Sunday, March 11, 2012

Jungle Queen – Chapter 4: Wildcat Stampede


OUR STORY SO FAR: After a temporary “rain delay,” we continue our weekly wackiness in the “middle jungle” with the production team reminding us that the setting is…


…this is reassuring to know, because sometimes it is entirely possible to mistake one’s surroundings for a soundstage on the Universal Studio backlot.  Footage of Bob Elliot (Edward Norris), the intrepid jack-of-all-trades asked by the U.S. Government to investigate strange doings in Africa (though I strongly suspect they just wanted him out of the country because they’re planning a surprise party); Kyba (Clarence Muse), the wise native chosen to rule the Tongghili people even though he doesn’t have the sense to get out of a collapsing temple; and Lothel (Ruth Roman), the white virgin of the Nile mysterious queen of the tri-state jungle area, is interwoven with two other characters in the serial: Pamela Courtney (Lois Collier), the shy and demure debutante who has come to Africa’s middle jungle because “it might be a frightful lark!” and Chuck Kelly (Eddie Quillan), Bob’s none-too-bright sidekick.

CHUCK (to Pamela): Do you suppose Bob is anywhere near that volcano?
PAMELA: I know how you feel, Chuck—it’s dangerous for Bob, but he is doing the right thing…
CHUCK: By risking his life to save a native just because that mystery girl wants him to?  Oh, come again, Pam…

Girls are so silly!

PAMELA: Look…the Germans can’t control the middle jungle tribes until that particular native is killed…why are we here in Africa’s jungle?

A question I’ve been asking myself ever since I plunged into this ridiculous production.

CHUCK: First, to find your uncle…then help him stop Nazis!
PAMELA: Bob is already “stopping Nazis” as you put it…by saving this Tongghili…
CHUCK: Yeah, yeah…I know…but I still don’t like him having all the fun…

Back at the temple rubble, Lothel uses her brute Jungle Queen strength to hold up two pillars so Bob can drag Kyba’s sorry native keister out of the wreckage and to safety.  You know, I’m starting to think this “secret of the sword” business has a lot to do with the fact that Lothel’s pretty white dress never seems to get soiled running around in the jungle or flouncing about in temple rubble: Calgon!

LOTHEL: The Mountain of Fire is silent now…and Kyba’s gods have not destroyed him…
BOB: Kyba will still believe that his gods condemned him…
LOTHEL: It was enemies from across the wide water that caused the Mountain of Fire to speak!
BOB: No man could start such an eruption!
LOTHEL: Search in the jungle and you will find that I tell the truth…

I love the expression on Kyba’s face as he regains consciousness…he does a “feets don’t fail me now” exit that would do Mantan Moreland proud, just in time for Bob to turn around and find him gone, long gone.  Lothel tells Bob: “Kyba returns to Godac…let him go.”  Bob turns back in her direction and finds that she has split the scene also.


Well, we need a reminder that there are minor and inconsequential players to deal with in this serial, so we are transported to London and the offices of the mysterious agent known as “Mr. X” (Lumsden Hare).  A courier arrives…

"Swordfish!"
…and hands X a message from “the code office”:

MR. X: From Tambosa…I’ve been expecting this report…up till now, I had hoped for a miracle
UNDERSECRETARY: Miracles don’t happen in Africa

I learned this watching Casablanca.

UNDERSECRETARY: …I suppose it’s about Pam Courtney…
MR. X: Yes…up till now, there’s been no trace of her or the plane…
UNDERSECRETARY: Has her uncle been located?


As Mr. X prepares to answer his lackey’s (George Leigh) question, the camera pans in for a close-up on a candelabra hanging on the wall behind him.  We learn that there is a bug planted in the tchotchke and that a Nazi spy (Eugene Gericke) is listening in on X and the undersecretary.  (I say, old sock—terribly bad manners!)

MR. X: No…Alan Courtney hasn’t returned to Tambosa yet from his safari…it’s imperative that we get somebody to him and question him as soon as possible…British security in the middle jungle is at stake…

I’d be more concerned about the fact that your offices are teeming with Nazi vermin, X old crumpet.  (A quick call to Terminex would take care of that problem.)  “Crushing the Nazis there quickly depends on information that only Courtney has,” X informs his assistant.  (If the fate of the free world is riding on this…we are seriously boned.)


I love that guy listening in.  At times you can almost detect a faint smile on his face, as if he’s thinking: “Boy, I didn’t think I’d ever have any use for those classes in shorthand!”


