Two cult 50s B-movies on 1 disc from those nice folk at VCI.
THE JUNGLE comes first on the disc. It begins with the return of Princess Mari (Marie Windsor, THE KILLING) to her homeland of India. As she arrives at the train station, the Indian press swarm around her asking her why she has chosen to return home from London and leave her ailing father behind. One asks whether it could have anything to do with the recent "troubles" in her villages - but before she can answer, she is whisked away by her aide Rama (Cesar Romero, VERA CRUZ; ONCE A THIEF).
During their car journey to her palace, Mari asks Rama precisely what's been going on in the nearby villages. He's reluctant to provide an answer but she learns upon her arrival home that a herd of elephants has been storming the villages, destroying everything in their way.
Why didn't Rama deal with this problem, she asks. He did - and failed miserably. He hired an American hunter called Bentley (Rod Cameron, PSYCHIC KILLER) to take ten of his men out into the jungle and sort it out. But Bentley returned alone, with tales of his men having been killed by woolly mammoths.
Mari meets with the arrogant Bentley and hears his story first-hand. Unimpressed with what she sees, she orders that he leave her kingdom.
But there is undeniable sexual tension between the princess and the hunter, and before long Mari agrees to venture into the jungle with Rama and Bentley in search of the angry elephants. Along the way we get the expected fights with wild beasts, gratuitous shots of the princess chilling in her swimsuit, a blossoming romance between her and Bentley, and - of course - the obligatory showdown with the mammoths ...
Nicely shot in sepia with some great outdoor scenery to work with (the film was shot on location in India), THE JUNGLE feels like a small-scale film with grand, epic visuals. And that is, essentially, what it is.
The plot is silly, the direction from William A Berke (ISLAND WOMAN) is pedestrian, while the script is uninspired and naively racist. The acting is as bad as you can imagine from an obscure little B-movie like this. Windsor and Romero bring unintentional comedy to the table with accents that wobble all over the place.
THE JUNGLE is watchable but ultimately not trashy enough to fall into the "so bad it's fun" category.
KING DINOSAUR starts with a laboured documentary-style approach, talking us through the discovery of a new planet - Nova - that may be inhabitable, and the consequent preparation of astronauts to travel out to said planet.
A tedious 11 minutes later (in which time we've watched mice scramble about in an "experiment" to see if they can survive in space - hey! If they can, so can man ...), we finally meet Ralph (William Bryant, MOUNTAIN FAMILY ROBINSON) and Patricia (Wanda Curtis) as their land their spaceship in the middle of a field on planet Nova.
They're joined shortly afterwards by another space-hopping couple. The four of them start to explore Nova. Hmm, it looks just like Earth - birds, deer, a river, trees, grass ...
However, when the group retire in their self-made camp for the evening, things start to turn nasty. Ralph invites Patricia for a romantic stroll, only to be attacked by a crocodile. Cue the best cinematic man-versus-crocodile fight. EVER.
Weak from his scrapping, Ralph rests at camp the following morning with Patricia for company as the other two wander off exploring. Bugger me, our romantic leads are only attacked by a enormous beetle. Luckily, Ralph blows the shit out of it with his rifle.
But these astronauts. They're not too perturbed by events so far. It's only when they meet the most hilarious "dinosaur" ever to grace the screen, that the foursome start to air their reservations about staying on Nova ...
KING DINOSAUR has all the ingredients to make it prime Z-grade trash of the highest order. Cheesy FX, dumb dialogue, wooden acting, an iguana posing (badly) as a killer dinosaur ... it should have been the ultimate "bad" movie. But, at just over an hour in length, it's a crime that it takes a good 30 minutes for ANYTHING to happen. Directed by Bert I Gordon (EMPIRE OF THE ANTS), it's just dull.
VCI's disc offers decent transfers of both films. The sepia-tinted THE JUNGLE is presented in 1.33:1 and boasts very sharp images, and good contrasts of shade and light. An impressive picture for a film that's half a century old.
KING DINOSAUR is presented in anamorphic 1.85:1 and looks good too, if a little too dark. It's speckly here and there, but what do you expect?
Both films are presented in their original English mono soundtracks, and both are fine - as good as can be expected for low-budget films of such an age.
Both films can be accessed by animated scene selections offering 12 chapters per movie.
Extras for THE JUNGLE include 14 pages of text memories from Marie Windsor (as told by Tom Weaver - how's that work then?), 49 stills combining of lobby cards and behind-the-scenes photographs, biographies, a short poster gallery, trivia notes (the film was shot in 8 weeks for $125,000) and trailers for THE JUNGLE, JUNGLE BRIDE, MACUMBA LOVE and WHITE GORILLA.
For KING DINOSAUR, we get much of the same: stills of lobby cards, behind-the-scenes photographs and posters, 8 pages of script reproductions, biographies and trailers for KING DINOSAUR, DEVIL MONSTER and BRIDE AND THE BEAST. In addition, there's also 7 minutes of footage originally deleted from the UK theatrical release. Yawn.
Two barely watchable movies of old, that may be of interest to fans of Romero or Gordon. A decent disc, but one that won't be getting watched too often ...
Review by Stu Willis
|Released by VCI|
|Region 1 - NTSC|
|see main review|