Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Terrifying Tuesdays: Elephant Walk (1954)

Elizabeth Taylor did not make many terrifying movies.  I can only think of two that qualify -- "Suddenly, Last Summer" and the one discussed here, "Elephant Walk" (1954).  I chose this one because of its similarity to a previously described movie, "The Naked Jungle".  In both movies a young bride travels to a foreign country to live on her wealthy new husband's plantation, only to find herself at odds with her husband while the husband is at odds with Mother Nature.  Naturally, the husband cannot defy either for long without suffering the consequences!

In this movie, the very beautiful Elizabeth Taylor plays Ruth, an Englishwoman who marries John Wiley (Peter Finch), a wealthy tea plantation owner from Ceylon, in a whirlwind romance.  Their relationship begins to deteriorate almost from the moment they arrive in Ceylon, however, as Ruth feels that she is losing her husband to the plantation.  John feels compelled to run the place exactly as his father had done, but never seems to believe that he is quite up to the task.  The late John Wiley senior is something of a local legend, a headstrong man who insisted on building his mansion over an area known as the Elephant Walk, the path that resident elephants used to take to find water.  He even gave this name to his plantation.  The elephants still attempt to come through, but the elder Wiley had a massive wall constructed to keep them out, and armed guards patrol the grounds to discourage them as well.

Ruth does not understand her husband's insistence that nothing can change at Elephant Walk, but tries to create a role for herself in running the household.  She is thwarted by Apuhami (Abraham Sofaer), an elderly native who has performed this job ever since John Wiley's father started the plantation and is even more insistent than Ruth's husband that everything remain the same.  In addition to being frustrated with her situation, Ruth soon discovers that Dick Carver (Dana Andrews), the plantation foreman, is attracted to her but does her best to resist his advances.  The ghost of the late John Wiley senior seems to dominate life at the plantation, placing a strain on Ruth and John's marriage that eventually reaches the breaking point.  Just as Ruth is about to leave with Dick, however, an outbreak of cholera during a drought forces them both to stay and help out.  At first Ruth plans to leave as soon as the quarantine is lifted, but circumstances lead her to change her mind.  One of those circumstances is a spectacular scene of thirsty elephants finally reclaiming their right to the Elephant Walk, smashing walls, killing Apuhami, and causing the whole mansion to go up in flames while a horrified Ruth is trapped inside.  This finale alone makes the movie worth watching, while the beauty of the exotic locale and Ms. Taylor are additional attractions!

Interesting Fact:  For health reasons, actress Vivien Leigh was replaced by Elizabeth Taylor shortly after filming began.  Some of the long shots and shots from behind in the movie are actually of Ms. Leigh rather than Ms. Taylor.

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

Elizabeth Taylor in "Elephant Walk"
From livejournal.com

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