Mill Creek Drive-In Classics: Nabonga (1944)

More people have seen this rubbery, sound-studio shot jungle rot by way of Mill Creek box sets in the ’00s than through its UHF-TV broadcasts in the ’60s and ’70s. And boy, did the cheapjack studios of Republic (the biggest), Monogram, and the cheapest-of-the-cheap behind this Buster Crabbe-starrer, PRC, love crankin’ out their Tarzan-ripped exploits from the 1930s through the 1950s. (Eh, I am too lazy to research how many Chesterfield Pictures made.) While we’ve never done an “Exploring” feature on those jungle romps, we did, thanks to Mill Creek’s recycling, break down and review the similarly-themed, Terror in the Jungle (1968).

South of Egypt and west of Ethiopia in the Sudan (aka an L.A. sound studio).

Ray Gorman (Buster Crabbe) is a treasure hunter seeking a downed airplane in the jungles of Africa. While there, he learns one of the survivors, a young girl, has matured (Julie London; Jack Webb’s ex and retiring after a 126-episode run on NBC-TV’s Emergency! as Dixie McCall, R.N. from 1972 to 1978) to become the jungle’s feared, mountain dwelling “White Witch” — complete with a gorilla protector. Hot on Gorman’s trail is Carl Hurst (Barton MacLane, who seen better days in The Maltese Falcon and High Sierra with Humphrey Bogart, then became General Peterson on TV’s I Dream of Jeannie), who also wants the priceless jewels spoils inside that plane.

What “spoils,” you ask?

Well, you see that young girl’s father was an embezzler who, before being caught, escaped in said plane with her on board.

Amid the rubbery brush, there’s plenty of wildlife stock footage — some not native to Africa — and a man in a ratty gorilla suit. It’s easy to get through at a meager 71 minutes . . . once you slop through that 20-plus minutes of stock wildlife. So, with fast forwarding, it’s only 51 minutes for you to see Buster Crabbe in something other than Rocky Jones, I mean, Flash Gordon, I mean Buck Rogers. Wait he was both Flash and Buck. Was he in Beyond the Moon (1954)? No that was Rocky Jones. But Crabbe was Tarzan at one point, so Fred Olen Ray flew him down to Florida for few days to film The Alien Dead (1980). And that, believe it or not, was also a jungle flick — complete with alligators eating zombies . . . or zombies eating gators (it’s been so long). No really.

Speaking of ex-Tarzans: Allan Nixon, who played with the Washington Redskins and was an MGM contract player who almost became Tarzan: he ended up in the same rubbery jungles battling ratty guerillas amid the wild life stock footage in Untamed Mistress (1956). Is the Italian-imported Mill Creeker, Women of Devil’s Island (1962), a “jungle” pick? Eh, 19th century French navy, pirates, sand . . . well, there’s a little bit o’ swampy jungles in there as they pan for gold.

Oh, but poor ol’ Buster: You can check out of the loin cloth, but you can never leave the jungle. Hey, at least Tommy Lee Jones portrayed you, sort of, in The Comeback Trail (2021).

Do you need a few more Monogram and PRC-variety cheapies? We’ve done a few: Scared to Death (1947) with Bela Lugosi, one of my personal favorites, Flight to Mars (1951), and I Accuse My Parents (1944). See? We just don’t do “horror films” at B&S About Movies. We’re well-rounded lads. Not as smart as Fredo Corleone, but we get by.

Shannon Tweed and Buster Crabbe in one box set? Mill Creek, we love you!

You can check out the trailer and full film on You Tube. If it starts to suck, well, there’s always The Alien Dead, also on You Tube.

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

3 thoughts on “Mill Creek Drive-In Classics: Nabonga (1944)

  1. I haven’t seen this, but I have seen all of the Johnny Weissmuller/Maureen O’Sullivan Tarzan films and enjoyed them immensely. I watched them in the scariest early days of the pandemic, and it was solace to turn off the news and disappear into an easier world.

    Nabonga seems like a cross between Tarzan and King Kong (I film I whose legacy I respect but didn’t do much for me when I saw it)

    I might eventually get around to this one…seems like a good one for a night of insomnia.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Quit pickin’ on Nabonga, he said belatedly. I love this cheapjack film after taping it off a PBS show called ‘Matinee at the Bijou’ as a kid back int he very early 80s/late 70s. I had it on a big 6-hour tape (back when they cost $10 each and weighed three pounds) and right after it was Cat People, and then King Kong (1933). What a tape. Every week the Bijou would have a cartoon, short, chapter of a serial and then the feature film, just like the old days (for them who were older than me, though now I may be older than them). They would edit the feature down to under an hour, which in this case meant lobbing off the first 15 minutes which was fine, it gave it an edge of WTF that helped the stock footage go down like a kind of abstract art. My brother and I would quote it constantly (“Those crocodiles sure give you a work out” and “Father always wanted Samson to kill people.” And we loved Julie London’s low key matter of fact voice. Anyway, it’s not as good with the first 15 minutes restored, in place of my innocence. but I enjoyed your review, it made me wish I gave those Mill Creek boxes a chance back in the day. I was too haughty.


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