Naked Jungle, The (1954)

The Naked Jungle (1954), directed by Byron Haskin.

Brazil 1901: an arranged bride shows up at a remote cocoa plantation to meet her husband, an unpleasant and tyrannical but fiercely manly man. Their relations are... difficult. He's tough but she's no pushover.

This much is a woman's romance novel: you can just imagine the lurid, semi-clothed covers. She has to find her way and make a place while retaining a sense of self-worth. She's anxious to please but won't be abused.

What's his problem? He's a tough guy virgin and is intimidated when he finds she was married before. He's sexually desperate but won't touch her until one night when he's really drunk.

In a strange plot twist it shifts into a survival thriller. Something evil approaches, which we eventually learn is a giant army of ants that destroys everything in its path. (I skipped this as a kid because at first I thought the TV Guide said "an army of giant ants" and was then disgusted by the lack of science fiction content). We have elaborate action and special effects scenes as they try to save the plantation (and themselves!) against the swarm.

Eleanor Parker, last seen in Caged (1950) is, frankly, stunning. I have always liked Charlton Heston, but his performances tend to be one-note: intense, filled with pride and ambition and pain, but always sort of "full on".

That's a pretty damned opulent plantation house. Did he decorate it himself? All the furnishings had to be hauled 2000 miles upriver and I don't know how he managed the stone columns.

Edith Head costumes. Produced by George Pal.

The Technicolor registration looks a bit off; a restoration might be gorgeous.