The Naked Jungle (dir. Byron Haskin, 1954.)
Brief Synopsis: Charlton Heston vs. army ants. Watch out ants.
In a previous article I discussed Charlton Heston, one of the great leading men of our day, despite any disagreeable gun control policies. He is our first and last line of defense against damn, dirty apes, atomic mutants, and the Roman Empire.
Charlton Heston has a bad knack for playing Hispanic characters. For example, see him as Inspector Vargas in the classic Orson Welles thriller A Touch of Evil (“¿Dónde está mi esposa?”) Or, here.
I was at first dismayed when I realized Charlton Heston was not fighting gigantic ants, as befitting his stature. However, fighting millions of regular sized ants is an acceptable substitution.
Heston is a double-hamfisted stoic agent of patriarchy and order, as per his modus operandi, as Christopher Lenginen, owner of a cocoa plantation in 1901 Brazil, who brought “civilization” to those damned godless indiginious savages.
The boat captain played by Romo Vincent is very stereotypically Hispanic, complete with curly mustache. We meet him as he brings the mail-order bride of Mr. Leninger (played by Eleanor Parker.) She’s a strong-willed American widow, and Leninger doesn’t want her (but, of course, that will change.)
Abraham Sofaer plays Incacha. He is Mr. Leninger’s #1 man. This is repeated a few times. Of course, Mr. Leninger has taken care to dress all the “civilized” natives in white. Mrs. Leninger is given Zala, her #1 girl soon enough.
Of course, their relationship is strained to begin with but they respect each other later on, forged in the fires of fighting giant ants.
The melodrama is so thick it comes packed with marshmallows and peanut butter.
He encourages her to stay in the house, “where civilization ends.” Even keeping in mind the times, the colonialism motif runs rampant in this film.
Okay, seriously, do I need to tell you who wins? All the bad plantation owners flee the jungle, but Chuck stays and fights because he would punch the director if he didn’t get the chance. If that scene were filmed, he would literally stop filming and start a fight. “Like HELL I’m leaving.” The girl doesn’t want to leave, but old Chuck has to go and do what a man’s got to do (tame the wilderness.)
The fact that the ants are not giant is subdued by the fact that there are millions of them. They are also quite intelligent, apparently (when did this happen? Is conventional wisdom hold ants to be intelligent? Did I miss this memo?)
And, of course, he succeeds. Take that, natures.
This movie is very CHC, but it’s actually pretty good. If you are a fan of two-fisted action, melodrama, and ants, I’d recommend it. B.