Jungle Jim ★★½

When Olympic gold medalist Johnny Weissmuller quit playing Tarzan at RKO, he jumped over to Columbia and joined producer Sam Katzman for a series of B-pictures based upon King Features’ comic strip character Jungle Jim, who was created in 1934 by FLASH GORDON‘s Alex Raymond. The difference between Tarzan and Jim was that Jim wore more clothes and spoke better English (although Weissmuller’s acting didn’t get any better). Other than that, the sets, plots, and stock footage were pretty much the same. Kids still loved Weissmuller, even though he was now 44 and paunchy.

In the first of 16 Jungle Jim features over seven years, Jim guides prim scientist Virginia Grey (UNKNOWN ISLAND) through the jungle on a search for a lost temple that houses a rare exotic poison that, used properly, is also a polio vaccine. Future Superman George Reeves steals the picture as Edwards, a greedy photographer who fools the natives into accepting him as a god after taking their photograph (!) and kills many of them while stealing their treasure.

The screenplay by Carroll Young, who wrote many Jungle Jim, Tarzan, and Bomba B-pics, hasn’t enough story to fill 72 minutes, so director William Berke (THE MUGGER) turns to lengthy comic hijinks between a cute puppy and a cute crow (named Caw-Caw). The menaces are standard jungle hooey, as Jim fights a leopard, a lion, an avalanche, some sort of sea monster, an elephant stampede, and an army of pissed-off natives. The “jungle” is mainly the L.A. County Arboretum and Ray “Crash” Corrigan’s movie ranch and looks it.

The climax is generally rousing and is probably as good an action setpiece as the Jungle Jim series ever produced. Lita Baron, Rory Calhoun’s Spanish wife, contributes a sexy dance, and Holmes Herbert and Rick Vallin help provide support. Reeves is easily the best part of JUNGLE JIM, but Grey, a real dish in glasses and safari wardrobe, is also as good as the script will allow as a strong, intelligent doctor used to dealing with sexist oafs (“You expected a man. People always do. l find it extremely annoying.”). In addition to the 16 films, Weissmuller also did 26 episodes of a JUNGLE JIM TV series.