Friday, March 21, 2014

Queen of the Amazons (1946)

1946, trailer capture Queen of the Amazons
Within the vintage B-movie realm there exist several attached genre's that seem to hold our collective attention just as heartily as rockets, lasers, and little green men. Invariably, these genres are packed with exotic locales and, well, girls. One such format, the lost-civilization/jungle picture, succeeds well with a bevvy of scantily clad women, dash of dangerous beasts, and a catalog of evil-doers. To whit, we have today an offering that fills our zeitgeist from director Edward F. Finney, the 1946 B&W production of Queen of the Amazons.

White Goddess of the Dark Jungle... She offered ECSTASY and DEATH!

Robert Lowery, Zita MoustafaWhat stands out most about Queen of the Amazons, at least from a writer's point of view, is the construction of the story line. The dialogue is notably campy and traditional to a fault with the 'Voodoo bad juju, Bwanna want banana?' phraseology many jungle films took on in the day. Wrapped about this stereotypical script, as the film progresses, is a growing awareness of screen writer Roger Merton's writing process. We watch his creation take form from scene to scene, inspired by high-quality stock footage. Not that this process is wholly unknown, as some of the best B-movies kept budgets down by re-purposing stock footage, but here the process is highly transparent. The footage is noteworthy to a fault, as it becomes painfully obvious the India scenes, gorgeous in and of themselves, are completely useless to the plot, and could have been edited out with little effect upon the storyline.

The Inside Scoop

Queen of the Amazons 1946
Screen Guild Productions was a traditional hard-and-scrabble operation on the Hollywood scene, producing a slew of sagebrush classics as well as distributing them through their own channels. Aside from the westerns, classics such as the 1934 Laurel and Hardy vehicle, Babes in Toyland made up the rest of their retinue. Screen legend characters such as Hopalong Cassidy found success through SGP, with the company distributing and producing theater fare from 1932's That's My Boy, starring the 1931 USC Trojan football team, up until the 1957 exploitation film Curfew Breakers, a real low for writer/actor/director Alex Wells, best known for an uncredited appearance as a prisoner in  Billy Wilder's Stalag 17.

Worth Watching For...

Queen of the AmazonsThe geography drawn upon by Merton is an example of why writers need to know what they are talking about before putting pen to paper. The exotic locales mentioned in Queen of the Amazons are inserted purely for their robust sounding names. Akbar is a region of the Philippine islands, not India (though there was a Mughal ruler for a period in India named Akbar), and Kybo is located in Australia, not Africa. Incidentally, Kybo is also slang for an Australian camping toilet. (Keep Your Bowels Open.)

One unique writer's tool Merton drew upon from his bag of tricks was to have sidekick Gabby, played by J. Edgar Bromberg, recite lines from the Charles Kingsley's poem, The Three Fishers. The tactic worked well, and perhaps inspired a generation of young men to write adventure poetry to woe their drive-in dates.

Queen of the AmazonsNotable Quotable

Greg: Zita, my dear, you're quite a queen!
Zita: (Caressing her bullwhip) Someone has to be boss, dear...

Critical Stats

Queen of the AmazonsQueen of the Amazons (1946) was produced and distributed by Screen Guild Productions. Filming locations unknown with compilation of stock footage and studio sets. Directed by Edward F. Finney, starring Robert Lowery, Patricia Morison, J. Edward Bromberg, and Amira Moustafa. Released January, 1947. B/W. Run Time 61 Minutes.