Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies and TV: Jungle Jim

Reading all those Armless O'Neil yarns from JUNGLE STORIES reminded me of none other than Jungle Jim, a character who originated in a comic strip by the great Alex Raymond, was featured in a 1937 movie serial, and then hit the big screen in a series of a dozen or so low-budget B-movies in the late 1940s and early 1950s, where he was played by Johnny Weissmuller. These are the movies I remember watching on one of the local TV stations when I was a kid, where they played almost as often as Weissmuller's Tarzan movies. Then, after the features ended, Weissmuller played the character again in one season of a syndicated TV series, which I also remember watching many afternoons when I got home from school.

In the comic strip, James "Jungle Jim" Bradley was a big game hunter, not in Africa but rather in the jungles of southeast Asia. However, to the best of my memory the movies and TV episodes were set in Africa. I say to the best of my memory because it's been at least forty years since I saw any of them. Even back then I think I probably realized just how cheaply made these were (I learned to recognize stock footage at an early age), but that didn't stop me from really enjoying them. I was a big Tarzan fan, you see, and well, Jungle Jim was the next best thing. Weissmuller was never a great actor, although he has some nice moments in some of the early Tarzan films, but he had a certain charm and screen presence. I liked the way he got to speak normal English in the Jungle Jim movies, and he could still dash through the jungle and fight the bad guys even if he was a little too chunky to wear a loincloth anymore.

These are probably pretty bad movies. But I sure enjoyed them at the time. Some of them are available on DVD, but I'm not sure I have the heart to watch them again. I think it might be better to hold on to my fond memories.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I enjoyed them as well. Along with Ramar of the Jungle.

Walker Martin said...

I used to watch the TV show Ramar of the Jungle. It made the Jungle Jim movies look like winners of the Academy Award. For some reason I also bought the music LPs of Martin Denny, which had jungle sound effects.

Bill Crider said...

Saw some of them in the theater. A few years ago, some TV channel ran several of them, and I watched again. If you're in the right mood, they're still fun.

Anonymous said...

"Ramar of the Jungle
was everyone's bwana,
But only jazz musicians
were smoking marijuana..."

From "Pencil-Thin Mustache" by Jimmy Buffett, which also has a refence to "Sky (King)'s niece Penny."

*creaks back onto geezer bus*

Jeff M.

James Reasoner said...

I'm right there on that bus with you, Jeff.

And Walker, I still listen to Martin Denny sometimes. I've got to be in the right mood for his music, but it really conjures up a different era, doesn't it?

RJR said...

I also enjoyed Ramar of the Jungle, Jungle Jim, the Tarzan movies AND Bomba the Jungle Boy.


James Reasoner said...

I have no memory of Ramar of the Jungle, other than hearing the name. I did watch the Bomba, the Jungle Boy movies with Johnny Sheffield. I was also a big fan of the Bomba novels by "Roy Rockwood", whoever the Stratemeyer Syndcate had writing that series. I know now that they're supposed to be horribly racist, but as an eight-year-old sitting on my parents' front porch, that never occurred to me.

Cap'n Bob said...

I watched the JJ TV show but never saw any of the movies. From the promo you ran they look okay. I also enjoyed the other jungle shows mentioned above. Didn't Andy's Gang also have a jungle series? I remember an elephant and people yelling "Teela."

Duane Spurlock said...

I watched Jungle Jim on Saturday afternoon TV.

I met Sky King at our local county fair when I was little. Got a signed glossy photo, too. (Don't know whatever happened to that.) When I watched some Sky King episodes years later as an adult, they were so creaky I couldn't last more than 10 minutes into the show.