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Films That Time Forgot: Karzan, Jungle Lord

Karzan, Jungle Lord (1972)
Director: Demofilo Fidani

Also known as: Jungle Master

Plot: In the grand tradition of How Things Get Done In The Civilized World, one rich adventurer invites another rich adventurer into his lounge for drinks, cigars, and a short film about a mysterious ape-man. ("A new kind of animal!") The two plot out an expedition via a series of painfully exact speeches, along the lines of, "I have to admit that you may be right, but even more interesting than your theory is the discovery itself. I feel that this creature is fascinating whatever his origin, so that I would be disposed to view an expedition as a pure investigation rather than the verification of a thesis. On which terms, I would finance it." The hunting party arrives in Africa with a skilled, silent manservant named "Crazy" (played by Attilio Severini) who was captured and tortured by rebels at a young age, making him "a very unusual man." The hunters drive for a while. Then they boat. Then they walk. (Imagine if Raiders Of The Lost Ark had been mostly about Indiana Jones booking his air travel—that's pretty much what the first 45 minutes of Karzan is like.) Along the way, Crazy and his bosses take time to enjoy the local wildlife, and to dispose of it. First, Crazy uses a blow-dart to shoot a spider off the party's resident distressed damsel, Melu Valente:


Then, Crazy wrestles a snake:

And eventually, the whole team opens fire on a tribe of natives hiding in trees:


Sadly, though, in the midst of the massacre, Crazy has to sacrifice himself for the betterment of scientific understanding:


And at this point, more than two-thirds into the movie, Karzan, Jungle Lord (played by "Johnny Kissmuller") finally arrives. Then he promptly disappears again.

Key scenes: After the first slaughter of the natives, the expedition leader breathes a sigh of relief, saying, "Well one thing's certain, at least we're out of danger." The next shot? The whole party tied to poles, surrounded by headhunters. (Cue slide-whistle sound effect.) Then Kissmuller swoops in with his mate, who distracts the savages by engaging in a panty-flashing jungle catfight:


Kissmuller intervenes and spirits his woman and Valente away, planning to live out his life in a happy threesome. Unfortunately, the expedition continues to pursue him across alligator-infested waters, and then into the dark of the jungle, where Kissmuller is forced to fight a guy in a gorilla suit:


In the end, the rich adventurers leave well enough alone, and let Kissmuller be (once he sets Valente free, anyway). In the movie's final scene, the happy couple rolls around together on the beach, while their pet chimp scrawls "The End" in the wet sand.

Can easily be distinguished by: The stilted dialogue and interminable travel footage. All that's missing is a sponsorship from Mutual Of Omaha.


Sign that it was made in 1972: The schizophrenic score sounds at one moment like something from a Harlem speakeasy, then the next, like a cheery '60 sitcom score, then like acid-rock, then like a roller-rink organ. Just like the Top 40 of the day.

Timeless message: The best part of science is the killing.

Memorable quotes: During one of the many lengthy conversations about every plodding step of their trek, the expedition leader is asked, "Would you say then that this is one of the narrowest points of the river? Huh?" He plaintively replies, "Yes, and one of the easiest places to launch our rubber boats." Then he adds, in a moment of unexpected passion, "Break out the rubber boats!"


Available on DVD from Retromedia Entertainment.

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