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Johnny (Johnny Weissmuller) is a licensed bar pilot (= a pilot who
guides all kinds of ships over the dangerous sandbars at the mouth of
rivers and bays) in the Bayou area, but since he lost a ship in World War
II - which was basically not his fault - he isn't the same anymore and
refuses to do anymore bar piloting ... until his boss (Edwin Maxwell)
tricks him into doing so, and all of a sudden, everything seems to be ok
again - better than ok actually, because now he finally has the nerve to
ask his girlfriend Toni (Carol Thurston) to marry him.
But everything is not as ok as it seems: Mike Kalavich (Buster Crabbe),
a Bayou trapper who has always been jealous of Johnny, wants Toni for
himself while Janet Hilton (Virginia Grey), daughter of the local rich man
P.T.Hilton (Pierre Watkin), has designs on Johnny ... and then of course
disaster strikes, and on the day before Johnny's wedding as well: guiding
a boat through thick fog, Johnny accidently crashes with a smaller boat he
had no chance to see or hear until it was too late, which throws all of
Johnny's self confidence overboard, and instead of marrying Toni the next
day, he goes to town on a drinking spree that is only stopped when he is
run over by a truck. Somehow, Janet Hilton is able to trace him down
before everyone else and takes him back to her father's house to nurse him
back to help - and shield him from everybody else, especially Toni. Once
he's better, Janet persuades Johnny to work for her father ... which he
does, until he learns that a) P.T.Hilton tries to cut off Bayou folks from
the Bayou, their hunting grounds, and b) that Janet has thrown away the
letters Toni has written to him and not put her through to him on the
phone (which made him think she had forgotten him in the first place).
But before he can even get back to Toni (and his former life) disaster
strikes once more, in the person of Mike Kalavich, who'd rather burn down
the Bayou than leave it to P.T.Hilton ... and so he does. Eventually, Toni
and Johnny realize how much they ae still in love with each other when
they try to save each others life, and quite naturally, in the finale
Johnny wrestles and defeats Mike Kalavich ...
Ah yeah, and Weissmuller also wrestles an aligator at some point in the
film, to show some continuity to his appearances as Tarzan.
This film is remarkable for two reasons: a) it was one of the very few
films in which Johnny Weissmuller played neither Tarzan
nor Jungle Jim, and b) it was the first meeting of the tow
and swimming champs Johnny Weissmuller and Buster Crabbe - with Crabbe,
the less popular Tarzan
clearly proving to be the better actor.
Apart from that, Swamp Fire is, while not essentially bad,
pretty unremarkable, a routine low-budget Bayou drama that somehow fails
to exploit its Bayou settings to full effect (probably for budgetary
reasons) and has litle new or at least original to offer in respect of
story or direction. The best thing to say about it is probably it's