Well, I’m going to guess from the title that this is the story of
a White Pongo, which is much different than a Red or a Green one.
For one thing, those colors were far more popular.
I had a White Pongo when I was a kid, though.
Unless I’m thinking of bicycles. In
which case, never mind.
No, for apparently this is a jungle picture. We see the titles superimposed over a map of Africa. And I guess this image is somewhat cropped, unless our star is named “Chard Fraser.” No other names that I recognize. Again, the writer’s name is presented as “ymond Schrock.” Directed by Sam Newfield.
I’d heard some years back that when films were converted from mag sound to optical, they had to lose some image on one of the sides, maybe that’s what’s happened here. Of course, I’d heard that about silent films, so maybe someone was just careless in the telecine booth.
Anyway, done with our credits, we zoom in on the map slightly as a pointer comes and points over to where the Congo is, which (according to an unseen narrator) is the home of the “pongo” or “gorilla.” As we continue to zoom, and the cameraman racks quickly to keep us in focus, we’re told that something startling happened in this area. And we cut to some jungle. Behind the jungle, we hear drums and can see some natives dancing. And strings and flutes are added to the music, and I think they’re not being played by a hidden native orchestra. So far it doesn’t look that startling.
We see some bearded guy, looking pretty beat up, tied upright to a pole. Another older guy comes up behind him and mutters in a slight German accent that he’s going to help this guy escape, and in return, the escaping guy will “bring back to civilization the precious diary of Professor Dierdorf.”
The tied-up guy agrees that this should be done, and asks why Mr. German won’t escape with him, because the “glory of such a discovery belongs” to him.
Mr. German says ten years ago he might have tried to escape, when it was all the rage and he was a younger man, but he’s too old and tired now and Mr. Escape will have a better chance alone. He unties Mr. Escape, but Mr. Escape keeps his hands up so it will look like he’s totally not going to escape and everyone will be fooled when he does.
And we see the White Pongo! Wow, we’re barely three minutes in, so are we done? It’s a guy in a decent ape suit that looks pretty mean, and he pushes bushes aside in order to look at something that interests him mightily.
He’s watching the native dancers, and he shakes a tree he’s so…captivated. Annoyed. Critical. Truth to tell, he’s pretty hard to read.
And we fade to someone’s pet chimpanzee, and then back to WP, and this is what seems to have a hold on him. We close in on the native’s fire, then fade til it is all ashes. The music gets a bit flutey and jaunty here. We pull back, and everyone’s just walking around like, so much for the ceremony. Even Mr. German strolls about in the nice morning air. But the WP is still just where he was! Boy does he have patience or what? The couple with the pet chimp start walking away, and WP starts shaking his tree again. Then he moves out of frame.
And we cut to Mr. Escape, escaping as is his wont, given his name. Oh wait, I gave him that name, because no one—other than the White Pongo himself, and Professor Dierdorf who we haven’t met—has a name.
And he escapes to the river and starts swimming. And we cut to the WP, strolling toward the couple with the chimp. And they see him, and the wife starts screaming, while hubby readies to defend his wife and his chimp with his spear and his shield. In the water, Mr. Escape hears the screaming and decides to go back and help.
WP attacks the man and makes short work of him. So much for his spear and his shield! Mr. Escape slowly slogs ashore in his sodden clothes, and he sees the WP, and he decides going back to the river like he originally wanted is really much better idea than fighting a white gorilla, or pongo. “White Pongo!” he says, just in case we missed earlier when the narrator said a “pongo” was a “gorilla,” and also if we missed the title of the show.
WP gathers up the chimp and trundles off, and we fade to black. I guess he figures this was a rescue or something, like one of those “animal rights” guys, though his motives remain unexplained. He might just be capricious.
Fade in on a plantation house I’m guessing, with a porch and a river nearby with boats in it. It looks like part of a village or a colonial settlement or something of that nature.
And we cut to Mr. Escape! He’s in a bed, looking pretty delirious, and he says, “White Pongo! I saw it, I saw it!” And everyone’s all, gee, too bad he’s completely mental. The “everyone” in this case are two white haired guys, one with a mustache and a rather imperial air, the other another German. Mustache seems to be the doctor. We already have a Mr. German, so I’m going to call this new guy Mr. Tie, since that he what he is wearing. Well, he is wearing more than that!
Mr. Tie asks Mustache if Mr. Escape can be kept alive until Sir Harry gets here, as he (Sir Harry) would love to hear about this white gorilla, or pongo, stuff. Mustache is dismissive, thinking Mr. Escape is nuts, but Mr. Tie thinks it’s the real deal. Mustache thinks it’s amazing the guy is alive at all after all the distance he traveled. He says Sir Harry is bringing some startling news, about an amazing new laundry detergent additive. I’m guessing this if you can’t tell.
There’s a knock at the door, and a bellman announces that a boat has just arrived. Mr. Tie is positive this is Sir Harry, so he goes off to meet and greet. Mr. Tie appears to be smoking a fountain pen. He goes off to the porch and waits. For rather a while, really. Then we fade to some folks getting off the boat and gathering up luggage, and Mr. Tie greets Sir Harry and, I couldn’t catch her name but probably Lady Harry. Another guy also comes up to be introduced to us all. He’s Mr. Carswell, who is Sir Harry’s aide.