And of course, we need a subtle reminder that there are Nazis in this serial, so the scene shifts to Berlin, where Obergruppenführer Heinrich von Doodler is still working on the finishing touches to his skull-and-crossbones.  I tried to get a screen cap of this last week...


…this is a little better—I wanted you to see the ashtray this guy is always flicking ashes into…it’s gi-normous!  “A report from our London agent, Your Excellency,” announces Herr Heel Clicker.

DOODLER: London?  I was expecting a report from Africa!
CLICKER: This concerns Africa, Your Excellency…Mr. X is sending someone else into the middle jungle to find Alan Courtney…

Same thing every week…you have a shot of the globe in Doodler’s office (signifying that the Germans are heckbent on world domination), and then there’s a cut to the office of faux botanist Dr. Elise Bork (Tala Birell), who always pulls up in that stock shot of the Woody on the grounds.  Now, just before Dr. B comes into the office to have a chinwag with her lackey Denker (Walter Bonn) and subordinate Lang (Douglass Dumbrille), Lang and Denker appear to be having a conversation which we’re only privy to the tail-end of…and Lang says, shaking his head: “That’s one thing I’ve never been able to understand.”  I have no idea why this struck me so funny, except that it sounds like actor Dumbrille ad-libbed it.  (“Doug, just say something…talk about your golf game or crabgrass or…”)

BORK (entering the room): Well, Lang?  The volcanic eruption was even more successful than we’d bargained for…now what?
LANG: Godac will announce Maati as his successor in the morning instead of Kyba…
BORK: What about the girl and the two Americans?
LANG: According to Maati, their trail was wiped out by the volcanic avalanche…
BORK: Their trail?  What about them?
DENKER: If they escape, they’re still in the jungle…Maati will kill them…
BORK: Lang…are you sure you can guarantee control of the middle jungle?
LANG: Positively…Maati’s so greedy for power that he’ll agree to anything
BORK: In that case, we should do our part in taking Africa over for Germany

Bork is interrupted by the ringing of a phone—and if cell phones had been invented at this time, you can bet the ringtone would be Deutschland Uber Alles.  What I found amusing about this (not my joke, I mean, the thing in the serial) is that the telephone is concealed in the brick wall of a fireplace, and is accessed by Bork’s moving of the brickface in front of it.  (Yeah, you probably want to keep that line of communication a secret seeing the ol’ botany complex is constantly being overrun by jungle police on patrol.)  On the other end is the mook we met last week, Weber (Louis Adlon), who relays vital German information to Fraulein Botanist—Get Alan Courtney!

BORK (as she hangs up the phone): Confirm the Berlin order…
LANG: What’s the matter, Elise?
BORK: Alan Courtney…
(Lang and Denker smile while exchanging looks)
DENKER: Closing his mouth shouldn’t be too difficult…
LANG: That’s right…Maati’s warriors have located Courtney’s safari…
BORK: Then Maati will attend to Courtney immediately…and make sure about the girl and the two men…

We now return to Two Guys, A Girl and a Jungle Clearing:

PAMELA: Rather hopeless, isn’t it…

I’m relieved that I’m not alone in that assessment.

CHUCK: That mystery queen would be a great stooge for a magician…she’s becoming a menace!
PAMELA: But she did save our lives!
CHUCK: Yeah, so now Bob does anything she wants…like us looking for evidence to prove Nazis started the eruption last night…

Chuck and Pamela are interrupted by Bob’s command to come and get a gander at what he’s discovered—evidence to prove Nazis started the eruption last night…


BOB: Lothel was right!
CHUCK: I guess she is!  Natives don’t wear shoes

No…that footprint could clearly have only been made by Nazi footwear.  Our heroes decide to follow the prints in the volcanic ash to see where they lead, but stop suddenly when they hear:

CHUCK: Drums again…they’ve been warming up all morning!

Well, they have a gig tonight at the Tonggara Holiday Inn.  Bob muses that the ruckus means that Kyba has returned to the main village, and so the scene shifts to Godac’s court:

MAATI: The drums tell us that Kyba lives…but the Mountain of Fire condemned him last night!
KYBA: Maati is right…a stranger overcame me…and carried me from the death which the Gods had decreed…a stranger, Godac—whom Lothel had led to me…choose Maati as your successor…

“A tall, dark stranger means danger…”  Okay, I don’t have time for any more allusions to the Buck Owens classic—for when the gong is sounded, Lothel must speak!

LOTHEL: Enemies from across the wide water caused the Mountain of Fire to speak!  You trust me no longer, Godac…but you trust the man called Courtney…consult with him before you name your successor!


