Written by: Christopher O’Neill on January 26th, 2011
Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1979 (American version)
Director: Picha and Boris Szulzinger
Writer: Michael O’Donoghue and Anne Beatts (American version)
Cast: (American version) Johnny Weissmuller Jr., John Belushi, Bill Murray, Christopher Guest, Judy Graubart
DVD released: January 31st, 2011
Approximate running time: 68 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Lace DVD
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £12.99
The evil Queen Bazonga, a bald woman with fourteen breasts, is on the verge of world domination with her army of giant penises. She orders the kidnapping of June, the mate of ape man Shame, with the intension of removing her scalp so the Queen can surgically attach it to herself to look good for the invasion (“Why am I doing all this you ask? So I can spit on people!”). With his faithful and horny chimpanzee sidekick Cheapo by his side, our hapless hero Shame sets forth to rescue June from the darkest region of Africa – Bush country! On route he meets a pompous professor and his sexy assistent (“I’m only in this cartoon because I blew the producer”), fights off cantankerous game hunters and the Molar Men (creatures who eat anything in their path), and hitches a ride with a 19 year old drunkard from Illinois who thinks he can fly, until he finally reaches Bazonga’s lair. With June strapped to an operating table and hordes of acid-squirting penises ready to attack, Shame must single-handedly save not just his mate but also the world from the Queen’s diabolical plan.
Shame of the Jungle (known as Jungle Burger in the UK) is a naughty and often imaginatively adult animated film that ultimately is stretched too thin for its short duration (the running time barely reaches feature length). Pitched somewhere between Fritz The Cat and Flesh Gordon, it begins promisingly as a spoof of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan character with doses of outrageous sexual escapades. There is an opening scroll read in a grandiose narration voice (“Africa…where the web of life is spun from cheaper thread!”) before a series of vignettes featuring various creatures in the jungle. Soon there is the introduction of the Tarzan-inspired character Shame – called ‘Tarzoon’ in the original French version but renamed for the American edition following an injunction from the Burroughs Estate – who is depicted as a bumbling fool who is useless in bed while June (a rife on Jane) is an incessant nagger (“I guess the only place you come quickly is in bed”) and Cheapo (based on Cheeta) is a sexually-compulsive masturbating chimp. All the gags are cheap, offensive and unacceptably politically incorrect by today’s standard – in other words, good fun for those who like their humour low-brow and crude. But once Shame goes on his adventure to save June, the plot begins to slacken and meander, with some gags and sequences running longer than they should and several moments feel like padding (unsurprisingly, this project started as a 15-minute promotional film that was exhibited at the Cannes Film Festival in 1974 to raise funding for a feature). I do not have access to the original French version but reportedly it runs even longer so it would be interesting to see what footage was eliminated. Along the way there are flashes of wonderfully twisted animation (the giant penises squirting acid semen), swipes at established cartoon characters (the cameo by Georges Rémi’s Tintin character is hilarious) and John Belushi’s rambling monologue as Craig Baker, an American student who rides a hammik carried by birds through the sky (“Ever seen The Silver Chalice with Jack Palace where he tries to fly off this tower…”) is inspired, but there is only so much humour that Michael O’Donoghue and Anne Beatts can wring out of the scenario. Running a little over an hour, Shame of the Jungle probably would work better as a short film but, despite some tiresome stretches, there is enough kinky ideas that make it worthwhile.
The print used for this DVD carries the American title Shame of the Jungle (previous British video editions replace this titlecard with a crude still frame carrying the Jungle Burger title). Despite the packaging claiming that the disc is 4X3, the 1:66:1 transfer is presented anamorphic at 16X9, resulting in the film appearing windowboxed with black bars on each side of the image. Comparing it to the British video release from Entertainment In Video the framing is almost identical, although the DVD is missing a silver of picture information from the lefthand side and a small amount of imagery has been cropped from the bottom of the screen. However, these variations do not affect any of the compositions. Another comparison to the video reveals how incredibly sharp and vibrant the image quality of the DVD is with strong colours and a healthy amount of film grain (The style of animation often results in different textures appearing but this would be a result of how the film was originally made).
The soundtrack is limited to just the American reedited version of the film which is robust with a mild amount of hiss but it is minmal and can only be noticed during quieter moments for those stressing to hear it.
There are no extras whatsoever.
This presentation of Jungle Burger is far superior to any previous video editions and a worthwhile purchase for anyone wanting to catch-up with this 70s oddity. Lace DVD are also releasing Picha and Boris Szulzinger’s third animated feature film The Big Bang.