Cast & Crew
While wandering in the jungle at Nagandi in Africa, Jungle Jim bravely but unsuccessfully tries to rescue a native from an attacking leopard. From the clutched hand of the dead man, Jim retrieves a small golden vial, which he takes to Godfrey Marsden, the district commissioner. Marsden sends the vial to the Archaeology Department and discovers that it came from the temple at Zimbalu, the lost burial place of the ancient kings. Soon after, government scientist Hilary Parker arrives to head an expedition to search for the lost temple, and hires Jim as their guide. Intrigued by promises of hidden treasure, photographer Bruce Edwards decides to follow them. Impatient to get underway, Hilary identifies the gummy substance found in the vial as a poison that can cure polio. Jim then informs Hilary that the poison is used by witch doctors known as "devil doctors" to paralyze their foes, and warns her that the devil doctors may have usurped the temple. As they begin their trek through the jungle, retracing the steps of the dead native, Hilary and Jim are joined by Kolu, Jim's faithful native friend and his seductive sister Zia. When the expedition is dogged by a series of uncanny accidents, Jim becomes suspicious and decides to set booby traps to awaken the camp in case of an intruder. That night, Edwards falls into one of the traps and claims that he is lost in the jungle. Against Jim's better judgment, Hilary agrees to let Edwards accompany them as the expedition's photographer. As they round a treacherous mountain trail, Edwards pretends to faint, falling into Jim and pushing him over the edge of a cliff. Acting swiftly, Kolu lowers himself over the cliff and pulls Jim to safety. Upon nearing the temple, the expedition is attacked by the devil doctors of Zimbalu. While running to escape their pursuers, Kolu stumbles into a pit containing a ferocious lion. Jim climbs into the pit to rescue his friend, while Hilary, Zia and the others are taken captive by the devil doctors. After killing the lion, Jim sneaks into the temple and finds the devil doctors preparing to kill their prisoners. Edwards, who has ingratiated himself with the devil doctors by taking their photographs, stuffs his pack with golden treasure. When he is deprived of his "magic powers" after Jim's pet hawk plucks the lens out of his camera, Edwards becomes the object of the devil doctors' fury. In the chaos, Jim liberates his friends and together, they overpower the devil doctors. While greedily trying to seize the treasure, Edwards plunges to his death into a pit of fire. His mission completed, Jim invites Hilary to join him for further adventures.
The first entry of the series finds Weissmuller's Jim Bradley engaged to lead a safari by the attractive medical researcher Dr. Hilary Parker (Virginia Grey). The object of the good doctor's fascination is a rare poison utilized in tribal rituals that she believes to be key in developing a cure for polio. Amongst her party is Bruce Edwards (George Reeves), ostensibly along to make a photographic record, but much more interested in the legendary treasure-laden temple where the medicine men administer the drug--and willing to make sure that he'll be the last alive at journey's end.
The safari itself is fraught with the expected perils, with Jim having to go head-to-head with a crocodile, leopard and lion due to Edwards' treachery; the sinister shutterbug's scheme ultimately comes undone courtesy of the hero's pet raven. Rounding out the principal roles were Rick Vallin as Jim's funny-pages ally, the tribal chief Kolu; Lita Baron as his tempting sister, Zia; and the British character veteran Holmes Herbert as the game commissioner.
Longtime MGM stock player Grey had worked with Weissmuller twice before, as second lead in Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942) and as the romantic interest to Johnny's only non-Tarzan/Jungle Jim lead in Swamp Fire (1946). The heavy here, Reeves was still four years away from coming to embody a pop-culture hero himself, courtesy of his six-season run on TV's Adventures of Superman. "For the most part, Weissmuller is impressive as Jungle Jim," the Los Angeles Examiner opined. "If the youngsters take to him in this role, as I think they will, Johnny is set for a number of years to come. He looks the part, the acting demands are not great and he still will have plenty of opportunity to swim."
The modest project fared well enough to warrant another dozen Jungle Jim programmers into 1954; a Weissmuller-starring Jungle Jim TV series followed, which lasted a single season. The grant of the character rights for the television production extinguished Katzman's rights to the "Jungle Jim" name, but that didn't keep the producer and star from returning to the wild; Weissmuller climbed back into the khakis for three more big-screen jungle adventures through 1955, with the hero character re-dubbed, fairly enough, "Johnny Weissmuller." The last such entry, Devil Goddess (1955), would be Johnny's last film appearance until he joined the sea of veteran cameos in the industry homage Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976).
Producer: Sam Katzman
Director: William Berke
Screenplay: Carroll Young (story and screenplay); Alex Raymond (comic strip)
Cinematography: Lester White
Art Direction: Paul Palmentola
Film Editing: Aaron Stell
Cast: Johnny Weissmuller (Jungle Jim), Virginia Grey (Dr. Hilary Parker), George Reeves (Bruce Edwards), Lita Baron (Zia), Rick Vallin (Kolu - Chief of the Masai), Holmes Herbert (Commissioner Geoffrey Marsden), Tex Mooney (Chief Devil Doctor).
by Jay S. Steinberg
This was the first picture in the "Jungle Jim" series, which was produced by Sam Katzman for release by Columbia. The series, based on the comic strip "Jungle Jim," starred Johnny Weissmuller as Jungle Jim and consisted of sixteen films spanning a period from 1948 to 1955. In 1954, Columbia turned over its Jungle Jim rights to its television subsidiary, and in the last three films of the series Weissmuller's character is named "Johnny Weissmuller" instead of Jungle Jim. Devil Goddess (1955) was the last entry in the series, as well as being Weissmuller's last feature film.