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Film / Jungle Queen

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Jungle Queen is a 1945 film serial (thirteen episodes) from Universal Pictures.

It is set in 1939, not long before the outbreak of war. Two Nazi explorers, Dr. Elise Bork and her partner Lang, have infiltrated the (fictional) colony of British Middle Africa, under the guise of running an "experimental farm". With war looming, the Nazis are making contacts with the Tongili, a strategically important collection of tribes. They hope to gain control of the Tongili, and through them control of British Middle Africa, which will allow them to control the approaches to Southern Europe.

The British have gotten wind of Nazi skullduggery. Pamela Courtney, a British agent, is sent off to Africa. Pamela is chosen because her uncle Allan Courtney is a British archaeologist who is in the field in British North Africa right now, and she can go visit him without attracting attention. The Americans have also taken interest in the region and sent in their own unofficial agents, big game hunter Bob Elliott and his sidekick, car mechanic Chuck Kelly. The British, the Germans, the Americans, and a rebellious Tongili tribesman named Maati all wind up battling each other.


Added into this mix is a mysterious, possibly ghostly, possibly divine figure: Lothel, the "queen of the jungle." Lothel—witch? goddess?—has a strange knowledge of the Nazis' plans, and often helps the good guys. Naturally, she's played by a white lady (Ruth Roman, who became a big star—Strangers on a Train, The Far Country).


