FEMALE JUNGLE (aka: THE HANGOVER) (director/writer: Bruno Ve Sota; screenwriter: Burt Kaiser/based on a story by Burt Kaiser; cinematographer: Elwood Bredell; editor: Carl Pingitore; music: Nicholas Carras; cast: Burt Kaiser (Alex Voe), Kathleen Crowley (Peggy Voe), John Carradine (Claude Almstead), Lawrence Tierney (Det. Sgt. Jack Stevens), Rex Thorsen (Det. Sgt. Duane), Jayne Mansfield (Candy Price), James Kodl (Joe, bar owner), Robert Davis (George, bar janitor), Connie Cezan (Connie, waitress), Jack Hill (Detective captain), Gordon Urquhart (Larry Jackson), Jean Lewis (Monica Madison), Alan Frost (Dr. Urquhart,coroner); Runtime: 73; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Burt Kaiser; American International Pictures; 1956)
“Muddled but diverting B film noir melodrama.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A muddled but diverting B film noir melodrama from cheapie American International Pictures. Future sex queen Jayne Mansfield, known as the blonde bombshell, made her acting debut, costarring as a nymphomaniac. Its attempts to be hard-boiled fall apart when it becomes apparent that writer Burt Kaiser couldn’t get a handle on the plot line, and instead lets the narrative get mired in too much silliness. It also suffers from a weak directing effort by Bruno Ve Sota and cheesy production values. But it did right by bringing 1940s film noir tough guy Lawrence Tierney back for a comeback, after publicity from his bar brawling drunken behavior and many arrests prevented him from getting roles. But even though Tierney was a strong presence in Female Jungle, he still wasn’t hired by Hollywood and for awhile drove a hansom cab in New York’s Central Park until rescued from obscurity by John Huston to play a dirty cop in the 1986 Prizzi’s Honor.
The film opens as the luscious blonde movie actress Monica Madison is strangled outside the tawdry Can Can Club on the night of her movie premiere, and no money or jewelry is taken. When the homicide detective captain discovers one of his men, Sgt. Jack Stevens (Lawrence Tierney), was spending his off-hours getting drunk at the bar and can’t recall anything about what happened, he gets so disgusted with Stevens’ unprofessional behavior that he dresses him down and calls him a disgrace to the force. Stevens quickly sobers up and wants to redeem himself by working uncredited on the case on his off-hours. He has a hard time convincing the detective in charge of the case, Sgt. Duane, to allow him to help, but finally does when he agrees that only Duane gets the credit for solving the case no matter what.
Stevens determines after talking to other workers in the bar that the waitress Peggy Voe (Kathleen Crowley), who is married to the sulking, alcoholic caricature sketch artist at the bar, Alex (Burt Kaiser), might be in danger because she was suspiciously paid a late night visit after the murder by noted gossip columnist Claude Almstead (John Carradine) asking her husband to make a sketch of him. This led to a verbal spat between the couple, with Alex walking out and Peggy cooling off by going to Claude’s elegant house for a swim, a nightcap and some culture. The wealthy effete Claude becomes a prime suspect when it’s learned that he promoted Monica’s career and was upset when the user actress dumped him for the producer of her new movie. They had a verbal spat during an interview with an all-night DJ and at the premiere. During the investigation, Stevens recalls that the broad he met that night at the club was the floozy Candy Price (Jayne Mansfield), who lives in the same apartment building as the Voes and also happens to be Alex’s mistress. When she soon turns up murdered, Stevens no longer is convinced that Claude’s guilty. As the conclusion unfolds, the killer is revealed but why he has to kill never seemed convincing (unless he wants to cop a mentally insane plea). Neither is it believable that such a low-life character, as the murderer, can attract a rising and ambitious star like Monica, who becomes a victim to his campaign of blackmail.
REVIEWED ON 4/19/2005 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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