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  • "Nabonga" marks the debut film of Julie London. It's also the first and only movie of Jackie Newfield, daughter of director Sam Newfield (and niece, of course, of Newfield's brother, Sigmund Neufeld).

    By the humble standards of the Neufeld Brothers, this entry is reasonably entertaining. The story is a familiar one (it was later re-used with great effect in "Mr Joseph Young of Africa"), but here it moves with sufficient pace and encompasses enough action to satisfy second-feature fans. True, Buster Crabbe breezes through his part with plenty of charm, but little conviction. As a good guy, his motives towards and treatment of the heroine often seem a little dubious, but such subtleties don't worry Buster at all. Julie London, however, makes quite an impression, while Ray "Crash" Corrigan has a grand time as the gorilla (though he is outclassed in the acting department by young Jackie Newfield). Fifi D'Orsay seems an unnecessary addition to the story, an opinion oddly shared by scriptwriter Myton who gives her little to do and then removes her from the plot with little ceremony. We would have liked to see more of Prince Modupe, however, whose dignified and knowledgeable native guide is far removed from the usual Hollywood stereotypes.

    Production values seem adequate enough for Poverty Row and are helped out enormously by Robert Cline's always attractively glossy and often noirishly lit photography.

    Available on DVD through Alpha. Quality rating: nine out of ten.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Nabonga" is not merely a 1944 "B" movie of interest only to those far too interested in the history of "B" movies - though it is that. I was expecting a cardboard jungle "epic", but a superior one in that it has Buster Crabbe, Barton MacLane, Crash Corrigan and his gorilla suit and the luscious Julie London in her first motion picture. What a surprise to find Crabbe portraying not another version of Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers or other perfect hero but a man driven to vindicate his father's reputation even if it should mean lying, cheating, theft from the girl to whom he is obviously attracted as well as trapping her beloved gorilla. Our hero is at least part anti-hero; not unheard of in a motion picture certainly but odd in a wartime Buster Crabbe vehicle. The moral uncertainty of Crabbe's character makes "Nabonga" different from its ilk. Apart from that interesting plot quirk, "Nabonga" is enjoyable on its own terms as a "white goddess" potboiler. There is an interesting relationship between Crabbe's character and Tobu, a black man who is treated as an equal not a servant and for whom the hero is willing to risk his life. "Nabonga" is an odd slice of 1940s cinema, ending with an exhortation to buy "war stamps and bonds at this theatre".
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I was all ready to strap myself in for the ride, but you know what, once the story got going it didn't turn out to be too bad. It reminded me a little of 1949's "Mighty Joe Young" without the production values, and quite possibly a more notable cast.

    The story opens with the ill fated plane flight of a wanted embezzler who escapes the authorities with his ten year old daughter in tow. With a tropical storm raging, the plane goes down in an African jungle. Even though the pilot and his two passengers survive, embezzler Stockwell (Herbert Rawlinson) is taking no chances after his cash and jewels are noticed by the flier; and then there were two. Shortly after getting situated, young Doreen Stockwell goes on a jungle foray and discovers a wounded gorilla.

    It's left to the viewer's imagination to piece things together as the film fast forwards unannounced to a period some years later when Ray Gorman (Buster Crabbe) arrives, curious to discover the facts behind the legend of a 'great white witch'. His servant Tobo (Prince Modupe) lends testimony to the tale of a witch born of a big bird that fell from the sky. Gorman and Tobo go in search of the 'house with wings' and the missing treasure. Adding intrigue to the adventure is the presence of mercenary Carl Hurst (Barton MacLane), who sets out to follow Gorman and cash in on the treasure trove himself, along with an accomplice named Marie (Fifi D'Orsay).

