Thursday, July 30, 2009

Day 197: The Naked Jungle (1954) - Rank 4/5


It's Charlton Heston at his most "womanizingest!" Yes, while this film could easily be dismissed as an attempt to exploit the crown that went for "The African Queen," the incendiary nature of Heston, the production of George Pal (the 1950's answer to Jerry Bruckheimer) and an onslaught of army arts all make this a noteworthy investment in viewing.

Heston is Leiningen - a tough-as-nails owner of a cocoa plantation in South America. He drinks, he's not afraid of a brawl and he knows what he wants. He wants a family so he orders a bride from New Orleans, Joanna (Eleanor Parker). Joanna suffers Leiningen's verbal abuse, is forced to watch tribesmen be executed and even has the pleasure of having a bottle of perfume dumped on her, getting slapped a bit and nearly raped by her drunken husband. Ah, but Joanna's the type of tough ol' broad that frontiers were made for, so she sticks by her husband as they defend the plantation from the MARABUTA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The film is tripe and corny at times, but it's entertaining fodder that never tries to beat you over the head with morals or schmaltz. Heston chews the scenery as much as the ants, but I wouldn't expect any less. As for the direction, I was both surprised and pleased to learn that the task was handled well by none other than Byron Haskin, the director behind episodes of "The Outer Limits" such as "The Architects of Fear," "Hundred Days of teh Dragon," "A Feasibility Study," and "Demon with the Glass Hand." The assault of the marabuta/ants feels a little anticlimactic, but still an enjoyable view as all George Pal productions typically are.

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