Thursday, January 12, 2017

Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves In "The Wild Women Of Wongo"

When Credit Sequences Attack.

Happy 2017, movie lovers!

Are you ready to begin another wonderful, funderful tour of the highways and byways of Junk Cinema? Good! Let's start now.

Our first film of the new year is set long, long ago, when the Earth was young. There were no paved streets or big cities, honking cars or endless Starbucks. Only lush sandy beaches, gently swaying palm trees and frolicking, wise-cracking parrots.

As our eyes marvel at this unspoiled natural beauty, a disembodied voice rings out from the heavens above.

"I am Mother Nature. Designer of all the things you see and all the things you are."

The unspoiled beauty of prehistoric Wongo (actually, Homestead, Florida).

Sounding every inch like a highly satisfied CEO going over last month's sales figures, Mother Nature declares, "All things considered, we (she and Father Time) think we've done fairly well."

Oh, sure, they've made a few mistakes. Who hasn't? One mishap took place "about 10,000 years ago" when she and Father Time "tried a topsy turvy experiment with the human race."

What, pray tell, did Mother Nature and Father Time do?

They made all the females in the land of Wongo "beautiful" and all their men "brutes". Meanwhile, over in the land of Goona ("many days march to the south") Mother Nature and Father Time made the men good looking and the women...not beautiful.

Sighed Mother Nature, "It didn't work."

The King of Wongo looks confused. He looks confused a lot.

What went wrong?

"The Wild Women Of Wongo!"

The ancient, prehistoric land of Wongo is ruled by a beefy king (pro-rugby player Rex Richards) with blue-ish dye sprayed in his hair to make him look "older". He is seen traveling to "The Temple of Dragon God" to ask its High Priestess (Zuni Dyer, a waitress from the Bronx who looks like a cross between Cher and Paul Stanley from KISS) to bless the up-coming marriages of "the maidens of Wongo."

Truth be told, the maidens of Wongo are not happy about these nuptials. That's because their prospective grooms are uncouth jerks who make Steve-O look like Cary Grant. Especially down in the dumps is Ohmoo (Jean Hawkshaw), the king's daughter. She's to be paired with Ocko, a short, surly, pug-nosed lout who can't wait to start bossing her around.

But what's this? Out of nowhere tall, strapping stranger with amazing pecs has paddled up to Wongo's beach head. He's Engor (Johnny Walsh), the prince of Goona, and he's brandishing "the wing of the white bird of peace."

"I Come In Peace": Johnny Walsh as Engor, the prince of Goona.

The sight of the gorgeous guy from Goona causes the women of Wongo to go nuts, as you can imagine.

"It's a man!" one Wongo-ette cries out.

"Oh, no, it's a god! I am sure of it!" corrects her friend.

"This is like a dream I've had!" Ohmoo declares, before turning to her gal pal Mona (Mary Ann Webb) and asking, "Are you certain it's a man?"

"I have a feeling that makes me certain," Mona replies.

A Wongo woman is shocked, shocked, that a man without back hair exists.

If the Wongo women are excited about Engor, the men of Wongo are appalled. They sneer at his "women's skin" and don't for one second buy his claim about the "ape men"  in "big canoes" who are threatening neighboring villages. In fact, the Wongo men think it's a trap by the King of Goona to steal their women.

Ohmoo only reinforces these misgivings when she pleads with her father to give her to Engor and not Ocko.

"His father is a king after all!" Ohmoo points out.

"That is a sacrilege to the gods!" HRH thunders, ordering his daughter to stay in her plastic hut for the time being.

Wongo's tribal council meets and decides that Engor must die. They all agree the strapping stranger will be speared by Ocko first thing in the morning. His death will serve as an object lesson to Wongo's "foolish women" about drooling over cute guys from other villages. It will also send a message to Goona's king to stop meddling in Wongo's internal affairs. Ohmoo over hears these plans and is determind to save Engor...for herself.

"Endless Love": Ohmoo  and Engor go nose to nose under the stars.

After the sun goes down, Ohmoo sneaks out of her hut and beckons Engor to join her. They hold hands and walk around for a while before declaring their true love.

