Search the Cinema Head Cheese Archives!

November 11, 2012

Movie Review: Jungle Drums of Africa (1953)

Directed by Fred C. Brannon
Starring Clayton Moore, Phyllis Coates and Johnny Sands
Run Time: 167 minutes

Back in the early 50‘s, television was just beginning to become a threat to the motion picture business, and one of Hollywood’s responses to the growing popularity of television series’ was the Serial. Which was usually some type of adventure story-line told through several chapters, with each chapter ending in some type of cliff-hanger situation where a main character was placed in a near-hopeless situation, which in theory would keep people, especially kids, coming back to the movie theaters every week to see how their favorite characters escaped certain death. Some serials were great entertainment, with some of my personal favorites being- Flash Gordon (Universal, 1936) and The Masked Marvel (Republic, 1939-43), while others were not so good.

Republic Pictures Jungle Drums of Africa probably sits somewhere comfortably in the middle of the pack as far as story-line and production value goes. The daughter of a medical missionary in Africa comes face to face with ferocious and killer crazed savages as she carries on her fathers work after he dies. She befriends two adventurers prospecting for uranium, who are relentlessly under attack by treacherous criminals, determined to stop the adventurers at all cost and get the uranium for themselves, along with a local witch-doctor that sees all three as a threat to his power.

Stretched out over twelve 20 minute episodes, this Republic serial, although not nearly as creative and original in story as most of the sci-fi serials of the time, still has plenty of action, gun-fights, cheesy drama and bad dialog. And lets not forget all those awesome cliff-hangers, where the damsel in distress seems to be perpetually dangling from a burning rope over a pit full of hungry lions or trapped in a river, about to be consumed by crocodiles. For lovers of old-school cinema (especially of the b-movie grade stuff), this serial would be a great trip down memory lane. A window through which one can peer into the past and experience what was popular entertainment for the generations which came before us.

On the down-side, it is obviously quite formulaic, with each episode following the same blue-print used in the one before it, (a couple of dialog sequences followed by a gun-fight followed by a chase-sequence followed by the inevitable cliff-hanger), which can make the whole thing seem a bit played-out by the fifth or sixth episode, and which translates into something that not everyone is going to be a fan of, especially by today's viewing standards, where we demand twists and turns at the drop of a hat and most of us have the attention span of a 7 year old on Lithium.

Being a fan of all things 50's, I had fun watching this one, and in spite of its flaws, it's still great nostalgic viewing in my opinion. If I was trying to turn someone not familiar with the genre onto the whole “serial thing” this probably isn't the one I would suggest they watch to get them hooked, but for people who are already fans of this type of stuff, its going to deliver everything you love in the genre.

7.5 out of 10

No comments:

Post a Comment