  • Almost Dead Guy:
    • An African staggers into the office of colonial British Commissioner Chatterton, and tells of Lothel and the death of Tonga. Then he keels over dead, having apparently walked several days while badly wounded.
    • At the end of Episode 7 Dr. Bork stabs Capt. Drake In the Back. He isn't quite dead, though. Apparently annoyed at getting stabbed in the back, he gasps "Look out for the trip wire!" just before he croaks, which is what saves Bob from the Booby Trap.
    • Yet again when the good guys find the British courier in a cabinet in the Nazi lair. He managed to gasp out "Tell Chatterton...Rudanza..." before he dies. Mt. Rudanza is where the bad guys are holding Godac.
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  • Artistic License – History: In Episode 12 Mr. X takes a call in London on September 3, 1939, and tells his comrades that "Germany will attack Poland at any moment." Germany attacked Poland on September 1, and it was only after a 48-hour delay that Britain and France declared war on September 3.
  • As You Know: Müller and Heinkel route the phone wire from the farm to the cave, in order to lure Bob and Chuck into a trap. We know this, because they talk about it while they wait.
  • Bad-Guy Bar: Tambosa Tim's, which looks generally sleazy and is also a hangout for Nazis.
  • Bluff the Eavesdropper: By Episode 10 Mr. X in London has evidently figured out that the Nazis have bugged his office. He deliberately gives a misleading statement that the Nazi man in London passes on to Africa, right before British agents arrest him.
  • Booby Trap: Capt. Drake has rigged up a trap on his boat with a submachine gun hooked up to a trip wire. Episode 7 ends with Bob walking right into it and triggering a burst of gunfire.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Nine shots are fired from the six shot revolver that Dr. Bork uses in vain on Lothel in the last episode.
  • But Now I Must Go: Apparently the sexy half-naked white lady only comes to visit the Tongili in times of crisis. At the end of the last episode Lothel says, "I came to help you, and now I must go. I am Lothel!" Then she leaves and the series ends.
  • Chekhov's Volcano: In Episode 3 Kyba is sent to the volcano per the ritual, to prove that he is worthy to be judge. Maati and the Nazis detonate some dynamite in hopes of triggering an eruption of the volcano that will kill Kyba.
  • Cliffhanger: In true 1940s film serial fashion, every episode ends in a cliffhanger, starting with episode 1 when the plane carrying Bob, Chuck, and Pamela crashes in the jungle.
  • Darkest Africa: "This is the middle jungle, the only territory in all Africa still unexplored." It's full of lions and angry tribesmen and such.
  • Deus Exit Machina: Taken to an absurd extreme in Episode 12. Bob asks if Lothel can help Pam and the others, who are being held prisoner by Dr. Bork. All the mystical, possibly divine Lothel says is "Mine is another destiny."
    Chuck: That's a new way of saying no.
  • Deus ex Machina: Lothel, who keeps popping up out of nowhere to offer the good guys advice—she shows up at the tribal council to stop the Tongili from choosing the treacherous Maati as Judge, and she pops up unexpectedly to guide Bob and Chuck through a secret exit in the cave. Adding to her oddness is the mystery about just who/what she is. Sometimes she comes off as supernatural, like when she walks through fire to issue prophecies to the Tongili, or when she has omniscient knowledge of Nazi plans. At other times, she screams in terror when she sees a leopard. Being able to produce hunks of meat out of nowhere indicates a divine origin, as well as the seeming immunity to bullets Lothel shows in the last episode.
  • Disposable Pilot: Played straight, as Episode 2 reveals that the plane crash in the jungle killed both of the pilots, but Bob, Chuck, and Pam are all able to walk away.
  • Excited Show Title!: The 13th and last episode is titled "The Secret of the Sword!". It turns out the sword did have a secret: there was a missing piece which fit in a secret hiding place in the sword hilt. This is how the real sword is authenticated.
  • The Faceless: The unseen Nazi back in Berlin who is in charge of the mission to Africa. We never see his face, only his hands scribbling skulls-and-crossbones on notepads. He may be Himmler drawing the SS Death's Head—the camera reveals that he's wearing glasses, like Himmler did.
  • Film Serial: Typical of the rousing adventures in exotic locations that were the film serials of the era.
  • Going by the Matchbook: The Almost Dead Guy who expires in Chatterton's office in Episode 1 doesn't manage to tell them everything, but the British find in his hand a tag: Trellows and Co., Custom Tailors. It's from Lang's coat.
  • Great White Hunter: Bob Elliott is a legitimate Big Game Hunter who shoots lions and whatnot, but he also uses it as cover for a secret mission.
  • His Name Is...:
    • Alan Courtney says "The secret of the Sword of Tongu is...Lothel...", before he expires from a knife In the Back. Pam and the two Americans decide that Lothel must know the secret.
    • In Episode 8 Chuck demands to know who is boss of the Nazis, and Tambosa Tim is about to tell him when one of Dr. Bork's mooks shoots him.
    • Played for comedy in the last episode. Mr. X says that with the mission over, there's no need for him to call himself Mr. X anymore. He says "I'm Lord—", and they're interrupted by a visitor, and we never do learn Mr. X's name.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Chuck defends his belief in astrology. "I used to be superstitious about it but now I'm scientific."
  • It Will Never Catch On: A Nazi goon exults in the German invasion of Poland, saying "Our armies are invincible!"
  • Jungle Drums: The Tongili like to beat them a lot for their ceremonies, like in Episode 2 when Pamela is tied up and offered to alligators as a snack.
  • The Lancer: Chuck Kelly is Bob Elliott's affable sidekick and backup guy. Definitely the lancer rather than a partner as he's of a lower social class than Bob the rich guy.
  • Last Breath Bullet: Weber pulls a gun out of nowhere and demands Dr. Bork's secret documents, saying that Dr. Bork has failed. Dr. Bork's sidekick Müller then shoots him...but Weber isn't dead quite yet, as he manages to shoot Müller In the Back as Müller and Bork turn away.
  • MacGuffin: The Sword of Tongu, the secret artifact which one must possess to be judge of the Tongili. Everybody's looking for it.
  • Mighty Whitey: Well of course the Tongili of central Africa have a witch/goddess/guardian angel who is a gorgeous white lady. (They call her the "white butterfly.")
  • Neutral Female: In episode 6, Chuck is brawling with Captain Drake in a life-or-death struggle on board Drake's boat. Pam just stands there, literally biting her fingers with concern. She does finally stir herself enough to pick up the knife—only to be immediately disarmed by Drake's Mook.
  • No Name Given: The British spymaster who sends Pam Courtney off to Africa is known only as Mr. X.
  • Off-into-the-Distance Ending: The series ends with Lothel flouncing away through the fire walk one last time, having saved the Tongili.
  • Plunger Detonator: Episode 11 ends with the bad guys using one of these to blow up the cave with Bob and Chuck inside.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: A curious decision to pair up the Stock Footage of marching Nazi armies in the first episode with a cheery, upbeat piano tune.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: The supernatural calmness with with the two British pilots approach their impending crash in the jungle, after their sabotaged engines fail.
    "If we get over this ridge we may live long enough to be clawed by a lion."
  • Stripperiffic: Lothel flounces around the jungle in an outfit consisting of gauzy pants, a sort of wrap around her arms, a bare midriff, and a snug halter top that shows off her breasts. Just what you'd expect a mystical jungle princess of Central Africa to wear.
  • Two Halves Make a Plot: Maati doesn't know this, and it bites him in the butt in the last episode. He brings the Sword of Tongu to the Tongili, but Godac lied to him and the sword is a fake. Lothel shows up with the real sword. It turns out that an older member of the tribe has a piece that fits into a hidden hole in the sword's hilt. When it fits Lothel's sword but not Maati's, Maati is flung into the fire walk to his death.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Maati is an evil Tongili who is working with the Nazis. He kills Tonga, the "judge" of the Tongili, by throwing a spear and hitting him in the back. Tonga falls over, a couple of guys check on him, and then they start talking about who's going to replace him like it's no big deal.
  • A Wizard Did It: The gang receives a complete list of Nazi agents in the last episode. They figure it must have been the magical Lothel. When they wonder how she found it and got it to them, Chuck shrugs. He cites the moment in the last episode where Lothel pulled a giant hunk of beef out of nowhere, to distract the crocodiles who were going to eat Chuck.
    Chuck: Where did she get the hunk of raw meat she threw? I don't know, do you? Who knows?
  • You Have Failed Me: Dr. Bork has Heinkel killed in Episode 12 for torturing Godac to the point of death without finding out where the sword is hidden.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness:
    • After finding out that Capt. Drake still has the knife used to kill Allan Courtney, and that it can be traced back to him, Dr. Bork promptly plants that same knife in Drake's back.
    • With the British police bearing down on them, in Episode 11 Dr. Bork shoots and kills one of her mooks to prevent the mook from exposing her as a Nazi.