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Plot: colonists discover a white girl living in the jungles of Kenya.

The noble savage is a literary convention as old as time. After the Tarzan movies with Johnny Weissmuller in the thirties and forties had made Edgar Rice Burroughs’ most enduring creation one of the heroes of the big screen, imitations were bound to follow. In Golden Age comics and serials Nyoka, Sheena, Rulah, Rima, Princess Pantha, and Judy of the Jungle were regulars in the various comic households. This meant that there was a built-in audience for a jungle goddess character. Through the forties the jungle goddess was immortalized on the big screen with as dubious highlight Lewis D. Collins’ Jungle Goddess (1948). Italy had Gungala, Virgin Of the Jungle (1967) and Samoa, Queen of the Jungle (1968). America had Eve (1968). Argentina had Laura from Captive Of the Jungle (1969). Spain had Kilma, Queen of the Jungle (1975) and in Hong Kong there was Soviet import Evelyne Kraft in Shaw Bros giant monster epic The Mighty Peking Man (1977). What is almost forgotten today is that Germany got there first with Liane, das Mädchen aus dem Urwald (or Liane, the Girl from the Jungle, released in the English-speaking world as simply Liane, Jungle Goddess). It made a star of Marion Michael overnight and was lucrative enough to warrant a sequel with Liane: White Slave (1957), the composite Liane, Daughter of the Jungle (1961) and even a television remake by Horst Königstein simply called Liane (1996) with Ina Paule Klink inheriting Michael’s most famous role and her iconic micro-loincloth.

Liane, Jungle Goddess boasts two of the most recognizable stars of the day. Hardy Krüger and Marion Michael. Krüger was a mainstay in French, German, and Italian cinema as well as German television. In the Anglo-Saxon world he’s known for his roles in The One That Got Away (1957), Howard Hawks’ African action-adventure Hatari! (1962) with John Wayne, The Flight of the Phoenix (1965), Stanley Kubrick’s multiple Academy Award winning period costume epic Barry Lyndon (1975), and the Richard Attenborough World War II ensemble piece A Bridge Too Far (1977). Today, or at least since the late eighties, Krüger has reinvented himself as a prolific writer and documentary maker.

The other was Marion Michael. Michael was born in Königsberg (modern day Kaliningrad in Russia) in 1940 and she was the second German actress to appear nude in a film preceded only by Hildegarde Knef from Die Sünderin (1950) (or The Sinner) a decade and a half before. At the tender age of 15 Marion was selected out of 12,000 candidates by Gero Wecker from Arca-Filmproduktion for the lead role in the company’s big jungle adventure, later famously novelized by Anne Day-Helveg. The role was initially promised to Christiane König from the Heimatfilm The Girls from Immenhof (1955). However, König’s contract was voided when she refused to enter into a relationship with Wecker and Michael was installed in her stead. Marion was touted as “the German Brigitte Bardot” and signed to an exclusive 7-year contract with Arca-Filmproduktion who were looking to make a Liane franchise. Liane, Jungle Goddess was a domestic box office success, but none of the 10 movies that Michael appeared in over the next six years would come close to eclipsing her first big hit. Obviously Marion Michael would define the blonde jungle goddess archetype for decades to come…

On an unspecified expedition in Kenya a group of colonist scientists – rugged adventurer Thoren (Hardy Krüger), French anthropologist Dr. Jacqueline Goddard (Irene Galter, as Irène Galter), their aide Kersten (Edward Tierney, as Ed Tracy), and their mentor Prof. Danner (Rolf von Nauckhoff) – happen upon savage white girl Liane (Marion Michael, as Marion Michaels) when the men of science capture her pet lion cub Simba (Simba is, after all, the Swahili word for lion and king). Liane has been living with Botos tribesmen who venerate her as their white goddess. The scientists ship their latest discovery to Hamburg, Germany for further observation and study. There her presence comes to the attention of industrialist Theo Amelongen (Rudolf Forster) who’s on the verge of signing away his vast shipbuilding empire to his overzealous, scheming, and morbidly ambitious nephew Viktor Schöninck (Reggie Nalder). The sudden surfacing of the sole known heir to the Amelongen industrial estate stirs the sleeping giant that is Schöninck. In order to preserve the inheritance that he worked his entire life for Schöninck does not shy away from discrediting the scientists’ findings that Liane is indeed the biological granddaughter of old man Theo Amelongen. In a fit of blind rage and rank desperation Schöninck kills Amelongen and tries to frame Liane’s tribesman Tibor Teleky (Peter Mosbacher) for the cold-blooded murder. Thoren sees through the deception and exposes Schöninck for the criminal he is. Liane, fearing that she will never acclimate to the urban jungle, returns to the safety of the Kenyan wilds.

