Friday, 23 September 2016

King Kong vs Godzilla (1962)

King Kong vs Godzilla dates from 1962 and by this time the idea had taken root that one giant monster was not enough. Godzilla was a huge box-office drawcard but pitting him against other equally formidable monsters was obviously going to be the way to make sure audiences kept buying tickets. Having Godzilla battling King Kong must have seemed like a surefire winner. Toho Studio managed to secure the rights to use King Kong and King Kong vs Godzilla was the result.

Mysterious weather events in the Arctic are causing enough concern for the UN to send their latest submarine to investigate. They run into big trouble and then they see Godzilla emerging from inside a huge ice floe (in one of the movie’s most effective scenes).

It is a well-known scientific fact that dinosaurs, like salmon, always return to their birthplace and since Godzilla-like fossils have been discovered in Japan it is clear that Japan is where Godzilla will be heading.

Meanwhile a Japanese pharmaceutical company has despatched a scientist to a remote Pacific island to secure supplies of a new wonder drug called soma which is found only in berries that grow only on this one island. The company is also looking for a major publicity attraction so reports of a giant monster on the island make the island even more interesting to them - this monster could be a great sales gimmick.

The monster is of course King Kong. Capturing him is surprisingly easy - soma sends him to sleep. The giant ape is towed to Japan on a raft.

Now the Japanese have two giant monsters to contend with. This is especially tricky since each monster has different strengths and weaknesses. Dinosaurs hate electricity but as everyone knows electricity makes giant apes stronger. A barrier of high tension wires carrying a million volts should be able to keep Godzilla at bay but when King Kong reaches the barrier it not only fails to stop him, it makes him much more powerful. Tokyo is, once again, in deadly peril.

There seems to be only one solution. It is a well-established scientific fact that for millions of years dinosaurs and giant apes were natural enemies. If they can be brought together they might, with luck, destroy each other. Transporting King Kong to the scene of the epic battle presents a challenge but an ingenious employee of the aforementioned pharmaceutical company has the answer to that - he has invented a super-strong cable so all they need to do is to send the ape to sleep and then he can be easily transported by balloon! This provides a scene with the kind of inspired lunacy that makes Japanese monster movies so appealing.

The stage is set but which monster will prove to be the stronger, and will the battle of the monsters really save Tokyo from destruction? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.

Ishirô Honda is once again in the director’s chair and there’s plenty of insanely silly but thoroughly enjoyable action. The monsters are everything one could hope for but it has to be said that King Kong tends to steal the picture. This ape has star quality. He’s also the best actor in the movie. The special effects are often terrible but they’re terrible in a fun way. Lots of toy trains get stomped! The effects might be crude but there are plenty of them. Kong is actually portrayed by a guy in a gorilla suit rather than with stop-motion. This will disappoint stop-motion fans but it works well enough.

The plot is totally mad and this film really goes overboard on the comic relief. It’s also breathtakingly (although very amusingly) politically incorrect.

The American version (which is the one I’m reviewing here) cut quite a few scenes and replaced them with dull talky scenes shot in Hollywood. I’m told the Japanese version is a lot better and I can well believe it.

The Region 4 DVD from Siren is a two-movie disc, pairing this one with the original Godzilla as the Godzilla Double Feature volume 1. It’s one of the worst DVD presentations I have ever come across. Even Alpha Video have never released anything quite this bad. The transfers are horrible, there’s massive print damage and both movies are (very badly) pan-and-scanned. It’s a disgraceful effort. Luckily it was a rental - I’d have hated to have paid to own this dismal DVD.

King Kong vs Godzilla tries to be a light-hearted romp of a monster movie and it succeeds reasonably well (and probably succeeded a lot better before American studio execs made their ham-fisted attempts to Americanise it). It’s worth a look but you would undoubtedly be well advised to seek out the Japanese version.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

House of Frankenstein (1944)

House of Frankenstein, released in 1944, was one of Universal’s infamous (but commercially very successful) monster rally movies. Dracula, the Wolf Man and Frankenstein’s Monster all feature in the film although perhaps rather curiously their roles are not actually central. It’s not really a very good movie but it has its moments and it is strangely enjoyable.