And then we get our comedy relief. It’s a fat guy with a Cockney accept, and he even gets his own horn fanfare as he recites some British colloquial crap. Actually, it’s the Itsy Bitsy Spider, all British, and it goes like this: “Oh! The bally blasted sparrow, flew up the bleeding spout, then the bally blasted rain came down and drove the blighter out.” This man resembles Ernest Borgnine but please don’t panic, proceed to the exits in an orderly fashion.
Everyone looks appalled at this traditional English Lower Class greeting (I suppose), but they all recovery quickly and shake hands. He’s named but I didn’t catch it, so he’ll be Mr. Bally.
Mr. Tie quickly explains about the dying man and his knowledge that could be the key to a terrific anthropological expedition, so Sir Harry is all over this and they all rapidly, er, no, casually stroll to see this fellow. And we get to watch every step of this casual stroll.
Inside, Mr. Escape is telling everyone that…that…I’m sorry, I can’t make out a single word of what he says. I tried again, and I thought I heard “a white gorilla, with a baby gorilla in its arms” but then he collapses and dies. I guess. Mr. Tie summarizes by saying that this white gorilla, or pongo, must be the missing link between man and ape. Oh, not that old line again! Anyway, he tells everyone to come along as he has a PowerPoint thing all set up about missing links.
We fade in on Mr. Tie talking about…something. My God, everyone here has a case of marble-mouth. Oh well, there’s a reason my “Reverse” button is practically worn smooth. I think he’s saying that Mr. German, from earlier, who helped Mr. Escape to escape, was someone who accompanied Professor Dierdorf on his “ill-fated” expedition. Either that or taxation.
He’s then asked by Sir Harry why he thinks the white gorilla, or pongo, is the missing link, and Mr. Tie notes that he was coming to that (jumping the gun, eh Harry?) and he produces a large box, which contains Professor Dierdorf’s diary. Oh, good, so Mr. Escape saved it after all. I’m going to guess it says, “8:00, breakfast. 8:15, Yes (successfully). 8:30, Found white gorilla, or pongo, and it’s the missing link.”
Mr. Tie pulls out a small datebook and says that in here is the story of the white gorilla, or pongo, which he describes as an ape with an almost human intelligence. Apparently the Prof was able to give it all sorts of standard intelligence tests and it did rather well, perhaps even scholarship material or something. Mr. Bally says something Cockney which I won’t bother with, and Sir Harry says, “Cracked or not,” this may prove the Darwinian theory, and he’d sure like to be on board when the missing link is found and brought back to London or wherever.
”I’ve been hoping you’d say that,” Mr. Tie says. Why, Mr. Tie, you sly dog, you’ve just been manipulating us all! And that’s not allowed.
Sir Harry smacks his hands together and says, “By Jove, it’s worth having a go at it!”
Mr. Tie is very happy about this and details the journey they’re about to undertake. Carswell says it’s a hoax, if they ask him, but it’s pointed out that no one has asked him. So there. Just then, Mustache comes in to announce that Mr. Escape has made his last escape, from life itself. He just says he’s dead, Jim, but I thought I’d spice it up a bit. Everyone looks at Mustache like he just passed gas, and he starts to look really defensive. And Sir Harry says they’re now obliged to go search for this white gorilla, or pongo, since Mr. Escape is all dead and everything.
Fade to black, then fade in on the river scene with lots of packing and loading and stuff going on in preps for the old journey by river. And our intrepid band, all outfitted in pith helmets, all tromp out so they can get in the boats and go have a good stiff row. And Carswell tells Lady Harry that he sure hates to see her going on a dangerous mission for a stupid white gorilla, or pongo, since she’s a girl and all and there’s danger afoot. She reminds him that she was born on a safari and will, thus, be perfectly all right.
At the doc, Sir Harry meets Hans, the guide, and introductions are made all around. Turns out Lady Harry is actually Sir Harry’s daughter, Pamela, so she’s now renamed, huzzah and halloo. And the introductory pleasantries dispensed, everyone is ready to search for white gorillas, or pongos. All the guns are cleaned while the last of the parcels are stowed on board. Oh, my mistake, the three guys cleaning their guns aren’t part of the expedition, but I’m sure they have guns anyway. I mean, I can see them right there.
Pamela sees one gun cleaner and smiles at him, and Carswll wants to know what’s up with that, and she says he (the gun cleaner) “looks like he might have been a gentleman at some time.” Actually, he looks a bit sour but he is kind of handsome. Carswell huffs a bit at this and moves off, and Pamela resumes her staring. Handsome looks up as she leaves and still looks a bit sour.
And then the boats all push off into the river. It’s very pretty scenery, I’ll give them that. And there are some nice nature bits here and there, like a stork. And the boats, in the river and all. They ride really low in the water, these boats. And more boats. Yep, those are boats all right. Technically, I guess they’re outriggers since they have that thing that juts out on the side. Pamela sits in one and smokes, and she looks back, and gosh, there’s Handsome in another boat, also smoking! The air is thick with sexual tension. At least, it probably is in a different movie than this one.
Anyway, sorry about getting that ALL WRONG about the gunmen, all three of them are coming along. Okay? They’re in boats and just, well, everything.
Now, some herons, including a cute baby one. Now, back to the boats in case a gap of five seconds made us all worried that they might have been destroyed while we weren’t looking. (They weren’t.) And more shots of Handsome and Pamela. And fade to black.