    I got a kick out of the scene where Tobo saves Gorman by shooting a leopard about to attack; Gorman expresses his wonder at Tobo's ability to read the jungle. Tobo's response - "When you live in jungle all your life, you know these things". Yet in the very next scene, Tobo follows Gorman as both swim across a crocodile infested river! Actually, Tobo's character is handled in rather dignified fashion given the era, when blacks often were portrayed as foils or in subservient roles. Gorman in fact treated his guide with respect and was willing to trust his judgment, and their relationship pretty much got along as equals.

    The casting coup of the film definitely has to be that of Julie London as the adult white witch Doreen. It was London's first film role, and even though she doesn't sing, she really doesn't have to. It was almost comical to observe her repeated 'I really like you' conversations with Buster Crabbe's character, who managed to miss all the signals. In that regard, the intrepid explorer was a total klutz.

    I saw this movie under the title "Nabonga Gorilla", which is a bit curious since Doreen's playmate is called Samson, and the name only shows up in the credits with a different spelling - 'Nbongo'. There it states that the part of the gorilla was played by Nbongo, though film fans will easily recognize the name of Ray "Crash" Corrigan as the man in the monkey suit. In ape circles, Corrigan came to be known by many names, including Zamba, Konga, Bonga, and my personal favorite - White Pongo. I wonder if he got to keep the gorilla costume.
  • I've just watched Nabonga for the first time and quite enjoyed it, despite its rather low budget.

    An aeroplane with a girl and her dad on board plus the pilot crash lands in Africa into a jungle. Her dad has some treasure with him so he shoots the pilot and disappears some years later, leaving his daughter alone. But she has been "adopted" by a gorilla, (a man in a monkey suit) Nabonga, although she calls him Samson. A small party, including Ray Gorman looking for the treasure eventually finds it and the girl and after Nabonga fights another gorilla (another man in a monkey suit), he kills somebody else who is also after the treasure along with a woman. After that, Gorman and the now grown up Doreen plan to return to America.

    The cast includes Buster Crabbe (Tarzan, Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers), singer Julie London and Barton MacLane (Unknown Island, The Maltese Falcon).

    This movie is certainly worth watching if you get the chance. Great fun.

    Rating: 3 stars out of 5.
  • NABONGA is just a low-budget gorilla adventure from PRC Pictures, but it offers a good story, more African wildlife shots than most Tarzan movies, and a reasonable level of sex appeal. At 75 minutes, the movie is never dull; and it matters not that Nabonga is an actor in a gorilla suit -- because audiences allowed some slack if the story was good. This rates a solid 7/10, if not better.

    Contrast this with Peter Jackson's overblown, miserable, and downright stupid 2006 gorilla movie --- that cost in excess of $100 million --- and was dying fast at the box office (per word-of-mouth) two weeks after its release. Jackson's movie had no entertainment value at all.

    Some say that Nabonga was the inspiration to the 1950 "Mighty Joe Young" --- a truly excellent classic made by the same skilled people that made the 1933 "King Kong". I'd say, not quite. "Nabonga" is a much slimmer story.

    You can rent Nabonga + Swamp Fire from Netflix, or buy a DVD for about $2.00 on eBay or elsewhere. Worth your time and money.
  • That's my favorite line, spoken by Buster Crabbe after he's tussled with one, an activity that provides convenient opportunity for him to take his shirt off. This isn't a good movie or a camp classic, but a "B" (or "C") with just enough energy and silliness to be entertaining rather than merely mediocre and tedious.

    Julie London, a comely 18 years old in her film debut, plays the young woman who's grown up from childhood in the jungle after a plane crash, protected by a giant ape (Ray Corrigan wears the suit). Buster is the intrepid explorer determined (for virtuous reasons) to find the stolen treasure she doesn't know she's hoarding. Somehow after a decade-plus with no one to talk to she speaks perfect English. She also wears a nice little print cocktail dress she presumably got on sale at the jungle Bloomingdale's.

