Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Zimbo Finds a Son (India, 1966)

Even though it came out a full eight years later, Zimbo Finds a Son is far more of a direct sequel to the original Zimbo than its immediate predecessor, 1960's Zimbo Comes to Town. I'm still trying to figure out what that whole business of Zimbo starting out Zimbo Comes to Town as a hairy faced beast-man was all about. For that reason among others, a trusted keeper of the Zimbo legacy such as myself has no choice but to consider Zimbo Comes to Town, despite its undeniable entertainment value, a non-canonical work.

This is not to say that some changes haven't been made in Zimbo Finds a Son. True to the gender-imbalanced laws of Bollywood shelf-life, the conspicuously flabby Azad is allowed to return in the title role, while Chitra has been replaced by the younger Tabassum in the role of Zimbo's lady friend Leela. Also on hand is the actress Indira as Princess Zulina, a role suspiciously similar to that of Zimbo's Princess Maya, who was played by a different actress whose name, I'm sorry to say, escapes me.

Of course, this wouldn't be a Zimbo movie without the presence of the original Funky Monkey, Pedro the Ape Bomb. Unfortunately, our old pal isn't afforded the screen time he was in the comparatively Pedro-intense Zimbo Comes to Town. Still, he has his moments, such as a scene in which he cackles and hoots maniacally while braining a bunch of bad guys with rocks. There's also a nice bit where he plays a flute while marching around in a sort of drunken goose step.

The film begins in a nightclub, where we meet two big city scoundrels by the names of Rashid and Ratan. Through a chance encounter with one of Zimbo's acquaintances from the civilized world, they learn that Rashid bears a striking resemblance to Zimbo. This is not surprising, of course, since Rashid is played by Azad, here stretching his acting skills in a dual role for the approval of the academy. While Rashid and Ratan scheme how to make best advantage of this coincidence, we are taken to the jungle, where Zimbo discovers a young boy, Mala (Master Sachin), in the wreckage of a small plane. Mala is either very adaptable or has the most cloyingly adorable case of traumatic shock ever seen, because he seems to take to the idea of living in the jungle as Zimbo and Leela's son immediately and quite cheerfully. It's important to note, however, that despite the film's title, Mala won't be central to the plot of Zimbo Finds a Son at all. As things play out, a more fitting title for the movie would be Guy Who Looks Like Zimbo. Or something. I'm not in the industry.

Anyway, no sooner does Zimbo have Mala in arm than the two of them are captured by Princess Zulina's men and taken back to her palace, where Zimbo is thrown at the Princess' feet. In a very obvious concession to the popularity of Dara Singh's movies, he is then forced to participate in an extended wrestling match with a burly, mustached fellow by the name of Tonga.

Zimbo handily wins the match, and in sparing Tonga's life wins the love and undying loyalty of his muscular and well-oiled opponent. Tonga is not the only one impressed by this act of gallantry, however, as Zimbo's irresistible sexual magnetism, despite the markedly increased doughyness of the body hosting it, is still in full effect. As such, the Princess is an easy mark for his charms, much to the obvious chagrin of her suitor, the conniving Torak.

Eventually Rashid and Ratan, disguised as beardy scientists, mount an expedition to the jungle -- which of course includes Rashid's nightclub dancer girlfriend and a useless comic relief guy. It is not long before they are set upon by Zulina's men and Zimbo and Pedro have to rescue them. Zimbo then welcomes the group back to his camp, affording Rashid ample opportunity to study Zimbo in preparation for the dastardly masquerade he has planned. Once feeling confident enough to go full Zimbo, Rashid worms his way into Zulina's palace and tricks the princess into giving him access to her vast treasure chamber (not a euphemism, by the way).

Once the inevitable theft of the palace treasure is discovered, Torak, who only needed the slightest excuse to go all vengeful on Zimbo and his clan, dispatches a group of his foot soldiers -- who are inexplicably garbed in these sort of leopard print bat suits, complete with flappy wings -- to capture Leela, Mala, and Zimbo's man friend Tonga. It is then, of course, down to Zimbo to breach the palace walls and save his little family, in the process coming face to face with his double.

If the plot of Zimbo Finds a Son sounds like it's about five hundred times more complicated than it needs to be, that's because it is. Still, that does not prevent director John Cawas (Zimbo director Homi Wadia limits himself to the producer role this time around) from, in stalwart B movie fashion, including all kinds of useless business to pad out the running time. This includes a bit where Azad, Master Sachin and the comic relief guy all camp it up to an instrumental version of "Limbo Rock" that's playing on the radio.

There's also a bit where Master Sachin does a drag act, which is more than a little disturbing.

Come to think of it, while I'd never previously considered the relative gayness of the individual Zimbo films, I'd have to say that Zimbo Finds a Son is, hands down, the gayest of them all.

I'm just saying.

