Monday, 20 November 2017

Bowanga Bowanga (1953)

Bowanga Bowanga: White Sirens of Africa (also released as Wild Women) is an ultra low budget 1953 jungle adventure movie which is quite enjoyable if you’re in the mood.

A couple of big game hunters on safari in Africa, Count Michelangelo Sparafucile (Don Orlando) and Kirby (Mort Thompson), come across the exhausted Trent (Lewis Wilson). Trent is an explorer and he has a strange tale to tell. Many years earlier, as a small boy, he had a terrifying encounter with the dreaded Ulama, the White Sirens of Africa. Just a few days earlier, tramping through the African jungle, he encountered them again. He is determined to lead an expedition to solve once and for all the question of the origin and nature of the Ulama.

And what are the Ulama? They are a tribe of savage white women who live in the jungle and they are feared by one and all. These amazons appear to have no menfolk.

Our three intrepid adventurers manage to get themselves captured by the Ulama almost immediately. The Count is much too scrawny to be of interest to the Ulama. The Ulama queen is however very interested in Trent. He is a strong man and she has a use for such a man. Judging by their reactions the other Ulama girls can also think of some interesting uses for a strong man. There is a great deal of excitement in the Ulama camp.

Our captive explorers do not know what strange and terrible fate awaits them. They might end up in the cooking pot, sacrificed to heathen gods or perhaps (most frightening of all) they might even be called upon to satisfy the lusts of these fearsome amazons.

Trent soon has reason to believe that it’s the queen’s lusts that he’s going to be called upon to satisfy. We discover that the Ulama do not live entirely without men but at the moment the queen is without a man. Her last husband was speared (by the queen herself) attempting to escape. Being the husband of the queen might turn out to be a slightly dangerous and not overly attractive occupation, even if the queen happens to be young and pretty.

The Ulama women are easily roused to anger and jealousy which offers the opportunity to include a couple of fairly energetic cat fights. The Ulama women seem to enjoy fighting rather a lot, and as we will learn later they like fighting against men as well.

There is some dissent within the Ulama camp. They don’t seem to be enough strong men to go around and the girls who are likely to miss out are not very happy about it. They might even prove to be allies of Trent and his companions against the queen. But first our explorers will have to survive single combat against the most formidable of the Ulama warriors.

There’s also an all-too-brief guy-in-a-gorilla-suit scene but apparently all this gorilla is interested in doing is strolling through the jungle hand-in-hand with an Ulama maiden.

This was 1953 so the Ulama are fairly modestly attired, their outfits being variations on the fur bikini theme. While these jungle women live a primitive lifestyle, hunting with spears, they do seem to have mastered the art of hairstyling (and may even have invented the permanent wave).

This film makes very extensive use of stock footage, which you’d expect in a low-budget offering in this genre. Other parts of the film were shot on location in the steamy jungles of Darkest California. This is a movie which probably cost almost nothing to make. It certainly looks like a film on which no money at all was spent.

Veteran writer-director Norman Dawn had worked extensively in the adventure genre. It’s probably unfair to offer a judgment on his talents based on a zero-budget feature such as this.

Queen Bonga Bonga is played by Dana Wilson, who went on to marry legendary producer Albert R. Broccoli. She does the fierce, proud and lustful amazon queen thing well enough. Let’s be honest, this is not a movie that was ever going to give any of the performers the chance to enhance their acting reputations. At best it was a much-needed pay cheque.

This movie is part of a jungle movie triple-header released by Something Weird, along with Wild Women of Wongo and Virgin Sacrifice  (and unusually for a Something Weird triple feature there are quite a few extras as well). Bowanga Bowanga is in reasonable shape although the print used was far from pristine. The movie was shot in black-and-white and is presented in its correct 1.33:1 aspect ratio.

Bowanga Bowanga is pretty bad but it’s entertainingly bad if jungle movies and lusty amazon warriors are your thing. Recommended, and the DVD really is exceptional value for money.

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