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King of the Jungle

USA 1933
produced by
Paramount
directed by H. Bruce Humberstone, Max Marcin
starring Buster Crabbe, Frances Dee, Sidney Toler, Nydia Westman, Robert Barrat, Irving Pichel, Douglass Dumbrille, Sam Baker, Patricia Farley, Ronnie Cosby
screenplay by Max Marcin, Philip Wylie, Fred Niblo jr, based on the story The Lion's Way by Charles Thurley Stoneham, music by Herman Hand, Rudolph G. Kopp, John Leipold

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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When he was 3, little Kaspa's (Ronnie Cosby) brought him to the African jungle on a photo safari ... but then disaster happened, killing both his parents, and ultimately the little one was adopted by a pack of lions, with only his dad's knife reminding him of his former life.

Now, hunter Nolan (Robert Barrat) is capturing lions to sell them to circus impresario Forbes (Sidney Toler) - and when he finds grown up Kaspa (now played by Buster Crabbe) in a loincloth leading one pack of lions, he makes it his point to capture him as well ... and Forbes is more than pleased as this wild man will surely make a great attraction. Only once on American soil, Kaspa escapes his capturers and finds refuge at school teacher Ann's (Frances Dee) place, who is quick to take a liking to the savage. When Forbes makes his big presentation of Kaspa to sell it to circus owner Corey (Irving Pichel), everything that can go wrong does (including Kaspa trying to release the lions), so Corey initially turns Forbes' offer down - until he witnesses Ann calm down Kaspa, and thus he hires them both.

On the road with the circus, it's inevitable that Kaspa and Ann fall in love it seems, but still his first interest are the lions, and he only plans to stay with the circus until he has raised enough money to buy them back and return them to Africa. It's only when Ann announces she'll leave the circus that he notices he loves her even more and leaves with her. But then a careless animal minder sets fire to the circus, and now it's up to Kaspa to get things under control and see to it that all animals are saved but not released onto the audience - which of course he masters with ease ... and the film ends with Kaspa returning to Africa with his lions - and with Ann of course.

 

Very much in the vein of Tarzan (down to casting a swimming champ in the lead), King of the Jungle is pretty much your typical early 1930s escapist fare, featuring exotica, romance, danger, attractive leads, mild sexual innuendo, a bit of comedy thrown in, and of course quite a few pulp mainstays. And while it's a lively enough jungle man romp to kill some time, it's really nothing special - and no match to the early sound Tarzan-movies mind you. Basically, what this film really lacks on the story side is any real conflict - even the climax with the circus fire seems rather pulled out of the head to end the story than worked towards narratively. That said, the direction is smooth and the cast is solid, so it's at least decent vintage entertainment - if little more.

 

By the way, both director H. Bruce Humberstone and lead Buster Crabbe would later make Tarzan movies for Sol Lesser, Crabbe would star in the serial Tarzan the Fearless later in 1933 while Humberstone would direct a couple of Gordon Scott Tarzans in the 1950s.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
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Out now from
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A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
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directed by
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written by
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starring
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out now on DVD