Fade in on an ape walking through the brush. This one is a regular brown ape. Actually, there’s a bunch of them, and they speak with this weird echo-y noise that almost sounds electronic. Gads, I hope we’re not back on Kong Island. Anyway, they seem to be eating roots, except one is looking at what looks like a crushed suitcase. Also, they are all men in suits, so you don’t have to hide behind the sofa, it is perfectly safe. Come on out! There are potato chips but honesty compels me to point out that they’re just for me, sorry. If it makes you feel any better there’s no dip.
And then the white gorilla, or pongo, shows up, and the other gorillas seem rather put out by this. “Hey, it’s a white gorilla, or pongo,” their body language seems to convey, and they all leave, leaving the little glen all clear for the white gorilla and some smaller white sort of monkey. This isn’t the rescued chimp from earlier, unless the WP has some sort of method to turn fur white (like telling scary stories). The two of them take advantage here and start eating flowers.
The film-makers seem to feel this is enough gorilla action for us, for now, so they cut to the boats all landed somewhere, no doubt to make camp for the night. Just outside one of the tents, Hans is noting that if they go on the land, now, they can cut out 150 miles of water journey. Everyone congratulates him on his map skills. They further ruminate on stuff, and we see Handsome shaving, Pamela shoots him a quick look, then we get comical monkey follies as a monkey eats someone’s soup or drinks their coffee, or something. Whatever, the music tells us that mischief is afoot!
Then a…weird looking animal, like a cross between a bear cub and a boar, comes out of a cave and investigates a large trunk. The monkey briefly looks interested, then returns to his food. The other creature goes into the trunk, then comes out of it, and the monkey seems to think better of providing us humans with viewing pleasure and he, too, hoofs it.
Glad they got the animal antics out of the way, since these creatures didn’t interact with anyone and no one saw them do anything. Okay?
Back to Pamela, who seems damn man-hungry. She, like Cassius, has a lean and hungry look which doesn’t really make her look all that attractive. She looks like Marlene Dietrich in a very cynical mood. She’s still giving Handsome the eye, and the violins of love are shooting off. She goes over to ask Handsome why he shaves when no one else does. He says it’s habit, from his “years in the service.”
She asks him several questions intending to furrow out his origin, and his only response is “No, ma’am.” Caswell comes up then and tells Handsome he’s being presumptuous and should knock that off. Handsome says that he will and gathers up his shaving things and leaves. In fact, he gets in a boat and puts on his hat—he must be pretty ticked off.
Pamela dresses down Carswell pretty severely. He says he’s only looking out for her. Throughout this, the music is so loud it’s hard to make out what these mutterers are muttering about, so I’m guessing on some of this based on the clichés I imagine are being employed. And if I’m wrong, if Pamela and Carswell are actually discussing ice cream, well, then, mutter, mutter, mutter. (And mumble.)
Pamela concludes her talk by saying she’ll talk to Handsome whenever she feels like it, and he, Carswell, better keep his wise lips to himself if he knows what’s good for him and she thinks he does. She leaves, and Carswell glances at Handsome, who is aiming his gun for practice (not at anyone).
Back with all the old guys, they’re still praising each other about maps. Pamela shows up about then, and is informed that they’re all about to shove off. She asks Sir Harry if she can have Handsome as her own personal guard, as he seems “more suitable” than the one she’s got. “I quite agree,” says Sir Harry, putting his arm around her shoulder. Hans, I think, goes off to congratulate Handsome on landing such a plum role.
He protests, saying he likes where he is. In fact, he looks like he’s taken a large bite out of a particularly bitter pickle. But Hans says too bad, he’s been reassigned so he’d better start liking it. His sour look doesn’t improve.
And we’re back to the boats, along the river. Very nice. Yes, boats. I often wonder where humanity would be if we weren’t in boats. Well, I suspect we’d be indoors, wouldn’t we? Probably watching television…like I am! Wow, is that weird or what?
In the one boat, Pamela is telling Handsome that he sure doesn’t seem to like being around her. Again, the music is mixed to the same level as the dialogue so it’s a bit rough making this out. He’s stoic about it all. After some remark he makes about her and Carswell, she says, “You’re very rude!”
”And very uncouth, also a congenital liar, besides, I’m a positive band where women are concerned,” he says, then, glancing at her, adds, “Most women.” No idea what he means by “positive band” but I’ve played it four times and it’s no clearer. She looks a bit sourly at him, but seems secretly pleased by the “most women” addenda.
Fade to some foliage. Oh, good, always welcome, foliage. Where would humanity be without foliage? Also, monkeys, who speak in the same echo-y tongue as their pongoid brethren. They watch the boats. And so do we. Rather a lot. The monkeys have food, which we don’t. And they’re not sharing, but that’s okay as the food is a bunch of leaves and we’ve had all the roughage we need for today, thanks anyway.
And we fade to our intrepid troupe, traipsing through the jungle. Wow, we didn’t get to see them abandon their boats, and the boats wail with bitter tears. Well, that’s okay, really. A lion chases after a springbok, but that seems to be from a different movie. The troupe and their bearers keep going. And they walk along a high bank next to a river, and…what the hell? Now they’re back in their boats. That…that’s cheating.
Anyway, they run into some natives who are yelling rather loudly, probably about the boat-cheating stuff, like me. So everyone stops the boats and they all get out to share the hospitality of this village of continuity sticklers. One of the guys (I wish they had name tags on their pith helmets) tells Sir Harry that this is the village they were seeking, and he’s told the chief that they’re looking for the white gorilla, or pongo. The chief told the pithed off guy that the white gorilla, or pongo, killed one of his warriors so he’s pretty down on this white gorilla, or pongo.
