Cast & Crew
At a military outpost on the coast of Africa, Sgt. Jed Drover kills his commanding officer, robs the outpost safe and escapes into the jungle. Months later, Bob Kirby, a captain in U.S. Army Intelligence, is assigned to investigate a message conveyed via signal drums and native runners from Dr. Clark, who manages a medical station in a remote tribal village. Believing that the killer is hiding near the station, Bob arranges to be canoed up the Congo and Ubangi Rivers by African natives to search for Drover and return him to civilization to stand trial. Bob takes Rene Carvel of the French African Corps as his guide. Shortly before Bob and Rene arrive, Drover guesses that Clark has alerted authorities about his presence and murders him. He tries to kill his pursuers as well, but Bob and Rene overpower Drover in a fierce fight and arrest him. After closing the station, Bob and Rene begin the hazardous journey back to the coast with Clark's sole assistant, Ann Davis, and the handcuffed Drover. Early in the journey, Rene notices that a deep attachment is forming between Ann and Bob. Meanwhile, Drover is constantly looking for a way to escape, but can do little while riding in the canoe with Bob, Rene and several tribesmen. At night, when they stop to camp in the villages, Bob and Rene must remain especially vigilant. One night, while guarding Drover, Rene lets down his vigil, and Drover seizes the opportunity to murder him and escape. After Drover flees into the jungle, Bob pursues and overtakes him. Disobeying Bob's orders to remain at the camp, Ann follows and is in danger of being charged by an elephant when Bob fires at the beast, causing it to run away. After burying Rene, Ann and Bob continue the canoe journey with the defiant Drover. In an area known for its dangerous rapids, the canoe becomes lodged in the rocks, forcing the natives to push the craft. When they near the top of a huge waterfall, the voyagers go ashore and trek through the jungle, carrying the canoe. After the tribesmen grow increasingly reluctant to travel with a killer, Bob tries to allay their fears. While Bob is talking to the tribesmen, Ann guards Drover, who tries to intimidate her. Finding Ann difficult to scare, Drover tries moving closer to her, but she shoots her gun in warning, forcing him to back off. To give Bob a rest from constant guard duty, Ann offers to watch Drover one night, but falls asleep. Although Drover is quick to take advantage of the situation, Bob awakens in time to stop Drover from escaping. Later, while the group is hiking through the jungle in unbearably hot conditions, Drover stops walking and refuses to move. Undeterred, Bob prepares to have the killer carried and so ties up his hands and feet, leaving him vulnerable to a prowling leopard that terrorizes the group. After Bob barely manages to kill the leopard before it attacks him, Drover, who has now experienced the fear of death, agrees to start walking. Below the waterfall, the group resumes the journey by canoe. One morning, when several tribesmen hunting fresh game become separated by a pride of lions and one of the men is attacked, another risks his life by running to Ann for help. While bringing a first-aid kit to the injured man, Ann is chased by one of the lions, but is saved by Bob, who shoots and kills it. By the time Ann reaches the injured man, however, he has already died. That night, the tribe performs a ritual dance, during which a group of specially trained lion hunters stalk the pride of lions and kill two, in order to avenge the man's death. To reach the coast, the travellers must pass through gorilla country during mating season, a time when the beasts are especially aggressive. In the heart of gorilla country, the group camps at a village that was raided by gorillas the night before. The tribesmen, who are compelled by tradition to kill one gorilla to avenge the raid, are out hunting with nets when Drover breaks free and takes Ann hostage at gunpoint. Ignoring Bob's shouts of warning, Drover forces Ann inside the hunting area where several dangerous gorillas lurk. When Ann and Drover find themselves blocked by a net, they are forced to backtrack. After a gorilla grabs and kills Drover, Bob slays the beast before it can harm Ann. The death of the gorilla prompts the villagers to perform a celebratory ritual dance. As Ann and Bob watch the dancers, they decide they will stay together when they reach the coast.
The working titles of this film were African Dragnet and Congo Killer. Before the opening credits, John Kellogg, who portrays "Sgt. Jed Drover," is shown murdering an Army captain by firing three shots, after which he robs a safe. Three newspaper headlines appear in succession, reporting the discovery of the murder and the search for the killer. After the credits, offscreen narration by Lawrence Dobkin commences, and continues in a travelogue style throughout the film to explain the behavior of the wild animals and the tribal rituals encountered by the characters in the film.
As reported in the New York Times review, the "narrative scenes" were interspersed with "library footage" of Africa. The extensive footage shows several African tribal dances and ceremonies and wild animals in the African countryside. A modern source indicates that some of the footage May have been taken from the 1938 Universal documentary Dark Rapture, which was directed by Denis Armand (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). During the burial scene, Myron Healy as "Bob Kirby" recites "The Lord's Prayer." Although Hollywood Reporter production charts indicate that the film was being shot in wide-screen, the viewed print appeared to be a standard ratio.