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  Wild Women of Wongo, The Battle Of The Sexes
Year: 1958
Director: James L. Wolcott
Stars: Jean Hawkshaw, Johnny Walsh, Rex Richards, Ed Fury, Mary Ann Webb, Cande Gerard, Adrienne Bourbeau, Zuni Dyer, Val Phillips, Burt Williams
Genre: Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: We hear the voice of Mother Nature speaking and she boasts of how she and Father Time have done a pretty good job in making the world the way it is. However, it wasn't always thus, and she tells of how ten thousand years ago an experiment with the villages of Wongo and Goona wasn't going too well. In the village of Wongo, you see, the men were dunderheaded brutes while the women were all attractive and unsatisfied with being their potential mates. But in Goona, the men were all handsome and strapping while the women were, shall we say, less than lovely. Obviously some kind of compromise had to be reached, but as the two villages never had any contact, how would it happen?

In the United States of the nineteen-fifties, there was an obsession that the ordinary folks embraced - no, apart from anti-Communism, it was more fun than that, it was Tiki pop culture. Hawaii and the South Seas were the height of exotic sophistication, and no home worth its salt was without its Tiki bar adorned with little statues where you could enjoy a cocktail presented in an opened pineapple. And so it was that if the Tiki fan wanted to go to the cinema, the choice of high quality, tropical island-based films was limited to South Pacific, and if you were looking for someting cheap and cheerful, then the supposedly prehistoric Wild Women of Wongo was your best bet.

There are no musical numbers in the film, but there is a spirited dance sequence to excite most red blooded males. The Wongo (Wongan?) tribe have quite an involved religious set up, and worship at the Temple of the Dragon, complete with its own high priestess (a woman with a long black wig). She is who we see first as the blue-haired King goes to visit her and she consults the dragon god, that is, an unimpressively small alligator (or is it a crocodile?) and tells him that now the men of Wongo should be taking those wild women as their mates. He returns to the village in his canoe with the good news, but someone else soon arrives with bad news.

That someone is a representative of the village of Goona, their King's son to be precise. He comes to warn of apemen who storm in from the sea, but the wild women are taken with his good looks and the Wongo King's daughter Omoo (Jean Hawkshaw, looking remarkably like Scarlett Johansson) much prefers him to the mate she has been arranged to marry. The men, meanwhile, see the way the women are falling over themselves to catch a glimpse of the Goona fellow, and decide to kill him. That night, Omoo spends under the stars with the Goona prince in a spot of romance that is tastefully panned away from towards some flowers.

Tasteful could sum up the manner in which the story is approached, but camp would be a better way, at least after the halfway mark when all pretence of seriousness goes out of the window. A parrot comments on the action, and apparently folllows everyone about as the camera frequently cuts to its reaction ("Squawk! Take it easy!"). As they couldn't go very far in portraying the lusts of the Wongo women, the film makers are forced to have everyone act coyly about their impulses for most of the story, and the sub-Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan lines are as woodenly delivered as you'd expect.

The islands are represented by a stretch of Florida coastline, and a few grass huts pass as the set. The women start to act more aggressively as the film goes on, and their menfolk behave even more idiotically, but the plot contrives that they be split up when the ladies go off to meet the priestess for that dance frenzy I mentioned. The dragon god demands a sacrifice for suffering disrespect, so what will the wild women do? Predictably, the film's sexual politics don't bear much scrutiny - ugly people stick with your own while us attractive ones enjoy ourselves together seems to be the message. You'd be hard pressed to take any of it seriously, mind you, and to their credit the film makers don't either. It all ends with a big wink. See if you can spot the Plan 9 from Outer Space theme music.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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