Sir Harry asks Hans to ask the chief about “the old white man” who was lately hanging around here. Hans thinks this line of questioning unwise, as it would give away the whole plot, so he suggests just saying they’d like to camp here for a bit then move on. If “the old white man” is still around, he’ll seek them out. Everyone thinks Hans is pretty smart for suggesting this.
Hans proposes and the Chief disposes; the troupe can hang, but they can’t camp. Carswell thinks this is rather a lot of cheek but someone else says the natives’ caution is understandable, and he then orders the “trinkets” brought out. I could swear that Hans, in his native speak, says the phrase “mumbo jumbo” but that’s probably my bad ears.
And the trinkets—mostly lengths of cloth—are duly brought out, and the natives are spellbound. Folks, I didn’t write this movie, I’m just reviewing it. Just so’s we’re all square on this.
Oh good lord…a couple of the white guys are chuckling at all this display. Now, look, movie, I’m trying to cut you some slack here, being from an unenlightened time and all…don’t try my patience!
Just then., Mr. Tie spots Mr. German, and he and Sir Harry go off to do some interrogating. Introductions are made all around, and Mr. German sounds remarkably like he’s found a nice rich cache of sauce to baste himself in, if you get my drift. He says that he’s the former associate of Dierdorf who everyone is so keen on. When he learns that the diary is found he’s glad Mr. Escape escaped, then sad to hear about his demise. He asks Sir Harry if he intends to continue the search for the missing link, and Sir Harry says sure, so Mr. German invites him and Mr. Tie into his tent, which has no chairs. He apologizes for his lack in the chair department.
Mr. German gets out a medium size trunk and slurs out how his name isn’t important, but he was part of the ill-fated expedition, and he stuck with Prof Dierdorf til the end, which just happened to be when the Prof was murdered…by the white gorilla, or pongo! No, it can’t be! He was always such a nice missing link, real quiet, kept to himself, used to do volunteer work I heard.
Mr. Tie prompts Mr. German for his next line, and Mr. German opens up his trunk and shows them some photographs, one of them the very Professor Dierdorf himself, looking all dignified and such like as professors do. He also points out that this was taken at their camp in the heart of gorilla territory.
Mr. Tie asks if it’s possible that the camp might still be there, and Mr. German says, no, not after ten years.
Ten years?! Uh…how long do gorillas live, anyway? This famed white one might be dead after ten years. Not to mention it seems an awful long time for a follow-up expedition.
Well, anyway, Sir Harry is quite grateful for the holiday snaps, and Mr. German shows him another one of the missing link in its cage, when it was five years old, the same age as Philippe. Sir Harry promises to take good care of the photos, and maybe Mr. German himself would like to go back to Europe? Eh? Eh? Nudge nudge wink wink say no more?
Mr. German shakes his head no. He says he’s not long for this world anyway, so it would be a huge bother for nothing. He gives them a map, showing where the old camp would be, and he advises them to rebuild it and use it as their base, otherwise, according to him, “you may traverse the entire length and breadth of the Congo and never catch sight of a single gorilla.”
They ask him how gorillas are attracted, and he says that the Prof planted “the majum plant” all around the camp, and gorillas like that plant so they came in droves. (Damn lucky for this expedition that Mr. German didn’t die before they got here. They left on an expedition to find gorillas and they don’t know how to attract them? What exactly did they study up on?)
Outside, they’re giving away the last of the fabric, and the white pongo appears to check out the hubbub. He pokes the weeds aside and looks at Carswell, who’s watching the river. Carswell himself sees a monitor lizard (not sure what it’s doing here), and there’s Pamela too. He offers to shoot the blighter so she can have a handbag, but she says shooting’s not a good idea around here.
Sir Harry, Hans and Mr. Tie all meet up outside and agree that getting out of here seems to be a good idea, as there’s a large crowd of warriors all chanting and looking like they’d just love a chance to show how sharp their spears are.
They all decide that getting back in the boats and traveling at least fifty miles is a swell idea, so they gather everyone up and go off to do so. The white gorilla, or pongo, watches all this.
And we cut to more boat footage as they leave the river bank, while the natives are on the shore like, we wouldn’t attack! We were gonna make espresso.
And we’re back on the water. Ooo, I was pretty much hoping, weren’t you? And the white gorilla, or pongo, is keeping pace along the shore. Making good time, too, as we cut to darkness and it’s still loping along on the shore while the boats sail and Pamela rests. (No one sees the WP, by the way.)
And it’s the next day, and we’re doing more jungle traipsing. The missing link is right along with them, though honesty makes me note that, when he parts the branches to take a gander at his quarry, it looks like the very same footage that’s been used before in a different locale.
It’s not a bad gorilla costume, now that we see it in full, but it’s pretty obviously a costume.
And the traipsing party gets to a clearing, one of the bearers points out some pongo tracks. Mr. Tie is all for busting out the tracking skills and going after it, but Hans suggests setting up a temporary camp here and then go searching. Everyone applauds his level head.
So, they set up camp. The white gorilla, or pongo, watches them do this, to jaunty slightly comical music. But then Handsome finds the remains of an animal cage—the kind that once held the white gorilla, or pongo, prisoner! Well, everyone congrats Handsome on finding the Lost Camp of Professor Dierdorf, however, the WP seems pretty ticked at this unearthed reminder of his days in a cage, and he jumps up and down.
