Tuesday, January 17, 2012

King Of The Wild!

I picked up King of the Wild from Mascot Pictures several weeks ago because it advertised Boris Karloff in one of his pre-Frankenstein roles, and because I just like old serials. This offers up a lot on both counts.

Karloff plays Mustapha, a devious Arab who darts in and out of the story, especially at the beginning and end of the serial. He is instrumental to keeping this complicated clanker of a plot tumbling along, and he offers up a decent portrayal. I suspect some of his lines outdoors were dubbed, as none of the characters seem to sound like themselves. Perhaps this is repair or something Nat Levine's production crew did at the time.

The story deals with an American named Bob Grant who discovers that he looks just like a Rajah, who then wants to keep Grant around. The Rajah is killed in an accident and implores Grant to take his place to keep his evil cousin Dakah from seizing power. The Rajah writes a note to explain all of this. (This is the Maguffin in this movie.) But a "friend" of Grant's, a white hunter named Harris betrays him and Grant is put into prison for a year before escaping and seeking Harris and the note. He then finds a woman named Muriel and her brother Tom who have a diamond mine, and this is where Mustapha comes in, as he wants it. He and Harris plot to get hold of the mine and kidnapping and skullduggery of all types ensues. There is also a little old lady who seems to be a Secret Service agent, a Swedish guy and animal trainer who ain't all he seems, and a guy with dark glasses who keeps shooing people. And then there's Bimi.

Bimi is my favorite character in this magilla of a flick. Bimi is an Ape-man/Monster played to the hilt by the very buff Arthur McLaglen (Victor's Brother), and Bimi steals many a scene from his more loquacious comrades. No explanation is made about Bimi, save that he is loyal to Harris who apparently captured him at some time. But the weird relationship between Harris and Bimi slowly becomes the one you're most interested in.

This is an action-filled story, that truth told does drag a bit towards the end when some of the story lines seem to run past their due dates, and unnecessary complications seem thrown in for no good reason. The ending is a tad talky, but the final scene is worth the wait.

I highly recommend this one, and it can be had for cheap. And ignore the lousy look of the first chapter as the production improves in the later installments.

One source says this movie was intended for Trader Horn star Harry Carey and his co-star Edwina Booth, but production woes on that movie forced the leads to be given to Walter Miller and Nora Lane. Miller was as well known for playing bad guys as good. Dorothy Christie who is in the serial briefly later shows up in Gene Autry's epic serial The Phantom Empire as the haughty Queen Tika. Tom Santschi a long-time silent hero and heavy, who played the villain Harris died the same year this movie was made, which I have to admit adds a bit of poignancy to the final scene.

An especially curious note is that the guy who plays the local top cop Wainwright in the movie was Albert De Winton Jones, a real life explorer who disappeared in Brazil trying in vain to solve the Fawcett mystery soon after this movie wrapped.

The movie apparently did generate some intriguing posters, many of which are on view below. Bimi looks a little too docile in these, compared to his wildman visage on screen, but you do get a sense of the sweep of the serial. I'd love to know who the artist is on these if anyone can say.

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