Good morning everybody. I know, I know, I am off to a somewhat late start but that is due to my hanging out with some good friends last night, and subsequently sleeping through my alarm this morning. Now today’s movie comes from the Sci-Fi Classics box set, though I honestly don’t see why it should be included. I mean, this is a jungle adventure movie, with no hint of science fiction to be found. Still, this was one of those early, post WWII movies to come out so who is to say what the studios were thinking. Either way, let’s give this movie a try and see what is in store as I watch, White Pongo.
The plot: In the jungles of Congo, a native tribe is participating in a celebratory dance as the prepare to sacrifice and explorer they captured. An elderly man who is living with the tribe, Dr. Gerig, speaks with the captured man and asks that he deliver the journal of his deceased companion and tell civilization of his discovery if he helps him escape and the man, Gunderson, agrees. Gerig cuts Gunderson’s bindings and he makes his escape but as he does, he hears the sounds of a man being attacked and witnesses a native warrior being killed by a white gorilla, which he calls a white pongo. Gunderson arrives at a settlement in a fevered state, continuously calling out about the white pongo. Gunderson’s doctor, Dr. Kent, is discussing his condition with Peter Van Horn, who believes his story about the white gorilla and has invited some colleagues to hear it for themselves. A short time later, a boat arrives and Peter heads out to greet Sir Harry Bragdon, his daughter Pamela, Clive Carswell, and Baxter and ushers them inside to listen to Gunderson’s tale. Afterwards, Peter tells them that the white gorilla could be the missing link between man and ape and Sir Harry says that he would be interested in finding and capturing the white gorilla. When Kent comes in and says that Gunderson succumbed to the jungle fever he contracted, they make plans to set out on the safari, hiring Hans Kroegert to serve as their guide and Geoffrey Bishop as his helper and rifleman. Before they set out, Carswell feels that Pamela shouldn’t go on the safari, as he is concerned for her safety, but she insists on going and the two end up arguing over it, as Pamela finds herself attracted to Bishop. After stopping and making camp for the first night, Pamela talks with Bishop for a bit before Carswell interrupts them, sending Bishop away. Pamela chastises Carswell, saying just because he works for her father doesn’t mean he can control what she does, and she talks with her father and arranges so that she will be riding in the same boat with Bishop. As the expedition continues, they eventually reach the village where the white gorilla was spotted and speak with the tribal chief. As they are allowed into the village, they spot Gerig and Peter and Sir Harry head over to talk with him about the white gorilla. Gerig hands them his own notes and journals about his journey and attempt to study the white gorilla and dies shortly after they arrive. As the expedition settles in and prepares to try and capture the white gorilla, Bishop and Pamela begin getting closer. Meanwhile, the white gorilla has been observing all of the activity in the camp and one night, he makes his way into the camp and watches Pamela through her window while she is sleeping. Pamela wakes up and ses the gorilla, screaming in fright, and as it goes running off, Sir Harry and the others rush in to check on Pamela, with Sir Harry feeling like it was nothing more than a nightmare. The men build some traps to try and capture the gorilla in case it comes back and that night, Pamela puts on a dress and goes to see Bishop. The two talk briefly before sharing a kiss but Carswell sees them and attempts to attack Bishop. Bishop punches Carswell but the commotion attracts the attention of the others. Pamela tries to explain that it was her fault but Sir Harry ignores her and chastises Bishop for attacking Carswell and touching his daughter, threatening to have him arrested if he goes near her again. Suddenly, the men hear the sound of their trap being sprung and they all rush out to check only to discover an ordinary gorilla in the trap. When asked what to do with it, Sir Harry says to lower a ladder down and let it climb out, as if they kill it, no other gorilla will come near the place. The next day, Carswell goes to speak to Hans, who had said he had other reasons for accepting the safari, and when Hans says that if they fail, he could be hanged, Carswell says he doesn’t care as long as he can leave the jungle and take Pamela with him. Hans tells Carswell his plan and they then capture the other members of the expedition, and tie them up. Hans tells them that he plans on taking all of the gold, which the villagers had discovered, and supplies but will leave them a small supply by the river, enough to get them back to civilization. Carswell then forces Pamela to go with them and they leave, with all the porters following Hans’ orders. Bishop manages to free himself and as he works on freeing the others, explains that he is part of the Rhodesian Secret Service and he had gone undercover on their expedition to try and capture Hans, who is suspected of killing other people that he had been a guide for. Meanwhile, Hans leads his group to the river, all the while not realizing that the white gorilla is following them. When they reach the river, Hans orders Pamela in the boat but she refuses to do so until he leaves the food like he promised. When he doesn’t, Pamela manages to get free from Carswell’s grip and runs off into the jungle, with Carswell chasing after her but Hans shoots Carswell, then chases after Pamela himself. Hans catches up to Pamela but he is then killed by the white gorilla, who then captures Pamela and carries her off. The lead porter, Mumbo Jumbo, goes searching with the men for Hans only to see the gorilla carrying off Pamela. When they return to the boats, they find Bishop and the others there and they explain what they say, covering up that Hans killed Carswell, and Bishop decides to head out to rescue Pamela. Meanwhile, the white gorilla takes Pamela to it’s lair and after chasing away a lion that was nearby, it ends up fighting another gorilla, just as Bishop and the others arrive. The white gorilla wins the fight and as it prepares to charge at the humans, Bishop shoots and wounds it, allowing it to be captured. They then place the gorilla in a cage to ship back to London and Sir Harry, Peter, Baxter, and Kent are discussing the impact the creature will make. Sir Harry and Peter then go to ask Bishop a question about the gorilla only to find him and Pamela embracing and kissing each other, and Bishop silently pulls the curtain down so they can continue their embrace in private.
Wow, I’m glad things got better for Hollywood after the war because this movie was just terrible. The acting was honestly pretty boring and nobody really seemed to put any real emotion into their performance. It honestly felt like they were all simply reading their lines off giant cue cards that were off camera. The story was a confusing mess, well the main story was ok but the different sub-plots that they threw in to try and make this movie more interesting. You had the love triangle between Bishop, Pamela, and Carswell going on, the mystery involving what Hans is really after, and the whole secret that Bishop is hiding. The gorilla costumes looked ridiculously fake, and the fight was equally laughable, as the two gorilla’s were using tree branches/logs as bo staffs to fight each other. If one of them suddenly started twirling it, I would have probably died laughing. So I don’t honestly think this would be anyone’s choice for a good movie but it does make for something to laugh at.
Rating: 1 out of 5