It certainly boasts a formidable array of horror icons in its cast - Boris Karloff, John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr, Lionel Atwill, George Zucco and J. Carrol Naish.

Dr Gustav Niemann (Boris Karloff) has been continuing the work of the notorious Dr Frankenstein and as a result he is now rotting in prison. He still dreams of taking up the great work again but it seems unlikely he will ever be able to do so. Then fate intervenes - the prison is struck by lightning which demolishes the wall allowing Niemann and another prisoner, the hunchback Daniel (J. Carrol Naish) to escape. 

Now Niemann can go back to his experiments but there are two tasks he must first accomplish - he must find Dr Frankenstein’s notebooks and he must get his revenge on the men whose testimony put him in prison. Then, with Daniel as his faithful assistant, he has a whole series of ambitious experiments to work on.

A chance encounter with a traveling Chamber of Horrors show run by a Professor Lampini (George Zucco) provides Niemann with a very useful opportunity - this traveling show will provide a perfect cover for him, allowing him to travel through the countryside without being recognised or attracting suspicion. Professor Lampini is not happy with this idea but he is quickly disposed of.

One of Lampini’s prized exhibits is the skeleton of Dracula. Of course no-one really believes it is the skeleton of the famous vampire but when Niemann removes the stake from the skeleton he discovers that this is indeed Count Dracula and he’s come back to life. 

Resurrecting vampires is just a distraction for Niemann. He is keen to get back to his laboratory, especially after not only finding Dr Frankenstein’s precious notebooks but also the frozen bodies of the Wolf Man and Frankenstein’s Monster. Dr Niemann has a particular interest in brain transplants and now he has lots of brains and lots of bodies to play with.

Of course you can’t expect to go around raising the dead and transplanting monster brains without something going wrong. In this case it’s something rather unexpected that goes wrong, the end result of a tragic love triangle between a hunchback, a werewolf and a gypsy girl. It must surely only be a matter of time before the villagers show up with flaming torches and pitch-forks.

The big problem with this movie is that combining so many monsters is an inherently unwieldy idea, especially since none of the monsters really have any logical connection with one another. Edward T. Lowe Jr’s screenplay (based on Curt Siodmak’s story) can’t really resolve this difficulty. The Dracula part of the story ends up being like a short film within a film. The Wolf Man story then takes over with Frankenstein’s Monster only playing a very insignificant part towards the end. In fact the main thrust of the plot is the story of Niemann’s obsession with surpassing Frankenstein’s achievements, combined with the tragic romantic entanglements caused by the arrival of the beautiful gypsy girl Ilonka (Elena Verdugo).

If the various plot strands never do come together very successfully, and if most of the ideas are very unoriginal, it has to be said that this movie is remarkably well executed. Director Erle C. Kenton maintains a frantic pace and provides plenty of thrills and some surprisingly effective visual touches (the vampire bat murder seen only in silhouette being a notable example). Of course Universal always managed to make even their lesser horror movies look terrific. This movie is no exception. The sets are extremely impressive, especially the ice cave. The monster transformation scenes are mostly well done (the werewolf transformation scene is very very good indeed).

The acting is a bit variable. Karloff’s performance is quite interesting if rather low-key - Niemann seems affable, quietly spoken and even kindly but if someone gets in his way he disposes of them with breathtaking ruthlessness. It’s as if he’s so obsessed by his work that killing is merely a minor irritation. Chaney could have played the Wolf Man in his sleep by this time but he does add his characteristic touches of pathos. Carradine is a very sinister and very effective Dracula. J. Carrol Naish makes Daniel both a chilling cold-blooded killer and a sympathetic victim of love gone wrong. Elena Verdugo gives a spirited performance as the gypsy girl. Atwill and Zucco really only have cameo roles (although Zucco makes the most of his very brief screen time).

