Legend says that Charlton Heston
gave us the original Indiana Jones in Paramount's
1954 movie, Secret
of the Incas. Well, it comes as quite the
surprise that the very same year another Paramount
film Heston would appear in would become the main
influence for the "swarm" sequence in
Kingdom of the Crystal
Skull. That's right. See The
Naked Jungle and you will see which 1950s
B-movie inspired the Amazonian ant swarms in Indy's
This movie had me hooked from the
first frames when I saw it years ago. The beautiful
Eleanor Parker plays Joanna, a New Orleans woman
of some repute, who travels to South America as
Heston’s mail-order bride. Heston, as Leiningen,
runs a cocoa plantation deep in the Amazon jungle.
When Joanna arrives, Leiningen is less than pleased.
She’s beautiful, but a widow, and Leiningen
has no intention of marrying “another man’s
leavings” as he puts it to Joanna.
The entire first half of the film
is the easily some of the most shocking dialogue
spoken from a man to a woman in cinema. Leiningen
is like a steel hammer. He’s blunt, coarse,
unfeeling, and often outright cruel. Heston gives
an amazing performance. He’s beyond Moses
in this role, and taking the idea of unreasonable
purity and conviction to psychologically catastrophic
Parker steels herself well. As a
woman unjustly loathed and now trapped in Leiningen’s
jungle while he plans for her deportation back
to New Orleans, it's not the easiest role to convincingly
play. Parker's performance allows no room for
question. It's like she's living the role on screen.
Leiningen's plan to send Joanna
away gets indefinitely delayed when he discovers
that a literal army of billions of killer ants,
called Marabunta, are swarming through the jungle,
devouring everything in their path and Leiningen’s
plantation is in their way.
The only drawback is the ending.
Don't get me wrong. It's not a bad ending at all.
It just feels a little rushed when compared to
the build-up, but in the 1950s films were more
about the build than the extended finishes
we have in movies today (which usually stink -
no one can end a movie anymore). The
Naked Jungle has a very
satisfying ending all the same.
I'll say no more. The movie is too
good to ruin. Check it out, and if the film doesn’t
resonate with you, hey, Parker is still easy on
the eyes and you also get another Indiana Jones
history lesson! (MF)