    Buster looks great in his pith helmet and has some funny moments in his initial nervous interactions with London's Doreenand the ape she calls "Samson"--he might have been a good light comedian if anybody had given him the chance. When she amorously caresses Buster's face, his obliviousness is conveyed by another good line: "What's the matter? I need a shave?" This in a brief moment between the usual stock footage animal attacks involving exotic critters from around the globe.

    As others have noted, the relationship between "Bwana" Buster and his native guide Tobo (the rather stiff Prince Madupe, who seemingly never made another movie) is less condescending than the norm in such movies--Buster treats him more as partner and friend than servant. Too bad Tobo gets handed an early exit.
  • Well, I bought this gem for a fiver out of the blue. I thought: "Buster Crabbe is in it, so it can't be all bad!" Then I watched it in the German dubbing, and had to laugh quite a few times, but at spots neither the original movie makers nor the dubbing crew would have intended to be for laughter. The German dubbing sounds like from a bad porn movie. Really. The lines of the native people are just ridiculous, and the voice of the girls sounds like the voice of a 60 year old woman. Its crap! They even attached new music to it. Somekind of psychedelic syntho-pop, but a really bad one. So I switched over to the original soundtrack, and so I could finally enjoy this movie. Buster Crabbe is like usual awesome in action scenes, but his character play too is definitely better than in any Flash Gordon. I recommend this movie (in English!!!!) for anyone who is interested in fantastic movies from before the fifties. But its not King Kong tho! Therefore: 5 out of 10
  • Buster Crabbe, formerly Tarzan, Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, stars in this jungle action adventure. A box of jewels from a robbery was lost in the jungle years ago with the daughter of the thief. Our hero needs to find the box and/or the girl whose only friend in the meantime is a man in a gorilla costume. Sounds like a-dime-a-dozen, but actually "Nabonga" is well scripted and rather amusing. Instead of the same old wild fights against lions, this adventure gives Crabbe plenty of opportunity to be witty, for example I loved the scene when he is so afraid of the mighty gorilla the girl has to calm him down. Barton MacLane plays one his typical baddies, trying to steal the jewels himself. Well, it's a simple B movie within the genre rules of the 1940s, but it's doing well.
  • This low-grade production is nevertheless a slight upgrade, if you can believe that, compared to "Jungle Siren" which I saw yesterday and which was also directed by Sam Newfield and starred Buster Crabbe. Don't expect too much excitement, though; the "perils of the jungle" alternate between obvious stock footage of random animals and a man in an obvious gorilla suit. At the end there is a long fistfight between Crabbe and bad guy Barton MacLane, but because they are dressed almost exactly the same, you can't tell who's punching whom! Julie London is quite stunning in her film debut. *1/2 out of 4.
  • An embezzler on the run crash lands in the middle of the African jungle. His young daughter grows up under the protection of a large gorilla and becomes known to locals as the legendary white witch. An explorer sets out on an expedition to find her.

    This jungle adventure is directed by Sam Newfield who is famous for having directed more films than anyone else. Nabonga is very similar in plot line to another of Newfield's films, White Pongo. Both films feature large apes who covet young white women. And both also have striking titles that are never actually used in the film at any point! This picture is a pretty campy affair with a white jungle queen who acts more like a petulant city girl. It's overall entertaining enough to an extent but at the same time it has a lot of overly familiar adventure flick elements that aren't too interesting, such as a villainous, greedy explorer on the good guy's trail. The scenes with the girl and the ape were quite good fun though and, despite being nothing too great, this one is reasonably diverting as these types of movies go.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    For such a short movie, you get plenty of wild animals to look at. In Hollywood's version of deepest, darkest Africa, you get the usual lions, zebras, hyenas, chimpanzees, hippos and leopards - but why limit the animals to only one continent? For the perfect jungle cocktail, stir in South American monkeys, Indian elephants, American alligators, Australian cockatoos...and cap it off with a guy in a gorilla suit. Serve with Buster Crabe and Julie London for a really fun time.

