In my 2016 book, The Bigfoot Book, I wrote: “Depending on one’s personal perspective, it’s either the best evidence that Bigfoot exists or it’s one of the world’s most enduring, outrageous hoaxes. It’s a fascinating and controversy-filled piece of film-footage, shot by a man named Roger Patterson, at Bluff Creek, California, in October 1967. It’s also a piece of film upon which the Bigfoot research community cannot agree, since the entire matter is steeped in debate, claims, and counter-claims. Of only a couple of things can we be one hundred percent certain: the film exists and it shows a large, humanoid figure in a forested setting.”
Indeed, the Patterson film is an integral part of not just Bigfoot research, but of the larger field of Cryptozoology too. Just a few days ago I was speaking with a friend who sits firmly on the fence when it comes to the matter of the real-versus-hoax issue concerning the 1967 footage. This then got into a bigger, and much wider, debate on other cases that may have involved not a Bigfoot but a “man in an ape suit.” Personally, I think the Patterson film is probably the real deal. Well, most of the time I do. But, there are a few cases which clearly demonstrate that the ape-suit/gorilla-suit angle is an integral part of Bigfoot research, like it or like it or not. You only have to check out some of the beyond dubious footage that can be found at YouTube to see that.
It’s a little-known fact, however, that the issue of people masquerading as apes is nothing new at all. Indeed, seventeen years before Roger Patterson filmed something out at Bluff Creek, the world of Hollywood was already making good use of this odd scenario of man-becoming-animal via a suit. All of which brings us to the matter of today’s article: a now largely obscure movie titled Mark of the Gorilla. It was one of sixteen movies produced by Columbia Pictures between 1948 and 1956 and which chronicled the Africa-based adventures of Jungle Jim. He was somewhat of an Indiana Jones-type character who was played by Olympic swimmer, Johnny Weissmuller. A 26-episodes-long series followed on TV, from 1955 to 1956, also starring Weissmuller. Prior to starring in the Jungle Jim movies, Weissmuller was made famous by playing Tarzan – in twelve movies, from 1932 to 1948.
The Jungle Jim movies were, and still are, entertaining pieces of hokum for young kids (and for kids at heart). Jim and his buddies – Skipper the dog and Caw-Caw the crow – spent their time solving various mysteries and bringing to an end certain dastardly goings-on in the jungle. And, of course, they always captures the villain(s). Not quite Scooby, Shaggy, Velma, Daphne and Fred, but you get the picture. In 1950, Columbia Pictures released Mark of the Gorilla – which is without doubt the weirdest and most mind-bending of all the Jungle Jim movies.
In the movie, Jim, Skipper and Caw-Caw investigate reports of attacks carried out by gorillas in one particular part of Africa not known for having a gorilla population. On top of that, the gorillas have reportedly killed people, too. This is puzzling to one and all, since gorillas – despite their size – are peaceful creatures. It soon becomes apparent that the gorillas are really nothing of the sort. They are actually (wait for it…) German agents on the trail of a huge horde of gold that the Nazis stole from the people of Shalikari.
That’s right: to protect their quest to find the gold, the Germans dress in entertainingly ludicrous gorilla outfits and masks, as a means to try and ensure that no-one realizes what they are really up to. Namely, searching for the priceless treasure. Of course, Jim and his animal friends save the day, and the gold is returned to one Princess Nyobi. And the German would-be-gorillas would have gotten away with it, if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids (I mean, one meddling man, a meddling dog, and a meddling crow).