Monday, August 22, 2016

"The Jungle"

Doris Richards (Emily McLaughlin) warns her husband Alan (John Dehner) not to venture outside.
“The Jungle”
Season Three, Episode 77
Original Air Date: December 1, 1961

Cast:
Alan Richards: John Dehner
Chad Cooper: Walter Brooke
Doris Richards: Emily McLaughlin
Templeton: Hugh Sanders
Hardy: Howard Wright
Sinclair: Donald Foster
Vagrant: Jay Adler
Taxi Driver: Jay Overholts
Zamba the Lion

Crew:
Writer: Charles Beaumont (based on his story)
Director: William Claxton
Producer: Buck Houghton
Associate Producer: Del Reisman
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Art Direction: George W. Davis and Phil Barber
Set Decoration: H. Web Arrowsmith
Assistant Director: E. Darrell Hallenbeck
Editor: Jason H. Bernie
Story Consultant: Richard McDonagh
Sound: Bill Edmondson and Franklin Milton
Casting: Stalmaster-Lister
Music: Stock
Animal Handler: Ralph Helfer

And Now, Mr. Serling:
“Next week on The Twilight Zone we once again borrow the talents of Mr. Charles Beaumont, who’s written a script especially for us called ‘The Jungle.’ Now, this is designed for the reasonably impressionable amongst you who find nothing to laugh about when somebody mentions the words ‘black magic.’ Mr. John Dehner stars in another small excursion into the darker regions of the imagination. Next week, ‘The Jungle’.”

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration: 

“The carcass of a goat, a dead finger, a few bits of broken glass and stone, and Mr. Alan Richards, a modern man of a modern age, hating with all his heart something in which he cannot believe, and preparing, although he doesn’t know it, to take the longest walk of his life, right down to the center of The Twilight Zone.”

Summary:
            While looking through his wife’s jewelry case for a missing cufflink, Alan Richards comes across a startling array of primitive magical artifacts, including a dead human finger. He confronts his wife with the items. She tells him they are for protection against a curse leveled at them by a village shaman while they were staying in Africa. Alan is working on a hydro-electric project for an American company that will disrupt the ecosystem of the African jungle and they have only recently returned to New York City. Calling his wife foolish and superstitious to believe in such things, especially here in America, Alan burns the items in the fireplace.
            His wife becomes downtrodden and depressed, resigned to the fate she believes will befall them now that Alan has destroyed their magical protection. Alan must attend a night meeting with other members of his company. “You won’t come back,” his wife tells him. “Don’t open the door.” Alan ignores her warning and opens the door. Lying in the doorway is the sacrificial body of a dead goat.  
            At the meeting, Alan is asked about the response from the local population in Africa to their project. Alan tells the other men the grim truth: the local population is angry and has cursed everyone associated with the project with a slow and painful death. The other men laugh at this but Alan quickly checks their laughter. He points out an aspect of each man’s character that draws a parallel to the very superstition they ridicule; from a rabbit’s foot to a belief in astrology to knocking on wood, each man puts weight in some superstitious belief.
            Alan joins a co-worker for a drink at a bar after the meeting. They wind up discussing superstitions. Alan becomes agitated when discussing his wife’s behavior following their return from Africa. Seeing how disturbed Alan is becoming, his friend suggests that only somebody who actually believed in the curse would be so disturbed by it. Alan finds a lion’s tooth in his coat, presumably placed there for protection by his wife. He places it down on the bar and forgets it as he leaves.
            Outside, his car won’t start. His friend has already driven away and nobody remains within the closed and locked bar. It is very late at night and the street is eerily deserted. As Alan peers through the window of the bar, we again see the lion’s tooth left there, the final piece of magical protection Alan had remaining to him.
           
Alan finds a phone booth but discovers the phone is out of order. As he walks away the phone begins ringing. He rushes back and answers it. Strange animal sounds call back to him from the other end. He drops the phone and hurries away.
            A taxi pulls up and offers a ride. Alan gladly accepts. They drive a block and then stop for a traffic light. The driver does not move the car, even when the light turns to green. Alan tries to talk to him and gets no response. He reaches out and touches the driver. The driver is physically unresponsive and falls sideways along the front seat. Alarmed, Alan gets out and goes around to the front to check on the driver. The man appears to be dead. Alan rushes away. 
            As he walks down the street he begins to hear the sound of rhythmic, pounding drums and animal sounds as he heard on the phone. The sounds begin faintly but slowly grow in volume. Alan is confront by a tramp who asks for money. Alan gives the man a little money. He asks the tramp if he can also hear the sound of the drums and the animals but the tramp says that he cannot hear any sounds. Alan offers additional money if the tramp will walk with him on the way home. Alan must walk through a park and he doesn’t like the look of the darkness and the closeness of the trees. A screeching animal sound draws Alan’s attention away and when he looks back the tramp has vanished. Alan is utterly alone on the street.
           
The sounds of the drums and the animals grow to a deafening crescendo. Alan stumbles through the park toward the front doors of his apartment building. He collapses against the doors as the sounds suddenly cease. Alan slowly rises and enters the building. He enters his apartment and pours himself a drink. 
            Suddenly, he hears a sound from behind the bedroom door. It is the low, distinctive growl of a large cat. Cautiously, Alan approaches and pushes open the door. A large male lion is on the bed beside the body of his dead wife.
            The lion leaps from the bed to attack. Alan only has time for a single scream before the animal is upon him. 

