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Sunday 2 October 2011

Burl reviews White Pongo! (1945)

Hi, Burl here with another movie review, this one from legendary megaphonesman Sam Newfeld, who brought us Terror of Tiny Town! This movie, White Pongo is a jungle picture, and I can already hear you saying “But Burl! Ha ha, aren’t all jungle pictures the same, filled with endless shots of pith-helmeted people tramping through the brush, occasionally pointing out stock footage shots of wild animals?” Well, that’s certainly true, and White Pongo is no exception! But I’ll tell you what makes White Pongo stand out from the pack, and that’s White Pongo!

For you see, White Pongo, who is played by Ray Corrigan from Zombies of Mora-Tau, is a jungle gorilla of a different color – he’s a totally white ape! He’s ferocious, and he’s also tender-hearted – near the beginning of the picture, he rescues a chimpanzee who is kept on a leash by a native African couple – the wife runs off at the first sight of the ivory behemoth, then Pongo stomps the husband like he was luggage, gathers up the chimp and knuckle-walks his way out of there! All this is witnessed by a dude who had just escaped being kept like a pet by that very same tribe! I can’t help but think they were going to get all Naked Prey on his behind, so lucky for him he found a chance to bolt!

The fellow makes it to civilization and reports his sighting of White Pongo before succumbing to some jungle malady or other! Ha ha, then, as you might have guessed, a safari is rustled up to go find our dear friend Pongo! Well, that’s not the only drama going on, because this safari contains a) a love triangle, b) a secret agent, c) a turncoat, d) a criminal, e) a crazy Cockney comic-relief fellow, and f) a spear carrier named Mumbo Jumbo! It was this last component that was the most interesting, because sometimes Mumbo Jumbo would speak in “him big boss man” B-movie African speak, and sometimes he’d talk like a normal guy! Ha ha, I couldn’t figure it out!

There’s lots of walking through the jungle of course, and some pretty spiffy pith helmets, and then finally, just as White Pongo finally kidnaps the pretty blonde and slings her over his shoulder, a regular black gorilla shows up, and you know what that means – gorilla fight! The mighty pongos, or pongi, uproot a couple of small trees and use them as quarterstaffs! But ultimately White Pongo prevails, and for his trouble he gets shot by the rifle carrier / secret agent fellow, caged up and sent to the so-called civilized world! I call that a pretty sad ending!

Luckily no other animals are shot! I was afraid the whole movie would be scenes of elephants, leopards and other fine beasts being pointlessly slaughtered, but thankfully no! The lady tries to kill a leopard at one point, but she’s a really bad shot and he gets away! Ha ha on you, lady! Of course White Pongo kills his black counterpart in the climactic fight, but that was probably meant to be symbolic of the way the Europeans treated their own black counterparts all across Africa at that time! Or maybe not!

The movie was similar to King Kong in a lot of ways, so at the end when they capture Pongo, I thought maybe there would be another forty minutes where he escapes in London, grabs the lady and climbs Big Ben! But no, it just ends with sad Pongo in a cage! Maybe they had a sequel planned, but it just never worked out, who knows! I give White Pongo three tips o’ the hat!

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