raven as pets in the first few entries, to be followed by a chimp named Tamba, thus following in the Tarzan tradition.
The film starts out in documentary fashion, with the commissioner's narrating the incident that sets everything in motion. A native killed by a leopard is carrying a vial made of gold, and containing a jungle toxin, inducing paralysis, which is found to be a cure for polio when refined. The two catalysts explain Edwards' role and that of female scientist, Hilary Parker, whose ambiguous first name is a cause of some surprise when the jungle characters meet her.
Although romantic elements were hinted at, the hero retained his bachelor status, and this ingredient was laid to rest with the conclusion of this first film, despite the fact that a hint was given that Hilary Parker and the native leads might be around for a second adventure. Of course, this never came to pass.
Virginia Grey made her third appearance with Weissmuller, having already appeared in Tarzan's New York Adventure (42), and Swamp Fire (46). Film critics sympathized with her tough role, and especially the terrible dialogue she was saddled with. But in the pre-feminist 50s, it was probably the notion of a self-willed female scientist giving orders that was uncomfortable more than the dialogue.
The affection that her character gradually displays towards Jungle Jim in such a short time is perhaps less palatable, especially as Lita Baron's interest in the hero arouses some latent jealousy in the good doctor. Incidentally, Baron would play a similar role in Bomba on Panther Island (49) with Weissmuller's surrogate son, Johnny Sheffield, as the object of her designs.
Cast as chief bad guy was handsome George Reeves, prior to his television sortie as Superman. Born George Keefer Bessolo, his parents divorced early, and George was adopted by his mother's second husband, although this marriage didn't last long either.
Reeves’ interests included boxing and wrestling, as well as acting, and at 18, he joined the Pasadena Community Theatre, where he acted from 1936 through 1953, first under his own name, and later under his career name.
Although he had film experience prior to obtaining an important role in Gone With the Wind, it was because of this film that Jack Warner created his stage name, George Reeves.
And while he had potential as a major star, when he finally got a role that might have been the doorway to bigger and better things, the war came along, and Reeves, like so many other Hollywood hopefuls, joined the military.
By the time he returned to Hollywood, others in his boat had already regained their prestige and built solid careers. In the late 40s, George Reeves was doing roles in minor flics, such as Jungle Goddess and Jungle Jim, both from 1948. A year later, Sam Katzman put some armour on him and he was Sir Galahad in a 15 episode chapterplay.
Another Columbia film cast him, yet again as the villain, this time opposite Jack Carson in The Good Humor Man. With these programmers behind him, he went to an audition for a new television series about Superman.
The brass thought his facial strength was perfect, and despite the fact that numerous other actors had auditioned for the part, it was Reeves who got it.
He never realized that this good luck would make it virtually impossible to do other roles, and after seven years with the series, he was virtually unemployable. Despite the fact that he apparently had other projects in the works, one night in 1959, Reeves ended his life with a bullet.
Because of his zest for living, his many friends and co-workers felt that suicide was not an option for Reeves, and some even believe that foul play may have ended his life.
Critics noted that the actor seemed to have some fun with the villain's role in Jungle Jim, showing that he found it difficult to take the role very seriously. Whether it was his own idea, or the director's we'll never know. All one can say is that as no precedents had as yet been established, Jungle Jim allowed more leeway than the subsequent entries.
Zia, Kolu's sister, was played by Spanish-born Lita Baron, née Isabel Beth Castro August 11, 1929 in Almaría, Spain. She came to the U.S. at the age of four. In her initial foray into the world of show business, she adopted a single name moniker. As Isabelita, she sang with Xavier Cugat's Orchestra at the Trocadero before being signed by RKO for the film Pan-Americana (45). She also worked as a singer/dancer in Slapsy Maxie's Hollywood Night Club. Later she appeared in a number of Paramount Technicolor short subjects, one of which, Champagne for Two (47), was nominated for an Oscar. Other films include That's My Baby (44), A Medal for Benny (45), Club Havana (46), The Gay Senorita (46). Slightly Scandalous (46), and Border Incident (49). She also appeared with Sabu in Savage Drums (51). Her final bow on the big screen was in a Spanish film, Compadece al delincuente (60), as part of a dance team. Like so many other second leads, she moved over to TV and appeared on a number of shows, such as I Love Lucy (52), Frontier Doctor (59), The Texan (60), and Death Valley Days (66-68). In 1948, she married actor Rory Calhoun, but they divorced in 1970, undoubtedly a result of the handsome actor's extramarital indiscretions. Their marriage produced three daughters. In February 1999, she was honoured at the Palm Springs Walk of Fame, in California.
