Saturday, February 25, 2012

Jungle Queen – Chapter 2: Jungle Sacrifice


OUR STORY SO FAR: Ivan G. Shreve, Jr., humble Thrilling Days of Yesteryear blogger, has managed to put off writing about this cockamamie serial for nearly two years now, and…hang on a sec…this is supposed to be about what’s happened in the serial so far, isn’t it?  Start again…

Hoping to conquer British Middle Africa once World War II has started, Germany employs a sinister Nazi agent named Lang (Douglass Dumbrille) to lay the groundwork by establishing cahoots-tage with a corrupt native of the Tongghili tribe, Maati (Napoleon Simpson).  (Lang is also working with the beautiful but evil Dr. Elise Bork [Tala Birell], who is posing as a Swedish botanist.)  Maati is responsible for assassinating the judge of the Tongghili tribe, Tonga (George Reed)…though Tonga’s successor Godac (Clinton Rosemond) is unaware of this fact.  A mysterious “jungle queen” (Ruth Roman) known as Lothel (Tongghilese for “white butterfly”) tries to offer counsel, but Godac is a bit thick.

Meanwhile, in Old Blighty—the niece (Lois Collier) of famed explorer Alan Courtney is approached by the head (Lumsden Hare) of British Secret Service, known only as “Mr. X” (and that’s not Ken Thurston) to travel to Tambosa, find her uncle, and foil the Nazis’ scheme for winning the not-yet-announced war.  On her journey there, she meets up with agent Bob Elliot (Edward Norris) and his grease monkey sidekick Chuck Kelly (Eddie Quillan), who are also going to Tambosa on behalf of the U.S. Government.  The plane on which the three are traveling, however, has been sabotaged by enemy agents Krantz (Bob Stevenson) and Johan (Edmond Cobb)…and at last glance, was flying straight into a mountain…


I’ve got good news and bad news—the good news is that the two pilots (Leslie V. Conant, Tony Ellis) perished in the crash…which means that they have successfully escaped the rest of this cheese fest.  The bad news is that our heroes, Bob and Chuck, have emerged unscathed from the wreckage…and so has Pamela, though she’s a little out of it:

CHUCK: How is she?
BOB: She’ll wake up with a headache…otherwise okay…

All three of you have walked away from a fiery plane explosion…and the worst injury you’ve sustained amongst you is an Excedrin headache.  In-freaking-credible.

CHUCK: You know, this girl claiming to be Courtney’s niece worries me…
BOB: Maybe it’s true…how can the Nazis suspect us when actually we’re just travelers?
CHUCK: The Nazis ain’t bad hunters, Bob…maybe she’s a spy!  We don’t know if Courtney has a niece!
BOB: Could be…but meeting her on the plane could be a coincidence…

Or a stupefying plot contrivance.

CHUCK: Yeah, like you coming to meet Courtney in Tambosa…accidentally on purpose.

I’m barely two chapters into this thing and already Chuck is getting on my wick.  Fortunately, Pamela comes to in time to end this inane back-and-forth.

BOB: How do you feel?
PAMELA: I think I’m…still in one piece…we’re lucky to get out of that crash alive…
CHUCK: Yeah, but don’t ask me how it happened ‘cause I don’t know…

I imagine the writers of this serial are equally perplexed.

CHUCK: Anyway, we’re safe…
PAMELA: Boys, we aren’t safe here
CHUCK: Whaddya mean?
PAMELA: The middle jungle…the only territory in Africa left unexplored…

There might be lions.  Or tigers.  Or bears.  (Oh my!)  And as if on cue, our heroes hear the roar of a lion in the distance.  (There might actually be a lion—the print of this serial is so dark and murky it’s kind of hard to tell.)  The scene shifts to the daylight hours, where presumably after a nighttime hike, Bob, Chuck and Pamela stop for a breather.  But in the bushes ahead—headhunters!

BOB: What do the stars say if we meet the natives?
CHUCK: I don’t need astrology to give me the answer to that one…just stay clear of ‘em…
PAMELA: The Tongghili feel the same about you…

So I’m not the only one who thinks Chuck is an idiot.

BOB: How well organized are they?
PAMELA: More than you think…they’re controlled by an all-powerful judge…when the chiefs disagree, he makes the decision…
BOB: Then, actually—this judge rules all the tribes in the middle jungle, doesn’t he?
PAMELA: Yes…he derives his power from a secret that only he and his successor know…

Yes, you guessed it…the eleven herbs and spices used to make Kentucky Fried Chicken.  One of the natives watching the trio says something to his pal in Tongghilese (and since there are no subtitles nor do I have my Rosetta Stone software handy it will remain a mystery) and then disappears into the jungle, leaving his pal to keep watch.

