Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: The White Gorilla

(Since I've been on a jungle kick lately, I thought I'd rerun this post from March 2007.)

This 1945 jungle adventure movie is half of a double feature dollar DVD I picked up a while back. (The other movie on it is BELA LUGOSI MEETS A BROOKLYN GORILLA.) This one stars Ray "Crash" Corrigan fairly late in his career, in the dual role of jungle guide Steve Collins and the mysterious white gorilla, who is shunned by his fellow gorillas because of his color.

That's only part of the story, though. THE WHITE GORILLA makes extensive use not only of stock African wildlife footage but also entire sequences from a 1927 silent serial called PERILS OF THE JUNGLE. Corrigan's character narrates those scenes, which have shots of him as an observer cut into the old footage, which is recut and rearranged to form a completely new storyline from the original version. That sounds crazy, but it actually sort of works in a bizarre way. According to IMDB, the scenes involving Corrigan and a few other characters were shot in three days, and I believe it. Poor old Crash was never a great actor, but by this time he was a far cry from the athletic action hero of UNDERSEA KINGDOM and the Three Mesquiteers movies. The whole conglomeration is pretty awful but oddly interesting. As I commented to Livia, "At least you've never seen anything else exactly like this movie before."

I guess I'm just a sucker for movies that feature guys in gorilla suits [me and Mark Finn!]. There are some really clumsy battles in this one between the white gorilla and a black gorilla who's evidently his sworn enemy. If I'd seen this for the first time when I was six years old, I probably would have loved it. Or it might have seemed pretty dumb to me even then. Hard to say.


Jerry House said...

Word association just brought to mind Congo Bill and the Golden Gorilla, comic book characters I hadn't thought of in more than thirty years.

pattinase (abbott) said...

A gorilla suit goes along way.

Richard Moore said...

I've read the autobiography of Harry L. Fraser (1889-1974) who wrote and directed "White Gorilla." He said theaters were desperate for "product."A shoestring producer called Frasier up and said he had already booked a top flight theater for a movie titled "White Gorilla." All he had was the title but now he needed a movie to go with it.

Frasier came up with the script, the producer signed Crash Corrigan to play the dual roles of engineer and gorilla, and they located a standing jungle set.

Frasier said with all the stock scenes they were using, he only needed three days and one night to film the new footage.

He said when the word leaked out around Hollywood, "...a lot of the boys gave me the raspberry" and predicted it would flop.

Instead it played for years in movie theaters around the country. He admitted that years later when he saw it on television he was somewhat embarrassed. But he had opted for a percentage instead of a salary and earned him a lot of money.

Fraser is an interesting character who floated around Hollywood for many years. He was an actor in the silent era but moved into directing. Some of his talkies with Harry Carey and Bob Steele are well worth watching.

When no screenwriter or directing jobs were open, he would take assignments as the 2nd unit director as he did for the TV series "26 Men."

Richard Moore said...

I should have mentioned the title of Fraser's autobiography--I WENT THAT-A-WAY, The memoirs of a Western Film Director. It was edited by Wheeler W. Dixon and Frasier's widow Audrey Brown Fraser and published by The Scarecrow Press in 1990

Rittster said...


I think you owe it to yourself to watch BELA LUGOSI MEETS A BROOKLYN GORILLA, which features lead actor Sammy Petrillo in a jaw-dropping Jerry Lewis imitation.

On second thought, maybe you owe it to yourself to make sure NOT to watch it.

Cap'n Bob said...

When I was a kid I saw the final scene of a gorilla movie and to this day I have no idea what the title is. In it, a gorilla (or maybe two) have the hero and the girl trapped in a cave. The gorilla lumbers toward them and the hero empties a revolver into the ape. Does that ring any bells out there?