Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Terror In The Jungle

If more people knew about it, I'm convinced that TERROR IN THE JUNGLE would be renowned as one of the most hilarious movies ever made. The filmmakers (some of them, anyway) went all the way to Peru to shoot this Crown International potboiler, but it hardly seems worth the effort. The jungle footage is barely more authentic-looking than a Bomba movie, and it may just as well have been filmed in Florida.

TERROR is the work of three (!) credited directors: Tom DeSimone (credited with Plane Sequence), Alexander Grattan (Temple Sequence), and Andy Janczak (Jungle Sequence). Any scene set elsewhere, who knows who directed it? Each director looks as though he had his own cinematographer (and perhaps film stock), and DeSimone (CHATTERBOX) claimed he never left California. His footage is the funniest, as the movie sets up an array of stock characters Irwin Allen-style, including some nuns, a struggling starlet, a rock band (with awful wigs), and a 5-year-old boy traveling alone to meet his mother in Rio de Janeiro.

All the character development is wasted after the plane crashes 25 minutes into the movie, and almost everyone is killed, either by the crash or by hungry crocodiles. It's difficult to say which element of this part of the film is funniest: the incredibly poor acting, the cheap sets, the laughable special effects, the ridiculous song ("Sweet Lips"?) performed by the band, the dead nun that pitches forward out of her coffin (which is stored standing up next to the door!), or the stupid plot.

The lone survivor of the plane crash is the little boy, Henry, who is portrayed by one of cinema's worst child actors. All he pretty much does is whimper, and I can only imagine the ways in which the directors terrorized him, because all his crying jags have to be real. No way is this kid a good enough actor to fake crying. Henry is captured by a tribe of Jivaro natives, who are convinced he is the son of their god after the chief sees a terrible special effect/blinking yellow glow emanating from the kid's blond hair. Only one native disbelieves and keeps trying to convince the chief to kill the brat.

Meanwhile, the boy's father, Henry Sr., learns about the plane crash and travels to South America to find his son. He hooks up with a priest, who takes Henry to see another priest deep in the jungle. Priest #2 says he can get some natives to guide them to the Jivaros' village if Priest #1 will give up his robe and his rosary to one of them. Priest #1 is surprisingly reluctant, considering a little kid's life is at risk, but I can understand why he wouldn't want to traipse through the jungle in his undershirt.

Back at the village, the chief is finally convinced to kill the kid, but a friendly native and his posse start a riot. Many huts are burned down, many natives are stabbed to death (the stabbings are depicted with animation!), and little Henry escapes. Just when he's about to be grabbed and stabbed by the one evil native, his stuffed toy tiger somehow transforms into a real leopard (!) and mauls the guy to death.

The whiny kid gets away (and the leopard changes back into a toy), but falls into some "quicksand" (in reality, a two-foot hole in a mud puddle). While a stock-footage python stalks him, he yells for his daddy, who manages to be within earshot and runs to rescue his son. This is done by laying on his chest in a puddle, while his companions grab his legs and pretend he's in danger of being sucked into that 1/8-inch-deep water. Dad "pulls" his kid to safety, "The End" appears on the screen, and Crown International has successfully ripped off another audience.

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