Elephant Walk (1954)

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She is not one of us and her ways are cold and strange. When John Wiley (Peter Finch), an affluent plantation owner, brings his new wife, Ruth (Elizabeth Taylor), to his estate in the jungles of British Ceylon,  she finds she is the only white woman.  She’s overjoyed by the exotic location and luxurious accommodations until it becomes clear her new husband is more interested in palling around with his friends than spending time with her. She is intimidated by houseman Apphuamy (Abraham Sofaer) who is still being bossed by the late Old Man Wiley a rotten individual who has deliberately blocked the elephants from their ancient water source (hence the name). Left alone on the plantation, Ruth strikes up a friendship with American overseer Dick Carver (Dana Andrews), and it isn’t long before a love triangle develops… An old-school colonial romance, the novel by Robert Standish (aka Digby George Gerahty) was adapted by Hollywood vet John Lee Mahin who knew this kind of material from Red Dust two decades earlier. While revelling in the lush jungle landscape and the forbidden desires of Taylor the real story is the haunting of Wiley by his late father whose ghost dominates his life and the plantation. Taylor of course replaced Vivien Leigh who had a nervous breakdown yet whose figure remains in long shots that weren’t repeated and her lover Finch remained in the picture in a role originally intended for Leigh’s husband Laurence Olivier. Andrews might not be our idea of a hot extra-marital affair but in a situation like that … It looks rather beautiful courtesy of the marvellous work by cinematographer Loyal Griggs but you might find yourself wanting to see more of the elephants than Taylor such is their pulchritudinous affect. You choose. Directed by William Dieterle.


The Naked Jungle (1954)

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I’ll go a long way to see an ant movie but this is only worth it if you’re feeling in the mood for a masochistic melodrama with a two-mile-wide by twenty-mile-long column of bugs at the tail end. Eleanor Parker is the proxy mail order bride who fetches up on Charlton Heston’s South American cocoa plantation at the turn of the century but he doesn’t much like her and takes agin her when he realises she’s a widow. He hasn’t really been there or done that way out in the Amazon jungle so she has him at something of a disadvantage. Some torrid and rather suggestive arguments lead him to send her back to N’Oleans but their gallop upriver is halted by the insects, he greases up to burn them out and she sleeps through the worst of it. Golly, they sure don’t make them like this any more! Based on a story by Carl Stephenson this was adapted by Ranald MacDougall and blacklistees Ben Maddow and Philip Yordan, directed by Byron Haskin and produced by George Pal. This was released March 3rd 1954 so it’s practically an anniversary screening. Personally I prefer Them! and Phase IV. Oh my heaving bosom!

Interview with the Vampire (1994)

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This was one of THE cinema events of the 90s:  Anne Rice’s cult novel, which had been in development hell for years, was finally being brought to the big screen helmed by Neil Jordan – and she took out ads in the trades telling everyone how much she hated the project and the casting. Principally, Tom Cruise as her beloved Lestat. But she wrote the screenplay … and did an about turn upon its release. Brad Pitt plays vampish sidekick Louis and Christian Slater plays the role of the interviewer which should have been River Phoenix’ until his shocking death (the film is dedicated to him in an atypical incidence of taste). This is a tale of passions and tragedy and grand guignol. It turned into a folie de grandeur (or epic fail as the kids say) lurching from theatrical and baroque to camp and back again. The scenes with greedy little vampire Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) are particularly funny and make Lestat and Louis look like two especially inept gay dads. Antonio Banderas pops up for Olde Worlde authenticity. (It also boasts Domiziana Giordano, whose entire career appears to have happened due to having an amazing head of hair.) This is a whole lotta fun if you’re in the mood and if you’re a fan of N’Oleans, cher, then this could be the ticket. Which reminds me of my own trip into Rice country pre-Katrina and my experience in the vintage store run by her sister where I resisted the opportunity to buy the woman’s undies (with tag signed in purple ink by the authoress herself.) I got a signed book instead. The past really IS another country. But if Guns’n’Roses can get back together then anything goes (they sing the closing song, Sympathy for the Devil …)