Olive Films is releasing the 12 chapter movie serial Panther Girl of the Kongo on Blu-ray for your home viewing pleasure. Does it deserve a coveted spot on your collection shelf? Read on to find out!
Panther Girl of the Kongo was a 1955 Republic Pictures movie serial. In case you aren’t aware, movie serials are short films that usually played theatrically before a feature length film. They would be made up of multiple parts and each one would usually play weekly at your local movie theater. Each episode usually ended with a cliffhanger (sometimes literally). It was a way to get people to come back to the theater as they showed these once a week in order.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 played a few Republic shorts before some of their movies in the early seasons. You might remember Commando Cody from the series. They typically use stock footage and old movie sets and were a low budget way of extending the run-time for shorter theatrical releases.
Republic was sometimes dubbed a “poverty row” studio. They did mostly specialize in B-movies and theatrical shorts. However I think it’s a mistake to pass these kinds of films by. Republic may not have been a big studio but they did improve upon the serial format and produced arguably some of the best theatrical shorts. Unfortunately as television got more popular in the late 50’s these types of programs ceased to make enough money to continue.
Thankfully Olive has released the complete Panther Girl of the Kongo series on Blu-ray! For modern viewers this serial will seem like sort of a mixed bag. This was the highest budgeted serial of 1955, but it uses quite a bit of stock footage from the 1941 Republic serial Jungle Girl. So viewers familiar with that time period will notice a few repeated shots here.
The plots are pretty standard as well. You obviously have a jungle girl, but you also have the typical mad scientists, exotic locations and villains that want to buy up land. This isn’t a groundbreaking visual treat by any means. It’s just an entertaining knock off of the popular Tarzan/Jungle ideas from the time period.
Dr. Morgan, the series resident mad scientist, wants sole access to secret diamond mines. In order to secure his African riches he breeds giant claw monsters to scare away any curious onlookers. Panther Girl and her game hunter friend Larry Sanders (no, not that one) are on a photo safari in the region and find out about the plot.
This was an early film for Director Franklin Adreon who would go on to have modest success in directing television episodes. Phyllis Coates plays Panther Girl and she had quite the television career being credited in over 140 productions. Perhaps most notably she played Lois Lane in the Superman and the Mole-Men film and first season of the TV series.
Arthur Space plays Dr. Morgan. He was in a ton of early television series including Dr. Frank Weaver in Lassie and Farmer Herbert Brown for the National Velvet series. IMDB lists him with 280 credits, so most likely if you have seen an older TV series you have watched him act.
The picture and audio quality is what you would expect from a low budgeted release from this era. There are quite a few soft and grainy shots that are typical from 50’s black and white movies. Previous releases of Panther Girl of the Kongo were very poorly done, since it was in the public domain. Olive Films has released what I think is the best version to date and fans will want to have this version in their collection.
There are no special features on this release.
Panther Girl of the Kongo Final Thoughts:
Panther Girl of the Kongo mostly rides an elephant and has to fight off giant Crayfish and an evil scientist who is mining for diamonds. That sentence sums up the entire 12 episode serial. I think you should know whether or not you’ll like this based on just that alone. It’s a historical curiosity and I’m glad Olive released it on Blu-ray. This is the best it will ever look for home media. Special features would be nice but obviously that is not on offer here.
I don’t know how much modern audiences will find to love in Panther Girl of the Kongo. I was entertained by it, and it gave me nostalgic feels for weekend television as a kid. It’s a low budget affair with all the trappings of an average 1950’s production. I wouldn’t suggest a blind buy but if you know what you are getting into you can purchase it here on Amazon, knowing that this is the best version available.
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.