    The story is about stolen jewels that are lost in a plane crash somewhere in the jungle. The daughter of the thief, Doreen (Julie London) lives a life of seclusion and innocence in the jungle with the jewels, protected by her gorilla friend, Sampson. The natives whisper of a white witch. Ray Gorman (Buster Crabbe) has journeyed to Africa to find the jewels and clear his father's name from the charges that he allowed the jewels to be stolen. A couple of seedy trading post scoundrels get wind of Gorman's goal and they follow along behind him, determined to get the jewels for themselves.

    Gorman befriends one of the local natives, Tobo, who offers to lead Gorman to the remains of the 'house with wings' that he keeps trying to tell people about. At first, Tobo seems to know his way around the jungle. But after Gorman does the obligatory fight the fake crocodile in the river with his shirt off scene, Tobo has no future and is promptly killed by the guy in the gorilla suit.

    The rest of the movie involves the resolution of the Beauty and the Beast story. The gorilla, Sampson, jealously protects Doreen's innocence and has kept her out of contact with other humans. Doreen calls off Sampson just as he is about to kill Gorman, thus opening the door to human interaction. Buster Crabbe and Julie London together on screen are very entertaining. Buster plays it all goofy and good natured, while Julie is naive, direct and flirtatious.

    Gorman's decision to trap Sampson and take the jewels against Doreen's will is a bit unsettling. It seems unfair, like stealing from a infant. The movie does not linger on any moral issue regarding the act, which is interesting. The action is treated like a given - the concerns of western civilization apparently trump everything else. What is chilling is that this attitude is exactly how western civilizations treated Africa for over two hundred years.

    Doreen decides she really likes Gorman. That pretty much dooms Sampson. The Beauty and the Beast relationship ends with his heroic death, defending her to the last. That means Gorman can now take Doreen out of the jungle and back to civilization. A happy ending...?

    This is an entertaining little low budget movie. It is thought provoking too, but I doubt if that was the original intent.
  • Bezenby19 February 2013
    I love jungle adventure films, me. From those crazy Tarzan films from a billion years ago, to the care-free and heart-warming Italian Cannibal films of the late seventies, you just can't go wrong with sending Whitey into some foliage (with some guides, obviously), and watching them get eaten by the locals, swallowed up by quicksand, or fall foul of some grumpy animal.

    Nabonga, however, doesn't have much in the way of action, has plenty of stock footage (seemingly from some turn of the century documentary), a man in a gorilla suit, and not much else. I mean, the hero of the piece loses two punch-ups! What hope do we have? It involves some guy going on the lam with his kid and some money who crashes in the jungle, only for him to die and the kid to grow and become friends with a gorilla, who protects her. Some guy comes looking for the cash, and some other people want the cash too.

    Alright, it's not that bad, really. The stock footage is almost as prominent in the amazing Zombie Creeping Flesh, and give me a guy in a gorilla suit over Andy Serkis any day, but there's still too much mooching around for it to be anything more than average. It's good that the kid lost in the jungle had a dress that grew as she grew though…who knows what other lost technology resides in the great green unknown?
  • Warning: Spoilers
    As you can guess from the cover and title, Nabonga is about a man in a gorilla suit named "Samson." A plane crashes in the jungle with stolen jewels and securities. Doreen, a Shirley Temple clone, survives the crash and lives until adulthood becoming a gorilla whisperer. She has become a legend as "the white witch." Buster Crabbe, sometimes known a "Bwana" looks for the treasure as bad guys follow him.

    Doreen (Julie London) as an adult living in the jungle has smooth silky white skin without a scratch, like most real live Hollywood Jungle women. The film I watched was restored, at least the part filmed on a set. The stock footage, films from the jungles in Africa...and around the world, was edited into the film at random points. It wasn't restored that well.

