Nabonga

Year Of Release: 1944
Running Time: 75 Minutes
DVD Released By: Alpha
Directed By: Sam Newfield
Writing Credits: Fred Myton
Filming Location: Unknown

Starring: Buster Crabbe (Ray Gorman), Barton MacLane (Carl Hurst), Fifi D'Orsay (Marie), Julie London (Doreen Stockwell), Bryant Washburn (Hunter), Herbert Rawlinson (T.F. Stockwell), Prince Modupe (Tobo), Jackie Newfield (Doreen Stockwell, as a child)

Tagline 1: A White Girl Rules The Jungle...Her strength Of Power was NABONGA!

Tagline 2: Weird Loves!

Alternate Titles:
Gorilla
Nabonga Gorilla (USA)
The Girl and the Gorilla
The Jungle Woman (UK)

Interesting Bits of Trivia:
Buster Crabbe was an olympic swimming champion. He was also the only actor to play all three pulp fiction heroes of the 1930s - Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and Tarzan. Nabonga was Julie London's first film, but many of you may recognize her from her later roll as Nurse Dixie McCall from the 70's television show Emergency! She also had a prolific singing career and to date, over forty of her albums have been released. As a little side note, Julie was born in Santa Rosa, California, which is only about ten minutes away from my hometown of Sebastopol, California.

Rogue Reviewers Round Table Review: February 2005
Review Topic: "Hunky Heartthrobs"




Cast of Characters

Ray Gorman: "Hey! How do they know our language!?!?" Sorry, I couldn't resist. I'm a sucker for running jokes. Anyway, this is Ray. His father was partners with T.F. Stockwell, and after that old creep Stockwell stole a bunch of jewelry and stocks and other monetary assets that belonged to the stockholders of the company, he took off with his ten year old daughter and headed out across Africa. His father was blamed for the thefts, and after being unable to reacquire the missing money, finally committed suicide. Ray has made it his life's mission to recover the stolen money so he can return it to its rightful owners and clear his father's name.

Doreen Stockwell: Although she was stranded in the jungle with her father when their plane went down and her father killed the pilot, she's managed to do pretty well for herself. She's got a hot dress to wear, a nice bed with fur blankets, and a big hairy gorilla at her beck and call. She's also got the natives scared to death of her because they all think she's a white witch. The only drawback to her is that she's still got the mind of a ten year old because she's basically been alone with only a gorilla and other animals for company since she was ten. I'm sure Ray's got some things he'd like to teach her.

Carl Hurst: And what movie would be complete without a jerky old greedy bastard like this guy? Ol' Carl here is Marie's fella, even though he's only using her until some better bit of fluff comes along. He know's she's as greedy as he is, and never seems to have any problem trying to ditch her. Gotta give him one thing though, the guy can fight. He was givin' ol' Ray a good beating before Samson showed up and tagged himself in. To bad for ol' Carl that Samson took out his tag team partner, Marie, on the outside of the ring.

Marie: Holy crap she was annoying. That French accent, that frizzy hair...oh man. I kept hoping through the whole movie that the gorilla would kill her. Thankfully, I wasn't disappointed. I just love it when a movie has a happy ending. She's basically Carl's girlfriend and his little backstabbing spy, but he don't care about her. She don't care about him really either. She's just hangin' out with him in hopes of scoring some of that money. It's always about money with women isn't it? Gold diggin' little French tramp.

T.F. Stockwell: This jerk embezzled tons of money and then bailed to Africa with his ten year old daughter, who was too young at the time to have any clue what was going on or why they were there. He doesn't care who he kills or steals from, as long as he gets to keep that stolen money. Apparently Doreen's mother was either dead or out of the picture, so I'm surprised Marie didn't smell all that money and come tearing through the jungle after him when they crashed. Jeez, that'd be even scarier than having some eight hundred pound gorilla chasing you.

Tobo: This guy was working as a butler at the local jungle coffee shop and hotel when he was almost killed by one of the local tribesmen who accused him of using witchcraft to kill his brother. Ray saved him, and then when Tobo offered to lead Ray through the jungle, Ray ended up saving his life again when they crossed a river and he was almost eaten by a crocodile. Too bad Ray wasn't around to save him from Samson soon after that though. All that was left of poor Tobo was one sad, lonely little shoe near the bottom of a tree. I felt bad for him too because this guy had like the evil eye jinx on him. Everyone and everything kept trying to kill him, and it was only a matter of time before the Reaper finally caught up with him.

Samson: This big, hairy beast is Samson. He was attacked by some Safari people and shot several times. Doreen found him shortly after their plane crashed and nursed him back to health. Her father let her nurse him back to health, because once he was well again, ol' Stockwell taught him how to kill people to protect them and the money. Now that Stockwell's dead, Samson protects Doreen, and he don't like no one gettin' near her, even if they do look like Flash Gordon.




Screen Shots

 

"See daddy? When I press on the side of his head like this, he makes a funny noise with his butt and it smells like bananas!"

 

"I'm in my happy place. I'm in my happy place. I got my tights on and Dale is there and Professor Zarkov, and everybody's happy because we just saved the universe from Emperor Ming's latest diabolical plan. Everything is so perfect in my little happy place, and I just know that when I open my eyes, this little fuzzy headed French tramp is going to be gone and everything's going to be all right again. One, two, three! Awww awwwww!!!!! Damn it!!! Oh well, as long as you insist on hangin' around, how about makin' yourself useful and gettin' me a sammich?"

