The White Gorilla (1945)

THE WHITE GORILLA

(1945)

Notes: The movie cannibalizes a silent film titled Perils of the Jungle (1927), which looks as if it was infinitely more interesting than this miserable cut-and-paste job.

Steve Collins: Ray “Crash” Corrigan
Stacy: Lorraine Miller
White Gorilla: Ray “Crash” Corrigan
A supposed “All-Star Cast” including Frank Merrill and Eugenia Gilbert in the footage of Perils of the Jungle (1927).

Directed: H.L. Fraser
Story: Monro Talbot

Summary: “The jungle. Weird. Mysterious. Home of countless beasts of prey…. With its paths leading to unseen unheard of dangers.” Fragments. Deep. Exactly the kind of crap my composition students do not need to be hearing more of.

In this “land of mystery” are lost the many “victims of the savage tribes.” One fellow escapes with scars and memories to a trading-post or bar where Morgan, serving the drinks, has gotten used to the jungle noises getting on everyone else’s nerves. The tattered man, a member of the Ed Bradford expedition, collapses. We hear owls (?). The man, Steve Collins, raves in fear and is asked, “The beast — you saw it?” He claims to have encountered a white gorilla, and Morgan reports that a native story concerns just such an ostracized gorilla in the vicinity. Collins recounts the Bradford expedition, pointing out that the “natives hated the white man.” He followed Bradford, who encountered “savages” and a white kid being carried around in an elephant’s trunk, but lost track of Bradford. [We see silent movie footage for all the “Bradford” material, reducing Collins to a voyeur in interspersed later footage.] At one point lions are after Bradford. There’s a girl on a raft we’re supposed to believe is being attacked by hippos. Bradford uses vines to swing and save her.

Back at Narration Tavern, the white gorilla shows up outside, though only Collins sees him and drops his drink. Ruth, or Stacy (?), the daughter of an explorer, enters. Her father developed “jungle fever” and went blind. As much as I tried to pay attention to this film, all I can tell you at this point is that Lou Hanly is the best guide in the country and that there’s a concern about the Cave of the Cyclops, and something about treasures.

Bradford is suspicious of Hanly and they fight over Alison near a shack. Lions mulling about supposedly prevent the onlooking Collins from intervening. When these lions start attacking, the silent-movie people secure themselves in the shack. Hanly jumps out a back window and runs into the jungle, while Alison’s father dies from the excitement. Bradford and Alison eventually return to his camp. The jungle boy hangs out with chimps.

Back with the Collins batch, the white gorilla picks out and drags off Carter (some other arbitary expedition guy). The sight of this gorilla causes a herd of elephants to stampede. Hanly shows up at a hut where Bradford and Alison are now hanging out. There’s a commotion. The jungle boy shows up in the trunk of an elephant again, and the elephant saves Alison from the hut shambles.

A black gorilla encounters the “outcast” white one. Collins has an opportunity to carry Carter away from the ensuing fight.

The natives are now nonsensically called “Arabs” and these bush people take Bradford and Alison away. Hanly, using a boar as bloody bait, lures the lions to the village, and there’s a panic. The jungle boy comes to show Bradford and Alison a secret tunnel out of the hut in which they’re trapped, and out of the blue Collins reports that Hanly is dead, “a victim of his own plot.”

Next, we’re inexplicably in the Cave of the Cyclops where, among the natives, insanity is considered both harmless and a powerful taboo, so a white woman there pretends insanity and capitalizes on tricks one can manage with the hollow statues serving as idols. She commands that the natives, now called Tigermen, bring in the white people. Soon Bradford and Alison are prodded forth as supposed sacrifices to the pit of tigers. Somehow, Collins, far outside the cave, can witness all this. The jungle boy hides in one of the idols to manipulate it in front of the superstitious Tigermen in an attempt to “save the whites.” There’s jungle dancing and drumming.

Outside, Collins sort of goes for help and is followed by the gorilla, but the “black monster” (the other gorilla) interrupts the mauling. That’s when Collins escaped to the post. It may not be too late to help those people in the cave, we decide now (after almost an hour of meandering narration). Stacy is dressed as a mexican seƱorita and is commanded to stay here at the post with Collins. But report of a native girl having wandered into the jungle prompts her to wander out into the jungle too. The gorilla is lurking, so she shoots, screams, drops her gun, and faints. The white gorilla carries her off, puzzled, yet reported harboring “pent-up anger.” Collins follows, shoots the gorilla three times, and kicks it over, dead. Oh, by the way, that kid wandered back into the village.

The others return to the post; they found nothing at the cave (so that’s completely unresolved). Most of these people decide they will return to civilization. Collins will too: “We have no right to the jungle.” We are an “intrusion.” He claims he was “almost sorry to kill the white gorilla” since it seemed “almost human,” “wondering what had happened to him.” We see the black gorilla, his “chest filled with hate,” coming across the corpse of the white one. He is overcome with “bewilderment,” “a sort of human emotion.” And the black gorilla, instinctively we are to believe, tries to cover up the corpse of the white gorilla with branches.


Commentary: Obviously this is a misery. Again, the silent movie that has been hacked apart for Collins’ retrospective looks as if it was an exciting film. The necessity of having Collins witnessing everything and yet never taking part makes the reconstuction stretch credulity. The fact that he played the white gorilla too in most of its scenes means that he rarely appears in the same scene even with the title “character”! What a mess!


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