Sunday Matinee: Jungle Girl/The Perils of Nyoka

So all the past few weeks of jungle girl movies have been leading to this 1941 action adventure serial from Republic Pictures, Jungle Girl!

Jungle Girl was the first sound serial to have a female lead. Well not quite – there was the 1933 remake of The Perils of Pauline and there was the 1935 serial Queen of the Jungle which just reused footage from the 1922 serial Jungle Goddess. But this actually the heroine swinging on vines and saving lives and fighting bad guys instead of just being a damsel in distress. Very very loosely based on Edgar Rice Burroughs novel of the same name the movie stars Frances Gifford as Nyoka Meredith the jungle girl of the title. The plot has Nyoka moving to an remote tribe in the jungle where her father Dr. John Meredith (Trevor Bardette) has fled and becomes doctor for the tribe displacing the witch doctor Shamba ( Frank Lackteen).

Dr. Meredith has left civilization because of his murderous twin brother Bradley. Many years pass and Bradley along with Slick Latimer (Gerald Mohr) has come to the jungle looking for diamonds and have teamed up with Shamba. They lure and murder John Meredith and Bradley takes his place fooling even Nyoka. Meanwhile they have also tried to take an amulet that leads to the diamonds from Nyoka. It’s up to Nyoka to stop them with the help of pilot Jack Stanton (Tom Neal).

Jungle Girl was a huge hit for Republic Pictures and they made a sequel Perils of Nyoka in 1942 but Gifford didn’t return to the role. Instead Kay Aldridge stepped into the role. This time out the studio decided not to pay for the rights to Burroughs’ Jungle Girl and so only used the elements that the studio made up – like the name Nyoka.

Nyoka is searching for her missing father and the lost Golden Tablets of Hippocrates along with Dr Larry Grayson (Clayton Moore). Also searching for them is the evil Vultura (Lorna Gray). The serial was again a big success for Republic. Republic would remake Jungle Girl in 1955 as Panther Girl of the Kongo and reused footage from Jungle Girl to pad out the movie. Phyllis Coates played the Panther Girl but wore the exact same costume as Gifford did in Jungle Girl to make reusing the footage easier.

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