*Helen Stanton on screen credits
Running Time: 70 minutes
Original Title: Cave of the Pygmies
Working Titles: Jungle Jim and the Moon Men, The Moon Men
Shooting begins May 19, 1954
Completed: May 25, 1954
Copyright Date: Jan. 17, 1955; Renewed January 1982
Release Date: April 1955
La Déesse de la jungle maudite [Fr]
Herrscher des Dschungels [Gr]
La valle degli uomini Luna [It]
A Deusa da luna [Pg]
El Diamante negro[Sp]
Chief Nolimo’s son is captured by a tribe of
pygmies and taken away to the land of the Baku to be the high priest
of an ancient Egyptian cult, whose priestess Oma has lived for generations.
Johnny Weissmuller is guiding a pretty Egyptologist, Ellen Marsten, who is doing research, when he encounters Nolimo and some of his tribesmen, who are looking for his son. Also on the scene are Bob Prentice, the researcher’s uninvited suitor, and Santo, a shifty guide. The chief’s son, who has escaped from the temple, suddenly appears pursued by the ‘Moon Men,’ but dies after telling his father what happened. The pygmies are routed, except for their chief.
Eventually, the pygmies return and free their leader, capturing Bob into the bargain. Jim is hit by a dart and loses consciousness. When he comes to, he and Ellen follow the trail, but are waylaid by Santo and his henchmen, who take the necklace.
They in turn are ambushed by the pygmies who retrieve the necklace and destroy their vehicle. When two of his men become disgruntled, Santo kills them, and he and his henchman Max follow Johnny and Ellen to the location of the temple. Everyone is captured by the pygmies and when Santo tries to steal the temple’s diamonds, the group is condemned to be killed by temple lions.
Kimba, Johnny's chimp, manages to free them in time, but Santo and Max are killed by lions. Johnny forces Oma to come with them, because of the danger from the lions. But when she is exposed to sunlight, the priestess quickly disintegrates into dust. Nolimo arrives with his warriors to avenge his son’s death, but Johnny convinces him that the only evil doer was Oma, and she is no more. The Arribes and the pygmies can now live in peace.
Critics noted the borrowing of the theme from H. Rider Haggard’s She. And Katzman brought back Jungle Jim alumni Jean Byron, Bill Henry, Billy Curtis and Rory Mallinson for a second film. Indeed, the Hollywood Reporter recorded the signing of most of the principals only a day or so before shooting was to begin, which suggests that not much thought went into the hiring of actors for these films – just whoever happened to be available.
As Lee Sholem had a prior commitment, Charles S. Gould was brought in to direct, but despite the film’s potential, the pace was slow, and Weissmuller didn’t have a single fight with a denizen of the jungle, not surprising as Katzman set a record for this film: it was shot in just six days. A rather lengthy piece of stock footage involving archers hunting boar and a puma was pasted in, but this added nothing to the film’s continuity.
Helene Stanton was cast as an alluring and immortal BLONDE Egyptian priestess who had the troublesome task of securing a new mate each time her current one died.. Hence the pygmy moon men and their drugged darts. And just like the vampire, she could not expose herself to the sun’s rays without turning to dust.
Born Eleanor Stansbury, Stanton had taken singing lessons from the age of 13. When she was only 18, she sang in The Merry Widow. Later roles came in The Vagabond King, The Desert Song and Die Fledermaus. She sang for a time with the Cosmopolitan Opera Company in Philadelphia before going to Hollywood. She took the name Helene Stanton at the suggestion of gossip queen Louella Parsons. She also married silent screen star Kenneth Harlan, who was 30 years her senior. She had also sung in a Las vegas nightclub.
Stanton's performance in ...Moon Men was certainly no worse than any of the other actors. Her rather brief filmography can be given here in its entirety: New Orleans, Uncensored (55), Jungle Moon Men (55), The Big Combo (55), Sudden Danger (55), Four Girls in Town [she wasn't one of the four girls] (56), and Phantom from 10 000 Leagues (56). She may have appeared on television, but I have no data on that.
Of Tahitian parentage, Ben Chapman’s chief claim to cinematic fame was as the title character of Creature from the Black Lagoon (land version). He was born in the U.S. while his parents were on vacation, and although he was raised in Tahiti, he returned to the States in 1940 and stayed. His work as a Tahitian dancer in nightclubs led to a bit part in MGM’s Pagan Love Song. Then the Korean war came along and he interrupted his fledgling career to serve in that theatre. Following his return, Universal-International talent scouts recruited him as a stock player, which ultimately led to his selection as the “Creature.” The 6' 5" Chapman contrasts with the diminutive size of the pygmy moon men, who capture him as Helene Stanton’s next high priest. He escapes, but because of a potion given him by the priestess, he dies in his father’s arms.
Chapman lived in Hawaii, a retired real estate executive. He liked to reminisce about his moment of fame, and regularly came to the mainland to sign autographs at Science Fiction or Horror Conventions. He passed away in February 2008.
Sharing villain honours with Helene Stanton is the ubiquitous Myron Healey.
