Female Jungle / Hangover (1955)

“There were at least a dozen people at that party who Monica Madison hurt on the way out; each one of them had a good reason to kill her.”

Poster

Synopsis:
An off-duty cop (Lawrence Tierney) who has spent the night drinking heavily and can’t remember his actions tries to clear his name by investigating the mysterious murder of an actress (Eve Brent), who was last seen with gossip columnist Claude Almstead (John Carradine). Meanwhile, a caricaturist (Burt Kaiser) who has been cheating on his wife (Kathleen Crowley) with a blonde vamp (Jayne Mansfield) thinks he may have important information about the murder.

Genres:

Review:
This low-budget noir-thriller was the directorial debut of character actor Bruno VeSota, who starred in several of Roger Corman’s AIP flicks (including Bucket of Blood) — but it’s perhaps even more notable as the first significant screen appearance of Jayne Mansfield (who was paid $150 for her work, and promptly went back to her job selling popcorn). Unfortunately, it’s a flawed film: the screenplay is muddled, with too many characters introduced as potential suspects; the ending is frustratingly vague (just when we think things are resolved, another twist is hinted at); and the acting is uneven (Crowley as the artist’s wife is particularly bad). Yet the entire affair is at least partially redeemed by a couple of noteworthy performances (Tierney and Carradine), and an effectively dark-and-dirty B-level atmosphere; as noted in the Spinning Image review (see link below), Female Jungle takes place entirely at night, with neither dusk nor dawn to signal the presence of daylight life.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Effective noir cinematography
    Cinematography
  • Lawrence Tierney as the guilt-ridden cop
    Tierney
  • John Carradine as Almstead
    Carradine
  • Jayne Mansfield as “Candy” — no great actress, but exuding sexual allure
    Mansfield
  • Plenty of juicy B-level dialogue between Mansfield and Kaiser:
    “With or without violins, I’d call this a brush-off.”
    “You and I just don’t add up together.”
    “You’re lying — just like the phony paint on yer face!”
    “You’re good for nothing, but I’m crazy for you.”

Must See?
No. While notable as Mansfield’s first significant on-screen appearance, this one is for B-budget noir fans only.

Links:

One Response to “Female Jungle / Hangover (1955)”

  1. First viewing. Not a must – and, since the plot does not really focus on the women, what’s with that title? One might be expecting a women’s prison flick.

    Though only 73 minutes, it takes a bit of time for it to kick in – the opening murder notwithstanding. As noted, it’s muddled; ultimately forgettable, often implausible, sometimes confusing and, yes, it has a “Huh?” ending. At the same time, it’s strangely compelling.

    Tierney and Carradine turn in sturdy B-performances. As written, Mansfield’s role is laughable (I love her answering the phone with “Who is this, honey?”); and, as noted, she shares one very loony exchange with Kaiser – who comes off like a shorter Joe Dallesandro with the benefit of a few acting classes.

    Though it has potential as such, it’s not great as camp – but it could be fun with the right crowd.

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