Untamed Mistress

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Ron Ormond’s low budget quickie Untamed Mistress (1956) follows a doctor and his party on safari into the heart of the African jungle. Here, in gorilla country, the half-wild Velda (Jacqueline Fontaine) is reunited with beast kind, dooming the expedition. Untamed Mistress is not a film of man’s laws, it is a film of nature’s law.

Untamed Mistress is as politically correct as one can expect from a safari adventure film shot in Florida circa 1956. Ormond cuts from his four actors to stock footage of African wildlife and Tribes people with great frequency, effectively presaging the green screen. Actors look far into the distance and then Ormond cuts to an elephant or zebra. The actors, framed always from the waist up, move through the frame side to side, giving the film the plastic quality of the stage.

The film opens with a prolonged Kipling inspired tale of a Tarzan-like character. Then begins the safari adventure which lasts until act three when Ormond riffs on the premise of King Kong (1933). Untamed Mistress is a hodgepodge of themes and ideas lifted from the traditions of European imperialism. Untamed Mistress is an abashed, unashamed work of exploitation executed with total ignorance and sincerity.

However the real stars of Untamed Mistress are the savage gorillas. These apes battle for human females, roar at our explorers, and cause all manner of mayhem. The gorilla suits are less Tanya’s Island (1980) and more Africa Screams (1949). The suits are so obviously phony that one expects Marlene Dietrich to emerge from behind the furs at any moment.

For all of its problematic content Untamed Mistress remains an important cinematic text in the filmography of the Ormond family. This film marked a move away from the westerns Ron Ormond had been making and towards the more exploitative films of the sixties. Untamed Mistress, for better or worse, is essential Ormond moviemaking at its least self-conscious.