PAMELA: So you see, it would be quite a nasty mess if the Germans organized the tribes against England
BOB: Or if some other power persuaded them to do it to help them…
PAMELA: It would be just the sort of intrigue that Germany would undertake, don’t you think?
BOB (laughing): You sound like a Nazi!
PAMELA: I say!  I was just thinking the same thing about you!

Boy…if I had a nickel for every time that happened to me.  Well, it’s up to Chuck to end this round of current events banter: “Nazis…unexplored jungles…wild animals—that does it…Tambosa, here I come!”

“We’re off on the Road to Tambosa…” (Okay, this might not play as well as a Hope-Crosby film…it would have to be funny, for one thing.)  But since it’s been a while since we looked in on the bad guys, the scene shifts to the headquarters of Dr. Elise Bork, faux botanist:

BORK: Well, Lang…you objected to me last night, listening at Chatterton’s…what about it now?
LANG: Not worth the risk…you only learned what we already suspected…that the English know that there are German agents in the middle jungle…
BORK: Ah…but suspicion is never fact…
DENKER: We know now what we only suspected before…
LANG: Oh, that’s the same as saying that I don’t know the night plane crashed last night because I didn’t see it…

If a Nazi agent falls in the forest…and there’s no one there to hear it…does he make a sound?

BORK: You have every right to believe that it is down…but can you be certain that Miss Courtney has been destroyed?
LANG: Well, I’m having natives check just to make sure…
BORK: Exactly…that’s why I was eavesdropping last night…to make sure…

Check and mate, Mr. Lang.  The subject then turns to botany—in conferring with her lackey Denker (Walter Bonn), we learn that Dr. Bork is developing a unique form of plant so as to throw off suspicion that she and her assistant are revolting Nazi swine.  Lang then takes the opportunity to upset the chess board:

LANG: …we’re having enough trouble with the English Secret Service as it is…but now, how about the Americans?
BORK: As far as we know, the Americans are sending no agents…
LANG: If they do…we could have another plane accident…
BORK: Correct…

“But seriously, Lang…the control of Africa depends on us here,” Doc Bork asserts, insuring that whatever transpires over the next eleven chapters the Germans are pretty much boned.  Because their success hinges on their influencing the election of the new Tongghili judge:

BORK: When will the new judge of the Tongghili be murdered?
LANG: As soon as he’s named his successor…
BORK: You guarantee, do you, that our man will be chosen?
LANG: I could yesterday
BORK: Why not today?
LANG: Lothel…the mystery queen of the jungle…


“See that girl/Watch that scene/Diggin’ the Jungle Queen…”  We are then whisked away to Tong-Gara, main village of the Tongghili tribes…where Godac, who became Judge after Tonga discovered a large spear protruding from his body, must decide between three men who are vying to be his successor:

GODAC: It is now my duty to decide which one of you shall take my place when I’m gone…always there are three candidates…where is the third?
(Maati, the conniving Tongghili who is secretly working as Bork and Lang’s confederate, races in to take his place beside the other two nominees…)
MAATI: I am here, Godac—our new Judge… (The three men then approach Godac) You know us, Godac—we whom are chiefs are named for your consideration…you know also that I once saved your life…


“Not that I’m expecting any favorable treatment…did I also mention I helped your daughter get a scholarship to Tong-Gara University?”

GODAC (addressing the nominees): Orbon…Kyba…Maati…

…and perennial Tongghili libertarian Ronba Paulti.

GODAC: …each of you is worthy to succeed me…but there is need for only one…Maati… (Kyba and Orbon [Jim Basquette] look at one another in disgust) Tongu, our founder, named the first judge and gave to him this sword…because I know the secret to this sword, I am now your judge…but…

Godac is interrupted by the sound of a gong, and there is a quick cut to everyone’s beloved White Butterfly running helter skelter through The Wall of Flame…

GODAC: The woman who walks through fire comes to counsel with us…open the door!

“And have an extinguisher handy!”  The doors to the “test room” are opened, and Lothel speaks:


LOTHEL: I come again to warn you…there are enemies in the middle jungle…they come across the wide waters…choose the candidate who knows no strangers…choose Kyba…I am called…Lothel…

“Paid for by the Knows No Strangers Political Action Committee.”  Lothel does her disappearing act, and there is a dissolve to the insidious Lang, who is receiving the latest skinny from Noma (Emmett Smith), one of the two natives who was peek-a-booing whilst our heroes were making their way through the middle jungle.

