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BOWANGA, BOWANGA/WILD WOMEN OF WONGO/VIRGIN SACRIFICE
Something Weird Video/Image Entertainment

Following the roadshow success of INGAGI, a 1930 faux documentary, low-budget movie producers went ga-ga for anything to do with Africa, seeking to cash in on the well-known name of INGAGI and the mysterious intrigue surrounding the dark continent. Something Weird Video, having a bit of a slump as of late, has selected three 50s roadshow features with the theme of African adventure to make up a triple feature that is better than most of their more recent discs. Throw your caution to the wind and dive into this supremely entertaining slice of cheese.

BOWANGA, BOWANGA is 50% stock footage shot in Africa, 50% low-budget shenanigans shot in the Hollywood Hills. When you're not shaking your head at obvious mismatched stock shots of monkeys walking towards the camera, "native rituals", and nature gone wild, sit back and enjoy this tale of wild white sirens of the jungle wreaking havoc in the deep jungle! That's right, a tribe called the Ulama, compromised of white women in leopard-skin bras and panties (played by constantly posing calendar girls and glamour gals) who speak in a marble-mouthed native tongue and wield a mean spear! An American explorer, who as a child witnessed his father's murder at the hands of the bloodthirsty Ulama (after being trapped in his shack by a leopard and a python!), grabs an Italian comic relief explorer and his girl crazy partner and sets out to uncover the mysterious goddesses. Boy, do they ever! One of the men is deemed strong enough to be the raven-haired Queen's husband (used solely for mating purposes, lucky fella) and his two sidekicks are given the honor of being sent to the Fire God by being burned alive! Will the male chauvinists be able to overcome their powerful she-captors?!

Of course the logical questions abound: who keeps these girls' hair so perfectly coiffed in the jungle (which actually looks more like the California desert)? Where are all the pregnant Ulama if they have kids running around with the white fathers? Why does one of the Ulama look like a man in drag? How could so many of these glamour girls be so adept at wrestling men to the ground and beating the tar out of their fellow females? Why does the stock footage never stop?! The answers will forever remain a mystery, but the inane 61-minute feature is never boring and chockful of camp value. Repeated alternate takes of the same shot are used to pad out the running time, the girls do a goofy tribal dance with no rhythm whatsoever, and if you're a fan of women kicking ass, you've got multiple catfights, a number of the Ulama women picking up men and swinging them over their shoulders (!), and a wrestling match between a tall blonde and two of the male captives. I can imagine these women, years later, telling their grandchildren, "And the highlight of Grandma's career in showbiz was playing a man-hating Ulama girl in BOWANGA, BOWANGA; the producer told me I would be a big star!" It's a wild, wild adventure that could have only been made in the fabulous Fifties. Highly recommended viewing!!

The fullscreen transfer for BOWANGA, BOWANGA: WHITE SIRENS OF AFRICA (tee-hee, better than the original title, WILD WOMEN) looks as good as a film this rare possibly could. After touring city after city on roadshow campaigns, it's surprising a good-looking print has survived at all. There is dirt and blemishes during several sequences, and as the film was probably shot on the cheapest stock possible, it will never look gorgeous, but it's a serviceable transfer and won't distract from the head-smacking entertainment value of the feature. The sound is as good as can be expected, again nothing to shout home about.

After the black-and-white run-in with the Ulama, we switch to color to visit the village of Wongo, where the WILD WOMEN OF WONGO reside. Introduced by Mother Nature herself in voiceover (!!), the viewer is told that Nature decided to have a little fun by making the women of Wongo hot babes while creating their men into vicious brutes, and vice versa for the neighboring village of Goona. A representative of the Goona tribe eventually treks to Wongo to ask the men for help in overcoming an underwater tribe of ape men (?!), to disbelieving belly-aching by the blue-haired leader of the Wongo tribe!! Yep, that's right, BLUE hair like Mal Arnold in BLOOD FEAST! He's supposed to be an elderly man, but he's obviously a young guy with dyed hair gone horrible wrong, again like Mal Arnold's "Fuad Ramses". The Wongo women go gaga for the Goona men and it's an all-out war between the men for the affections of said "wild women", who actually spend all their time fawning and serving the men in a typical 50s male chauvinist fantasy.

WILD WOMEN OF WONGO, unfortunately, pales in comparison to the goofy charm of BOWANGA. It takes a while for anything of consequence to happen, but once the ape men attack, the women of Wongo grab their spears and go crazy defending themselves against the beasts before abandoning Wongo and heading to Goona to secure themselves muscular testerone-driven husbands. There are also plenty of cool segments to keep the monotony from bearing down on you: a wisecracking parrot interjecting parrot talk for scene transitions, a Dragon God represented by a giant stock footage alligator frolicking in a swamp, plenty of cheesecake (but much more beefcake, including future Hercules Ed Fury) on display, cool stock footage of parrots tumbling in circles on the beach, an outrageous Dragon God dance, a cool underwater rasslin' match between one of the Wongo women and an alligator (!), a hilarious beachside girlfight, several hilarious glances at the Goona women, very funny 50s dialogue in-between the usual broken English delivery, and some key library music familiar from PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE and MUNDO DEPRAVADOS. It all runs a little too long for a cheap exploitation film of this nature, even in 72 minutes, but it has enough kooky moments that are easy to jump to by chapter, including the goofy wah-wah-wah ending. Another recommendation for mind-reeling girl power fun!