The Region 4 DVD is noticeably lacking in extras but the transfer is superb.

House of Frankenstein is disjointed and is little more than a jumble of not very original ideas but it’s so well executed that one can’t help forgiving its faults. And it is consistently entertaining. Recommended.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Gray Lady Down (1978)

Gray Lady Down is a 1970s disaster movie starring Charlton Heston and that’s always a pretty good recipe for entertainment.

This time Heston is Captain Paul Blanchard, skipper of the nuclear submarine USS Neptune. The Neptune is returning to port at which time Blanchard will be handing over the command to his former Executive Officer, Commander Samuelson (Ronny Cox). The normal procedure is to remain submerged until reaching port but Blanchard decides it would be more fun to enter on the surface and enjoy some fresh air. Surfacing in heavy fog might not seem like the greatest of ideas, and in fact it proves to be a very bad idea. The Neptune manages to get itself rammed by a Norwegian freighter. The submarine promptly sinks.

The boat comes to rest on a ledge 1450 feet below the surface, well below its designed crush depth. Forty-one crew members survive the collision but their problems have only just begun. The reactor has shut down and one of the air purifiers is now inoperable. They have enough air for about 36 hours but the ledge is in an undersea canyon and it is subject to continual rockslides. 

This is all pretty bad, and now the Executive Officer (and soon to be skipper) is starting to crack up.

The Navy has no problem finding the stricken submarine. Rescuing the survivors should be no problem - they have their new high-tech deep sea rescue submersible, the DSRV-1. Unfortunately in order to carry out a successful rescue the Neptune’s escape hatch has to be clear and it isn’t. It’s covered by debris from the numerous rock slides. This is very bad news but there may still be a chance. An oddball genius US Navy officer, Captain Gates (David Carradine) has been working on an experimental underwater craft called the SNARK. The SNARK might be able to clear the escape hatch. 

Everything that could go wrong goes wrong. There are more rock slides. The remaining bulkheads on the Neptune are about to give way. The SNARK can’t find the Neptune at first. There are quarrels between Gates and the officer in charge of the rescue operation, Captain Bennett (Stacy Keach). The Neptune is running low on power and the survivors will soon be sitting in the dark. More crew members start to crack up. 

The tension doesn’t let up as one obstacle after another crops up to frustrate the rescue attempt.

You would normally expect Charlton Heston to handle the heroic stuff (since he was very good at that sort of thing) but oddly enough it’s David Carradine (who wasn’t so good at such things) who does most of the hero things. Charlton Heston still gives a pretty good performance as Blanchard, a captain who manages to combine a certain crustiness with a surprising amiability. David Carradine was of course a terrible actor and his performance is distractingly eccentric and at the same time rather dull. 

The special effects are reasonably good and the various submarine models look fairly impressive.

The producers got a lot of coöperation from the US Navy which is perhaps a bit surprising given that the film shows most of the crew members dealing remarkably badly with a crisis situation and given that the Neptune’s collision appears to have come about as a result of a combination of irresponsibility and carelessness (the submarine spotted the freighter on radar but the officer of the watch decided not to worry about it until it was too late). And the thought of a misfit like Commander Samuelson ever being considered for command of anything larger than a dinghy is positively terrifying. I guess the Navy figured that the chance to impress by showing off some high-tech toys would be enough to compensate for the depiction of the submarine crew as a bunch of neurotic incompetents. And the DSRV-1 is pretty cool and (according to the end credits such a vessel really was available for use by the US Navy for submarine rescues).

