Director: George Marshall
Screenplay: Sam Marx & T.J. Morrison
Starring: Dana Andrews, Jeanne Crain, David Farrer, Wilfred Hyde White
Running Time: 97 mins
BBFC Classification: PG
American insurance investigator Scott Walters (Dana Andrews) is in London to check up on Perry Henderson, the head of a major diamond brokering company, who is also insured for a lot of money. He’s told that Henderson is currently in Africa diving for diamonds on the sea bed. However, not long after this initial contact with Perry’s office Walters learns that Henderson has allegedly drowned. Scott hurries round to see Perry’s fiancée (who he’d previously flirted with, thinking she was just Perry’s PA), but she’s scarpered. Following a hunch he high-tails it over to the port to set sail for Africa after her.
While at sea, Scott has to share a room with a wealthy old man, played by prolific actor Wilfred Hyde-White – who always seemed to play the same kind of roles, although, in this film, his older man character is amusingly chauvinistic; apparently women and the sea don’t mix! While on board Scott finds out that Perry’s fiancée, Marion Taylor, is also on board. After she tries to lose him when they finally dock, he manages to track down which hotel she’s staying at, but finds the hotel staff to be unhelpful when he tries to see her. Maybe they just thought he was a stalker!
He follows her out to the jungle, and finally hooks up with Marion and her guides one evening when he creeps up on her camp, spying on her. So far, all so creepy! It soon becomes apparent that not only does Scott rather fancy her, but also suspects her husband could be pulling off a very lucrative insurance scam, which is probably why his sudden trip is obviously on expenses!
Marion’s not having any of it and tells him that he can accompany her to her destination to prove her fiancée is dead and not pulling any under-hand scam. Well, it turns out that her husband is alive and not very happy that his bride-to-be has brought along an insurance investigator with her, to the remote encampment that he’s currently calling home. It soon becomes apparent that Perry’s wealth and power among the tribesmen has made him unstable and highly dangerous. It’s up to Scott to protect Marion and put a stop to Perry’s cruelty, even to his own staff.
Duel in the Jungle is an odd film that can’t quite decide on what it wants to be. Is it a romantic adventure movie, a drama, a comedy – mainly involving chimps – or a bit of a mish-mash? It’s a pretty nicely shot film, with some excellent back-drop locations, including some very impressive waterfalls, and it has good sound design. But in some areas it has dated pretty badly and some of the characters don’t really ring true. Perry strikes me as an intelligent, already wealthy man – why fake his own death only to live in a hovel, off the grid, for the rest of his life? And Marion, quickly falling for a rather sexist stalker doesn’t really make much sense either. She obviously has bad taste in men!
The film is still quite a bit of fun in places, with a sense of adventure and enthusiasm which is pleasing, and the final act of the film is certainly entertaining as Perry stalks Scott in true, ‘Most Dangerous Game’ tradition. And, as promised, there’s even a duel. It’s also nice to see some cool scenes with real animals in them, including a lion attack and an elephant stampede – scenes which would be all CGI nowadays.
For a film with reasonable production values there are a few too many dodgy back-projection shots and some very unrealistic rain effects. It’s also a bit predictable and a bit overly dramatic with some silent-era style music in places. Network has done a good job with their restoration though, with excellent picture and sound quality for a film of this age.
Sadly, assistant director, Tony Kelly, was killed during the making of this film when his boat capsized while filming on the Zambezi river; apparently his body was, frustratingly, never found.
Duel in the Jungle has recently been released on DVD and is being distributed by Network Distributing who are currently releasing lots of these rarer British film titles, many of which are pretty decent.
Extras consist of a sizable (17 images) gallery of posters, lobby cards, postcards and photos from the film or of the cast, a trailer, plus a full screen version of the film.