Fade to that evening, doesn’t seem to be much of a camp, really, but all the pithed off white guys are watching the bearers build something out of wood. Ah, at least Mr. Bally is helping along, the others are just standing in a line, watching. It’s a pretty uncomfortable scene, for sure. One rather imagines that Mr. Bally’s whacks were simply ceremonial anyway, just so they could say a white guy helped.
Anyway, they now have to plant the majum plants around here. Carswell makes a joke about hoping the gorilla gets hungry, but everyone jumps on him and he has to explain it was a joke. That is just sad. Pamela asks how they’ll know when a gorilla, or even the gorilla, is caught and Mr. Bally avers how he’s improved the Prof’s methods…by attaching a bell to the trap, so it will ring when tripped. By jove, that’s dashed clever, what? Rather a pity the white gorilla, or pongo, has been watching them the whole time and, rumor has it, might be intelligent enough to avoid this particular trap. I mean, I hope so.
Mr. Bally demonstrates his trap, and his gorilla imitation skills, to the amusement of everyone and the (apparent) sore head of he himself as he hurls himself into the trap. He’s lowered a ladder and our comedy relief is done for the night, I hope. Everyone is still laughing. Boy, these folks are easily amused.
And we see that there is quite a decent camp here. They even have buildings, and a wall around the place.
Cut to a montage of the majum plants growing and blossoming, and a bunch of gorillas enjoying same. How fast does this stuff grow?
Then fade to Mr. Bally and (I think) Handsome discussing the plants, Mr. Bally says they stink, and he’s “glad the Creator didn’t make a monkey out of me!” and Handsome looks at him like, are you sure? Ha ha ha. Anyway, Mr. Bally says it’s time for Handsome to do something, like have a bally smoke or use the bleeding john or maybe have some blooming dinner. Mr. Bally says he’ll watch the fort. This sounds like a setup for something to happen, but it doesn’t and we fade to everyone enjoying a card game.
Handsome declines to participate, so he leaves, while saying goodnight to Pamela. Old Carswell doesn’t like the look of this sort of familiarity one bit. Outside, Handsome broodingly smokes a cig, listening to the big cats growl in the night. Pamela comes outside too, and Carswell just bridles at this, and he goes outside as well, catching up with Pamela and saying that she’s treated him a bit shabbily since they’ve come to this Africa place, what? And he bally loves her. But she says she’s “awfully fond” of him too, and you know what that means.
I think someone should invent a cheese that tastes good to people but cats don’t like. Why the hell isn’t science working on this?
Back to the movie. She thinks they should be just good friends, and he’s not too happy with this but has no real choice. She leaves. Handsome moves out of the shadows and goes into his own hut. Carswell glares at where he should be but no longer is. Then he stalks off like celery.
Cut to the gorilla trap, and the WP is heading right for it. He pokes among the plants a bit, but then seems to detect the hard underbelly of this man-made smorgasbord, and he starts digging. Having confirmed his worst (gorilla) fears, he gives this great kind of “damn it!” gesture, and approaches the problem from another angle. Rather than tasty plants, he decides a wooden wall is far more interesting, so he thumps on it a while.
And we fade in on Pamela in her bed…which is, damn, a metal bed with a mattress and everything. Not a bunk bed…wow, what the heck did these folks pack? The rich are different.
Well, who should stroll up outside her window, but the WP! And he tugs on the bars a bit, and in a very cool shot, his shadow moves across the screen until she’s covered…then she wakes up and screams. The WP flings his hands into the air and runs away, and Pamela’s door opens and Sir Harry pops in to see what’s shaking.
What’s shaking is Pamela, who’s all trauma’d out by this gorilla thing. I mean, who would have thought that there might be gorillas, here in the jungle, surrounded by majum plants! It’d be the last thing I’d expect, but then I’m a bit dense.
She says she saw an awful beast, right by the window, and Sir Harry dutifully goes to check but of course finds nothing. He mentions that she was probably having a nightmare, but she’s having none of this. He suggests it might be a wolf, but she counters with a gorilla. He chuckles and says that “gorillas are not climbing beasts.”
They aren’t? I…I thought they were. Or could at least climb a bit. Wow am I ignorant! Anyway, who was talking about climbing? Why do you speak of hiding and destroying? And I hate to suggest this but wolves aren’t climbing beasts either.
Anyway, shouts from outside bring some fellows who might be able to corroborate Pamela’s story. Sir Harry immediately blathers about how it was all a dream so everyone ought to just forget it, but someone says that Handsome should search around anyway. He does this, in a sort of four foot square, for quite some time. He goes to another such square, and looks around. It sort of looks like he found something on the ground, but apparently we’re not supposed to be interested in that as the film cuts away. What are we supposed to be interested in? Pamela smoking, it appears. Hilariously, the music starts up and she reacts happily to this as if the orchestra’s there in the woods with her, and goes over to her trunk. I guess she’s going to dress for the (still offscreen) orchestra.
Instead, she goes to see Handsome who is done with searching and is chewing on dinner. She asks him what he thinks, and he turns to see that she’s dressed in some odd white dress with lots of frills and such all around the collar (looks like white Easter grass). She’s also either holding a clump of the stuff or some kind of dead long-haired animal. Unless it’s a muff or something, you know what I mean, some sort of hand warmer.
I’m kind of thinking that in this get-up, the white gorilla, or pongo, will mistake her for one of his own kind, and wackiness will happen and maybe a rescue.