"Ohmoo. They call you that?" Engor asks. Pause. "I like it." Another pause. "I have never seen a woman like you."

"I've dreamed of a man like you!" Ohmoo pants. "I never thought it would come true!"

The smitten kittens passionately embrace and suck face. They come for air and then collapse in a heap in the sand. The camera gracefully glides up into the starry sky above, granting our cuddlemates some much needed privacy.

Bright and early the next morning, the whole cast is assembled on the beach to wave Engor off to Goona. By this time Ohmoo has informed all her Wongo friends about the plan to kill Engor. They agree to help. As Engor innocently trudges down the beach to his canoe, the surly Ocko raises his spear, ready to lob the fatal blow. At that very moment, the Wongo women en masse tackle Ocko, knocking him to the ground. Engor races to his canoe and furiously paddles away.

"Girl Power?": The Wongo Women over-take Ocko. Notice the curiously passive fellow at the left of the picture, who can't be bothered to help his fellow tribesman.

As punishment for helping Engor escape, the maidens of Wongo are sent into the wilderness to appease "The Dragon God." This involves a different gal, every night, sitting in the sand and waiting for the Dragon God ( stock footage of a waddling alligator) to choose one of them for "his bride." It should be noted that when "choosing a bride", the Dragon God actually attacks and eats the lucky (?) lady. A minor detail, perhaps, but an important one.

The Dragon God the Wongo folks worship must be a picky fellow indeed, because after two weeks of sending him a different bride every night, he still hasn't made up his mind. The Wongo women are getting pretty fed-up with this situation and tempers are flaring. Then Mona of Wongo is out taking a sun bath when two "ape men" (cast members with mustaches) sneak up on her. Hearing her screams, the gals grab their spears and rush to her aid. They quickly over-power the "ape men" and push them into the sea...where the Dragon God subsequently gobbles them up.

Believing the "ape men"s deaths fulfills the necessary requirements of their punishment, the women of Wongo decide to head home. Alas, when they get there, no one is there to greet them. Where did everybody go? The gals have no idea, but they suspect the "ape men" may have something to do with it. After a few days of holding down the fort, Ohmoo declares, "We do not want to live and grow old and die without men! Wongo is ended. Tomorrow we leave Wongo--we'll go south!"

Off our heroines troop to Goona, hoping to make a love connection with those hunky Goona guys. The problem is the Goona gents are participating in an ancient ritual to "prove they are men." This entails going out into the wilderness unarmed for about a week. When the survivors return, the women of Goona will greet them "with a wedding feast." However, because the Goona women "are not beautiful", the young men of the tribe are looking forward to their marriages with all the enthusiasm usually reserved for tax audits and prostrate exams. Still, an ancient ritual is an ancient ritual, so off they go.

Imagine the surprise of Engor and his buddy Gahbo (Ed Fury), out skinny dipping in a river, when Ohmoo and her fellow Wongo-ettes show up.

"This one is mine! He's cute!" declares one Wongo woman (that's a direct quote, by the way). Notice the guy isn't putting up much of a fuss.

"Where are your friendly men?"asks Engor.

Ohmoo explains that the "ape men" cleaned out Wongo and their village is no more.

"Come out and we'll cook you a meal," she says.

Engor explains that the Goona men are under-going an ancient ritual and can't inter-act with females at the present time. Besides, they are already paired up with a gal back home.

Ohmoo brushes away Engor's argument by declaring, "Look at us! Wouldn't you rather have us for mates!?"

 Engor and Gahbo look confused. They look confused a lot.

Not waiting for an answer, the Wongo women lasso Engor and Gahbo and drag them out of the water. Following suit, the rest of the Wongo-ettes trap themselves a Goona husband by using nets, spears and all matters of subterfuge. These new relationships are off to a testy start, however, when the Goona men sample their wives' cooking.

"Can't you catch anything but rabbits!?" grouses one Goona guy.

Another complains that the grub "is very poorly seasoned. Not the way the Goona women cook."

That crack causes a Wongo-ette to bark, "Next time, you'll season the food yourself! You'll do it under the whip!"

