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.

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