The Wild Women (and men) of wongo

Walter Knoch

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Walter Knoch -Law Student of Wongo

Inteview by Mike Barnum

portrait 001


Following his stint as a featured player in The Wild Women of Wongo, Walter “Wally” Knoch considered a career in Hollywood, but schooling sidelined those plans for the muscular 25 year old mid-west native and after studying law at the University of Miami he chose to return home to his native Michigan.

Born in Detroit on November 13, 1935, Knoch was both a student and a self-professed “beach bum” in Miami, Florida when he landed his dual Wongo roles through a casting call held at fellow co-star Steve Klisanin’s gym. Wongo Director James L. Wolcott was impressed with the handsome, athletic young man and cast him as one of the good looking men of Goona and also as one of a pair of fearsome ape-men who do battle with the Wongo maidens. “He was an older gentleman” Knoch recalls of director Wolcott. “He wanted to change my name and get me involved in three movies in a row, but I wasn’t interested in changing my name. It was also suggested that I go out to the coast when Clint Walker decided to quit [the TV series] Cheyenne, but I was in law school at the time. They said ‘Finish school out there [in California]! Go!’ They were going to make all the arrangements for me to do that, but I decided to stay [in Florida] and finish school there.” After working on Wongo and graduating from college Knoch drifted around a bit, “I had job offers in Michigan and in Florida, but I was basically a beach bum. I drag raced and I water skied and snow skied. When I graduated, I drove my new Corvette to New Orleans and stayed there for a month until I ran out of money. I did do some modeling jobs, but I was too big for the clothes and I had to have my own wardrobe made. That was when big guys weren’t that much in demand.


Walter and friends at University courtesy Walter Knoch 001

Walter Knoch (right) and buddies fooling around on the grounds of Miami University. (Photo courtesy of Walter Knoch)

Walter’s main recollection of filming The Wild Women of Wongo was that it had around a two week filming schedule. “I know that I had to take time off from school [to do the film]. There was a stone castle where part of it was filmed and there was a Playboy playmate in the movie. I also can remember Steve [Klisanin] and I prowling around through the weeds in one scene.


Steve Klisanin and Walter Knoch as ape men 001

Steve Klisanin (left) and Walter played duo roles in Wild Women of Wongo. Here they are as the deadly ape men, ready to pounce on the unsuspecting Wongo women.


While still attending school in Miami, Knoch returned to Michigan for a visit. “I drove up for the summer and was traveling through Tennessee. It was at night and I was passing a drive-in movie theater. It was playing The Wild Women of Wongo! I couldn’t believe it!”


Wally Knoch high school

Walter (Wally) Knoch with fellow W. Club members in a photo from the 1953 Roosevelt High School yearbook (Wyandotte, Michigan). Knoch can be seen  second row from the top, last student on the right.


Due to his father’s illness, Knoch returned to Michigan permanently. There he continued to do some modeling, mostly for automobile companies, and eventually decided that his real interest was in the automotive business and he opened Walt’s Auto Supply in Dearborne. Over the years he has become well know in the world of vintage automobiles and dragsters and he is currently the owner of a 1923 street rod, a 1957 T-Bird, and he still has in his possession the 1962 Corvette that he purchased brand new after graduating law school.


Walter J Knoch Jr 1959 U of Miami pic

Walter’s class pic from the 1959 Miami University yearbook

And what does Walter Knoch think about the film that almost started him on a show business career? “Crude. I think it is supposed to be one of the ten worst movies ever made!” he says with a laugh.




Author: Mike Barnum

I am a lifelong lover of films, with a taste for movies of all genres, new and old, as well as pop culture from around the world. I currently write for the U.S. based film magazines CLASSIC IMAGES and FILMS OF THE GOLDEN AGE and have also been published in FILMFAX, SCARLET STREET, and VIDEO WATCHDOG.

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