Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Something missing

My movie watching enthusiasm was riding high after a recent gander at King Solomon’s Mines. Since then I’ve been in the mood for other exotic adventures with good location shots, which is why I rented The Naked Jungle. The DVD had a few things going for it: the screenplay was based on a story I read in jr. high English (Lenigen versus the Ants) that I always liked and felt would adapt well to film; it was nicely packaged, indicating a vibrant print; and it starred Charlton Heston, always a plus. All that set my expectations pretty high, and although the film certainly wasn’t bad, it lacked something.

I’m a sucker for movies about Americans running a business or plantation or otherwise plying a trade in far off locales – like John Wayne’s operation in Hitari or Clarke Gable’s rubber plantation in Red Dust, and The Naked Jungle did not short change me on that score, but Lenigen’s hacienda was larger and certainly more majestic than what I pictured it in the story. To stretch it out into a feature film, the first two thirds of the movie implanted a mail-order bride love story that was a bit long and dull. But once the ants started getting close, the movie got better. After some sure fire scenes of Leningen’s men preparing for battle, building defenses – the drama kicks off with the first casualty, the drunk Mexican lookout. And it ends with a desperate run by Charlton through the ants to the dam. Good stuff, but the preceding impertinent subplot made the overall film a bit stiff. They can’t all be King Solomon’s Mines.

BTW – When is the African Queen going to be released on DVD? Somebody is slacking.

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