Movie: Untamed Mistress (1956)

There is a bizarre supermarket in Ohio, a sprawling complex with a jungle theme. Jungle Jim’s has a ridiculously artificial scene on the outside, situated between the entrance and exit.  It’s like those sad, set-bound “Africa” sets of so many adventure movies from the 1930’s through the 1960’s.  There’s even a loudspeaker saying inane crap like, “Did you know giraffes are natural basketball players?”

And yet even this is remarkably more realistic than anything to be found in 1956’s Untamed Mistress.  I thought I had seen the bottom of the barrel of movies of this type, but now I believe I owe some of those pictures an apology.

And that’s even when taking into the consideration the footage that was actually shot on the continent.  Yes, that footage was obviously (and poorly) shot in Africa but, without better context, its use here is bewildering. 

This is essentially an extremely flimsy storyline shaped around somebody’s vacation footage.  The vast majority of the film has our characters (to the use the word lightly) looking at something in the distance off to the side of very poor sets or obviously out-of-doors in America.  Then it cuts to that acquired footage of wild animals or, with startling frequency, topless native women.

Those characters include a guy I am going to call “Khaki guy”, another I’ll call “Cappy, the Boatin’ Jerk” and a guy I’ll call “Midget” (through we’ll see in a later shot he is just shorter than average).  When we first see them, they are surrounding a young guy in brownskin make-up who is pretending to be an old man on his death bed.  Or death rock, perhaps.  It’s hard to tell since he’s laying on what looks like a large version of those rugs most people put at the base of their toilets.

Old guy says he will die once the tribal drums stop playing.  He lays out a looong exposition dump about some woman of local legend, the “Gorilla girl”.  There’s a lot of animals in this load of hokum and I couldn’t parse any of it. 

The “Gorilla girl” is actually Velda, played by Jacqueline Fontaine.  She can talk to the animals, though I’m unsure why a lion would understand “Ooo-ee” when I have never heard one make that sound.  The nature and extent of her relationship with various animals is left unclear.  I assume this was deliberate as to indulge viewers who harbor secret fantasies about bestiality.  At least, there is a gorilla in this who seems awfully jealous of a guy she takes a liking to.

The gorilla is just a guy in a shabby gorilla outfit.  Given the type of film this is, I would have been shocked if one hadn’t appeared.  What I had not anticipated was the “gorilla” grabbing the hunter around the waist and seemingly trying to dry hump him to death. 

At one point, Velda does a “tribal” dance that betrays what I assume are the strip club origin of the actress.  I highly doubt any reference materials were used to try to make this more authentic.  If any were, then I am baffled as to why, in a movie set in Africa, a character would tell another their curry is ready.  Also, there’s a lot of turbans, which may be normal in part of the continent, but I wouldn’t expect to see these in the areas with lions and gorillas.  There’s even a stereotypical old wise holy man, though he bears all the markings of the Western stereotype of a Hindu wise man.

I’m sure there are many who will find an incredible amount of camp value in Untamed Mistress.  I found it offensive, tedious and dull.  It is bad enough that I kept expecting to hear the Rifftrax people start talking over it and then was surprised when nobody did.  The only person I would recommend it to is that guy who founded Jungle Jim’s, just so he can say, “Jeez, even I did better than that.”

Dir: Ron Ormond

Starring…oh, come on now!

Watched as part of Powerhouse/Indicator’s blu-ray box set From Hollywood to Heaven: The Lost and Saved Films of the Ormond Family