Forgotten Films: Tarzan and the Trappers (1958)

Who can resist the promise of "wild jungle action?"

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 163rd in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

Welcome back, my friends. It seems like forever since I got to tell you about films and shows you did not want to remember.

I have been incredibly busy. Since the last posting, I accepted a new job, visited Alpine, Texas, where the job is located, placed an offer on a house, gave my own house some serious cleaning so it could be shown to potential buyers, loaded up 250+ boxes of books, movies and the like and got them into the garage (with some much needed and appreciated help from close friends), had the rear window of my one year old car destroyed by hail because said boxes were in the garage, drove to Austin with a taped up window during a rain storm to prevent having to wait a month for replacement, attended a work conference in Corpus Christi and moved into a dorm apartment in Alpine while waiting for the house to sell so we can buy the other house.

Get your programs right here! You can’t tell the score without a program!

As a result of all the scrambling, watching films and reading books have not been high on my priority list! But now things are settling down. Still need to sell the house and buy the new one and move stuff out here, but all that is doable. Consequently I have told Sanford that I should be back on a more reliable schedule of providing these little columns. We shall see.

This week I decided to watch an old Tarzan movie starring Gordon Scott. I had never seen many of his outings as the jungle lord, but I thought he looked the part and acted semi-literate as opposed to the Johnny Weissmuller monosyllabic Tarzan, whom I watched and enjoyed as a kid.

This “film” was made in 1958 and released in Iran (if we can believe IMDB) but was not shown in the U.S. until 1966. I put the quotes around film because this is a conglomeration of three television pilots later re-edited into a very episodic release. The pilots were presented to the three networks at that time and no one chose to bite, so producer Sol Lesser tried to recoup some of the money.

The plot is pretty standard TV fare – white hunters invading tribal lands and killing or capturing animals for zoos and trophies. Tarzan stop bad men. Then, the brother of the bad man wants to hunt down Tarzan with the help of an evil guide looking for the treasures of a lost civilization. City found; no treasure. Bad guys stopped.

As a holdover from the Weissmuller days, we have a lovely Jane (Eve Brent), who does little, and a son, Boy (Rickie Sorensen), who provides some young interest and is always available as a potential captive/hostage. Cheetah the chimp (billed as Chetah) is possibly the best actor in the group, particularly in the final half of the film. Scatman Crothers makes an appearance under the name Sherman Crothers as Tyana, one of the tribal chiefs.

I watched this because I recently saw the preview for the new Tarzan film due this year. (Previews for that look good, so I will be watching.) And also because I have a signed Gordon Scott photo of him as Tarzan. (Thank you Barry and Terry for that wonderful gift so many years ago!) While Scott, who made six Tarzan movies between 1955 and 1960, is better than some of the many actors who played the role, he’s not particularly memorable in this outing.

So, be warned this isn’t a spectacular Tarzan film. Watch at your own risk. As always, your mileage may vary depending on your nerdiness. Ungawah!

Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.


Forgotten Films: White Pongo (1945)

White Pongo: Sometimes you're in the mood for a one-take ape flick.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 148th my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

It’s been a while since we did a good ape film here in the Forgotten Films. (And with this week’s choice, it will still be a while before we have a “good” ape film.) Whenever I am in desperate need of a short, interesting film to review, I go to my collection “Beyond Kong,” which contains eight ape movies. Over the years I think I’ve seen and reviewed four of them, including this one.

White Pongo will never be confused with anything other than a quick B film made cheaply and designed to bring some dollars into the studio coffers. The studio in question being Sigmund Neufeld Productions, headed by Sigmund who produced the film and was the brother to its director, Sam Newfield. Sam is legendary in Hollywood for having turned out somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 pictures in a 30-year career. Turn them out fast and cheap was his mantra.

White Pongo fits that mantra quite well. It has a flimsy story, an expedition trying to find an albino gorilla that might be the missing link, as well as a forced love story/triangle. But the one thing it does have is Ray “Crash” Corrigan in the title role.

Ray Corrigan was one of the best of the Hollywood Gorilla Men who worked in all the B flicks and comedies playing apes and gorillas. Corrigan owned his own suits and worked as a gorilla man early in his career, starting with 1932’s Tarzan the Ape Man with Johnny Weissmuller. Mark Finn could wax poetic for several pages here on the subtleties of Corrigan’s gorilla work. Let’s just say, he was among the best. When he finally retired from stunt work and the gorillas in 1948, he sold his suits to Steve Calvert. His suits lived on longer than he did.

Back to White Pongo. Captured scientist Gunderson (Milton Kibbee, the brother of actor Guy Kibbee) receives help and escapes from a Congo tribe intent on sacrificing him. Their attention is turned when the White Pongo (apparently Pongo is their word for gorilla) kills some of the tribesmen. Gunderson escapes with some scientific journals and manages to make it back to civilization, but in a bad physical state. He is delirious, but the journals interest Sir Harry Bragdon (Gordon Richards). Sir Harry organizes an expedition with his daughter Pamela (Maris Wrixon), his secretary Clive Carswell (Michael Dyne), a friend Baxter (George Lloyd) and guide Hans Krobert (Al Eben). Kobert has a native guide working for him named Mumbo Jumbo (Joel Fluellen). Among the safari workers is Bishop (Richard Fraser). Pamela takes an interest in Bishop, to the annoyance of Carswell, who has his own plans for Pamela. This leads to a confrontation when Pamela, at one of their rest stops, whips out her fanciest cocktail dress and entices Bishop to kiss her. Of course, this happens just as Carswell enters. One quick punch and Carswell is down, but Sir Harry does not like the help associating with his daughter.

There’s a lot of stock footage of animals and rivers. Apparently much of the film was shot at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Garden. The plot meanders with a double cross, a kidnapping, murder, mad monkey kung-fu fighting and more. One of those items may have been a hallucination.

Anyway, if you like gorillas, you want to see this. If you don’t, you should probably stay away. It makes less sense than an episode of Jungle Jim. But there is a fight between a black gorilla and the albino. You get to see the girl slung over the shoulder of Corrigan. Ray shambles through the jungle as only he can.

IMDB points out a weird inconsistency that I noted as the film went on. “Pongo” is apparently the native word for Gorilla. But the natives all say “Ponga,” not “Pongo.” Newfield was noted for being a one-take director so you can guess how many retakes he made here.

Anyway, I had fun. My wife stayed in the other room, so I know how much she would have enjoyed this one. Not. You should check it out, but be aware; mileage on gorilla films has been known to vary widely. And objects in the rear view mirror are really a lot closer than you think.

Have a great new year and we will see you in 2016.

Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.