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Two safaris enter the African jungle intent on finding a white girl who is the heiress to a fortune. One safari, led by Jungle Jim, wants to make sure she gets the news that she is now a rich woman. The leaders of the other safari want to kill the girl so they can try to get hold of her inheritance.Written by
"Jungle Jim" is a 12 chapter serial based on a popular comic strip of the day. In fact, the prologue to each chapter consists of a Jungle Jim comic strip bringing the viewer up to date on the action. This was an original way of introducing each chapter and to my knowledge, was never used again despite the large number of serials based on comic strips.
In the first chapter we learn that a young white girl and her parents were apparently lost at sea off the coast of Africa. Many years later word has come back of a white lion goddess living among the natives deep into the jungle. It is believed that the young girl, who turns out to be heiress Joan Redmond (Betty Jane Rhodes), and once believed lost could actually be alive and be the lion goddess.
Two separate expeditions are formed to seek her out. The first headed by Jungle Jim (Grant Withers) and his pal Malay Mike (Raymond Hatton) want to bring Joan back to New York to claim her rightful inheritance. The second expedition headed by Joan's evil uncle Bruce Redmond (Bryant Washburn) and his associates Slade (Al Bridge) and Tyler (Selmer Washington) want to claim the inheritance for themselves.
In the jungle Joan thinks that evil fugitives The Cobra (Henry Brandon) and his sister Shanghai Lil (Evelyn Brent) are her parents. They let her believe this so that they can maintain control over the natives. Jungle Jim soon exposes the truth.
The rest of the story involves Jungle Jim's efforts to rescue Joan and foil The Cobra and/or Redmond and Slade's attempts to stop them. Needless to say good triumphs over evil in the last chapter.
This serial as in most of Universal's serials of this period benefited from the studio's high production values and the large standing sets used in many of their horror films of the day. Most of the outdoor action appears to have been shot outdoors and not on a sound stage. The wild animal sequences (whether stock footage or not) are well done and fit well into the story. There's a really good scrap between a lion and a tiger (never mind that tigers were usually found in Asia). The chapter ending cliff hangers and subsequent escapes are believable and well executed.
Grant Withers had been a promising leading man in the late 20s/early 30s but had a problem with the bottle. He gradually fell into serials and "B" movies before winding up as a western villain at Republic in the 40s. Unable to conquer his personal demons, he took his own life in 1959.
Betty Jane Rhodes was only 16 when she made this film. She went on to become a successful singer in the 40s.
Raymond Hatton had been in films since the "teens". He had appeared with Lon Chaney in a few films. He is probably best remembered as the crusty old sidekick in a long list of "B" westerns, most notably "The Rough Rider" series (1941-42) with Buck Jones and Tim McCoy.
Henry Brandon was always one of my favorite villains. He had the lead in the 1940 serial "Drums of Fu Manchu". He was often cast as an Indian Chief as in "The Searchers" (1956) and "Two Rode Together" (1961).
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