Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Terrifying Tuesdays: The Naked Jungle (1954)

This seems to be chocolate week for me, and my movie choice continues the theme!  "The Naked Jungle" from 1954 stars Charlton Heston as Christopher Leinengen, a cocoa plantation owner in South America who worked hard to carve his successful domain out of a flooded piece of land in the jungle.  Feeling the need for a wife to begin his dynasty, he asks his brother, who lives in their home city of New Orleans, to find him a mail-order bride.  The offer is accepted by Joanna (Eleanor Parker), who marries him by proxy and is brought by boat to the plantation by the local Commisioner (William Conrad).  Secrets from the past of both, however, cause them to quarrel and Leinengen decides that Joanna must go back to New Orleans.  But before she can leave, they learn that the Marabunta, or South American army ants, are on the move.  These voracious creatures destroy everything in their path, and they are headed straight for Leinengen's plantation.  Leinengen is determined to stay and fight to save it, and whether he likes it or not Joanna decides to stay with him, despite the Commissioner's objections.  Will she be a help or a hindrance, and what will be the outcome of Leinengen's challenge?

The story and setting of this movie are compelling and the actors do an excellent job of adding drama and romantic tension, but in my opinion the Marabunta steal the show -- they are a fearsome, resourceful, and relentless force of nature.  The ants remind Leinengen that he is only a bit player in this untamed jungle, and he must play his part perfectly or risk being overwhelmed.  In spite of a couple of gruesome scenes at the river, this movie is worth seeing just for the many fascinating topics covered, including a little about the workings of a cocoa plantation!

Interesting Fact:  William Conrad, who plays the Commissioner, voiced the lead role of Lienengen in the Escape radio series version of Carl Stephenson's short story called "Leinengen Versus the Ants", upon which this movie is based.

Gore Guide (0=none to 5=extreme): 1

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