While hardly novel in any significant way Liane, Jungle Goddess reinvented the well-trodden jungle safari subgenre by injecting it with a dose of old-fashioned violence and situational nudity. That Marion was both a minor and almost wore a tiny loincloth (hopelessly tame and innocent by today’s standards) for most of the time. All of which caused a ruckus with moral arbiters and child protective services the controversy all but ensuring that Liane, Jungle Goddess would be a sure-fire box office smash. Producer Wecker knew a success formula when he saw it and besides Heimatfilme and Schlagerfilme his Arca-Filmproduktion was behind 7 (!!) Oswalt Kolle Aufklärungsfilme, 9 (!!) sequels to The Girls from Immenhof (1955), and after the Sexual Revolution helped sire a new more permissive era of the Germany sex comedy the same way that Alfred Vohrer's Sweetheart or How Do I Tell my Daughter? (1969) (with a 16-year-old and frequently nude Mascha Gonska) did with his The Love Mad Baronesses (1969) (with the delectable trio of Andrea Rau, Barbara Capell, and Ingrid Steeger). Perhaps we’re slightly exaggerating the importance of The Love Mad Baronesses (1969) - especially since it’s something of an anomaly in Wecker’s otherwise respectable filmography – but without him Alois Brummer, Hubert Frank, Franz Josef Gottlieb, and Franz Marischka wouldn’t have been able to turn the wholesome and optimist Heimatfilme on its head and create the farcical Tiroler sex comedy as we know it.

If chroniclers of the day and promotional slogans are to be believed Liane, Jungle Goddess was supposedly, allegedly shot on location in Kenya. Nothing could be further from the truth as Wecker was an exploitation producer, first and foremost. And why risk the expensive move of shooting on location in Africa when much of the required scenery could be found in the much closer Italy and Spain? The brunt of the feature was filmed at Circeo National Park and Lago di Fogliano in Lazio, Rome but perceptive viewers might or will recognize that very familiar looking dunes and palm tree forest of Maspalomas in San Bartolomé de Tirajana, Las Palmas, Gran Canaria standing in for what we are told are the Kenyan jungles. Indeed, it’s the same stretch of Washingtonia - and Canary Island date palms and pampas grass later used as a prominent location in the spaghetti war movie Heroes Without Glory (1971) and Joe D’Amato’s Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (1977) as well as the Jess Franco Eurociné trashtaculars The Devil Came From Akasava (1971), Cannibals (1980), Cannibal Terror (1980), Devil Hunter (1980), Oasis Of the Zombies (1982) and Franco’s own perverted takes on Liane, Diamonds Of Kilimandjaro (1983) (complete with an almost permanently undressed actress that hadn’t yet reached majority age) and Eurociné’s lurid and botched attempt at a family adventure, Golden Temple Amazons (1986) (with a permanently topless Analía Ivars).

In the dying days of the Italian cannibal/zombie gutmuncher cycle the jungle safari subgenre would briefly flicker up again some three decades later with William C. Faure’s prestigious big budget British-South African-German historical mini-series Shaka Zulu (1986) and the advent of Indiana Jones in popular culture before coming to a grinding and much deserved halt. For all intents and purposes Liane, Jungle Goddess is a relic of a much less enlightened and more innocent age. If nothing else, there’s at least one scene that was spoofed thirty-plus years later. At one point the colonists are obligated to communicate their findings back home. They do so by means of a bicycle-powered generator for a Morse code radio. Yeah, exactly like Larry Laffer does with the computer on Nontoonyt island in Sierra’s 1988 point-and-click adventure Leisure Suit Larry Goes Looking for Love (in Several Wrong Places). Truth be told did it not only spoof the jungle goddess subgenre but also the James Bond franchise at large. It has to count for something. If Al Lowe knows who you are, you must have done something right in the annals of pulp cinema history. Few are immortalized this way.