Perhaps the most surprising thing is that the movie is about the sinking of a nuclear submarine and we’re assured that there’s no danger whatsoever on that score. This was the late 70s and Hollywood was starting to get into full-blown hysteria mode over nuclear stuff (in fact Hollywood had been indulging in nuclear paranoia since the 50s). I suspect that in return for their assistance the US Navy vetoed any mention of nuclear dangers. I’m actually quite sure the Navy was correct on that score but I’m still surprised the producers were able to resist the temptation to introduce a nuclear panic into the mix.

The Region 4 DVD I watched was a rental copy and the menus didn’t work but rental DVDs usually are in poor condition. The anamorphic transfer was pretty nice.

1970s disaster movies can’t be judged by conventional movie standards. They’re supposed to be ludicrously melodramatic and cheesy and the acting is supposed to be exaggerated and hammy. What matters is whether they deliver entertainment and Gray Lady Down does that reasonably well. It doesn’t have the inspired craziness of other 70s Charlton Heston disaster flicks such as Airport 1975 but it has a few cool gadgets and it has submarines (if you like that sort of thing and I most definitely do like submarine movies). If you want a gripping realistic movie about a submarine rescue attempt in peacetime then the 1950 British production Morning Departure remains the gold standard. If you want action and slightly silly fun then Gray Lady Down isn’t too bad at all. Recommended.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Against All Flags (1952)

Against All Flags, made by Universal in 1952,  is one of Errol Flynn’s later swashbucklers. And an Errol Flynn pirate movie is always worth a watch.

This one starts with Flynn being flogged. We soon find out that the flogging is voluntary. Lieutenant Brian Hawke (Flynn) has volunteered to infiltrate the notorious nest of pirates in Madagascar. The flogging is necessary to make it seem convincing that Hawke would jump ship to join the pirates.

Hawke manages, albeit with some difficulty, to persuade the pirates that he really is a legitimate cut-throat and deserter. He is given the post of navigator on the ship of Captain Roc Brasiliano (Anthony Quinn). Brasiliano is delighted when they encounter what promises to be a very rich prize. It’s the personal vessel of the emperor of India, the Great Moghul himself. Hawke tries to persuade him that capturing this ship would be a very very bad idea. The Honourable East India Company would devote the whole of its very considerable resources to hunting down anyone who performed such a rash act. They would have to do this to placate the Great Moghul or the whole British position in India would be in peril. In 1700, when this movie is set, India was not part of the British Empire  but was dominated commercially by a private company, the aforementioned Honourable East India Company (generally known as John Company).

In fact capturing this ship would be an even worse idea that even Hawke imagines. Among the ladies of the harem on board is Princess Patma (Alice Kelley), the daughter of the Great Moghul. If any harm were to come to her all hell would break loose. The princess has the habit of threatening to have anyone who annoys her flung into the cobra pit and she’s not kidding. She not only has the power to do this, she’d be quite wiling to do so.

Hawke manages to save the princess’s life but he can’t save her from the slave market to which Captain Brasiliano, more than a little unwisely, intends to consign all the young ladies he has captured. Hawke’s position is made more awkward by the fact that the princess has taken quite a shine to him. This is especially awkward since Hawke needs to ingratiate himself with the fiery red-headed Spitfire Stevens (Maureen O’Hara).

Spitfire is one of the infamous Captains of the Coast - the high council of the Madagascar pirates. She doesn’t actually take to the high seas as a pirate but she owns her own pirate ship and makes a very comfortable living from the proceeds of piracy. Captain Brasiliano has been pursuing her for some time, without much success. He’s naturally inclined to resent Hawke as a formidable romantic rival. Spitfire is most certainly interested in Hawke but she’s quick-tempered and ferociously jealous and is obviously going to cause Hawke some major problems.

Hawke’s task is to find a way to neutralise the formidable defences of this pirate’s nest so that a British man-of-war currently lurking just over the horizon can sail into the harbour and clean out this troublesome lair of cut-throats and desperadoes. Since he also has to find a way to rescue the princess and win the hand of Spitfire he has quite a lot on his plate.

