CULT MOVIE REVIEW
Comparing Liane, Jungle Goddess
to Sheena sheds some interesting light on the decline and all of the classic
Liane, Jungle Goddess
(Liane, das Mädchen aus dem Urwald) is a 1956 German production, and
itís unashamedly a B-movie. It makes copious use of stock footage, it was
made on a low budget and it cleaned up on the exploitation circuit. It
made money because the jungle girl story provided the opportunity to have
a cute German teenager running about the jungle (or at least a set dressed
to look like a jungle) semi-naked or even, at times, completely naked.
It was also successful because as well as titillation it provides a consistently
entertaining little story.
The plot is simply a slight variation
on the Tarzan story. A passenger liner sinks off the African coast, and
one little girl survives and is brought up by an African tribe. Cut to
a decade-and-a-half later and a team of German scientists studying something
(we never really find out what it is theyíre studying) encounter a mysterious
white girl swinging through the trees. This catches their attention. The
fact that sheís virtually naked also helps to attract their attention.
They have no idea who she is, but they decide to capture her in a net and
take her back to Germany for further study!
The story becomes big news, and
a Hamburg shipping magnate suspects that the jungle girl may be his grand-daughter
Liane, believed drowned years earlier. If this is so, she stands to inherit
a fortune, much to the displeasure of the old manís nephew who thought
himself to be the sole heir. Several of the scientists have accompanied
the girl back to Germany, and in the meantime the girl has fallen hopelessly
in love with handsome young scientist Thoren (Hardy Krüger). Heís
been trying to teach her the ways of civilisation, with very limited success.
It starts out as straight exploitation,
with lots of topless African women and one topless white jungle girl. Then
it switches gears, surprisingly successfully, and becomes a gently whimsical
romantic comedy as it follows Lianeís misadventures in the modern world.
Thereís a crime sub-plot involving the machinations of the old manís wicked
nephew as he endeavours by assorted nefarious methods to hang on to the
fortune that he believes is rightfully his. Thereís also a romantic sub-plot
centred on the hopeless passion of the expeditionís female doctor for Thoren,
and one of the male scientistís equally hopeless passion for her.
All these disparate elements
come together rather well, mainly because the movie never tries too hard.
Itís light entertainment, and doesnít try to be more than that. Like most
German B-movies of that era it benefits from a very competent supporting
cast, but its greatest asset is the charm of the two leads. Hardy Krüger
is good-natured and slightly baffled, and thoroughly likeable. Itís the
kind of role he was always able to carry off with ease. Even more of a
plus is the 16-year-old Marion Michael as Liane. Compared to Tanya Roberts
in Sheena she is much prettier and has an actual personality. And a very
charming personality it is. Itís impossible not to like her. Whether Ms
Michael was a great actress or not is difficult to gauge from a role such
as this, but her acting is certainly more than adequate. We care what happens
to Liane. And she has real chemistry with Hardy Krüger.
Director Eduard von Borsody doesnít
let the pace drag at any point. Unexpectedly, for a 1956 German film, itís
in colour. And like a proper jungle movie, it has all the wrong animals.
There are South American toucans in the African treetops, and tribesmen
wearing tiger-skins. The makers of Sheena foolishly went on location and
so their movie has actual African animals in Africa, which spoils all the
fun in this genre of movie. And Liane insists on taking her pet lion cub
with her everywhere, which adds an extra cuteness factor.
The mix of gentle humour, romance
and bare female flesh made this one a nice little earner in its day, and
while Sheena has a very dated 80s quality to it Liane, Jungle Goddess remains
fresh and is still thoroughly enjoyable.