Portraying the faithful sidekick Kolu was former Monogram contract player, Rick Vallin . Of Russian extraction, the handsome Vallin started in films in 1938. His early appearances hinted at stardom, but he found himself working almost exclusively for the minor studios, in films with cowboy heroes or the East Side Kids. He usually played the best friend, or at least someone on the right side of the law. But occasionally he turned to the other side, as in the Columbia serial The Sea Hound (47) or Allied Artists' Bowery to Bagdad (55), in which he played alongside another Weissmuller regular, Paul Marion. In one Columbia serial, King of the Congo (52), he starts out on the wrong side, sees the error of his ways, and joins the hero, Buster Crabbe. His last film appearance was in The Quick Gun (64).
In the early days of TV, Vallin appeared in numerous series, mostly westerns like The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, Hopalong Cassidy, Cowboy G-Men, The Gene Autry Show, The Roy Rogers Show, Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill, Jr., The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Brave Eagle, The Adventures of Judge Roy Bean, The Adventures of Rin TIn Tin, Tales of Wells Fargo, Jefferson Drum, Cimarron City, Bat Masterson, Daniel Boone, and The Lone Ranger. He even teamed up with co-star George Reeves in a couple of Superman adventures. In January 1946, he ended his contract with Monogram, to freelance, but by June of that year he was in the U.S. Coast Guard. Later, he married Pat Flannery. The couple had a daughter in 1955.
Vallin passed away in 1977.
Rounding out the cast, Holmes Herbert played Commissioner Marsden. He narrated the opening sequence, a technique which was reused in the two follow-up films, with Herbert again as narrator. Tex Mooney played an unlikely Chief Devil Doctor, and Neyle Morrow began his visits to the Jungle Jim series as the native who is killed by a leopard while fleeing the devil doctors.
From the British Film Institute
"For those who like Johnny Weissmuller and films of the jungle, this is the sort of story to see, as it has all the ingredients to make an exciting film. It is adequately and realistically contrived, competently acted and directed and there are enough wild animals to fill a zoo. A restrained and unavowed romance is not without humour. It is a suitable film for the young and for the others."
L. A. Examiner
"Jungle Jim," [...] is the first of Columbia's new series with Johnny Weissmuller in the title role. While there are weaknesses in this first opus, there also is good reason to believe the younger generation will like it and its successors.
The plot is what one might expect in view of the comic strip - a search for treasure and a mysterious native poison in the tropic wilds - devil doctors and temple rites - wild animals and safaris - and a very light romance innuendo.
For the most part, Weissmuller is impressive as Jungle Jim. If the youngsters take to him in this role, as I think they will, Johnny is set for a number of years to come. He looks the part, the acting demands are not great and he still will have plenty of opportunity to swim. His voice is adequate rather than good.
One of the film's best features is Weissmuller's three
fights, with a crocodile, a lion and a leopard respectively.
I am reliably informed that no double was used in these sequences, which speaks well for trainer Curley and his animals as well as for the star's personal courage.
Excellent photography on a sepia film also is interesting...
"Jungle Jim" is completely juvenile and for that reason should get by in the Saturday matinee market. While filling its purpose satisfactorily for the kiddie field, producers might have attracted a broader market had they given it a bit more adult interest.
Picture is a blend of animal stock shots and typical jungle thriller story. Each has a maximum of interest for the youthful film fan. Plot boils down to almost a Tarzan in clothes, making it fit aptly to the Johnny Weissmuller ability in the adventure field.
Chattering monkeys, roaring lions, stampeding elephants and slithering crocodiles furnish both comedy relief and thrills as Jungle Jim leads a safari on a hunt for a jungle pyramid for treasure and a witch doctor's poison that might prove useful in fighting infantile paralysis. Jungle Jim fights a leopard, a lion, a sea serpent and witch doctors with expected agility while looking after his human charges on the trek.
Virginia Grey fits uneasily into role of femme scientist and George Reeves doesn't have enough footage as the heavy who tries to do the safari dirt so he can seize the treasure. Lita Baron is an attractive jungle miss and Rick Vallin is adequate as the native guide.
This is the first of a new series for Weissmuller, which are to be based on the cartoon character. Sam Katzman's production values are good for releasing intentions, as is William Berke's direction. Lensing, editing and other technical credits are capable.
...Johnny Weissmuller gives an engaging, easy-going performance of Jingle Jim, and George Reeves reads effective light comedy into his part as the heavy. Lita Baron is attractive as a native girl. Rick Vallin stands out as her brother and ruler of the tribe. It is not the fault of Virginia Grey, but the silly writing, that her part of a distinguished scientist comes across with the same conviction one might encounter if Betty Rowland were to undertake a reading of Shakespearean heroines.
William Berke's direction has some good touches, and he is singularly successful in getting charm from the quieter animal scenes. Lester White's sepia photography is up to par, and the art direction of Paul Palmentola generally shows some perception of jungle background, and the editing is efficiently accomplished by Aaron Stell.