    The film is camp nostalgia. The end included a plea to buy war bonds and stamps.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    NABONGA is a jungle adventure cheapie churned out in the 1940s. It was made in 1944 so perhaps wartime audiences were a little more forgiving of time-wasting, non-serious material like this. Watching it these days it's a real chore to sit through, and that comes from somebody who loves old Tarzan movies, serials, and the like.

    The film sees a bunch of has-been characters flying into a jungle set and finding themselves menaced by the usual guy in a gorilla suit. There's some dated romance stuff and a strapping hero played by genre mainstay Buster Crabbe. I love Crabbe in his other roles but he gets very little to do here other than look dashing, which is no difficulty for him. The jungle girl aspect of the plot is never used very effectively, and the gorilla makes noises and hangs around in the background a lot. It's not exactly what I would team a crowd-pleaser.
  • I watched the first 45 minutes of this movie and had to give up. It is dull! dull! dull! Even Buster Crabbe seemed to have been affected by the dullness. He seemed to be walking through his part. I gave the movie points for the shots of the real animals.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    (Some Spoilers) Traveling to darkest Africa in the unexplored and forbidden, by the local natives, Nabonga Mountains Ray Gorman,Buster Crabbe, is determined to find the money that was embezzled from his father's bank back in New York City and return it to its rightful owners: The banks depositors. With the local natives refusing to help him in getting into Naboga Country in fear of a "White Witch" who rules the area Ray gets a lucky brake in Tobo, Prince Madupe, more then willing to help him go there. It was Ray who saved Tobo from being killed by an outraged fellow native, Fred Snowflake Toones, who accused the innocent Tobo of putting a hex on his brother that resulted in his death.

    Earlier on in the movie we find out that what really happened back in New York it was that Ray's father's top accountant T.F Stockwell, Herbert Rawinson, who framed him by bankrupting his bank. It was T.F who then checked out of the country with the stolen bank money converted to jewelry and ended up, via Cairo Egypt, together with his 10 year old daughter Doreen, Juli London, in the African jungles. that's after his plane crashed during a violent summer monsoon. With T.F dead from his injuries his daughter Dooreen is adopted ,like Tarzan of the Apes was, by this big 400 pound gorilla "Samson", sporting what looked like a punk rock hairdo, played by Ray "Crush" Carrigan dressed in a gorilla suit.

    As Ray is out to find the stolen or embezzled bank funds he's followed in the jungle by American Carl Hurst, Barton MacLane, who found out about the money and wants to get his hands on it before Ray does. In the jungle Ray and his native guide Tobo finally get to the cash site where the plane with T.L & daughter came down only to be confronted by "Samason" the gorilla! "Samson" in thinking that Ray & Tobo are a threat to his master Doreen, now fully grown at 17 with a 36-24-35 figure, and ends up taking a terrified Tobo apart. It's when Doreen gets to know Ray and what a nice guy he is that "Samson",in him getting the message, desist from any violence towards him. But it's when both the greedy and murderous Carl Hurst and his non-African, she actually look Polynesian, native girlfriend Marie,Fifi Diorsay, come on the scene to make trouble is when "Samson" resorts to type. And it's then when the action in the movie really starts to get both hot & heavy!

