Tom Burton (Don C. Harvey) is a big game hunter. Usually his expeditions into the jungle are tracking animals. This time he is searching for something else. Tom was hired to find a young white boy who is supposedly living in the jungle among the wild animals. When Tom was hired he had been hunting in India. He had captured a man eating tiger and was bringing it back to the U.S. For fear of losing the tiger he decided to bring it along on the safari.
Tom and his bearers reach a native village of Rintan at the end of the trail. In the village is a white man named Trader Kirk (Forrest Taylor). He tells Kirk that he is looking for the son of Sirus Ames. The big game hunter and his wife were killed but the boy was never found. Rumor has it that the boy, now a young man, is living with a family of chimps. The boy’s grandfather hired Tom to find him. Kirk tells Tom that no white man has gone into that area of the forest and returned alive. The area is called the forbidden jungle. Tom insists that he will search for the boy anyway.
While Tom heads into the jungle Kirk sends his adopted daughter Nita (Alyce Louis) to find the boy and warn him to stay away from Tom. The boy is Tawa (Robert Cabal). When his parents died Kirk found him and helped raise him. Tawa is fascinated by a white man being in the jungle and wants to see what he looks like. Instead of hiding he meets Tom. Tawa is thriving in the jungle and has a deep affinity with all the animals. The more Tom gets to know Tawa the more he questions whether or not Tawa would be happy in civilization. When Tom’s tiger escapes and begins killing Tawa’s animal friends he puts his life on the line to try to communicate with the huge beast.
“Forbidden Jungle” was released in 1950 and was directed by Robert Emmett Tansey. It is an American poverty row adventure film produced by Jack Schwarz Production and distributed by Eagle-Lion Films.
The movie is 65 minutes of a fair amount of jungle stock footage. Anything that is not stock footage is studio soundstage film. This is typical of most low budget jungle movies from the fifties. I have no problem with either stock footage or soundstage jungles. As a matter of fact, I think I liked the stock footage better than the actual storyline.
The acting was awful. The monkeys were better actors. There are three monkeys that are prominent in the film. Only one of them, Tamba, is credited. He’s actually fifth billed. There is also a gorilla in the movie. The gorilla in the film is a guy in a suit. Two men are credited as being wearers of the suit, Ray Corrigan and Steve Calvert. Both of which were renowned as gorilla actors.
The plot is standard Hollywood fluff as well. Half the jungle movies made, especially in the fifties, were kids lost in the jungle raised by wild animals. Apparently Africa is full of them. They all had stock footage of jungle scenes and precocious monkeys. This one is no different. Despite the tried and true formula the movie isn’t all that good. Actually it’s probably one of the worst jungle movies I’ve ever seen.
The film sports several voiceover segments where Tom just stands there trying to look macho yet pensive while the voiceover explains the threadbare plot to you. Usually not a problem but Harvey isn’t very good at looking either macho or pensive. He just looks like some pudgy guy in a pith helmet staring off camera. The monkeys are supposed to be the comic relief in the film. That’s fine if you like seeing three monkeys destroy stuff. They are, however, pivotal to the plot since they are the ones who let the tiger loose. The highlights of the film are the stock footage of jungle scenes and a staged fight between a tiger and boa constrictor. I’m not sure how much of that was real and how much was fake boa but the scene was more impressive than anything else in the film.