Wednesday, August 29, 2012


The four JUNGLE JIM films I watched these past two Sunday afternoons sure brought back memories. Not of me watching them but of my uncles gathered in my grandmother's living room glomming an aging Johnny Weismuller during some family get-together while the ladies were gabbing in the kitchen and us kids were running around causing trouble. I was about ten at the time, and although films such as these weren't exactly tickling my fancy my uncles were all for 'em...after all, they probably were front and center for JUNGLE JIM back when these mooms were running at the low-rent theatres that were splattered across the area (although I do recall one of 'em remarking that he thought the film stock quality was good considering they were "made back in the thirties"!) and I know that they were more prone to go see BOWERY BOYS films rather'n some mushy love story because they always used to joke around 'n call each other "Slip" and "Satch" 'n stuff like that. No "Scruno"'s in sight, but then again I wouldn't've figured on that!

Of all the uncles in question only one survives, and although he ain't as active at 92 as he was a good forty/fiftysome years ago I guess he knows where his entertainment values lie. And it ain't in Lifetime dramas for women 'r Freddie Mercury specials on Logo either! Every time I stop over at his place it seems as if he has some episode of WALKER, TEXAS RANGER blarin' away. Sometimes I think that he has the only television set in the world that runs that show and nothin' but. I'll bet he still fervently remembers watching those JUNGLE JIM films on Sunday afternoon tee-vee but somehow I don't think he really misses those days. In many ways those times are the same one that he's living in now, only the troublemaking kids back then are now the troublemaking adults of today and really, if JUNGLE JIM ain't gonna be his escapism into something a little more cohesive for him then I guess WALKER will do just fine.

But hey, if my uncle ain't gonna carry on the fandom flame for JUNGLE JIM then it's up to a schlub like me! And one like you too if you just happen to go for funtime jungle adventure with a low budget yet a whole lotta packed thrills and stock footage that pads the films out just fine. I guess Weismuller was too old 'n chunky to play Tarzan by the late-forties, but at least he gets to stay in the jungle and pal around with an obviously young pseudo-Cheeta-ish chimpanzee named Tamba. And while he's at it, Jim does his part wailing the living daylights outta everything and everyone from rogue spies and shifty traders to a giant man who looks like a prototype for EEGAH!, and he does it with his trusty fists and knife with nada blood spilling all over his broad-chested shirt after garroting a black panther (of the feline variety!).

Never knew there was so much subterfuge goin' on in the jungles of Africa, but I guess if Weismuller hadda put up with nazis while Tarzan a good decade or so earlier he was bound to find communists there as well. And the way he punches it out with 'em I kinda wonder how we won the Cold War without him, though I do get the feeling that with him and the tribespeople actually witnessing an atomic bomb blast in SAVAGE MUTINY the whole pack of 'em weren't gonna be long for the world anyway!

Weismuller plays it monotone enough, especially when you consider that he now has to memorize complete sentences 'stead of mere words. And Tamba steals the show most of the time undoubtedly in a successful attempt to pad these churn outs to at least an hour's length...after all, for a good comedic reaction shot you can always count on an acrobatic, playful chimp that hasn't yet reached the age of slinging his own shit at passerbys!

'n yeah, I just know that your "kultured" friends are gonna pull out alla stops and nitpick about EVERYTHING in these movies from the scene where a bear rassles with a lion and naturally the rather caucazoid  natives who look more South Sea Islanders'n African...y'know, stuff I got over a good quarter-century back after my tastes for backlot b-mooms "matured". Hokay, have 'em have their laff riot...YOU go on enjoying these action-packed, plot-twisting JUNGLE JIM flicks while the rest rub themselves off while reminiscing about their ideas of "quality television programming" of the past which usually doesn't go back any further than NORTHERN EXPOSURE and I'LL FLY AWAY. Let 'em go around feeling superior while watching programs that might fit in with their own concepts of reality but are so phonus balonus that a true favorite like GILLIGAN'S ISLAND comes off as fact-based television in comparison. And if I have to dispense with my sense of reality when I see these films so be it. After all, I have to do the exact same thing whenever I tune in the nightly news so why should JUNGLE JIM be any different?

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