Today’s Trillion Dollar Movie, Swamp Fire, pits two screen Tarzans — Johnny Weissmuller and Buster Crabbe — as Cajun rivals vying for the affections of the same girl (played by Carol Thurston) in the Louisiana Bayou. Crabbe plays the villainous heavy, while Weissmuller is the neurotic hero. He’s a veteran returned from service in WWII, damaged by having lost a ship he skippered.
This low-budget, 1946 meller-drama was the first time Weissmuller ever played a role where he got to wear civilian clothes as opposed to a loin cloth, and also the first time he had full lines of dialogue to recite. He needed the breather from playing Tarzan. By this point in his career, Weissmuller was beginning to hit the bourbon hard — a trait that might make him believable as a Cajun, but less so as the ape-man Tarzan.
Removed from the jungle or not, he still wrestles an alligator, engages in fisticuffs with Crabbe, smooches a couple of hotties, saves the day during a shipwreck and battles a monstrous swamp fire. There’s more than enough back-story and action to make this a decent-enough, solid B-movie. There’s even a lively cat fight between Thurston (later seen with Weissmuller in Jungle Jim) and a rich dame (Virginia Grey) making goo-goo eyes at her man. Paramount Pictures distributed the 69-minute feature, but the two Dollar Bills — William H. Pine and William C. Thomas — created it on Hollywood’s Poverty Row.
Enjoy, and do return again next Friday for another Trillion $ Movie from the vaults of YouTube.