Sunday, September 6, 2020

JUNGLE WOMAN (1944) Blu-ray Review

Jungle Woman (1944) d. Reginald LeBorg (USA) (61 min)

Paula Dupree (Acquanetta) is back… and killed in the first scene when she attacks Dr. Fletcher (J. Carroll Naish), who is then brought to trial for her murder (cue the flashback sequences). It seems that our glandular mishap survived her fate at the end of Captive Wild Woman and was nursed back to health by the good doctor, who had also acquired the late Dr. Walters’ sanitarium and continued in his research, thereby transforming Cheela/Paula back to her human form. In what amounts to a retread of Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People, we discover that whenever Paula is sexually aroused – as she is by Fletcher’s assistant Bob (Richard Davis), who has a thing going with his boss’ daughter Joan (Lois Collier) – she has a tendency to get a little hairier and homicidal.

Wow, the first part of Jungle Woman should win some kind of environmental award for “dedication to recycling.” Nearly 20% of its brief running time is comprised of footage from Captive Wild Woman (and The Big Cage), while repurposing Val Lewton’s Irena Dubrovna storyline to boot! Nash is a less sinister version of John Carradine’s mad doc, and (top-billed) Eveyln Ankers and Milburn Stone are brought back for brief cameos in the opening courtroom sequence.

The lack of gorilla suits or jungles will likely compound monster fans’ disappointment, although those hoping for more scenes of their favorite new sexy screamer are in luck. Acquanetta, mute for her first go-round as Paula, gets lines this time (for better or worse) but no transformation scenes, with Jack Pierce’s hair and putty skills left unmined until the clunky morgue-bound finale. To be honest, there’s not a lot of action or thrills to be found here, outside of a poorly staged ambush where our jealous female monster upends a canoe like Bruce the Shark from Jaws!

In his audio commentary, Gregory William Mank informs us that Acquanetta, despite all reports to the contrary (even by the actress herself at fan conventions), was actually born Mildred Davenport in Cheyenne, WY, and was neither Venezuelan nor Native American, but actually Black attempting to pass as white in white Hollywood. Angered at being “fooled,” Universal did not renew her contract (following a brief appearance in that same year’s Dead Man’s Eyes), and her star soon fizzled, although she did continue to work sporadically in programmers like Tarzan and the Leopard Woman (1946) and Lost Continent (1951). Her last screen appearance was opposite Dan Haggerty’s stunt double, Gene Edwards, in 1990’s The Legend of Grizzly Adams.


NEW 2K scan of a fine grain film element

NEW audio commentary with film historian Gregory William Mank

Still Gallery

Jungle Woman is available now on Blu-ray (along with The Monster and The Girl, Captive Wild Woman, and Jungle Captive) from Shout! Factory as part of their Universal Horror Collection Volume 5 and can be ordered HERE:


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