    ***SPOILERS*** Despite Julie London's, as Doreen the Jungle Girl in her movie debut, knockout looks that even had actor and Olympic swimming champion Buster Crabbe, as Ray Gorman, a bit taken back and almost speechless it was the monkey or gorilla that ended up stealing the show. Without "Samson" the gorilla coming to Ray and Doreen's aid it would have been curtains for both of them. It fact it was Marie who after Hurst got his hands on the jewelry and dumped her for the far more sexier Doreen ,who was anything but interested in him, who then released "Samson" who was trapped in a bamboo cage to finish the two timing rat off. That's after an outraged Samson in thinking her to be his enemy finished Marie off first. It was "Samson's" confrontation with the gun wielding Hurst that ended up doing the big gorilla in. But it took a full load of lead from Hurst's revolver to do the job! With a fatally wounded "Samson" still having enough left in him to tear Hurst apart limb from limb just before he finally expired.
  • Hitchcoc6 November 2009
    It's just an adventure story. A young girl is raised by a gorilla after her father, a crook, dies. A really boring man played by Buster Crabbe finds her and needs her to give some money and jewels back. Of course, there is another guy who wants the loot. Most of the movie is the discovery of the White Witch who is really just a good looking young woman and the efforts to keep her alive by the duo of Crabbe and gorilla. Most of the scenes are silly and forgettable. There are a lot of animals (stock footage) and lots of vines and trees. It is entirely predictable and there are few surprises. The relationship between the girl and Crabbe goes nowhere. Can you imagine the reality of her being put back into Western society.
  • "A young girl is the only survivor of a plane crash that carried herself and her father, a bank embezzler escaping with the money. Befriended by a gorilla that protects and cares for her, the girl grows up in the jungle guarding the fortune. The son of the bank president, from which the money was stolen, tracks down the girl to recover the money, but falls for the girl and must protect her from an unscrupulous guide, who wants the money for himself," according to the DVD sleeve's synopsis.

    The "stock footage" is so obvious, it's annoying. Co-stars Buster Crabbe (as Ray Gorman) and Julie London (as Doreen Stockwell) are in very good shape. Mr. Crabbe gets to show off his chest, but Ms. London remains covered. Crabbe plays his scenes with London notably well (like a muscular Ozzie Nelson). In her first appearance on film, London is very beautiful. Since Ray "Nbongo" Corrigan plays the gorilla named "Samson", probably "Nabonga" means gorilla in another language.

    ** Nabonga (1/25/44) Sam Newfield ~ Buster Crabbe, Julie London, Barton MacLane, Fifi D'Orsay
  • 50-pack Drive-in collection is how I came across this film. I was hoping for a fun adventure from the film but it's rather slow and somewhat drab. It's not a horrible film it's just lacking a bit to make the film memorable. It's far from being as good as "Mighty Joe Young" or "King Kong" and not nearly as fun as "Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla". "Nabonga" is more of a so-so film that is fine to watch but it's nothing special.

    The movie does have it's moments of cuteness, the story is fine it's not not a memorable story, the gorilla suit looks like any other gorilla suit from the 1940s so it's pretty neat and it is worth watching if you happen to find it playing on TV or acquire it in a film-pack.

    3.5/10
  • Nabonga (1944)

    ** (out of 4)

    A thief steals some priceless jewels and heads off in an airplane with his young daughter. The plane ends up crashing and the little girl befriends an injured gorilla in the jungle. Flash forward several years and explorer Ray Gorman (Buster Crabbe) hears about a "white witch" from the jungle that "fell from a big bird" and heads there to search for the jewels. He finds the now woman (Julie London) being protected by a large gorilla but must find a way to get her to lead him to the jewels.

    NABONGA, meaning gorilla, is a rather silly and low-budget jungle adventure that manages to be slightly entertaining as long as you don't take it too serious. if you're looking to find a meaning for life or some sort of great art then it's best you avoid this film at all costs and I'd also recommend not even looking at the posters for it. However, if you like cheap entertainment and just want 71 minutes to kill then there's certainly much worse out there.

    I think the best thing about the film are the leads. While neither Crabbe or London give excellent performances, they at least have a nice chemistry together and I thought they were good enough to carry the picture. There's a scene where Crabbe is trying to act afraid of her pet gorilla that is quite funny and especially some of the flirtation going on between them.

    The biggest problem with the movie is the fact that the budget was probably a tad bit higher than a pack of gum. There's a ton of stock footage in the movie that makes it look even cheaper and there's no doubt that the majority of the "real" footage was probably shot on one set with very limited range. More times than not the characters just stay in one spot and talk.

    NABONGA was meant to be cheap entertainment, which is what it pretty much is.