By this time Flynn’s riotous lifestyle was starting to catch up to him. He was 43 but looked ten years older. In fact he looks just a little too old, and a little too tired, for this kind of role. There’s nothing really wrong with his performance but the sparkle and the devil-may-care nonchalance of his earlier swashbucklers like Captain Blood and The Sea Hawk is no longer quite there. Fortunately Anthony Quinn and Maureen O’Hara are on hand to take up the slack, which they do with considerable style.

Quinn is deliciously over-the-top as the villainous Captain Roc Brasiliano. In fact the problem is that Quinn is just a bit too good - he totally steals the picture and even though he’s the villain we can’t help wanting him to win.

O’Hara gives a lively and rambunctious performance as the notorious Spitfire Stevens. 

Which brings us to one of the difficulties Hollywood faced when making pirate movies. Pirates are by definition criminals and the Production Code mandated that criminals could not be allowed to succeed or to escape punishment for their crimes. This meant that somehow or other the hero had to be a bold and daring pirate but at the same time be an honest law-abiding citizen. This was no problem with Captain Blood since Rafael Sabatini’s novel dealt with a legitimate hero forced very unwillingly into piracy. This was the kind of device that had to be shoe-horned into every pirate movie. The hero of Against All Flags presents no great difficulties in this respect since he’s more or less an undercover agent posing as a pirate and we know from the start that he’s on the side of law and order. It does however mean that he comes across as being possibly just a bit treacherous - he does win the trust of the pirates and then betray that trust.

It presents more of a difficulty with Spitfire Stevens. She’s the heroine but she’s very much a pirate. We also know that she’s somewhat inclined to violence - she’s killed at least one man in a duel and as one of the Captains of the Coast she has undoubtedly condemned more than a few men to death. Not to mention the fact that she’s a willing participant in slave-dealing. Making her the virtuous heroine was quite a challenge and it doesn’t quite come off. By 1952 the Production Code was starting to loosen up a bit. I suspect that five years earlier Universal would have had some real problems with the Production Code Authority over this character, especially since she doesn’t display much remorse for her piratical career. Actually she doesn’t display any remorse at all.

The necessity for the criminal pirates to be shown as the bad guys also presents a problem when the chief villain, Captain Roc Brasiliano, is a lot more fun than the hero. Of course villains are often more fun than the hero but in this case he’s a fairly sympathetic villain, arguably a more sympathetic character than the hero.

This movie has had several DVD releases, most notably as part of Universal’s four-movie Pirates of the Golden Age boxed set (which also includes the rather entertaining Buccaneer’s Girl).

Against All Flags is not one of the great pirate movies, certainly not in the same league as Captain Blood, but it provides a pleasing and fairly consistently entertaining mix of action and romance. Recommended.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Code 7, Victim 5 (1964)

Given the title and the way it was promoted back in 1964 you could be forgiven for assuming that Code 7, Victim 5 is going to be yet another James Bond rip-off. Actually it’s a straightforward private eye yarn. It’s the South African setting that is the real highlight here.

This is one of the countless low-budget movies cranked out by writer-producer Harry Alan Towers. Towers liked making his movies in exotic locales - they gave a low-budget movie that touch of class and (even more importantly) they were usually ridiculously cheap filming locations.

South African mining magnate Wexler (Walter Rilla) is convinced someone is intending to kill him. Badly scared, he calls in American private eye Steve Martin (Lex Barker) even though he is already surrounded by a veritable army of security people.

Martin decides it might be wise to cooperate with the local police and Inspector Lean (Ronald Fraser) seems happy enough to go along with the idea.

The one clue that Martin has is a photograph take during the war. Wexler had been a German prisoner-of-war working on a prison farm in South Africa. There are four men in the photograph. One is now dead and one is under threat of death. Obviously it would be desirable to track down the other men in the photograph but that proves to be easier said than done.

