We’re introducing a new feature here on See, Here’s the Thing. Every Tuesday, we will feature a gloriously terrible movie that should be watched by all and loathed by the masses: T.M.T. (Terrible Movie Tuesday). Our podcast for the week will be dealing with the worst movies ever made, so this guest post is a perfect choice to perk up your Tuesday!
The Wild Women of Wongo
Written by Lizdel Collado
First there was the epic film, Gone with the Wind. Then there was the greatest romantic drama of all time, Casablanca . Just when you thought films couldn’t get any more swoon-worthy, the silver screen gods delivered unto the masses a jungle camp tale which surpasses no other, the fantasy comedy film, The Wild Women of Wongo…a film that everyone should see because:
- It is a a cult classic
- It was filmed in some of Florida’s best tourist spots
- Most importantly, it has an underlying message about the strength of women that is still prevalent today.
Mother Nature and Father Time, apparently bored with life on Earth, decide to experiment with humans by forcing beautiful, prehistoric maidens with inexplicably modern hair styles to live on the island of Wongo alongside brutish, hairy men with an even shorter vocabulary than the ladies. Nearby on the island of Goona, beautiful men with sculpted physiques and access to hair gel share real estate with unfortunate looking ladies who, sadly, probably have British dental insurance.
The two tribes live unaware of each other for years until an enemy from across the ocean, the Ape Men, threaten Goona’s not so utopian existence. The king of Goona sends his son in search of help to fight off the invaders. Meanwhile on Wongo, the men are returning from a hunt and discussing the next day’s festivities, the annual choosing of the brides, as the maidens scowl with glee. The King of Wongo has promised his daughter to a grunting young man who greets the Princess by tossing fish at her.
Right on cue, the Prince of Goona arrives by canoe as the Wongonians watch in fascination. The maidens see a Greek god. The men see a man with soft lady skin who must be killed. When the maidens learn of the plot to kill the Prince of Goona, they devise a plan to save him, and in doing so offend the Dragon God, which is actually an alligator. As punishment they are sent into the jungle for a month or until the Dragon God has been appeased with the blood of a maiden.
Conveniently, at the same time the young men of Goona are sent into the jungle without weapons for their month long trial of manliness, which is important because they have no body hair. The maidens find their way to the court of the High Priestess, who looks surprisingly like Cher, and are treated to a fabulous interpretive dance, all the while maniacally shouting, “Dance! Dance!” to the maidens, forcing them into convulsions that probably spawned “Pop and Lock.”
Several nights later the Dragon God shows up for his revenge. The Princess of Wongo, who is also chock full of moxie, takes on the Dragon God in a spectacular fight that can only be described as a woman dancing under water with a drunken reptile. The Princess is victorious and celebratory hugs and jealous jeers are exchanged. Eventually the maidens of Wongo and the young men of Goona meet up on the island and stare at each other a lot. The maidens take the Goona men for themselves, and somehow the men of Wongo end up with the women of Goona. Throughout the entire story a parrot that sounds suspiciously like Gilbert Gottfried is in a tree heckling the actors (rightly so) yet not a single islander kills it. As one would imagine, Mother Nature and Father Time’s experiment was unsuccessful. Moral of the story: when pretty people and ugly people get together, you get Rachel Ray.
The acting in the film is even worse than the writing. In the first Wongo lagoon scene, the King of Wongo, dressed in what looks like leftover pieces of sofa fabric from a shop in Brooklyn, and hair spray painted an odd blue color (even though the film is black and white), stands with his daughter, Omoo. She is wearing a cheetah print bathing suit Cat Woman wouldn’t be caught dead in, but her hair looks fabulous! They watch as the village men slip canoes onto the beach after a day of hunting. The King looks to his daughter, runs his lines in his head first, and says, “Ocko brings you the kill. It is good. His father will buy you tonight.” The Princess looks disappointed, yet remains disturbingly calm. With out of place, thrilling music in the background, the camera pans down the beach to Ocko, who says to a fellow hunter, “My father buys Omoo for me tonight.” Ocko puffs his chest, trots up the beach and throws his handful of fish at the Princess. She looks disgusted. He looks devoid of emotion. The King is thrilled! Ah, love. Luckily, of the twenty-four cast members in this turkey of a film, only three pursued acting careers.
Somehow, decades later, Wongo has become a cult favorite and its awfulness has inspired unlikely Rock bands and TV shows. The 80s band, The Tubes, released the tribute song, “ Wild Women of Wongo” . The film has over 100,000 views on YouTube, and is the subject of one of the most hilarious episodes of the TV series, Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Scene locations for Wongo were chosen perfectly in tourist traps throughout the state of Florida. I can’t be sure, but I believe all of the props for this film were purchased in a gift shop somewhere off of I-75 for a total of $19.99.
It is worth noting that between grunts and silly girl fights, there is an underlying message about the strength of women, something very uncommon in a time when Lucy and Ricky still weren’t allowed to sleep in the same bed on national television. The women of Wongo fought for their right to choose their mates, not be sold to them. It has been the bane of female existence since the beginning of time. Today, 56 years later, women are still fighting for that right all over the world.
You won’t see The Wild Women of Wongo on the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest Movies of all Time list. It is quite possibly one of the worst films ever made, and one of the funniest. It is cheese on a cracker. Of course, in 1958, the makers of this film were serious about their project, and the lackluster actors hopeful for careers. This film was daring in costume and rife with location danger, and although the writing wasn’t exactly Pulitzer Prize winning material, it carried an important message of freedom. Watch it. I suggest the MST3K version. Invite friends. Drink wine. Laugh yourself silly and remember to “Dance!”
Liz Collado is a professional interpreter in the city of Erie. She is also a musician, singer, actor and student. Follow her on Twitter – @WongoWoman (of course!)