THE NAKED JUNGLE
The Naked Jungle is adapted from Leiningen vs the Ants (1938), a classic short story that was made famous through a well-known radio adaptation in 1948. George Pal hands the scripting chores over to Phillip Yordan, who became celebrated in the next decade with the scripts for Studs Lonigan (1960) and various historical epics El Cid (1961), King of Kings (1961) and The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964). [Alas, Phillip Yordan seemed to have less success whenever he ventured into science-fiction, having made ham-fisted botch-ups of both Pals Conquest of Space (1955) and the later adaptation of The Day of the Triffids (1962)].
Carl Stephensons original short story is a classic straightforward adventure that tells of the encroachment of the ants across a mans plantation in fact, the character of Joanna does not exist in the story. In the film by contrast, the ants do not arrive on the scene until two-thirds of the way through and the bulk of this version is taken up by the relationship between Charlton Heston and Eleanor Parker. This is something that is dealt with with an unusual degree of strength and some fine, literate writing. Charlton Heston for once keeps the trademark lantern jaw clenched towards some cruel and tortured but ultimately humane emotings, while Eleanor Parker plays opposite him with an appropriate intelligence.
The images of the jungle presented are as alien a world as anything in any of George Pals more straightforward science-fiction pictures the sense that Eleanor Parker has passed well beyond the limits of civilisation. Stay at the house [for safety], Charlton Heston tells her at one point, civilisation ends there. The sense of being in an alien world is no better presented than the image of the piano that Charlton Heston has had shipped out, telling her that he would like to hear it played before the termites devour it. Phillip Yordan swings some strong and effective metaphors the sense of a man symbolically pitted against the ferocity of nature and fighting an aggressive war for supremacy (the ants are symbolically turned back at the very door of his house), a battle that Heston only wins by overcoming his pride and hubris.
The production values are excellent. The Technicolor photography is ravishingly beautiful. Some of the effects shots like those of the fires springing up beyond the gates, or the mattes of the ravaged jungle and bared land are excellent. The director was frequent Pal collaborator Byron Haskin, who had previously made Pals The War of the Worlds. Byron Haskin directs with humour and a crisp dramatic edge, none more so than the excellent survivalist trek at the end. The film culminates in a massive climactic battle with the ants and some fabulous scenes of destruction. A great film.
George Pals other genre films are The Great Rupert (1949), Destination Moon (1950), When Worlds Collide (1951), The War of the Worlds (1953), Conquest of Space (1955), tom thumb (1958), The Time Machine (1960), Atlantis, the Lost Continent (1961), The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962), 7 Faces of Dr Lao (1964), The Power (1967) and Doc Savage The Man of Bronze (1975).
Byron Haskin worked with George Pal on several other occasions including The War of the Worlds, Conquest of Space and The Power. Haskin also directed a number of other genre films including Tarzans Peril (1951), From the Earth to the Moon (1958), Captain Sindbad (1963) and Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964), as well as episodes of the classic science-fiction anthology series The Outer Limits (1963-5).
Clip from the film here:-