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Jungle Manhunt (1951)



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Jungle Manhunt is not the worst entry in the Jungle Jim series, but it's certainly one of the most absurd. There are plenty of unintentional laughs here, which is all part of the game.

For once, Jungle Jim doesn't gratuitously fight all kinds of jungle predators. Instead, jungle predators fight each other, including a 100 foot lizard and a 100 foot crocodile with a huge fake spine. For once, Jim is able to slip into the water without a crocodile bearing down on him. (Instead, it's a shark and an octopus.) He's still in the business of rescuing women, though. The film opens with a woman and a native guide flipping over in a canoe. Jim rescues the woman, but the native isn't seen or heard from again, and nobody seems to notice. Later on, two white men, a woman, and a native ride down the river aboard a doomed raft, and guess which two rescue the other two?

The great asset of this series entry is the skeleton men, who must be seen to be believed. Essentially, they're guys dressed up in skeleton suits. They show up on the outskirts of tribal villages and sway around in place, freaking all the natives out, so they can be off their guard when they are attacked moments later. Not only do they look indescribably goofy, but the music is just as bad, and no effort is make to conceal the black outlines of the suits in the shadows.

The only thing funnier is the villain's grand scheme, unveiled late in the movie when the villain himself tells the captured goodguys all about his dastardly plan, complete with demonstrations. He is leading attacks against native tribes for slave labor in his mines. What is he mining? Igneous rock! It's very rare, he explains. It has special liquids and gases locked inside that are released when you melt the rock down. Then, add sugar. That's right, sugar. When the sugar burns off, it leaves a residue of pure carbon. Next, pour the liquid mixture into cold water, to cool it quickly. The sudden cooling creates such enormous pressure that it forms diamonds! No, I'm not making one bit of this up. And it gets better. Igneous rock has another property: it's radioactive! Consequently, his slave labor dies off every couple of days, and this is the fate that awaits our heroes in the mines! Except the woman. The villain has special plans for the woman. Initially, she refuses to cooperate, and that leads to the priceless line, "You're a very attractive girl. If I were you, I shouldn't exchange the glow of beauty for the glow of radioactivity."

If swaying skeleton men and geology lessons you never learned in school sound like fun to you, Jungle Manhunt is a blast. But anyone looking for some good storytelling had better look elsewhere.

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