Inspector Lean seems to be busily engaged chasing every young woman in Cape Town so Martin sets off with Wexler’s beautiful Danish secretary Helga (Ann Smyrner) to find the other two men. It soon becomes apparent that however is trying to kill Wexler would be quite happy to kill Martin as well.

The plot really is pretty routine. It’s the setting that makes things interesting. There’s a shootout in the world’s biggest subterranean cave system, there’s attempted murder on an ostrich farm (with the ostriches as the intended murder weapon) and there’s a decent climactic sequence on the slopes of Table Mountain. Most impressive of all is the opening murder sequence - a wonderful set-piece.

Robert Lynn directed a mere handful of films, spending most of his career in television. On the evidence of this movie, taking into account the very low budget he had to work with, he does pretty well. Of course it helps having the services of ace cinematographer Nicholas Roeg. 

Lex Barker is a perfectly adequate somewhat sardonic hero. Fine German character actor Walter Rilla makes Wexler a suitably enigmatic figure - a powerful man who obviously has some dark secrets. Ronald Fraser was always amusing although the idea of the entire female population of Cape Town being besotted by him does stretch credibility a very long way indeed!

Ann Smyrner as Helga and Véronique Vendell as Wexler’s adopted daughter Gina are there to add glamour which they do very successfully.

I have no idea why Blue Underground decided this film was worthy releasing on Blu-Ray. The anamorphic transfer (the film was shot in the Cinemascope ratio) is quite satisfactory  but probably would have looked just as good on a DVD. This movie is paired with another Harry Alan Towers production, Mozambique, on a single disc.

Code 7, Victim 5 is quite enjoyable on it own terms. It moves along quickly and it looks terrific. Recommended.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)

Battle Beyond the Stars, made by Roger Corman’s New World Pictures in 1980, is Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai set in space.

The planet Akira (a nod to Kurosawa) is inhabited by a people who have renounced war and violence and they are about to discover what happens when pacifists encounter someone who hasn’t renounced war and violence. They’re about to get stomped by evil space lord Sador (John Saxon) and his army of mutants. Since they can’t defend themselves they decide they will need to hire some mercenaries to do do their fighting for them. Young Shad (Richard Thomas) is despatched to bring back any such mercenaries he can find.

It turns out to be easier than expected, space apparently being full of mercenaries. 

Since this is a remake of the American remake (The Magnificent Seven) of The Seven Samurai if you’ve seen either of those movies the plot will hold no surprises for you. Not that unoriginal plots are necessarily a major problem - it’s the style with which they’re executed that matters. This one is reasonably satisfactory in that respect. There’s plenty of action and lots of explosions.

This was part of Richard Thomas’s attempt to get away from his most famous role, John-Boy Walton in the long-running TV series The Waltons. He’s actually pretty good. 

Of the various actors portraying the assorted mercenaries the most interesting are Robert Vaughn, George Peppard and Sybil Danning. Vaughn, who was in The Magnificent Seven, is rather subdued. In fact he’s essentially reprising his role from The Magnificent Seven

George Peppard on the other hand has a lot of fun as a space cowboy. Sybil Danning adds the only real touch of glamour and sex as a kind of space amazon warrior type.

John Saxon’s performance, as so often, is the highlight of the movie.

The special effects are very impressive given the fairly low budget (although by Corman standards a $2 million budget was a big budget). James Cameron started out as a humble model-maker on the film but shortly before filming was set to begin a worrying discovery was made - the movie’s art director had no idea what he was doing and none of the models or sets were ready. James Cameron suddenly found himself promoted to art director and he did a remarkably good job of it. The miniatures in particular are terrific.

Shooting the movie was a somewhat fraught experience. The process of converting a lumber yard in Venice California into a studio was nowhere near to being completed plus it was an unusually wet winter and the whole studio was ankle-deep in water much of the time. 

