The drive-in era saw some of the worst travesties of motion picture imaginable, unsurpassed until the days of straight-to-video releases and online fan films. Movies made for the weekend make-out market generally suffered from such features as ridiculous premises, very low budgets, wooden acting, and badly-matched stock footage. The Wild Women of Wongo has all of the above, and it conveys this strange sense that one is watching a porn film which lacks sex and nudity.
The film opens with shots of Florida shoreline, and entirely unnecessary narration from Mother Nature, who sounds like she spent her career doing voice-over work for postwar educational films. She establishes the premise for the film before disappearing for good. We’re in the distant past. Two tribes live near each other: the Wongo, made up of beautiful women and brutish men in bad wigs, and the Goona, consisting of studly men and frumpy women. This situation will not last, she explains, because of the Wild Women of Wongo.
Narration over, we find ourselves at that most remarkable of Florida roadside attractions, the Coral Castle. The enigmatic edifice stars in this film as the Temple of the Dragon God. As with many of the movie's ancient locales, it comes complete with professionally trimmed shrubs and fresh-mown lawn. The local deity’s priestess lives here, overseeing important decisions of the Wongo. The current issue involves the number of young people approaching the age of majority, though the actors in question are looking a little old to be teens. They’re also looking a little too twentieth-century to be primitives. While the homely Wongo men wear ugly wigs, their women sport 1950s hair-dos, plucked pencil-thin eyebrows, shaved armpits and legs, and obvious make-up. In their animal print minidresses and toothy necklaces, they presage perfectly Wilma Flintstone and Betty Rubble.
Trouble enters paradise when a man from Goona arrives. Like all the men from his tribe, he looks like a Charles Atlas ad topped with a 50s men’s coiffure. He has come to warn the Wongo of some raiding parties of apemen in the area. The women find him attractive, and their men notice this fact. Filled with jealousy, they decide to kill the Stone Age fashion plate. The king’s daughter, Omoo, goes to warn him. The pair decide to make out instead, and she forgets to tell him he'll be killed in the morning. Later, however, she leads the women as they help him escape. In the melee that ensues, the tribe's dragon fetish-- an alligator souvenir-on-a-stick-- gets knocked onto the ground. For this outrage, the tribal maidens are sentenced to remain at the Temple of the Dragon God until he claims a blood sacrifice.
The scenes at the temple are a hoot. The priestess goes into a trance and becomes a totally different actress with a fake alligator on her head. The women begin dancing. A few obviously had training; others move like cheerleaders with epilepsy. Then they go skinny dipping. At that point, the dragon-god attacks, in the form of stock footage of an alligator. Our brave Omoo risks her own life, taking the creature in direct combat. So frightened is the ‘gator that he becomes a much smaller beast, apparently already dead and stuffed.
In case we're not sure if we believe our eyes here, the fight scene lingers, so it's obvious we're watching a woman pretending to wrestle an undersized inanimate object. In addition, the underwater sequences have been well shot. They're a credit to the film, but their clarity further emphasizes the overall idiocy of this scene.
Soon after, two apemen attack the temple. We have to assume they're apemen. They don’t look much like apes, but they have the requisite intellect. The resourceful women, in the least convincing fight scene in film history, back the brutes into some convenient alligator footage. Since this technically qualifies as a blood sacrifice, they are now free to return to the village.
They discover that the ape men have laid waste to the place.
We get a brief sequence involving the women’s society, which ends with a really bad catfight. Two of the women who cheer on the action hold fish; this looks as bizarre as it sounds. Soon after, the gals decide they cannot live without male companionship, and they decide to seek out the Goona men.
Once the women leave, we learn that most of the Wongo men survived, and fled to the Temple to ensure that the women did not fall to the apemen.
Eventually, the two tribes meet. We get bad, Gilligan's Island slapstick, some curious sexual politics, and sadomasochism. The Goona women, who wear frumpy animal-print housedresses and have issues with weight, or height, or make-up application, immediately spot the Wongo women as a threat. In their defense, we learn that Goona women are better cooks. They're certainly better actors. In the end, their characteristics intrigue the returning Wongo men. The Wongo women, meanwhile, forcibly capture the Goona men. And yes, in what plays embarrassingly like an S&M scene, the Guys from Goona get marched away in bondage, tied with cords of dubious strength, muttering threats about what will happen when they get free.
If you stay awake until they end, you'll in fact see resolution that recalls a Shakespearian comedy. In place of poetry and song, the chief actors take turns literally winking at the camera. Gosh, it was meant in fun all along!
Camp of course, pretends to take itself seriously so we can laugh at it. Unfortunately, this film manages too few laughs. Indeed, until the third act, it's not entirely certain the film was intended to be camp. Perhaps that’s why a macaw has been inserted at frequent intervals, making supposedly witty commentary on the action. He’s not very funny, either, but at least the voice actor sounds pretty good. In fact, the macaw gives the best performance of Wongo. The filmmakers obviously agreed, and the good bird appears in his tree, commenting on the action regardless of whether it takes place in the Wongo Village, the Goona Village, the Temple, or elsewhere along the primeval shore.
Adding to the film's overall strangeness, we have a soundtrack of disparate tunes. A bizarre blend of lounge lizard exotica and b movie schlock, it apparently even raids the score of Plan Nine from Outer Space. That Ed Wood classic, of course, has earned a widely-held reputation as the worst film ever made.
And that may be so, but it faces fierce competition from the Wild Women of Wongo.
Director: James L. Wolcott
Writer: Cedric Rutherford
Mary Ann Webb...Mona
Zuni Dyer...Priestess of the Dragon God
Olga Suarez...Spirit of the Priestess of the Dragon God