Plot: the raunchy Schulmädchen are here. Hilarity ensues!

In the late sixties something interesting happened in German comedy. Franz Josef Gottlieb released his faux-documentary The Miracle Of Love (1968) wherein the sexual fantasies of a supposedly-but-not-really married couple were explored in pseudo-scientific manner through a number of tantalizing vignettes. Its companion piece The Ideal Marriage (1970) is lousy in comparison and Hermann Schnell’s Anatomy of an Orgasm (1970) actually goes out of its way to be scientific and supposedly educational. A trait that all three share is that they were white-coat erotica, a particular strain of sexploitation that filled grindhouses before the advent of hardcore pornography. White-coat erotica in turn gave rise to the much more popular and widely known Report-films, a series of pseudo-documentaries chronicling the sex life of whatever their subject happened to be (schoolgirls, housewives, nurses, et al.) The Report films were a lewd spin on educational films (Aufklärungsfilme) since television was still a fairly novel concept. They were a decade-long, mostly German phenomenon that happened parallell with the raunchy Tiroler sex comedy getting more bawdy as sexual mores became more liberated and permissive in the late sixties and early seventies. From 1975 onward the Schoolgirl Report series took a dip as sex cinemas became popular but would continue to exist into the early 1980s until they no longer were deemed profitable.

Schulmädchen-Report: Was Eltern nicht für möglich halten (or Schoolgirl Report: What Parents Don't Think Is Possible) was the original and is historically important for exactly that reason. It’s now almost a relic from a much more innocent time. Loosely based on the non-fictional Schulmädchen-Report by sexologist Günther Hunold the Schoolgirl Report from Ernst Hofbauer professes to take a scientific look at the sexual lives of girl students. Schoolgirl Report was something of a gathering of West Germany’s comedic talent. Not only is Ernst Hofbauer directing, Walter Boos was in the editing suite and co-directed. Producing was none other than Wolf C. Hartwig. On their own each man carved out a place in German comedy and their bundling of forces could only result in something that would revolutionize the German comedy for years to come. The timing couldn’t have been better too. In 1968 French existentialist Simone de Beauvoir released her two-volume treatise The Second Sex concerning the treatment of women through out history. The tomes are considered a major work of feminist philosophy and the starting point of second-wave feminism. The Italian mondo documentaries were in full swing. At the same time the sexual revolution swept over the United States and the wider world. Conservative sexual mores, once sanctified, became archaic relics of yore, as permissiveness became the norm. Across the world people were looking for a more egalitarian society and the dominant ethos was that of varied and flexible gender roles for women. What better time than now to capitalize on the sexual escapades of those wicked and wild schulmädchen?

A delegation of eminent figures in the fields of psychology, sociology and science are called upon by concerned parents and faculty members alike when a schulmädchen is discovered in the throes of passion with the busdriver on a schooltrip. As parents and educators are mystified what to do with the situation, and whether or not to expel the girl for her transgressions, the school dean (Wolf Harnisch) is more than willing to hear the informed opinions of the scientific community, among them sociologist Dr. Vogt (Helga Kruck), as well as respected local municipal gatekeepers. Even the girl’s psychologist Dr. Bernauer (Günther Kieslich) is allowed to defend the girl’s case. The panel is moderated by a reporter (Friedrich von Thun) shooting a documentary about the case. Intercut are candid “on the street” interviews with people across age brackets and demographics and confessional vignettes following a dozen or so Püppchen as they go about their lives and talk about their sexual fantasies or – misadventures Schoolgirl Report tries its darnedest to be a serious dissertation of what it considers an alarming new trend among the German youth, the practice of free love. The libertine and promiscuous lifestyle of their daughters has their repressed and conservative parents in a state of disbelief and shock. Erwin C. Hartwig and Ernst Hoffbauer had their finger at the pulse of youth counterculture when the sexual revolution of the late sixties swept Europe. Once controversial and incendiary 50 years later Schoolgirl Report is incredibly tame by any standard. That half of the interviews were faked only adds to the exploitation authenticity. Unbelievably well over 6 million people went to see Schoolgirl Report im kino. Schoolgirl Report caused a stir in the old Bundesrepublik and made Hartwig a millionaire.