Healey (1922- 2005) entered films in the early 40s, and after a few inauspicious parts became known as the villain with the hero looks. While mainly in westerns, he managed to show up in other genres to threaten the likes of Bomba and Johnny Weissmuller. Occasionally he was cast as a hero, as in the serial Panther Girl of the Congo (55) co-starring Phyllis Coates. On television, no one has been seen more than Healey, and it would be impossible to imagine all his credits. Suffice it to say that he has appeared in virtually every western series made. His last big screen appearance to date was as a doctor in Little Giants (94). Healey also wrote film scripts, and was active on the film convention circuit, appearing all over the country.
Michael Granger (a.k.a. Grainger) (1923-81) plays the chief who plans to make war on his diminutive adversaries after his son is killed. In films since 1952, he appeared in the Allied Artists film Hiawatha, then Tarzan and the She-Devil (53) starring Lex Barker. Although he appeared in films for Universal Pictures and one or two independents, the major part of his output was for Columbia, where he menaced Richard Denning in Creature with the Atom Brain (54). His deep voice made him a natural for opening narration as in Masterson of Kansas (54) and Cannibal Attack. (54). His last big screen role was in Anatomy of a Psycho (61).On television, Granger appeared in Tales of the Texas Rangers, Gunsmoke, Science Fiction Theater, General Electric Theater, Broken Arrow, Have Gun WIll Travel and Rawhide.
The Hollywood Reporter
This Sam Katzman production was made on a small budget for the small fry Saturday matinee trade; but even evaluated on this basis it fails to meet a minimum standard, having been negligently written and executed. The script by Dwight V. Babcock and Jo Pagano would strain the credulity of the most ingenuous gum chewer, and its content barely spreads itself over 3 or 4 reels, the balance of the film being comprised of stock footage.
The cast rises to the occasion, delivering the stilted dialogue with the perception it deserves, with little interference from director Charles Gould.
"Jungle Moon Men" will contribute little toward winning back to the theatres a discriminating young audience that can enjoy better stuff free on television.
Motion Picture Herald
Johnny Weissmuller, who made his film debut playing Tarzan and then went on as Jungle Jim, here for the first time in his career plays simply Johnny Weissmuller, a role for which he is admirably suited. In all other respects the film closely follows the pattern in narrative development and locale established by the Jungle Jim series. Thus, there is no reason to suspect that "Jungle Moon Men" will not attract and delight as many youngsters as the previous films.
The title, as might first be suspected, is not actually a contradiction in terms. The villains of this piece are a tribe of pygmies who live in the jungle and worship a strange moon goddess, Helene Stanton, a beautiful blonde with a formula for eternal life, who is several thousand years old, but doesn't look a day over 27. Jean Byron, who would appear to be — and probably is — in her early twenties, asks him to take her into a forbidden part of the jungle so that she may track down material for a book she is writing, a sequel to her previous volume, "The Historical Basis of Ancient Superstition." Also involved are Bill Henry, Miss Byron's suitor who follows her to the jungle and almost ends, against his will, as the moon goddess' consort, and Myron Healey, a no-good jungle trader w ho tracks Johnny and party to the goddess' lair with an idea of getting some of her diamonds. In the climactic sequence Johnny and his friends are imprisoned by the goddess and about to be fed to her lions when Kimba, Johnny's articulate chimpanzee, comes to the rescue. The story, which runs a terse 70 minutes, has been padded, but not too extensively, by some effective shots of wild animals on the prowl. The youngsters will also like a couple of sequences in which Miss Byron and Henry hunt boar and lion with bow and arrow.
Sam Katzman produced and Charles S. Gould directed from a screenplay by Dwight V Babcock and Jo Pagano, based on a story by Pagano.
Writers of this Johnny Weissmuller jungle starrer borrow generously from H. Rider Haggard for plot material, but film fits into the groove of past offerings in the Sam Katzman series and should do the same type of biz in program situations.
Weissmuller this time becomes involved with a high priestess who discovered the secret of eternal life during her existence with the ancient Egyptians and has lived down through the ages. Now she's queen of a tribe of Pygmies known as the Moon Men. Johnny meets her when he and a femme writer doing research on a white civilization supposed to have flourished in the region centuries before, force their way into the temple to rescue a white man taken to be her high priest.
Star is up to usual demands of his title role, and Helene Stanton attractively portrays the priestess, afraid to leave the temple for fear that Ra, the Sun God, will destroy her the same as he killed all her people in ancient times. Finale shows her emergence into the open and crumbling to dust when Ra beams his rays upon her. Jean Byron does a good job with the writer role, and Bill Henry is the kidnapped victim. Myron Healey is in as a heavy out to get the diamonds from the temple, killed by guardian lions, and Billy Curtis handles his Pygmy leader role in okay fashion. Kimba, of course, appears for usual amusing footage as the star's chimp companion.
Charles S. Gould had his work cut out for him to bring any realism in his direction to the Dwight V. Babcock-Joe Pagano screenplay, but manages occasionally in between unintentional laughs.