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Blaise’s Bad Movie Guide: “Nabonga”


Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Oscars have thankfully come and gone, and I can proudly state that I have not seen any of the movies nominated this year — or any other year, for that matter. Unless “Moonlight” somehow turned out to be a sequel to Michael Landon’s “I was a Teenage Werewolf,” I'll pass.

“Kong: Skull Island" is now in theaters, which is more my cup of java. But it’s gotten mostly rave reviews and I, alas, have to review a bad movie. Fortunately, there are plenty to choose from in the Big Monkey genre.

Years back, I received a copy of “Sons of Kong,” a DVD box set containing 10 clunker flicks, all featuring gorillas (none of which you ever remotely regard as being the legitimate spawn of the original). We’ll skip “White Pongo” and “The Ape Man” and settle for the last on the list: the inexplicably titled “Nabonga” (1944).

An embezzler and his young daughter, Doreen, survive a plane crash in the African jungle. The waif befriends a wounded gorilla and — time flies — she is suddenly a fully matured woman known to locals as the White Witch, with a brutal monkey named Sampson to protect her. The pale one is played by Julie London of “Emergency” fame. At least she got the role. Did you know that Meryl Streep was turned down for the female lead in the Dino De Laurentiis “Kong” remake of the ‘70s? Overrated indeed — at least Trump got that call right. But I digress.

Treasure hunter Ray shows up, portrayed in full swagger by Buster Crabbe. Ray covets a stash of stolen baubles the witch has been hoarding. Trouble is, he has to get through Samson and a rival pair of fortune hunters to get them. Ray isn’t much of a hero — he loses all three fistfights he’s in and is terrified of the mighty Sampson. He does save his African bearer, Tobo, from a large reptile, though, uttering the immortal line, “Crocodiles can sure give you a workout!”

I must confess I nodded off halfway through this sloth of a movie. Turns out all I missed was loads of stock footage featuring Indian animals posing as African animals. At least I wasn't watching “Manchester by the Sea,” for I suspect I would still be in dreamland.

Anyhow, Sampson saves the day, dispatching the two fortune hunters while sacrificing himself in the bargain. The White Witch then puts the moves on the clueless Ray. The end.

Note: Unlike “Nabonga,” “Kong: Skull Island” is a rousing good tale. Its tropical island is populated with mighty monkeys, humongous spiders and giant squids — a place I’d rather visit than “La La Land” any day.

— Blaise Majkowski

Gazette page designer and B-movie aficionado