Anyway, they talk about manners for some reason and how they should be observed. Then they agree to call each other by first names. Just then, Carswell walks in and spots the two already in a clinch! Angry, he pushes Handsome away, and Handsome belts him a good one.
Everyone else walks in then, and Handsome is in big trouble for being all smoochy. He gets demoted to guard someone other than Pamela, which is what he wanted anyway so everyone wins. Sir Harry is all pissed off about it all, but of course Carswell, whose first name is probably Trouble-Maker, isn’t in trouble at all.
Just then the gorilla trap bell rings, so everyone rushes off to see what hapless beast might have fallen into their little device. And it’s a gorilla, but just a regular one. Carswell asks if they’re going to kill it, and Sir Harry says, “Don’t be an idiot. If we kill him, all our efforts will be wasted. We’ll never have another gorilla come near the place.” Because I guess news travels fast in gorilla-land. Or they’re all telepathic. Or when they die, they give off a powerful pheromone that says “Keep away, they’ve got guns.” I don’t know what he means, and considering that no one studied gorillas before they began their expedition, I doubt he knows what he means either.
Hoping to help the regular gorilla escape, so they can get on with catching the white one, they throw the ladder down to the gorilla, and he sort of tosses it about himself. I’m not sure how he’s supposed to know what to do with it, but maybe it’s that telepathy. We get to watch him figure at it, until he finally by chance seems to get the idea of “climbing,” which of course gorillas can’t do. He gets out of the pit and does a bit of vandalism before escaping (I think—we don’t see this escaping, but Mr. Bally calls out, “Cheerio, old chap” and we fade to black, so I guess Mr. Gorilla is gone back to the jungle).
Now, they were worried that killing the gorilla would put the kibosh on their pongo plans, but what will letting this one escape do? Wouldn’t it warn its fellows as effectively as its dead pheromones might? I don’t really care, mind, but these questions don’t answer themselves!
Fade in as Carswell wants to talk to Hans. He says he’s sick of waiting for a white gorilla, or pongo, to just happen on them, and he says that Hans had “a definite objective” for coming along on the trip. Apparently this objective was different from the “find a gorilla” one everyone else had. Carswell wants to throw in with Hans and do the things that he wants to do. Hans asks why, since he doesn’t know his (Hans’) purpose. Carswell says “Anything would be better than this.”
Hans says something incomprehensible. Okay, sigh, I rewound, it’s something about “If you throw in with us, there’s no backing out, and if we fail, you’ll be hanged with the rest of us.” Gosh!
Carswell says that’s okey-dokey as long as he can take Pamela. Hans isn’t sure about this, but agrees provided she is entirely Carswell’s responsibility. Everyone agrees about everything. So Hans spills the beans about his nefariousness. (Hans apparently is either extraordinarily trusting of everyone who comes up to him, or very, very dense. Except for the fact that Carswell has proven his craven nature, he could be trapping Hans.)
Hans, it seems, knows of a giant supply of gold. If they can get enough of it, they’ll be rich. Carswell says he’s “with you all the way.” They go off somewhere and we fade to black.
Hans and Carswell are amazingly efficient together; when we fade back in, they’ve already betrayed the others and taken them all prisoner. Hans says they’re taking all the supplies, and if no one follows, they’ll leave enough food two days away that will get them back to civilization. If someone follows, though, they get nothing. They forcibly remove Pamela and set off. Not before Sir Harry calls Carswell a “bounder.” Ooh, I bet that smarts.
And pretty much everyone follows, all the bearers, everyone, all taking the boats, too! Gosh, they are bounders after all. The boats! And I see how they were able to traipse, then boat, then traipse again—some of the bearers are carrying the boats on their heads. Okay, mystery solved.
Back with the tied up people, Handsome rapidly unties himself and all the others, and reveals that he’s actually with the Secret Service. He explains first off that the offer of supplies left behind was bogus, and that he’s here because another party that hired someone who fit Hans’ description as a guide was found dead—except for the guide. Sir Harry apologizes but there’s no time to lose, so they all leave.
Back with the bad guys, they traipse through the jungle. For rather a long time. Then they’re all resting somewhere after an arduous jump-cut. “No, frauline, it would be very foolish to attempt it,” Hans is saying. “You might become the prey of some wild beast.”
And, fully recovered from the jump-cut, they start their traipsing again. And after a bunch of traipsing, we see the white gorilla, or pongo, peering through the bushes where they’d just gone. He’s looking really puzzled. I suppose he’s never seen so much traipsing before. He soon follows after.
More traipsing footage. Some monkeys in the trees. Finally they come to a riverbank, and they put the boats in the water. While the boats are being waterized, we see more monkeys, another monitor lizard, a bear and pretty foliage.
Everyone is ordered aboard, but Pamela refuses, asking about the promised supplies to be left. Hans says, basically, he’s too evil to do that. Carswell shows a bit of spine and says, in essence, be fair. He wants supplies left too. Hans tells him to shut up, then. Pamela runs away, Carswell goes to follow her, and Hans shoots Carswell (in the back, too! Talk about a bounder). He then runs after Pamela as well. Why? Why chase her when he just told her she’d probably be killed by a predator if she escaped? Why chase her when they can just be on their way to the gold and let the jungle take care of her? Why that’s simple. It’s because the writer fell asleep. There’s no other reason.