 

"I do."

 

"Tobo, do you have any freakin' clue where we are?"

"Yes bawana, we are in de jungle."

"Gee, thanks. Remind me to talk to the director about having you pounded by a gorilla in the next scene."

"Buuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrp!"

 




Best Quotes

Doreen Stockwell: "You're a cute little monkey, don't be afraid. I won't hurt you."


- Doreen as a ten year old girl talking to a monkey that was sitting on the tail of their wrecked plane. - (Reviewer's Note: Yeah sure you won't. I bet Michael Jackson said the same thing to Bubbles, and look what happened to him! Poor little Bubbles.)

 

 



 

Tobo: "I saw what my people call de great bird dat fell from de sky. It was not a bird. It was a house with wings." (Tobo hands Ray a silver dollar sized emblem from the plane that says African Airways.) Tobo: "I tought dis was de magic dat made it fly, but maybe I do not know how to work de magic. I held it in my hand, and jumped from de high place, but I did not fly. I hit de ground very hard.

- Tobo telling Ray about the plane that crashed in the jungle. - (Reviewer's Note: Sounds just like a Warner Brothers cartoon, don't it?)




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Summary and Conclusion

I was just commenting to my buddy Jordan from the B-Movie Film Vault last night about how one quality actor can take a crappy movie and turn it into a gem. How brightly that gem shines depends on the actor and how decent of a story he or she actually has to work with. In this case, Buster Crabbe took what would have been an extremely slow paced and boring movie, and saved it from becoming just another forgotten turd in the dung pile of film history.
Nabonga starts out with a man named T.F. Stockwell and his ten year old daughter Doreen flying in a plane over Africa during a horrible storm. The plane is forced to make a crash landing in the jungle, and that's where we discover that he's carrying a box full of stolen money, jewels and stock certificates that he had embezzled from his own company. When the pilot discovers what Stockwell has in the box, Stockwell kills him and then proceeds to head off into the jungle looking for his daughter who had wandered off.
His daughter had found a gorilla laying on the ground that had been wounded by some hunters. She begged her father not to kill it, and rather than killing it, we find out later that they nursed it back to health and then Stockwell taught it to protect them by killing anyone who got near them or the money.
Years passed, and Ray, the son of Stockwell's business partner, came looking for the money so he could return it to it's rightful owners. Ray's father had committed suicide after he was wrongfully accused of taking part in the embezzlement scandal, and Ray desperately wanted to clear his name. To that end, he came to Africa looking for the stolen money, and after being told about the white witch and the house with wings that fell from the sky, Ray got one of the locals to lead him to it, believing that the white witch was in fact Stockwell's daughter Doreen, and that by finding her, he would also find out what happened to the money.
Unfortunately, that little French tramp Marie overheard them talking about things, and ran to her greedy and unscrupulous boyfriend Carl and told him all about it. Now Carl and Marie were after the money too, and it was a race to see who would get there first. What no one counted on however, was that Doreen would have a protector that was capable of literally tearing a man limb from limb, and had no problems with doing just that to anyone who got too close to her. It was just lucky for Ray that Doreen liked him and kept the beast from killing him. Otherwise, he'd have been in some serious trouble.
When I said that one great actor can save an otherwise crappy or boring movie, I was in fact talking about Buster Crabbe. Although he probably wasn't appreciated as much as he should have been back in the day, Buster Crabbe played some of the greatest heroes in cinematic history, including Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Tarzan, and more. He played the handsome and daring leading man well, and no matter how good or bad a movie is, if he's in it, the whole entertainment experience always steps up a notch or two.
While not a bad movie at all, the pacing in this one is what kept it from being overly exciting. Scene after scene of stock footage and of people plodding aimlessly through the jungle really slowed things down and dragged the movie out to a considerable degree. Were it to be compressed down into a well paced feature, this 75 minute film would have likely been no more than 45 or 50 minutes long at best. You'll notice I wasn't able to be overly funny with the character descriptions and I don't have many screenshots. That's because the movie was so slow and the characters and general action so plain that I found it hard to find much to goof on.
I won't say this movie was boring, because it wasn't. There were plenty of opportunities to see Buster Crabbe in action; wrestling in the water with crocodiles, fighting off armed men, and facing up to a gorilla that could have killed him without even breaking a sweat. What I would have liked to have seen though was more interaction between him and Doreen. Their contact seemed overly limited, and with her inability to grasp what he was trying to explain to her about the money being stolen and what not, their conversations usually ended with her getting frustrated and walking away. Even when she saw Ray and Carl fighting, she didn't show much emotion at all and didn't do anything to get involved. Basically she came off as just some hot girl to look at. Not that that's a bad thing, but a good writer could have written her part so much better and made the movie a far more entertaining experience.
If you're a fan of Buster Crabbe or you just like to watch old jungle pictures, then you're going to enjoy this film. It's not even close to being in the same league with Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers or Tarzan, but for some Saturday afternoon fun, I think you'll find it quite enjoyable.
Oh, and just as a little end note. I don't know where the name Nabonga came from. I assumed before watching the film that it was the gorilla's name, but it wasn't, so I'm not sure how the title relates to the film. One of life's little mysteries I guess.

 

B-Movie Central's Rating: 3½ Bees

 

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