When a Jeep is featured on a movie poster, you know that the vehicle is probably going to be prominent in the movie itself. Although in this case, the scene of girls in Jeeps is really only the last few minutes of the film.
And if an army of young ladies in a fleet of Jeeps, planning to entice rebel soldiers on a Caribbean island to desert their leader, sounds like an unlikely plot development, it makes as much sense as the rest of the plot of this lame comedy. When a movie poster has four different taglines with words like "wacky" and "laffs", you know that maybe the movie isn't actually going to be all that funny.
An IMDB reviewer calls When the Girls Take Over (1962) a "low-budget, quickie, unfunny comedy taking off on the then fairly recent takeover of Fidel Castro in Cuba... a fail fest loaded with phony accents, bad costumes and worse fake beards."
So probably the only reason to watch this film is for the handful of good Surrey Gala scenes. There are also a few appearances by a Dodge M-43 ambulance and a Catalina flying boat (30K JPEG).
(Note: When the Girls Take Over is not the same film as The Girls Take Over, which was an alternate title for the 1962 British production The Amorous Prawn. That film had a similar poster (100K JPEG) with a Land Rover instead of a Jeep, and is probably just as bad.)
If you look closely at the poster above, you'll see the little note reading "You'll love... Ingeborg!" and it's perhaps surprising that her picture isn't on the poster. Ingeborg Kjeldsen was the starlet who played Francoise, girlfriend of the rebel leader and daughter of the island's prime minister. Unfortunately this film didn't do much for her career, which sputtered on through the 1960s with only a few more small parts in TV shows.
Robert Lowery, who wore the fake beard as rebel general Maximo Toro ("a lot of bull") had already had a long career in action films and westerns, including playing Batman in 1949.
The Galas do make a brief appearance during the opening credits of the film. The film editor maybe decided they should use the strategy that later worked so well for Ed Sullivan and the Beatles -- show the stars at the beginning so the audience will wait patiently for them to appear again at the end. And this shot from the opening sequence is the highlight for CJ-3B fans, as the string of Galas passes a parked 3B.
Jackie Coogan (soon to be cast as Uncle Fester in The Addams Family on TV) plays Captain Toussaint, apparently the only policeman in the fictional former French colony of "Hondo Rica". Inexplicably he also drives a Jeep Gala, which keeps Jeep fans happy throughout the movie.
In the black and white film we can't tell the colors of the Hondo Rica flag, but since it looks like it's modelled on the flag of Saint Kitts and Nevis it may be green above and red below. The film was in fact originally in "gorgeous Technicolor," but unfortunately all available copies seem to be black and white.
Captain Toussaint almost ends up in the ocean during a chase scene where he's following the M-43 ambulance. The footage is speeded up in an attempt to make it more exciting and comedic.
The chase ends with the ambulance being hoisted by a dockside crane. And the plot continues, with the revolutionaries trying to get their hands on some cases of stolen rifles. There's a good plot summary at Wikipedia.
Texas millionaire Axel "Longhorn" Gates (played by Jimmy Ellison) wants to invest in Hondo Rica, and has a plan to defuse the revolution. With some young lady friends, he admires a Jeep Gala, apparently at a Willys dealer.
The salesman says, "If you like to buy it, Señor, the payments are very low."
Fishing some bills out of his pocket, Longhorn replies, "Yes, I'll take the whole kit and kaboodle!"
"Kit and kaboodle???"
"The whole bunch! Come on girls, let's mobilize!"
Longhorn reveals his plan: "Get every single gal in town, and meet me at my hotel, tomorrow at noon."
Sure enough, he has bought a car lot full of Galas -- at least a dozen are visible in the scene, as the women pile in and drive through the streets of town and up into the hills.
It's too bad there aren't very many shots of this impressive parade, and particularly that there is no color version of the film available.
Here's another Jeep highlight, as the parade passes a parked CJ-5.
According to the IMDB, When the Girls Take Over was shot in Puerto Rico, but the credits of the film actually say "Photographed in the Virgin Isle and San Juan, P.R." If this scene was indeed staged in the Virgin Islands, the Jeep Galas were probably rented from Tropical Motors in St. Thomas, and this shot was probably taken in the same location as a Willys advertising photo (130K JPEG). These Galas do have license plates that are different from the plate on Captain Toussaint's Jeep seen earlier in the film.
See more on Tropical Motors, in Surrey Gala Jeep on CJ3B.info.
When they arrive at the rebel camp, the girls break out bottles of rum, and the party begins.
Suffice it to say, the revolution is over for now, and Longhorn is happy: "Come on, gals! Any of you want a ride back to town, come a-runnin. We got Jeeps aplenty!"
Thanks to Federico Cavedo for finding When the Girls Take Over, which can be seen in its entirety online at Free Classic Movies. -- Derek Redmond
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