This, of course, does not preclude -- and, in fact, necessitates -- all kinds of displays of manly valor. And so we get a couple of instances of Zimbo fearlessly fending off life-sized dolls of the jungle's most vicious feline predators.

Mind it!

Zimbo Finds a Son, like its predecessors, is a rousing piece of entertainment, but I could nonetheless not help being disappointed by its relative lack of Pedro action. We don't even get to see our Most Valuable Primate wildly waving a gun around the way he did in chapters 1 and 2 of the saga. Of course, Pedro was a pretty big star by this time, and it just might be that he felt such antics were beneath him. Who knows? Perhaps I have yet to discover those films that marked the next stage in Pedro's career. Could they be romantic dramas in which Pedro plays the hero to the likes of Sadhana and Asha Parekh? I wouldn't count out the possibility.


Banno said...

I've had my fill of Zimbo just reading your review. Surely, the film cannot be more fun than this?

sunil said...

Hmm, Zimbo may not be ripped-ripped but he is not fat in the scene-caps you have. Just saying. :)

houseinrlyeh aka Denis said...

Fun fact: There must be Zimbo fans here in Germany, what with the sausage producing company named after him.
To quote their (utterly brilliant) slogan: "Zimbo, the sausage with the funny name".

sunil said...

I just finished reading Keith's take on Shaitani Dracula (not sure where to reach him) so

hi Keith!
I think there is a myth of supercompetence that we as males subscribe to: body like Arnold, etc. Ramsay films show that actual absolute incompetence is far more common - hence our need to dwell on flicks like Shataini Dracula. :)

What we need is "ordinary" competence


memsaab said...

LOL @ "not a euphemism by the way"...and the rest of it. I am with Banno in my fear that Zimbo (and Pedro) will not live up to the reviews you have given them...

I think someday I will need to watch these WITH you and Mike B. so that total enjoyment can be mined from them.

Michael Barnum said...

Todd, you just don't know how eager I have been for you to review Zimbo Finds a Son! And you did the film proud!

And to all those who wonder, yes, the Zimbo films are every bit as entertaining as Todd states!

Todd, you have me LMAO throughout your write-up!

Todd said...

Banno and Memsaab: In all honesty, I worry that my reviews won't do these movies justice! They really are entertaining. And I know I'm missing a lot by not speaking the lanquage, because there's so much intentional humor in them. They're almost more like a live action cartoon parody of a Tarzan movie than a straight knock-off. Anyway, sounds like a great viewing party, Memsaab. Perhaps Banno will want to make the trip over.

Sunil: The screencaps I chose are definitely more flattering to Azad than others I could have gone with, but I freely admit that my jabs at his weight were all cheap shots, just like all my other jokes in this review. (And BTW, wouldn't you characterize Shaitani Dracula as something beyond "absolute incompetence"? Perhaps "extreme"-- or "X-treme" -- incompetence? Or even "inspired incompetence"?)

House: After watching this movie, I think it's fitting that Zimbo would have a pork product named after him. Because he's so fat, you see. Hayuk! (See above.)

Rum said...

OMG! Zimbo again, it seems that he never goes away, but atleast pedro is there! Master Sachin was one of the most annoying kid actors ever, and it looks like no b movie is complete without a crotch lock

Todd said...

Mike: Thanks for backing me up! I'm just sad that there are no more Zimbo movies for me to review. (I'm not counting the 90s remake.)

Rum: Yes, I failed to mention just how annoying Master Sachim was. Very annoying, indeed -- which makes it a good thing that he was in the movie far less than his character's in-title billing would lead you to believe.

Michael Barnum said...

Todd, we may be out of Zimbo movies, but Azad did do a few Tarzan and other jungle man movies..so...who knows what might show up on VCD soon!

And of course there is still that elusive movie PEDRO starring Pedro, Azad, and Chitra.

(I wonder what horrible atrocities Azad and Chitra had commited in their previous lives.)

sunil said...

Or even "inspired incompetenceHow about "inspiring incompetence"?

From childhood onwards, we "learn" to compromise on our dreams. We learn that we suck at drawing. We give it up. We learn we suck at sports. We give THAT up. We learn we suck at the career we choose. Only then we fight back. We don't give up. Mr Harinam Singh is loony, but he has not compromised on his dreams. :)

Todd said...

Ah, yes, Pedro. (With clenched fists, eyes cast toward the skies) PEDROOOO!!!

Michael, you're right. There is plenty to fill the void left by Zimbo. Not only are there all of those future releases you mentioned to look forward to, but I've also just got my hands on Tarzan in Delhi starring Dara Singh, Mumtaz and Helen, which I plan to review in the coming weeks.

Sunil: And with Shaitani Dracula, Harinam Singh created a film that, while not good in any conventional sense, is unlike any other that I've seen. He is the Shaggs of Indian horror.