Son of Ingagi

May 3, 2015 at 12:47 am (4 Heads, Son of Ingagi) (, , , , )

Son of Ingagi – 1940 – United States

An African American lady scientist (perhaps the first ever in film) returns from Africa with a missing link ape-man. Due to arbitrary circumstance, the ape-man goes berserk and kills her. Due to equally arbitrary circumstance, some newlyweds inherit the scientist’s mansion and move in. The ape-man stalks the newlyweds until he is incinerated when the mansion burns down. But not before a heap of African gold is found in the basement and the newlyweds become rich.

Son of Ingagi’s thin plot is still somehow confusing. The scientist and the newlyweds share a history that is only vaguely explained. Likewise, the mysterious existence of the ape-man and his scientific implications are never discussed. Instead, the film focuses on thrills and comedy as the ape-man wreaks havoc and everyone else participates in corny situational comedy.

But Son of Ingagi is not as bad as it sounds. Its greatest strength is its likable cast, especially the scientist. She initially seems bitter and miserly, but her relationship with the ape-man shows compassion. Too bad she meets an undeserved (and pointless) death at the ape-man’s hands. The ape-man is a shaggy man in face paint, which makes him seem particularly human. His performance recalls Frankenstein’s monster as he is alternately playful and murderously angry.

Regardless of its qualities, Son of Ingagi is historically significant. It is the earliest science fiction or horror film with an all African American cast. Spencer Williams, Son of Ingagi’s African American writer, also directed the critically praised The Blood of Jesus (1941). Considering Son of Ingagi’s progressive representation of race and gender, it is unfortunate that it is named after Ingagi (1930), an exploitation film which insensitively alludes to the interbreeding of African women and gorillas, all while claiming to be a documentary.

Rating: 4/10 Shrunken Heads. A vocal group called The Toppers steals the show with some catchy songs.

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