I noticed this time that when Lothel turned to leave and the door to the Room of Fire shut so quickly afterward you could see her white choir robe billow to the point where the door almost trapped it.  (“Um…fellas…little help here?”)


In a remote part of the middle jungle, natives working Courtney’s safari prepare traps for unsuspecting animals as Alan Courtney (Boyd Irwin) and his partner-in-taxidermy, Jungle Jack (Budd Buster) look on.  Serial fans are probably aware that Universal made Courtney’s sidekick the subject of a cliffhanger in 1943, The Adventures of Jungle Jack…starring…um…hang on a sec…I’ve just been informed that the title of that chapter play is actually The Adventures of Smilin’ Jack.  (Which I have seen, and it’s actually one of Universal’s best serials—though I will warn you that if you’re expecting it to adhere faithfully to the comic strip created by Zack Mosley you’re in for a long wait.)

JACK: Well, Mr. Courtney—this should give us all the cats we want…
COURTNEY: With this and our other traps, it certainly should…


Here, kitty kitty kitty… They continue to monitor the situation as various leopards and lions fall prey to stock footage traps while the same music you hear as Dracula (Bela Lugosi) hypnotizes Wilbur Gray (Lou Costello) in Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) is heard in the background.

JACK: Back to Tambosa, sir?
COURTNEY: That’s right, Jungle Jack…and as quickly as possible…

Meanwhile, several miles away from our mighty hunters…Chuck is still pissing and moaning.

CHUCK: Well, here we are…the end of the footprints and no sign of nothin’!

Never a tiger trap when you need one.  But Bob has discovered some wire in a clearing up ahead that can only be Nazi detonation wire, so they know they’re on the right trail!  (Okay, it only sounds like I’m being facetious—they also discover an impression in the earth that could only be where a Nazi detonation plunger previously stood!)

CHUCK: Even if the blast didn’t start the explosion, the natives would think that it did…if somebody could talk with them!
PAMELA: Uncle Alan can!
BOB: How far is it to his camp?
PAMELA: We…couldn’t make it before dark

Girlfriend, I’ll be surprised if you make it before the end of this serial

CHUCK: Fine!  We’ll get a fresh start in the morning…
BOB: Uh-uh…we’ll go right now
CHUCK (shifting his pack): Well, that was a quick day…

I wish this serial was.  In a part of the jungle fairly close by, there’s deviltry afoot!

LANG: Well, I got here as quickly as I could—what’s the trouble now?
MAATI: Godac, the judge of the middle jungle, listens to Lothel and plans to speak to Bwana Courtney…
LANG: Well, if Godac talks to Courtney…you’ll never be judge in Godac’s place…
MAATI: I will kill Bwana Courtney…

Maati…big guy…no offense, but that seems to be your fallback plan for everything…

LANG: Lothel has warned your people against strangers… (Unsheathing a knife) Why not let Godac think that a stranger killed Courtney?

Maati takes the knife and runs off in the direction of Camp Courtney as Lang looks on in approval.  That Maati…he’s so freakin’ pliable.  (“Tell me about the rabbits again, Bwana Lang!”)  Meanwhile, our heroes continue to trample jungle vegetation until they are stopped when Chuck calls out: “Hey, look—Queenie!”

CHUCK: I’m beginning to think she’s haunting us…
BOB: Shut up, Chuck…

Thank you!  (“And don’t say another word until the end of the serial!”)

BOB: What is it, Lothel?
LOTHEL: The man called Courtney is in great danger…there is a shorter way to reach him!  Come!

Outside Courtney’s camp, Maati, Noma (Emmett Smith) and a native who really doesn’t need to be identified because he won’t make it to the end of the chapter alive (sorry there wasn’t a spoiler alert) keep tabs on Courtney and his entourage.  Maati hands Unidentified Native a knife as we hear the A&C Meet Frankenstein music again.

JACK (to Courtney): You know, I was just thinkin’…times don’t change much…in ’14, we were waitin’ for the Germans to move…it’s ’39 now, and we’re doing the same…
COURTNEY: Unfortunately, we haven’t a strong world organization to take care of nations like Germany…what else can we do?
JACK: For a change…move first
COURTNEY: Yes, but that will make England the aggressor…and you don’t want that…
(In the bushes, the native prepares to throw a deadly knife…)
JACK: Well, something ought to be done…nations haven’t any more right to start wars than I have to murder somebody…  (The knife hits Alan squarely between his shoulder blades and he gives out with a groan) Whad’ja say?