While all this is going on, it turns out the Wongo men have not died. In fact, they have landed in Goona--and have made the acquaintance of Goona's "not beautiful" women. However, to the Wongo men, the Goona women are perfectly fine. Soon enough, the Wongo men pair up with a Goona gal and everybody decides to make it legal. So off they go to the Temple of the Dragon God to seek the Great Dragon's blessing.

A Goona woman bears her fangs...and her tonsils.

Hilarious complications ensue when the Wongo men and their Goona fiance's run into the Wongo women and their Goona intendeds at the temple. Ocko starts making noises that Ohmoo is his gal, but Engor settles things by declaring he and Ohmoo are getting married no matter what. The High Priestess agrees and Ocko returns to his Goona fiance. The last scene in our flick shows each good looking Goona/Wongo couple facing the camera--and the man winks. The last couple is Engor and Ohmoo, only Ohmoo is the one who winks at the camera.

Don't you love a happy ending?

"The Wild Women Of Wongo" is a cherished Junk Cinema Jewel for a variety of reasons, beyond the obvious ones (it's wacky plot, cardboard acting, cheap sets). This nutsy hybrid of prehistoric romance/beach party movie/ battle of the sexes drama perfectly captures the "Can Do" spirit Junk Cinema's greatest practitioners must posses to achieve their goals.

Director James Wolcott was an accountant bored by the 9 to 5 grind when he decided to throw caution to the wind an become a filmmaker. Needless to say, Wolcott had never directed a fly to an out-house, much less a movie, so making "The Wild Women Of Wongo" was both a challenging task and a labor of love. James' inexperience (and incompetence) is present in every frame of film he managed to shoot in focus: glimpses of camper-trailers in the background of various scenes; the awkwardly inserted stock footage of alligators; High Priestess Zuni Dyer stroking her "pet alligator", which was just a plastic toy strapped to her wrist and the badly sprayed hair of the tribal "elders". Even his cast and crew knew Wolcott was over his head; one even told The Brothers Medved in The Son Of The Golden Turkey Awards that James seemed "vulnerable and helpless", the sort of guy "who didn't know enough to come out of the rain." Yet he persevered.

And like any amateur, Wolcott surrounded himself with even more amateurs! Scriptwriter Cedric Rutherford had never written a screenplay before. Most of the cast had never acted before. Zuni Dyer, remember, was a waitress. The King of Wongo was an ex-professional rugby player. The tribal elders of Wongo were off-duty Corals Gable, Florida, police officers. The hunky Goona men were a motley crew of University of Florida football players and Miami Beach muscle boys. The ONLY cast members who went on to act in other projects were Adrienne Bourbeau (Wana of Wongo) who appeared in a 1967 episode of the TV show "Flipper" and Ed Fury (Gahbo of Goona) who made several "sword and sandal" epics in the 1960's ("Colossus And The  Amazon Women", "Ursus" and "The Seven Rangers" among them).

Future star of Italian sword and sandal epics Ed Fury gives a wink to the camera.

Perhaps the most famous name attached to this flick belongs to Tennessee Williams--yes, that Tennessee Williams, the author of The Glass Menagerie, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof  and A Street Car Named Desire.

See, Mr. Williams was dating one of the male cast members. He arrived a bit early to pick up his friend for their dinner date and had to wait around until his companion finished his scenes. Not surprisingly, Tennessee got bored and fell asleep. When the shooting was over, Williams presumably woke up, allowing he and his friend to resume their plans for the evening. Let's hope they had a nice time.

In spite of all the nuttiness that took place in front of and behind the camera, everyone involved with the creation of "The Wild Women Of Wongo" should be proud of themselves. Why? Because they all achieved what they set out to do. James Wolcott got to direct. Cedric Rutherford had his screenplay turned into a movie. Ed Fury made "sword and sandal" movies in Italy. "The Wild Women Of Wongo" was shown in movie theaters and drive-ins and did not merely gather dust on some shelf. And everybody got to meet Tennessee Williams. Have you ever met Tennessee Williams?

Pretty impressive, if you ask me.

To the entire cast and crew of "The Wild Women Of Wongo": Junk Cinema salutes you!

One of the movie posters for our featured flick.

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