Untamed Mistress (1956)

“Who will be her mate, man or beast?”

Untamed Mistress is of a time and place. It’s a film that’ll probably offend, since it’s basically a stag film, aka a nudie-cutie. Before Internet pornography — although this is not pornographic in the least — films like Untamed Mistress is how your dads and your dads’ dads got a peak at nudity, at least until the “Golden Age of Porn” broke thought in the early ’70s with the likes of Behind the Green Door, Deep Throat, and The Devil in Miss Jones (we delve into that genre with the ’80s VHS-rental, Spine, and the ’70s drive-in grindhouser, The Last Victim).

However, the operative word here is “nudie-cutie,” and this is a Ron Ormond production, so whether it’s a (very) soft-core skin flick or a “jukebox musical” (such as his Kentucky Jubilee), Ron’s bringing along an inventive storyline to tie the pieces together. In this case: the pieces fit into a jungle/ape picture — with a damsel-in-distress tossed in for a feminist take on Tarzan.

In fact, Untamed Mistress — considered a horror film — treads pretty much the same ground as Ron’s Mesa of Lost Women (1963) — which is considered a sci-fi film. Only the latter was set in the desert and not a jungle, and has human-sized tarantulas and women with the abilities and instincts of spiders. This time, we have gorillas and a woman with the abilities and instincts of a gorilla — and she’s possibly “married” to a gorilla.

The film came together when Ron Ormond severed his partnership with producer-distributor J.N Houck, Jr., the Drive-In huckster-guru of Howco International Pictures (Night of Bloody Horror, Creature from Black Lake, Smokey and the Good Time Outlaws). Part of Ormond’s severance package was retaining the rights to the Sabu movie Law of the Jungle, aka The Black Panther, but he couldn’t use the image of Sabu. So, Ron and his wife, June Carr, concocted a storyline to recycle the footage. Additional footage was also cut into the film courtesy of a family friend: a wealthy doctor with an adventurous spirit who shot reels of his own African safari and donated it to the project.

The story concerns an injured and dying Indian guide (Bryon Keith, a white actor in brown make-up, cut in from that Sabu footage; he was Mayor Linseed for several Batman episodes) of two brothers (Allan Nixon, of Ormond’s Outlaw Women, 1952, as well as Mesa of Lost Women; the other the one-and-gone John Martin) on safari. The guide tells a tale, in flashback, that he was once a prince and that a jungle girl, the love of his life, ran off to live with a tribe of gorillas. One of the brothers is also romancing Velda (Jacqueline Fontaine, also of Ormond’s Outlaw Women), his own jungle girl. When she’s captured by the tribe, the brothers go to battle to rescue her. They come to discover an entire tribe of gorillas and their human-female brides — and a shocking secret of Velda’s.

Laugh at you will at the mismatched Sabu footage to the family-friend shot travelogue, mismatched to the backyard plastic jungle footage populated by mostly white actors in brown make-up — with lots of voiceovers — but the Sabu footage had naked, topless African women bouncing around, and nudity is nudity in the 1950s. Meanwhile Velda, when topless, is always conveniently obscured by jungle brush. Add in a few guys in gorilla suites, a cursed jewel, a flying shrunken head, a mythical white gorilla, along with Velda bending and spinning around in a tribal dance, and you have film that cleaned up at the rural drive-ins.

As much as Untamed Mistress is critically derided for its “mismatched footage,” the transitions aren’t that incompetent; this is a Ron Ormond production, after all, so it all works pretty well. Well enough for a film with a “provocative” angle that was grossly oversold, as the “nudity” here, is a joke. But in 1955, this was pretty racy stuff for a film . . . of a time and place.

You can watch a very clean rip of Untamed Mistress the Internet Archive, as well as You Tube.

The inversion of Tarzan is of interest here, as Allan Nixon, who played with the Washington Redskins (aka now The Washington Football Team, aka now The Washington Commanders), turned to modeling in New York and scored a studio contract with MGM Studios. At one point, he was in contention as the replacement for Johnny Weissmuller in Tarzan, as well as a bungled studio contract with Republic Pictures, interested in casting him as a western star.

Sadly, after a draft-stint in WWII, followed by a bout with alcoholism and drunk and disorderly arrests, Nixon derailed his career. He continued acting in bit roles in TV series and B-movies until the early ’60s. By the early ’70s, he developed a new career as a writer (he had a journalistic degree) of several exploitative romance novels, as well as several novel-sequels to Shaft under the pen name of Don Romano. Allan Nixon died at the age of 79 in April 1995.

Nixon made the tabloids when his third wife, Velda May Paulsen, an ex-model, was arrested in January of 1958 when she attacked him with a steak knife following a domestic argument. The fight was the result of Nixon’s upset that Paulsen was still friendly with her ex-boyfriend — Burt Lancaster. She was killed later that year in an explosion at their apartment caused by a lit cigarette and a gas leak.

Learn more about the Ormonds in the pages of Filmfax, Issue 27 (1991), preserved on The Internet Archive. (The extensive article begins on Page 40.)

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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