Jungle Woman (1944)

This one is a true oddity:  a mad scientist film without a mad scientist.

Okay, John Carradine, who was the evil mad scientist in Captive Wild Woman the year before, does “reprise” his first leading  role — but only in a few very brief flashbacks borrowed from that film.  And he gets killed in one of them, so we know he isn’t coming back.

This is the second in the trilogy of Jungle Woman films Universal Studios made in the early Forties, and it starts out recapping the original, both with lengthy flashbacks, and a framing device where the stars of the last film appear at a court hearing.  While Evelyn Ankers gets first billing here, she only appears in this sequence and the flashbacks!

The irony here is that the first film was largely borrowed from one of Clyde Beatty’s early films, and if you watch carefully, you can still see footage of him in the flashbacks, borrowed for a second time.   Somehow, the combination of circus film and monster movie was odd the first time around:  we get just enough of it the second time around to remind us just how odd.

As in the first film, we have have the ape (played once again, but mostly in the flashbacks, by Crash Corrigan) that has been turned into a beautiful girl.  Only this time, the Ape believed dead in the first film actually survived and unexpectedly turns into a girl at the clinic run by a friendly, and yes, sane, doctor, played by horror film staple (and star of radio’s Life with Luigi), J. Carrol Naish.

And, we should note, without his help.

There’s the usual nonsense about her falling for a good looking guy and murdering a few people, as she apparently turns back into an Ape now and then.   Not that we see it.

Acquanetta, the exotic and mysterious jungle girl from Ozone, Wyoming, returns as “Paula Dupree”, who this time gets some dialogue.  This was a very, very bad idea.

I do find it rather curious that there is a suggestion that the Ape that John Carradine turned into a girl, was once a girl who was turned into an ape by someone else.  But then, one can hardly expect a shortage of mad scientists in a Universal Horror.

Not that he appeared in this film either.

Paula would return in one further movie, only with a different girl playing her and an appearance by acromegaly sufferer Rondo Hatton.  Either one of those would be a sign that the trilogy had hit bottom in the Universal Horror cycle, but both together is a full-sized theater marquee of a sign, complete with fireworks display.

Oh, well.  You’re not going to go ape over it.  Naish’s The Monster Maker, which came out the same year is a far better film, whether it was made by PRC or not.  Jungle Woman is not great.  It’s serviceable, which is about what we expect from these odd low budget Universal efforts…

Even if it is a sequel to a film most people haven’t seen.

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