Even with Clyde Beatty in the movie, Commodore Films used footage to place a lion and tiger in the same place, something I never understood about jungle films of the Fifties. Obviously the tiger realized there was a geographical problem, and beat a hasty retreat, not to be seen again after the opening scene.
"Perils of the Jungle" is actually two stories. In the first half set in the Belgian Congo, Beatty and partner Grant Cunningham (Stanley Farrar) come to the aid of Jo Carter (Phyllis Coates), a wild animal trapper who stands to lose her camp after an accidental fire releases her prize black maned Nubian lions. The only hope to raise enough money to save the operation might be the capture of a live gorilla, a rare feat that would bring in a few thousand dollars from an American zoo. Character actor John Doucette is the bad guy of the piece portraying Jo's competitor Gorman, who has designs of buying out her interest.
I found a bit of unintentional humor in the fire scene as Beatty attempts to rescue a trapped man from burning. As one of the lions escapes, Beatty just happens to find a chair to do the lion tamer act, while a native boy puts out the fire with a single bucket of water. Ah, the wonder of 'B' movies!
Just a note about Phyllis Coates. She appears here shortly after her role as Lois Lane in the first season run of episodes on "The Adventures of Superman". Her portrayal as Lane seemed almost one dimensionally uniform no matter what the predicament, but here she seems much more natural and engaging. I liked her much better in the jungle format.
If you close your eyes and concentrate on the voice of Beatty's tracker Korjah (Roy Glenn), you might mistake him for James Earl Jones.
The movie's second half moves to Southern Rhodesia, with Beatty and Cunningham still on the trail of black maned lions. Before embarking, they're warned about the dangers of the tse-tse fly and the warring tribes of the Matabele. Sure enough, both factors come into play as Cunningham is infected with the sleeping sickness. Attempting to reach a hospital by cutting through Wambasi territory, they have a dangerous encounter with a white man named Grubbs (Leonard Mudie) who's been stealing gold from his native benefactors and framing native girls for the thefts. The story line is pretty ludicrous, but it makes for a convincing death mask ceremony under the watchful eye of the Wambasi king, who turns out to be a teenage boy. Unfortunately, a lot of the scenes in this portion of the flick are very dark, but Beatty's party gets away safely after first kidnapping the boy king, and then releasing him once they're safely away.
I imagine these filmed adventures of Clyde Beatty were meant to fuel viewers' imaginations of his real life jungle exploits, but the contrived situations more often brought a chuckle. Still, when surrounded by jungle cats, you couldn't have a better man in your corner than Beatty. To get a look at him in his prime, you might want to catch his adventures in "The Lost Jungle" from 1934, either the Mascot serialized version or the resulting condensed feature at just over an hour. It attempts to explain the coexistence of lions and tigers together on the lost island city of Kamor in the South Pacific.
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