We see the WP doing some stretching exercises as he lolls through the jungle. Pamela trips and falls, and Hans catches up, saying she’d better learn to obey orders because he doesn’t have time to waste.
She looks meanly at him, then past him over his shoulder, and she screams. Hans turns just as the WP attacks and kills Hans (who screams like a lady—either that, or Pamela can scream without moving her lips, or the WP screams like a lady). The WP then turns his attention to Pamela, who runs away again.
Some of Hans’ men show up and prepare to shoot the WP, but they decide not to, which gives the WP time to sling Pamela over his shoulder and carry her off. Foiled, the men all run off. The WP, in the meantime, is having some trouble deciding which direction to run off in, so he instead just waits for the fade to black.
And we cut to evening somewhere, and it appears that the Good Guys (as led by Handsome) have captured all the bad guys! Damn, without guns or anything, which must have been really something, and we missed it! The lead bearer is telling the Good Guys all about what we just saw. “And he was a white gorilla.” Or pongo.
Speaking of which, WP finally gets to his cave and tosses Pamela on some soft brush. He then tugs at her hair and she wakes up. She wants to scream but I guess WP is looking gentle or something so she doesn’t. He pulls a button or some jewelry or something off her and sniffs it but doesn’t find it all that satisfying. And you know what he reminds me of now? The Mugato, from Star Trek. Except he doesn’t have horns.
Anyway, he soon tires of the smell game and wanders out of the cave, probably going to get some fast food or something. Actually, he only gets as far as the entrance before he sits down and, uh, speculates or something. (It is hard to tell if he is sad or content. He is a gorilla after all.)
Fade to the next day, and everyone is back to some serious traipsing. Cut to Pongoland, and he is still sitting outside the cave, just like he was last night. It is like he is saying, “Well, here I am, a white gorilla, or pongo. Huh.”
He’s still sniffing at the button or jewelry or whatever it was, so I guess Pamela really smells bad so that the stink lasts all night long, and is better than liquor drinks too if you’re a white gorilla, or pongo. Inside the cave, Pamela wakes up with a case of bed head, though I guess that is “cave head” here. Still better than Cartilage Head.
A lion prowls outside, and WP is pretty much incensed about this. They growl at each other for a while, then WP decides to jump down and proclaim his supremacy and the lion takes off like the biggest coward in the world! It is like he came right from the set of The Wizard of Oz. Pamela seizes this opportunity to escape. Where to, who knows, but she’s running like crazy. Pretty good sense of direction for someone who was unconscious during the trip to the cave. The WP thrashes some trees pretty soundly, he is so mad.
Next we see the Good Guys traipsing, and they come across some old rag which they mutter and mumble about. It looks like a pair of pants, but one says something that sounds like “lion” so who knows what they’re on about? It will be a mystery for the ages.
Suddenly there’s a tad of hubbub and some bearers have found gorilla tracks. Handsome notes how they should be paying attention now, but they need to concentrate on the deeper tracks, as they’d be caused by a white gorilla, or pongo, carrying Pamela’s fat self. They rush off to look for deep tracks.
Pamela, elsewhere, runs up to a tree to catch her breath, and wouldn’t you know it but WP is coming from the other direction! He sure has mad tracking skillz. She runs off again, and he follows, after pounding the ground for a while. The music becomes inexplicably tender here.
The Good Traipsers are also in the same neck of the woods, but never mind them as we cut to Pamela running through the woods, with the WP slowly lumbering after her, careful not to catch up to her so as to cut the running time short. He finally does grab her, though, and she screams, and the traipsers hear her. He flings her down rather awkwardly—actually, it looked as if she was about to dislodge his costume and shatter our illusions, so he hurriedly dropped her. And we cut to a common brown gorilla coming to see what all the noise is about.
Back to WP, he’s picked up Pamela and is trying to bounce her awake. Good luck with that. He also brushes her neck, being very careful to stay away from the Naughty Bits.
The brown gorilla makes his presence known and asserts, via gorilla talk, that he’d rather like Pamela for his own, so the two brutes go at it using a small tree to smack each other with as well as some loose foliage. Pamela wakes up and sees this match of titans unfolding before her, while monkeys chatter encouragement and the Good Guys finally show up. The gorillas, while fighting, make the damnedest noise, it’s kind of like a contrabass frog croak.
The Good Guys glance at each other like, um, did you bring your script because I’ve forgotten my lines. The battle royale goes on for some time, before the Good Guys happen to note Pamela and rescue her. The gorillas both note her absence and decide to open a saloon together called “Rick’s Café American.” Ha ha, I was kidding there, they actually continue to wrassle. The Good Guys watch as if stupefied, which may be the case, in fact. Finally, the WP emerges triumphant, waves his arms to indicate same, notes the presence of Pamela and the Good Guys (there’s a band name for you) and decides to rush them.
Handsome raises his rifle. “Don’t shoot to kill!” Sir Harry says, so Handsome shoots…uh, to wound, I guess. So the gorilla can bleed, um, until he becomes, uh, manageable. Tranquilizer darts would be called for, and I’d think they’d plan on this when deciding they wanted to capture a white gorilla, or pongo. (Of course, they didn’t know what gorillas ate, either.) Honestly, I don’t know how you could shoot something with a bullet so you could capture it without having extensive medical crap on hand, and if you had that, you’d have tranquilizer darts. Unless gorillas have a “stun gland” you can shoot to stun them. I don’t think they do but I’ll admit I’m no expert. Hey, maybe since the WP is intelligent they can just use a warning shot! That would work.