John Sayles wrote the screenplay. He felt very strongly that it was necessary to sharply differentiate the various mercenaries and even more important to emphasis their cultural differences. In this he succeeded very well. Apart from making the movie more interesting it gave the actors more of a challenge.

Battle Beyond the Stars is a fine example of Roger Corman’s approach to film-making, based on creative penny-pinching - making a small budget go a long long way and hiring young people with talent but who have not yet made their reputations and can therefore be hired cheaply!

I saw this one on Blu-Ray and it’s one of those rare Blu-Ray releases that is really worth the money. The transfer is excellent. Shout Factory have also been generous with extras - the highlights are two audio commentaries (one of which features Roger Corman and John Sayles), a half-dour documentary on the making of the film and an interview with Richard Thomas (who remembers the movie with great fondness).

Battle Beyond the Stars is certainly a lot less boring than The Seven Samurai. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable space opera. With the possible exception of Starcrash it’s the best of the many Star Wars clones of its era.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Duel in the Jungle (1954)

Duel in the Jungle is a 1954 British-American adventure movie that is by no means as bad as its reputation would suggest. It’s typical of its era - there’s some fine location shooting but there are also some obvious and not very convincing rear projection shots. 

Insurance investigator Scott Walters (Dana Andrews) has been sent from New York to London to look into the alarming lifestyle of wealthy businessman/adventurer Perry Henderson. Henderson has taken out a very large policy on his own life and the insurance company has been rather perturbed by reports that he’s now taken up deep-sea diving. Scott’s task is to let Perry know that his policy most definitely does not cover such insanely high-risk pastimes.

In fact Perry Henderson has already come to grief. He has disappeared. He apparently fell overboard en route to Africa on one of his own ships. Scott decides this matter definitely needs to be looked into. He’s also motivated by a considerable interest he’s taken in Perry’s fianceé Marian Taylor (Jeanne Crain).

Scott books passage on the S.S. Nigeria, the ship from which Perry vanished. Marian is also on board. She is not at all pleased by Scott’s presence having found his attentions to be rather irksome. Scott becomes considerable more suspicious when a bungled attempt is made to kill him. 

On arrival in what was then Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) further attempts are made to hamper Scott’s investigation but he’s a stubborn fellow and when Marian sets off into the bush he follows her. He’s pretty sure there’s something very fishy indeed about Perry’s apparent drowning and he has a hunch that if he keeps following Marian he’ll find out the answer.

He does find out the answer but the question is whether he’ll survive long enough to do anything about it. The jungle is a dangerous place to be, especially if you’re not sure if you have anyone upon whom you can truly rely. And this jungle seems to be astonishingly well stocked with dangers.

Dana Andrews makes a fine hero. He’s pushy but he has a certain charm and he certainly doesn’t give up once he makes up his mind about something. Jeanne Crain is an equally good leading lady. Marian is an ambiguous character - she may know more about Perry’s disappearance than she’s prepared to admit and that may or may not mean she’s involved in what may or may not be a conspiracy.

David Farrar provides very good support in a rather sinister dual role. The always delightful Wilfred Hyde-White is on hand as well. He has only a small part but naturally he steals every scene in which he appears.

George Marshall was already a veteran director when he made this one - in fact his directing career started in 1916 and would continue until 1972. He does a solid job. He can’t be blamed for flaws like unconvincing rear projection shots - that was simply the way movies were made in 1954. He keeps the action moving along pretty nicely.

It’s the visuals that really carry this film. The movie was shot in Technicolor and the African photography is terrific. 

The climax throws in everything but the kitchen sink and it certainly delivers the promised thrills.

Network’s DVD release boasts a very fine anamorphic transfer. The colours look great. Extras are limited to a not very extensive image gallery. Two versions of the film are however included, full-frame and widescreen (I’m guessing the movie was shot full-frame and later matted for widescreen release).

Duel in the Jungle is lightweight but it’s fine adventure fun with a bit of romance and just a touch of comic relief. Recommended.