Saturday, 26 October 2013
The Lost Jungle (1934)
Attempts to turn non-acting celebrities into box office dollars have been happening pretty much since Hollywood began. Clyde Beatty was a famous animal tamer of the early 30s, with an act that could include up to 40 lions and tigers at the same time, and the film industry smelled the chance to make a buck.
Released as both a serial and a film, The Lost Jungle was the second of Beatty's celluloid adventures, and it's pretty much entirely dedicated to showing off his work with the big cats. He spends inordinate sections of the film's short run time with whip and chair in hand, putting various beasts through their paces. Ironically, the amount of time he spends in such pursuits is a plot point in the film, when his fiancee tires of always coming second to the animals and leaves with her father on an extended biological expedition.
The purpose of this expedition is to find a legendary island that served as the origin point for all the animals of Africa and Asia. This award-winningly bad bit of science is doubtless an excuse to have both lions and tigers running around in the same location. In any case, the expedition succeeds in its goal of finding the island ... by being shipwrecked on it.
News of his fiancee's disappearance finally distracts Beatty from his animals and he finagles his way onto the dirigible that is sent out to rescue the lost expedition. But a storm blows up and the airship crashes! I bet you can't guess where ...
This is a very light bit of film-making, with the story existing purely as a mechanism to move Beatty from one animal taming set piece to another, and you're only likely to enjoy it if such sequences appeal to you. They don't to me, I have to say.