For sheer entertainment value, which is subjective of course, White Pongo delivers on every level. Special effects might get better and more complex as the years go by, but a man in a monkey-suit can never be replaced. There is a certain kind of charm in the simplicity of it all and no matter how bad it might look, speaking of gorilla movies in general, you cannot help but be entranced by them. It is surprising that the costume in White Pongo looks as good as it does, more often than not, the monster flicks of the era being made on the cheap and yet, it looks as if the studio spent a little money on theirs. Sure, everything else could have been a bit better, but the white ape costume looked great.
The story is nothing new and treads into familiar territory having been seen before and after, but it makes it no less enjoyable as director Sam Newfield manages to do a competent job of it. There is the jungle expedition which requires the handsome lead and the beautiful love interest, the local legend which turns out to be real and involves the aforementioned white ape, some drama, a little action and what the filmmakers thought was a happy ending but is in fact, quite the tragedy.
The script could have been improved a bit, story aside, as there are some things and a few moments where you simply have to laugh. Of course, you could say that with many B-Z grade films and this picture is just another case of its producers cutting corners wherever possible. The one fault that is just as blatant and harms the movie more than anything else is the pacing, which just seems to crawl at times and if there was a little more action, perhaps involving the various apes that we see throughout the picture, it might have made for a much stronger viewing experience overall.
The worst offense that this movie makes, much like many other monster films is the fact that once the creature is defeated in the end, they capture it so that Pongo might be put on display for years to come – not content enough to simply live and let live and removing the poor ape from his habitat to die an unnatural death, at least you have to assume as such. It is anything but a celebratory ending as like those other creature features of the time, you cheer more for the monster than you do the characters. For our jungle explorers, it was a happy outcome, for the viewer, not so much.
Though there might be negatives, and perhaps there were more than a few, the film is still a fairly decent one and not once do you ever think of turning it off once it has begun. White Pongo is not the greatest gorilla film ever made either, there being others that do the same thing without being so silly, but it is a lot of fun which is more than many can claim.
3 out of 5