There are no big stars in the first Schoolgirl Report. Only Jutta Speidel could be nominally considered the name-star as she was a regular in Germany comedy. It wouldn’t be until the sequels before domestic – and international starlets as Claudia Fielers, Christina Lindberg, Ingrid Steeger, Shirley Corrigan, Katja Bienert, Uschi Karnat, and Karine Gambier made their debut in the series. As these things tend to go there were regulars among the schulmädchen with the likes of Karin Götz, Ulrike Butz, Puppa Armbruster, and Christine Szenetra returning for many later episodes. The first few Schoolgirl Report movies also tried to maintain a veneer of respectability and hid behind pseudo-science to validate their existence. Later installments became increasingly wild and concerned themselves less with a semi-realistic depiction of youth sexuality.

If anything the Schoolgirl Report series was a spiritual precursor to the Girls Gone Wild brand (1997-2013) and roughly had the same objective. That’s to say, exposing nubile young women in flagrante delicto and preferably with not much in the way of clothes. In its native Germany (well, West Germany, to be exact) Schoolgirl Report was a box office smash that ended up inspiring not only 12 official sequels (lasting all the way through the seventies into the eighties) but also spawned a legion of domestic imitations as Wedding Night Report (1972) (with Christina von Blanc), Early Awakening Report (1973) and Keyhole Report (1973). Even infamous and prolific Spanish sleaze merchant Jess Franco didn’t shy away from getting in on the action with his Virgin Report (1972) and the Erwin C. Dietrich co-directed Around the World in 80 Beds (1976). Not bad for a cheap sexploitation romp masquerading as a taboo-breaking and controversy courting “youth of today” exposé, itself a thinly-veiled excuse to show as much naked mädels as possible while trying to maintain a veneer of respectability.

In the ensuing decades since the moralizing, the prude mindset, and the surrounding hypocrisy concerning teenage sexuality haven’t changed in the slightest. In any medium of your choosing teenage – and adolescent girls remain a fixture for fetishization and sexualization. Schoolgirl Report was progressive for its time and it has all but admitted that the “documentary” framing device was merely there to avoid the kind of censorship that movies like this usually endured. Very much like Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust (1979) almost a decade later Schoolgirl Report posits that it does not condone the promiscuous excesses its hedonistic minxes engage in, yet in the same breath goes well out of its way to shoot every transgression in loving detail. Whether its same-sex couplings, polyamory, nude photography, father-daughter and/or brother-sister incest, prostitution (either voluntary or via coercion), rape, or teen pregnancy no topic was ever too controversial or taboo for the Schoolgirl Report franchise.

A recurring theme is that many of the mädels are attracted to much older men, often authority figures or clergy. Girls corrupting clergy was one of the standards of classic sexploitation. Here the girls in question just happened to be schulmädchen. It always were the mädels who were aggressively instigating the trysts and various sexual permutations. Each vignette serving as some kind of male wish fulfillment scenario or as a cautionary tale, if the Report had honorable intentions. In true seventies fashion the men typically were victims (self-agency apparently exclusively a female trait) or sacrificial lambs in many of the more tragic (and, sometimes, abusive) scenarios. The earlier episodes obviously were far more innocent than the later, much more outlandish sequels as the series desperately tried to remain relevant increasingly finding itself competing with the new sex cinemas. What remains a constant is that Wolf C. Hartwig never had any trouble finding ample of German mädchen willing to get naked for him. To think that Lindsay Lohan refused to get naked for her supposedly sleazy thriller I Know Who Killed Me (2007). The old adage never rung truer. They truly don’t make ‘em like this anymore.