Wednesday, March 14, 2007

THE GEORGE REEVES DOUBLE FEATURE – THUNDER IN THE PINES / JUNGLE GODDESS

No doubt expecting resurgence in interest about the late George Reeves after the release of the big-budget docudrama/murder mystery, HOLLYWOODLAND, VCI has recently issued two of the SUPERMAN television star’s 50’s B-movies together on a new disc. The resulting DVD, THE GEORGE REEVES DOUBLE FEATURE – THUNDER IN THE PINES/JUNGLE GODDESS (both 1948), is an entertaining if old-fashioned double bill, featuring the charismatic actor in a couple of decent low budget adventures.

In THUNDER IN THE PINES, George is a lumberjack, who is roped by Lyle Talbot (GLEN OR GLENDA, MESA OF LOST WOMEN) into a logging competition with his best friend (original DICK TRACY serial star Ralph Byrd) for both the love of a sultry French tart (Denise Darcel) and a lucrative lumber contract.

Presented in full-frame sepia tone, this Robert Edwards-directed, hour-long programmer is an amusing time-killer that benefits greatly from the good old boy chemistry between the male leads, plenty of logging stock footage, and a playful script full of good-natured humor.

The companion feature, JUNGLE GODDESS, once again teams Reeves and Byrd, this time as African adventurers who set out into the wilderness in search of a missing heiress. Of course, when they find the beautiful blonde (Wanda McKay), they discover that she’s become the "white goddess" of a hostile native tribe, and getting her back to civilization won’t be easy.

Clocking in at just over an hour, JUNGLE GODDESS is less fun than PINES, but fortunately too short to get really boring. Director Lewis D. Collins, who specialized in B-westerns, wrings what interest he can out of the simplistic script and cheap "jungle" sets, while Reeves and Byrd attempt to bring a little depth to their stock characters.

VCI presents both films, which are making their home video debuts, in decent full-frame transfers that show only minimal wear and age-related damage. The mono sound is clear and balanced. The disc is loaded with Reeves-centric extra features, including a multi-part documentary, a photo gallery, well-written bios, several text essays and more.

While neither film on this disc is a classic, they’re short, fun B-flicks that allow Reeves to ably demonstrate the charm and charisma that made him so memorable as TV’s Superman. For comic book fans, there’s also the added entertainment value of seeing "Superman" and "Dick Tracy" together on screen.

Recommended for Reeves fans and old movie buffs.

BUY: George Reeves Double Feature (Thunder in the Pines / Jungle Goddess)