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Jungle Woman

Jungle Woman (1944) Movie Poster
USA  •    •  61m  •    •  Directed by: Reginald Le Borg.  •  Starring: Evelyn Ankers, J. Carrol Naish, Samuel S. Hinds, Lois Collier, Milburn Stone, Douglass Dumbrille, Richard David, Nana Bryant, Pierre Watkin, Christian Rub, Alec Craig, Eddie Hyans, Tom Keene.  •  Music by: Paul Sawtell.
       Paula the ape woman is alive and well, and running around a creepy old sanitarium run by the kindly Dr. Fletcher, also reverting to her true gorilla form every once in a while to kill somebody.

Review:

Image from: Jungle Woman (1944)
Image from: Jungle Woman (1944)
Image from: Jungle Woman (1944)
Image from: Jungle Woman (1944)
Image from: Jungle Woman (1944)
Image from: Jungle Woman (1944)
Image from: Jungle Woman (1944)
Image from: Jungle Woman (1944)
Image from: Jungle Woman (1944)
Image from: Jungle Woman (1944)
Image from: Jungle Woman (1944)
Image from: Jungle Woman (1944)
Image from: Jungle Woman (1944)
Image from: Jungle Woman (1944)
Image from: Jungle Woman (1944)
This is the second in a series of three ape woman movies Universal made; at the moment I've only seen the first two. This film does follow the events of the first, but it could probably be seen by people who hadn't seen the first, since it does recap things.

It starts with a man walking towards a house, and he is attacked. We see him in silhouette struggle with his attacker, a woman. He sticks her with something, and she collapses. After a newspaper headline explaining a Doctor is faced with a Coroner's inquest, we meet Dr. Fletcher, the man on trial for the death of a woman named Paula. The inquest is a somewhat awkward framing device for the movie. Dr. Fletcher, Fred Mason and Beth Colman (these latter two character returning from the first movie) recall certain events surrounding Paula. Their recollections are, at least to start with, mostly clips from Captive Wild Woman (1943), although Dr. Fletcher's character has been edited into that footage. It grows somewhat awkward when Fred Mason testifies about a conversation he had with Dr. Fletcher about past events: we're watching a recollection of a recollection.

It turns out Dr. Fletcher discovered that the ape Cheela, who had seemingly died from a gunshot wound near the end of the first film, still had some vital signs. Dr. Fletcher nursed Cheela back to health, and upon hearing something about Dr. Walter's experiments, also buys Dr. Walter's estate, including the sanitarium from the first film. The recollections about Cheela and Paula are complicated by something Fred Mason tells Dr. Fletcher, information that was not in the first film that I recall. Mason says that before he brought Cheela to the US from Africa, he'd heard stories of a Doctor in Africa who turned humans into animals. It was rumored that Cheela was one of those animals. If that was true, then it would mean that Paula was a woman who'd been turned into an ape, and then turned into a woman who sometimes reverted to being an ape.

Cheela escapes, and Dr. Fletcher and his incredibly annoying (and poorly acted) helpmate Willie go searching. They find Paula instead. In the first film, once Paula had reverted to being an ape, she could only turn back after Dr. Walters gave her a series of treatments. In this film, she can turn back and forth; whether she can do so at will is not clear. Also unclear is whether she turns completely into an ape, or into an ape-woman: a halfway stage we'd seen her in in the first film. There is something much later in the film that definitely suggests the latter possibility is the correct one.

Paula is uncommunicative until she meets Bob, the sweetheart of Dr. Fletcher's daughter. She is instantly smitten. While this copies an element from the first film (Paula is obsessed with a man, and her jealousy makes her dangerous and animalistic), in the first film her obsession was at least somewhat justified. Mason had been kind to her while she was an ape in Africa, and on the ship all the way to America. Her obsession with Bob seems to be only that he is the first reasonably attractive young man she's met since becoming human again.

There's a scene in which Dr. Fletcher has someone compare Paula's fingerprints to those found on a lock which had been violently broken. He discovers that the patterns of the fingerprints are identical, except in size - one is at least twice the size of the other - and a somewhat "anthropoid" character of the larger one (or both?). Do apes have fingerprints? I don't know; I do think that scene could have been fleshed out a little more, and could have been interesting.

There were a couple strange things about the inquest. Dr. Fletcher had accidentally killed Paula by giving her an overdose of a sedative; the overdose was because he injected her while they were struggling. It would seem that would have been a defense in itself. Thus, Dr. Fletcher, Fred and Beth would not have had to bring up the story of Paula being an ape- woman. However, the court is willing to believe the story of Paula being an ape-woman if it can be proved, which seems a bit incredible. What is strange in connection with that, is that the coroner says if Paula was not human, then the court would have no jurisdiction for murder charges. Certainly she was human enough! Again, the defense would logically be that the death was accidental (and arguably self-defense as well).


Review by FieCrier from Upstate New York from the Internet Movie Database.