12 May 2019 | jery-tillotson-1
This 1933 pre-code antique is a delight on several levels. For once, it's a jungle movie from the early thirties when MGM's Johnny Weismuller was bringing in the money as that studio's Tarzan. So, Paramount wanted some of the jungle action and created this very enjoyable variation of the wild boy raised in the jungle by wild animals.
I've always felt Buster Crabbe was terribly under-rated. Here he is in all his near naked glory as Kaspa, the Lion King. We're never really explained as to how he escaped a wrecked plane and managed to grow up into this radiant Adonis but since this movie was made before the production code, we get to see lots of Buster since he wears a bikini sling-shot so abbreviated that he really is virtually naked, except for his rear-end. In fact, the movie's ads were aimed primarily at the women audience members at their chance to see a beautiful Adonis in the near altogether as this jungle god.
The cast is surprisingly strong with excellent production values, camera work and editing. The best part of the movie by far is the huge circus fire at the end. Not sure how they did this but the fleeing circus patrons look genuinely terrified and Buster is in his glory as he breaks through the police lines to rescue his beloved cats.
There is naturally a love story to all this and Francis Dee makes a delightful choice as a school teacher who see's the real potential of this jungle boy when he invades her apartment. She takes him under her wing and travels with the circus to support and educate him.
This was Buster's first movie, fresh from winning major swimming olympic awards and his natural beauty is spell-bounding. His torso is beautifully proportioned, he sports a thick head of dark curls and his face is as innocent and boyish as one would expect of a young male suddenly thrust from the jungle into the wilds of a big city.
This quality of wide-eyed innocence is what new audiences are discovering about Buster Crabbe as they watch him in "Flash Gordon", his various serials and especially another jungle yarn, "Tarzan the Fearless" in which he reprises his identical bikini slingshot and makes a very appealing young Tarzan.