Wednesday, 3 January 2018

The Wild Women of Wongo (1958)

It has to be admitted that The Wild Women of Wongo, released in 1958, is a pretty terrible movie. It’s the sort of Z-grade cinematic shlock that will either bore you to tears or delight you depending on taste.

The opening voiceover is provided by Mother Nature herself. She explains that while overall she thinks she’s done a pretty good job she has made one or two mistakes and she proceeds to tell us about one of her bigger errors of judgment. Ten thousand years ago she tried an experiment with two tribes, the Wongo and the Goona. She made all the Wongo women gorgeous and the men ugly and dorky, while she made all the Goona men handsome studs and all the Goona women rather less than beautiful. In fact much less than beautiful.

At first things went OK since the two villages were unaware of each other’s existence, until one fateful day Engor, the son of the Goona king, arrived with a warning about a marauding tribe of ape-men. The women of Wongo are stunned when they see Engor. They have never seen such a hunky guy. They get really excited when he tells them that in Goona he’s nothing special - all the guys are equally good-looking. Omoo (Jean Harkshaw), the daughter of the Wongo king, is determined to have Engor as her husband. The men of Wongo might be ugly brutes but they’re not stupid. They figure out that they’re going to have a real problem with their women so they decide to kill Engor.

Omoo and the other Wongo gals foil this dastardly plan and for this they are punished by being offered as sacrifices to the dragon god.

Meanwhile Engor returns to Goona and now the studly men of Goona know that Wongo is full of hot babes. As you can imagine they’re extremely excited by this piece of news.

There’s really not enough plot for the film’s 71-minute running time. That’s the main weakness here. Trimmed to an hour or so it would have been much more fun. The plot also tends to wander at times. The ape-men seem like they’re going to be a major threat but then they just sort of get forgotten.

The acting is generally atrocious. In my view that’s a plus. Good acting would have sunk a movie like this. There’s some horrendous dialogue and it sounds better when it’s delivered with such spectacular ineptitude.

Whatever its other deficiencies The Wild Women of Wongo does have some nice visual elements. The various locations (all in Florida) look quite good. There’s a reasonably impressive underwater sequence. What makes that sequence really fun is that it includes a fight to the death between Omoo and an alligator. He’s not exactly the most fearsome of alligators and he’s no match for a strong healthy girl.

Naturally given all the sexual tensions there’s going to be a cat-fight scene. It’s between Omoo and her deadly rival Ahtee and it’s rather amusing. There’s also some very weird dancing by the Wongo women. They might be beautiful but their dancing skills are somewhat questionable.

There’s one moment that is quite gruesome by 1958 standards, a guy getting chomped by a gator, or at least it would be gruesome had it not been so ludicrously (and delightfully) fake.

There are plenty of very attractive women in skimpy costumes but there’s no nudity, which gives it a kind of innocent charm. There’s ample eye candy for the ladies as well, provided by the hot guys of Goona.

The ending is not totally unexpected and it’s probably the only way the film could have ended. This is after all a light-hearted fun movie.

This movie has had several DVD releases, most notably in a jungle triple-feature from Something Weird (the other movies on that DVD being Bowanga Bowanga and Virgin Sacrifice) and as a double-feature from VCI paired with Jungle Girl and the Slaver as Volume 4 in their Psychotronica series. I’m told the VCI release offers the better transfer but not having seen it I can’t confirm that. The Something Weird version isn’t too bad. Image quality is generally OK but the colours are definitely faded.

The Wild Women of Wongo won’t please everybody and perhaps you have to be in the right mood to appreciate it. I happened to be in just the right mood. I found it to be both engagingly goofy and funny and and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I can certainly recommend it for fans of jungle movies and prehistoric women movies.

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