Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Killer Ape (1953)



Notes: An adventure of Jungle Jim.
Jungle Jim: Johnny Weissmuller
Shari: Carol Thurston

Summary: Jungle Jim, a pith-helmeted dullard, intervenes to settle a dispute over chimp ownership. Bad guys led by Dr. Andrews are gathering up animals for experimentation with a will-control serum. Jimbo warns them not to venture into “the canyon of the ape” but they think he’s reserving snazzy hunting grounds for himself. Jungle chick Shari and her brother stand around.

Jungle Jim walks with Tamba the chimp and discourages lusty thoughts in his charge. Four guys are leading a baby elephant. An apeman looks on. Jim and Tamba see a wounded lamb (a jungle lamb!) and the apeman appears. Jim knifes him futilely, but moss and vines work as a deterrent. Jim, in strikingly leisurely fashion, gathers up the lamb and Tamba and strolls off. Now he must warn the hunters about the canyon of the ape, which he already has done. In their camp he sees many animals. The monkeys are sleeping unnaturally. “Those caves are the home of a killer ape,” he warns. They shoo him off and Dr. Andrews announces the need for more monkeys for their cave lab experiments. The plan is to perfect an “extract” that will “destroy the will to resist” (left intransitive). Next stop, threatening world domination through the water supply. The apeman pointlessly attacks the camp and “bullets don’t stop that ape!”

Jungle Jim must go to the oasis (?) to warn Mahara from selling animals to the bastards. Unfortunately, a hula is taking place. Very unfortunately. The apeman attacks Maharis and Jim and throws the former on a knife so that Jim is sort of framed for the murder. Shari and the tribe decide he’s guilty and throw him into a lion cage. An old wise man tells Shari that there may really be an apeman, I mean, “all things in Nature are possible,” what with fish climbing trees and this lizard in this box (which Shari gasps looks like a baby dinosaur).

The chimp releases all the caged cats and Jim. The apeman appears and Shari falls off a cliff so Jim carries her to his shack. They discuss the possibility that since apes regularly kidnap baby humans, the idea of the apeman is again possible. She tries to run away from this loon, but he ropes her. They sleep in separate quarters, so that the apeman is easily able to attack her. Jim fends him off with fire. Jim must go to Ramada, some other guy like her brother. Or was it her brother who was killed? I forget. Anyway, while Shari fait la toilette in front of a mirror in her primitive tent, the apeman returns and grabs her.

Ramada is suspicious of Andrews and the animal deal falls through, so the hunters open fire and kill natives. Ramada is captured. Jimbo is watching a kimodo dragon and an anteater fight. Before long, Jim and Ramada are tied up. So is Shari and the old wise man. And the apeman is pegged to the ground. Andrews wants them thirsty so that they drink his evil serum. “You’re a madman!”

Tamba stirs up a chimp stampede so everyone escapes, including the apeman who kills the researchers in their cave and throws another guy into a panther cage. The apeman is able to capture Shari for the eighteenth time. He then attacks Jim, who fights successfully with empty cardboard boxes, starts a fire in the cave, and kills the apeman who burns up.

While some “warden” and “the government” announce the deservedness of Jim for receiving a medal, Tamba the chimp drinks and drives, smashing the jeep into a tree. All laugh.

Commentary: This is difficult to stand without Joel, Crow, and Tom Servo around. The “jungle” is not easy to pinpoint geographically, nor the ethnicities intended by anyone in this movie. Obviously we’re not very concerned with the rights of border-steppers; for while wooden outrage is expressed over the experimenters’ treatment of actual primates, the apeman hybrid is mindlessly eliminated. We don’t even confirm our shoddy theory as to how he came to exist in the first place.

I have been generously informed by his step-son that the “killer ape,” done up here in a bearskin and furry boots, was played by the 8-foot-2 Max Palmer (1928-1984), who also starred in Invaders from Mars as a mutant. He later became a wrestler called Paul Bunyan, then was an evangelistic preacher known as “The Goliath for Christ” until his death.

Ape Films