NOMA: The big bird…it fell in the jungle!
LANG: Did you find it?
NOMA: Yes, Bwana!  Then the trail of one woman and two men…I saw them!
(A slightly dejected Maati joins them)
LANG: You don’t look like a future judge to me…what happened?
MAATI: Lothel doesn’t like me…she chose Kyba…she said Kyba didn’t know strangers…
LANG: How would you like to prove to Lothel that you hate strangers as much as she does?
MAATI: Very much…Lothel makes me afraid…
LANG: I thought so…you listen what Noma has to say and I’ll tell you what to do…

Come nightfall, it becomes difficult to determine just what the hell is going on because, as I have earlier stated, the print of this production is horrible.  But apparently the two men on whom we’re depending for heroics in this serial are taking a siesta outside the entrance to a cave:

CHUCK: Hey, what are you wakin’ up for?  It’s the girl’s turn…
BOB: Aw, let her sleep…
CHUCK: I’d rather have you take over than her anyway…
BOB: She was so determined to take her turn that I agreed…and after all, Chuck—what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her…
(Pamela emerges from the cave as Bob finishes his chauvinist remarks)
CHUCK: What were you saying?
BOB: Uh-oh…
PAMELA: Thanks for the consideration, boys—but you forget I’ve stood watch on safari before…and I wake up on time… (She takes a rifle from a sheepish Chuck) It’s much more comfortable in the cave than out here… (The only response she receives is hesitation) Well…am I watching or are all of us?

Chuck and Bob shrug at one another like the morons we’re suspecting them to be…and they shuffle into the cave.  Once inside, the two men are still not convinced the lovely Pamela is on the up-and-up:

CHUCK: If she’s a spy, this is a swell time to double-cross us…
BOB: She might be a Nazi agent and still have no connection with the natives…

This last bit of dialogue sort of telegraphs what transpires next.  Maati and some of his native stooges approach the cave, and when one of them starts to make hypnotic sounds by scraping a rock with a stick, Pamela ventures off camera to investigate.  We then hear a scream, suggesting that for some odd reason the filmmakers could not afford an abduction scene.  The useless Bob and Chuck emerge from their cave cubby hole and upon discovering natives outside, start shooting at anything that moves.  After their first round of native genocide, they find Pamela has vanished along with the rifle—but they don’t know what to make of the situation, seeing as “there’s no sign of a struggle.”

Meanwhile, back at the struggle, Maati has fierce words for the now-captured Pamela:  “When your friends use all their bullets, my men will kill them…I will take you to Carka…soulmate Lothel, queen of the jungle—my friend!”  (Now as to “Carka”—that’s only my interpretation of what he said, because the soundtrack on this is horribly muddy.  At first I thought he said “Crocker,” but that’s silly because that’s what Telly Savalas was always saying on Kojak…except he pronounced it “Crockah!”)

Back at the cave, Bob and Chuck remove a rifle from one of the dead natives and soon deduce it to be a German Mauser—prompting Chuck to inquire: “Nazis?”  “Yeah, the same Nazis that girl’s probably…” Bob responds, but he’s interrupted by a native tossing a spear at his head.  (Unfortunately for us, he ducks.)  The scene is then plunged into total darkness, but we can hear much enthusiastic cheering activity from the natives and then stock footage of hungry crocodiles as Maati once again intones “Carka.”  There is a quick shift back to Bob and Chuck, who are frantically searching for a way out of their predicament (especially since they are low on ammo)…and then they are introduced to the Jungle Queen, who proclaims “I can help you…I am Lothel!”

LOTHEL: You did not find a way…but I came here through it…follow me…
BOB: Wait a minute…
LOTHEL: Trust me…I trust you…


Then back to the natives, who have trussed up Pamela to stakes and got an impressive bonfire a-blazin’.  Maati then tells Pam that once the fire burns out, “the Carka will come”—so I guess he was referring to those hungry critters after all.  Devoured by stock footage crocodiles…surely a fate worse than death!


4 comments:

Bill Crider said...

I hope my running the trailer today goaded you into this.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

I hope my running the trailer today goaded you into this.

I almost...almost...put this off again this morning. And then when I saw the trailer on your blog I knew there was no turning back.

"I am called...Lothel!

Bill Crider said...

I'm glad to be an influence for good.

Page said...

Ivan,
Whatever your motivation for doing this post on The Jungle Queen, I'm thrilled you leaped right in to it.

Putting the lines out there to entice us was brilliant! I haven't seen this series but it sounds so awful it's great!

Another creative and honest approach.

Page