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.