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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

The Naked Jungle (1954)



Reviews and Comments

No, this isn't one of those jungle adventure B-pictures. This is mostly a character study, of a fussy, eccentric man (Charlton Heston) with an almost obsessive need to live away from civilization and yet have all the finer things of it. He devotes his life to building a mansion in the jungle and filling it with fine furnishings. He's not a hermit -- he has a whole crew of locals working his plantation for him -- but he won't re-enter civilization even to find a wife. His brother selects a wife for him, whom he marries by proxy. The film opens with the woman (Eleanor Parker) travelling to meet her husband. What kind of a woman would agree to an arrangement like this?

Learning about these two characters, and watching them learn about each other, is what keeps the film interesting. Unfortunately, it never seems to explore the characters as thoroughly as it probably should have. By the end, I didn't know them as well as I would have liked.

Oh yeah -- and then billions of ants eat the continent. It's a weird shift, this character drama suddenly turning into an insect version of Zulu, but it's not entirely gratuitous: the characters' decisions to stay instead of evacuate serve as climaxes to their character arcs. The visuals in the ant sequences are impressive. Admittedly, the budget constraints are apparent, but effects need not be convincing to be effective.

In the end, I'm not sure that the film really accomplishes what it set out to do. But it introduces us to some intriguing people with intriguing lives, and that's enough.