The fullscreen transfer of WILD WOMEN OF WONGO has definitely seen better days; colors are faded and ugly and the daylight scenes are so bright it looks like a sonic boom has just occurred! Flesh tones are greenish, and there is no detail, but considering the amount of public domain releases this film has had, I doubt it will look much better. The film isn't really much more deserving of a better transfer, anyway. The sound is muffled during most of the running time, but doesn't distract from the fun to be had with this feature.

Capping off this wild-n-crazy triple feature is VIRGIN SACRIFICE, another color jaw-dropper made on the cheap by Releasing Corporation of Independent Producers (!). It begins like a Mondo movie, with a white explorer being rowed in a canoe through an African jungle river providing voiceover narration. He recalls the terrifying titular ritual, with a clothed Hispanic woman writhing spread-eagled on a cross while the tribe's witch doctor prances around her as a fire blazes close by. It's a memorable sequence, albeit obviously staged and its authenticity obviously fabricated. Her clothes are ripped off so the witch doctor can slice her chest open through her silicone breasts (it's not shown). After finding one of his friends dead with a tribal medallion on his person, he finally reaches a native village where he quizzes the local professor on the relic. It turns out the medallion has a connection to a mysterious tribal conspiracy to kidnap a young girl and sacrifice her to their pagan gods. VIRGIN SACRIFICE is, after the first two wild-n-whacky funfests, a pretty somber and boring affair. Sure, there is a cool scene of a violent tiger attack, with awesome stuntwork by an unidentified actor, but there is too much plot and too little action to keep the viewer awake during the 64-minute running time. Just consider it a free added value movie to an already grossly entertaining disc.

Colors are muddy and dark as the feature kicks off, but reds are simply gorgeous and there is nice clarity during scenes obviously shot on a set; the outdoor on-location photography is another story. It's an OK transfer for a barely-there movie. Unfortunately the mono audio is poorly dubbed so it's barely audible, so you'll have to crank the volume.

Enter "The Jungle", where all the disc's entertaining extras are housed. There are a few select trailers on-hand here, all of them jungle-themed. DAUGHTER OF THE SUN GOD, which appears to be a lost film, has always sounded fascinating by the description and rare still in the Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film, and the trailer unfortunately doesn't really seem all that exciting. The black-and-white photography has turned black-and-orange with age and it seems to be packed with stock footage. I MARRIED A SAVAGE is a bizarre black-and-white roughie-esque thriller, opening with a raven-haired harlot whipping a man who, in turn, whips out a giant knife to do some cutting. There's some erotic footage of a beautiful native girl writhing in passion, biting her skin, and "the Secret Sacred Snake Dance" is really bizarre! Where did this film end up?! TARZANA THE WILD GIRL is available on tape from Something Weird, and the trailer is pretty ragged. Opening with topless African tribal dancing, this looks like one incredible flick! A topless white girl is Tarzana, who rides an elephant around the jungle, yelling like Tarzan (watch out for lawsuits, filmmakers, add an "a" to her name and you'll get away with it!). I think it's a German film? With nude showers and lots of swinging from ropes through the jungle (actually more like a European forest). VIRGIN SACRIFICE's preview claims the film was shot on-location in Guatemala (could be true...) and of course features the best sequences of the film, the virgin sacrifice and the tiger fight. The skinny-dipping scene is also thrown in for good measure, but this being 1959, nothing is shown in the trailer. The trailer for WILD WOMEN OF WONGO is in such bad shape it'll make you appreciate how "good" the film looks on the DVD! The crazed dialogue and muscular eye candy are the selling points of the preview, with the awesome fight scenes included. No preview for BOWANGA, BOWANGA, though.

The 1920s roadshow short "Forbidden Daughters" (which I think has appeared on another SWV disc, but I can't confirm) is the sole other video extra besides the trailers, but it's a doozy. Russell ventures from New York City to the jungle, but disappears, leading his new bride Alva to go in search of him. She's so surprised she falls back on her sofa, allowing her bathrobe to open, exposing her nude bodice (!). She treks to a trading post and seeks the aid of a West Indian trader, whose harem of topless women (black and white) lounge and dance for her. It turns out the Rajah plans on adding her to his collection of sexy girls, and holds her captive in his dungeon with other topless chained beauties. Alva manages to escape and get lost in the jungle before coming across the Forbidden Daughters, a tribe of beautiful topless black women who dance outside their hay shacks. It's kind of unbelievable that this short is packed with so many black women, who were going through a lot of civil rights problems at the time. I mean, were they even paid to be in this thing?! She finally finds her husband, shacked up with Princess Loma, the white goddess of the jungle! This is a fun little short subject, with beautiful nude ladies, funny intertitles, and a bizarre plotline! Also included on the disc is a gallery of roadshow art, with all-new posters and ads that haven't been in previous galleries! Playing over the images are radio spots for exploitation classics like OBSCENITY, OBSCENITY and WILD WOMAN WITH A WHIP! (Casey Scott)

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