Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Jungle Movies

Hollywood's love-affair with the Land-of-Fable jungle began properly with the Tarzan Movies, the first of which was Tarzan of the Apes (1918). The most famous run of these began with Tarzan, The Ape Man (1932), starring Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan, but in fact this movie represented a desperate attempt by MGM to get back some of the money they had expended on what seems to have been the first JM talkie, Trader Horn (1930), an Oscar nominee but a commercial disaster; wildlife scenes from Trader Horn, shot expensively on location in Africa, were recycled throughout the MGM sequence of Tarzan movies. The first major offshoot from the Weissmuller Tarzan movies was the sequence of Bomba Movies, starting with Bomba the Jungle Boy (1948), starring Johnny Sheffield, who had played Tarzan's son Boy. Almost immediately afterwards Weissmuller, now well into middle age, likewise sidled out of the series to become the star of the Jungle Jim movies, where he played not an apeman but a white man adventuring in the jungle. The first of these, Jungle Jim (1948), was a remake of Jungle Jim (1937); other titles were The Lost Tribe (1949), Captive Girl (1950), Mark of the Gorilla (1950), Pygmy Island (1950), Fury of the Congo (1951), Jungle Manhunt (1951), Jungle Jim in the Forbidden Land (1952), Voodoo Tiger (1952), Killer Ape (1953), Savage Mutiny (1953), Valley of the Head-Hunters (1953), Cannibal Attack (1954), Jungle Maneaters (1954), Devil Goddess (1955) and Jungle Moon Men (1955). These movies were undistinguished.

But the same is not true of all JMs: two of distinction are The African Queen (1951) and Gorillas in the Mist (1988). The difference is that neither is concerned with the anachronistic land-of-fable jungle. The former uses the jungle merely as backdrop for the tale of a spiky relationship; the latter is almost a documentary. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.