Oh whatever, this is giving me a headache. Handsome shoots, the WP dutifully falls over, uh, wounded and I guess passes out. And we fade to black, and fade in as Mr. Bally is telling the WP, who is totally caged up, that he should calm down and stuff. The WP keeps trying to wreck the cage but finally heeds the Cockney advice. Mr. Bally reckons this cage will hold the WP all the way back to London, and the lead bearer says something that cannot be deciphered. Sigh. OKAY, I’ll try again. I think it’s something about “a plane that’s on its way.” Oh, good. Whatever. If the plane leaves London at 300 MPH at 2:00 PM and travels east, and another plane leavers Berlin at 3:00 PM at 350 MPH going west--
The WP hates math story problems I guess as he starts railing at the cage again. Back in the comfortable hut, Mr. Bally says, “And the blinking missing link is all ready to go bye bye.” The others, consisting of Mr. Tie, Sir Harry and Handsome, all discuss the WP. Sir Harry, still pithed off, says some anthropologists are going to be totally surprised by this missing link (and I bet will have to pay him ten dollars each). Handsome (who is out of frame) asks if the missing link stuff is on the up and up, and Mr. Tie assures him it is, because the WP is more intelligent than any other ape they’ve ever tested before.
Sir Harry says the WP will be the center of controversy for “the next fifty years, and his appearance will startle the world!” Sounds like it is going to suck to be a white gorilla, or pongo, for the rest of poor old WP’s life. Especially when they find out it’s just a guy in a costume!
Sir Harry and Mr. Bally cross to the window and open the blind, and they see Handsome and Pamela kissing up a storm. (…So I don’t know who was talking earlier. Maybe it was Mustache.)
Anyway, despite the fact that the two seem, er, occupied, Sir Harry starts to ask Handsome, “do you think the white gorilla [or pongo] will startle the world,” and without missing a beat, Handsome reaches in and lowers the shade back down to hide the kissing activity. Sir Harry and Mr. Bally grin at each other like, Oooooo! And they leave the smoochers to continue to explore each other’s tonsils.
And over that map of Africa we started with, we get the words “The End.”
Well, huh. Not sure what to say about this one. It was competently made, not terribly exciting, no characters we much gave a damn about—when we could understand them anyway. With the mixture of heavy German (Mr. Tie and Hans) and Cockney (Mr. Bally) accents, apparent drunkenness (Mr. German), mumbling (Mr. Escape) and overly loud music (the composer) it’s a wonder I could make out any of the dialogue.
The plot, too, seemed pretty elementary. I imagine this sort of thing is usually pitched as Expedition Meets Gorilla, Expedition Loses Gorilla (and Dies), Expedition II Gets Gorilla. That bit with Hans and his gold fever just started up like someone starting a chainsaw in a quiet urban neighborhood, and similarly stopped when the chainsaw ran out of gas after a couple of minutes.
Uh…what? Sorry, no idea what I meant by that. But the gold smugglers subplot went nowhere. It was odd how the Lead Bearer guy just went along with Hans, then when Hans, Carswell and Pamela were no longer part of the picture, he went along with the Good Guys and there wasn’t any question about his loyalty or anything. No dialogue about how he HAD to obey Hans or his family would be killed, whatever. He was even there at the end posing questions about white gorillas, or pongos.
The costume for the white gorilla, or pongo, was pretty competently made though I can’t imagine it fooled anyone. Still, effort should be applauded, and he’s got my hands clapping.
More than any of the other films from this era that I’ve seen the casual racism on display here disturbed me. As Lou Reed once sang, “Those were different times” and thank goodness for that, but still. It didn’t really impact on the plot, but the scenes of the Africans going all nuts over fabrics and the Europeans smiling indulgently on this were very, very uncomfortable. So, as a lesson in history this certainly has a lot to tell us.
As drama, though, not so much. These folks went after the white gorilla, or pongo, and they eventually found him and that was that. Lots of padding here, with admittedly very nice scenery and wildlife footage (though that was pretty brief).
I guess this one, I’d say, isn’t as good as Queen of the Amazons (which wasn’t all that good to start with). Though both were very similar in nature, that one had more of an actual plot which all tied together, with characters who were kind of interesting and had goals they wanted to accomplish, rather than just to check off “went on safari” on their list of Life Goals. And the stock footage was more interesting there, too.
But like that other film, this film would have to be considered non-essential. Like Brian Eno’s ambient music, okay to have on in the background, and if you decide to pay attention it’s okay, but doesn’t really merit closer scrutiny. It, in fact, sucks if you do that. And it’s not really entertaining to make fun of either film, since they’re both rather earnest and well-meaning. You can see where the makers wanted to make a good film, and they kind of did. Except when you get to the racism part, then I imagine a pall would descend on the evening.
One curious thing to note was that this was made in 1945, which you history buffs will recognize as a year there was a war on (don’t mention the war!). True, Hans is a cold-hearted murderer (shoots a man in the back, after all). But the other German chaps are a-okay, and you’ve got that craven Carswell to balance things out. I guess the film-makers didn’t want to be contemporary, figuring they were making one for the ages. But were they? Opinions differ.
Not bad enough to be funny, not good enough to be good, this film, like a white gorilla (or pongo) seems to be too late for some parties and too early for others. Maybe you can shoot it til it’s okay, as it might have a stun gland that would make it entertaining enough to be cagable. It worked in the movie.