Mill Creek Musings: The White Gorilla (1945)

Steve Collins (Ray Corrigan) is working as a guide at a trading post somewhere on the African continent when he is attacked by a white gorilla. Everyone at the camp is skeptical of the gorilla’s existence at first, until it becomes clear that their pal is not the first person to have been attacked by it.

(Image via World Worth Watching)
(Image via World Worth Watching)

The white gorilla, the story goes, has been shunned by his “family” because of the color of his fur. He now leads an isolated life, and spending so much time alone has turned him into an angry creature.

This gorilla becomes so angry that he works up the courage to fight against the “king” of the gorilla group that abandoned him, and according to Steve, the fate of the entire continent of Africa depends on this fight.

Harry Fraser directs 1945’s The White Gorilla, which was made by combining footage from Perils of the Jungle (1927) with new material that shapes the film’s plot.

The White Gorilla appears in Mill Creek’s 100 Horror Classics set. The sound of the print is muffled, but the picture is decent. There is a slight washout at times, but it isn’t very fuzzy or grain-speckled. I’d say the quality is slightly better than average for a public domain film, especially considering the fact that some of the footage dates back to the silent era.

And speaking of that silent film footage, I’m kind of in love with the incorporation of it in this film. It’s a little corny at times, but it isn’t as poorly-utilized as I expected it to be. You can tell that footage from different eras is being mixed, but the film is a heck of a lot of fun to watch thanks to the fast-paced, drama-filled silent clips. Corrigan narrates these portions of the film, filling in gaps that would have otherwise been filled by intertitles.

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

The appeal of the technique does wear off after a while, as much as I adored it in the beginning. The film drags at times and definitely feels longer than its 62-minute run time, but this is due to the story constructed around the silent footage rather than the use of silent footage itself. It also isn’t helped by the narration, which is a bit stiff and sounds like it’s being read off of a cue card.

Though overall this film was of much higher quality than I expected of it, there was some corn to be had, especially in the portrayal of gorillas. The white gorilla suit is hilariously bad, and it’s very clear that there is a human inside of it pretending to be a wild animal. Corrigan, who doubles as the white gorilla in addition to his role of Steve Collins, doesn’t do a very good job of mimicking gorilla locomotion or behavior. And the other gorilla, the leader of the white gorilla’s old pack, is no better!

I’ve mentioned on TMP before that I’m a total primatology nerd, and gorillas are my favorite of all of the primates. I’ve spent a lot of time observing them and learning about them (in undergraduate elective courses and in my spare time), so the inaccuracies of this film were even more hilarious to me. It seems like very little effort was put into providing an even 10% accurate portrayal of these animals.

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

One thing that really bugs me rather than making me laugh is the perpetuation of the “evil/violent gorilla” stereotype in this film. Gorillas are usually docile creatures, unless provoked by direct threats, such as poachers. They eat leaves and plants all day, and expend all of their energy looking for those leaves and plants. They don’t hunt, they don’t eat any vertebrates, and they’re nowhere near energetic enough to spend so much time fighting or attacking. I know this is an odd thing to bit nit-picky about, and it won’t bother every viewer as much as it bothers me.

The film ends on an unexpected note of environmentalism, with Steve realizing that the gorillas are “almost human” and that the jungle should belong to those who have been there for thousands of years rather than to Americans coming in to take advantage of the land. It comes off as a bit of a last-ditch effort to add some depth to the film, but it’s an interesting way to wrap things up.

I wouldn’t mind watching The White Gorilla again. It’s got its share of problems, but it’s an interesting flick. I enjoyed it, overall. The score: 2.5/5

One thought on “Mill Creek Musings: The White Gorilla (1945)

  1. So what are you saying, that’s NOT a real white gorilla in that photo capture above? Fun review, Lindsey…and by the looks of that poster, it seems that ALL of the jungle’s creatures were pissed off at the white gorilla!


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