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The Naked Jungle


Red and black antennas waving, they all do it the same.

Rod Lott July 15th, 2013

Charlton Heston comes second-billed to eventual Sound of Music baroness Eleanor Parker in 1954's The Naked Jungle. Nowhere in the credits is there room to list the true stars — or at least the reason for watching: millions and millions of mean-ass ants.

nakedjungle

Back in print through Warner Archive, the meat-and-taters adventure is based on Carl Stephenson's classic short story “Leiningen Versus the Ants” of two decades prior. Heston is the clenched-jaw Leiningen, owner of a cocoa plantation in South America, and so lonely and away from civilization that he has to mail-order a wife, played by Parker.

When they first meet, she looks like a buttoned-up sex bomb; he, in desperate need of a shower and an attitude adjustment: “I don't like humor in a woman. … Frankly, you're not what I expected.”

Nor is Naked Jungle what I expected. Only in the final 15 or so minutes does director Byron Haskin (The War of the Worlds) get down to marabunta business, as a two-mile army of ants invades Leiningen's livelihood. Until then, it's all talk of wanting children, speaking several languages, the occasional shrunken head and Parker's “very nice teeth.”

Heston can't be bothered to smile — a sentiment shared by this sour-patch viewer. —Rod Lott



 
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