“I said, ‘Someone just knifed me in the back, you bloody jackass!’”  (Lucky bastard.  We’ll still have to endure this torture for another nine weeks.)  Jungle Jack whips out his pistol and begins firing in the direction of the knife-thrower, dropping him like a sack of flour.  The noise attracts Bob, Pamela and Chuck and they race toward the camp…but Lothel turns in the opposite direction.  (When the going gets tough, the tough do laundry…)

Jack and several of the safari’s sherpas carry the dying Courtney over to a table in a makeshift medical tent as our heroes arrive on the scene…

PAMELA (leaning over him): Uncle Alan…what happened?
BOB (to Jack): I’m Bob Elliot…this is Chuck Kelly…we came from the United States to talk to Mr. Courtney…
JACK: I’m afraid you got here a little too late…

Yeah, Bob’s response about this time should begin with “No” and end with “Sherlock.”  As he draws his final rations, Courtney briefly opens his eyes and sees his niece:

COURTNEY: Pam…what are you doing here?
PAMELA: Our friend Lord Bell… (She quickly corrects herself) Mr. X wants to know about Tonga’s murder…

Nice going, Pammy!  You just outed Mr. X!  So much for the security clearance…

COURTNEY (gasping) Secret of the…sword of Tongu is…Lothel…


“Look…there’s this dough, see … there’s all this dough, 350 G’s…do you hear what I'm sayin'? 350 G’s! In the park in Rosita…Rosita Big State Park, just south of Dago…in Santa Rosita…it’s in this box buried under this… (cough) …buried under this big W…you’ll see it…you’ll see it under this …under this big W…”

NOMA (as he and Maati continue to watch from the bushes): The girl and those two men escaped the avalanche…
MAATI: Kyba declared that a stranger rescued him…who else could have done it except one of those men?  The girl must die!  She is the niece of Courtney…
NOMA: Yes…Godac will listen to whatever she tells him…and the men?
MAATI: If our people capture them…those two will be blamed for everything
NOMA: You’re clever, Maati!

What a kiss-ass.

NOMA: They’re Lothel’s friends…
MAATI: She will defend them…and be thought guilty, too…even Kyba will accuse them and her!

And if Plan A doesn’t work…well, we all know what Maati’s Plan B is.  Jack offers his condolences to Pamela by reassuring her that “Mr. Courtney was my best friend, Pam.”

“I know, Jack,” she tearfully replies.  “Mine, too.”

PAMELA: I was sent to Uncle Alan by England
JACK (indicating Bob and Chuck): These men say they came from the United States to see him…
PAMELA: That’s right…
BOB: Let me ask the questions, Pam…

Oh, bro-ther… “Pam, why don’t you go out to the kitchen and make us all some coffee like a good girl?” Sexist swine…

BOB: Do you know the secret of the Sword of Tongu?
JACK: Only Mr. Courtney knew that…and he never told anybody…’cause he promised he wouldn’t…
BOB: Do you know Lothel?
JACK: No…I never saw her…

Oh, you gotta be jinkin’ me…how could you miss her?  “Mr. Courtney and I talked about her now and then…I imagine he musta seen her—he never said he did.”  (How many white women are running around the jungle in white choir robes anyway?)  Before Bob and Chuck get the opportunity to play good cop/bad cop with J-Jack, there is a commotion over by the tiger pen—Maati will free the animals, and Noma will put the grab on the still-distraught Pamela.  As Operation Midnight Snack gets underway, Jack and our heroes race to where the animals are being held…and J-Jack instructs the group to “…wait here—I know how to handle cats!”  (“I run as fast as these legs can carry me, that’s how I handle them!”)  Pandemonium is the order of the day as a large, hungry lion leaps in the direction of a screaming Pamela!

3 comments:

Stacia said...

I think I recognize Eugene Gericke from something. I Was a Male War Bride maybe?

The fact that this takes place in the MIDDLE jungle is hilarious to me.

Jeff Overturf said...

I'm ashamed to admit I've been away from my blog reading for a few months. Now that I've been dazzled with "Serial Saturdays" I wonder how I could ever NOT!

Again, long lost bre'r, we have another passion in common.

I'm looking forward to catching up and reading these!

Anonymous said...

jungle queen contains stock footage from other movies including a blooper.islands of of fiji area has that giant square gong.so what.main footage is lois collier tied to tree crock sacrifice scene.the fuzzy long shot is from a older movie,i seek tittle of.the actress is tied to exact tree lois collier is tied to.fair attempt to match footage.anyone out there no the name of that older movie i seek.the serial yes full of stereotype but nazis just as important.they are the villians and the white jungle queen helps the black people out.camp dialog in this case works.these people are speaking the only english they learned.