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:
“Some superstitions kept alive by the long night of ignorance have their own special power. You’ll hear of it through a jungle grapevine in a remote corner of The Twilight Zone.”

Commentary:

I. "The Jungle" 

“Suddenly it was there. On foxfeet, invisibly, it had crept, past all the fences and traps he had laid, past all the barriers. And now it sat inside his mind, a part of him, like his pulse, like the steady beat of his heart.”
            -Charles Beaumont, “The Jungle”


Illustration by Leo Summers for
Charles Beaumont's "The Jungle"
            The story of supernatural persecution is a versatile story type which was explored on the series from the very first episode (“Where is Everybody?”) until late in the final season (“Stopover In a Quiet Town”), and ran the gamut from the episode of excellence (“The Hitch-Hiker”) to less successful episodes (“The Fear”). A story of this type is exemplified by a seemingly normal individual (or an individual with which the audience can easily identify) confronted with an unexplained phenomena of a persecuting nature. The story proceeds as the individual attempts to evade the phenomena only to be delivered in hand by the story’s end to the very thing from which they were attempting to escape. The physical chase is essential to this type of story and lends it an acute psychological angle that allows the audience to examine a mental struggle reflected in the physical action of the story. 

            A casual glance at the episodes preceding Charles Beaumont’s “The Jungle” shows a number which share these essential characteristics. "Mirror Image," “The After Hours,” “Nightmare as a Child,” “Judgment Night,” “And When the Sky Was Opened,” and Beaumont’s “Perchance to Dream” and “Shadow Play,” all concern protagonists who are stalked by a supernatural (or preternatural) force. These episodes typically end in one of two ways: psychological salvation resulting from an awakening awareness, or psychological (and perhaps physical) trauma from an inability to escape. The latter ending is often tied up in the features of supernatural justice. These episodes are also tales of psychological horror in which the deterioration of the mind is explored equally to the deterioration of the body.
            The episode with which “The Jungle” is most interestingly compared is Richard Matheson’s masterpiece of psychological persecution from the second season, “Nick of Time.” In Matheson’s story, the tyranny of superstitious belief is revealed to be a self-made prison, one wholly unnecessary to be suffered by the modern, enlightened man, whereas Beaumont is suggesting something different in “The Jungle.” In "The Jungle" it is dangerous, perhaps fatal, to deny the shadowy magic which lies behind superstition. Such things are given power by fear and belief, and no amount of knowledge or scientific insight can protect against the machinations of the supernatural.
            The figure of the psychoanalyst is frequently present in Beaumont’s fiction and although there is no psychoanalyst in “The Jungle,” the protagonist, Alan Richards, assumes the role when, during the board meeting scene, he systematically reveals the irrational beliefs of each of the supposedly balanced, successful business men. If these men represent the enlightenment brought about by mass industrialization and scientific progress, then why is it that each man still covets some aspect of an old superstition? What does this tell us about modern man and woman and his or her relationship to their distant, less enlightened ancestors who explained aspects of their world by supernatural means?
            The psychoanalyst is a recurring symbol in Beaumont’s Twilight Zone episodes as well (“Perchance to Dream,” “Person or Persons Unknown,” "Miniature") and typically represents the futility of science when faced with the supernatural. It is rare that a doctor or authority figure of any sort is able to help Beaumont’s doomed protagonists. 

            Beaumont’s original story, first published in the December, 1954 issue of If: Worlds of Science Fiction bears little resemblance to the episode crafted from it. The primary reason for this was production cost inherent in creating the future world of Beaumont’s story. In this future setting the elite members of the world’s population destroy the jungles of Kenya in order to create a self-sustainable city structure. To visualize this futuristic city would simply have cost too much for the production. Most of the show’s futuristic designs take on a cost-efficient, minimalist approach, as evidenced by Beaumont’s later story adaptation, “Number Nine Looks Just Like You” and other episodes such as "The Obsolete Man," “The Trade-Ins,” and “The Lateness of the Hour.”  
            The entirety of Beaumont’s original story takes place in Africa. The protagonist of the story is Richard Austin and he is the designer of a city, Mbarara, built to house half a million select members of the world’s population. The world has become vastly over-populated and the jungles of Africa are the only areas which remain untouched by this over-population. Consequently, it is the area which Austin and his colleagues choose as the location of their expansive, futuristic city. As a result, the inhabitants of the villages which border the jungle fight back against the invaders who have leveled their territory. Though the inhabitants fight Austin’s project in a traditional manner, through the weapons of warfare, they also fight with aspects of magic. The pre-population of Austin’s city, those who arrive to prepare for the arrival of others, are inflicted with a terrible, degenerative disease which causes horrible suffering, as indicted by its crude nickname, “jungle rot.” Though Austin steadfastly refuses to believe that the primitive rituals practiced by the natives have anything to do with the epidemic, he cannot long continue to deny it when his wife falls victim to the disease and lies on the verge of a horrible death.
            Austin leaves his heavily protected apartment home to confront the medicine man and the villagers who have opposed the construction of the city. Beaumont uses many traditional symbols of African magic (drums, ritualistic dancing, miniature effigies, the casting of bones, etc.) to provide a jarring juxtaposition to the sleek futurism of Mbarara.
            The final third of Beaumont’s original story is the portion which most resembles the finished episode. After being turned away by the medicine man, Austin walks home through the silent, abandoned streets of the maze-like city, pursued at every step by the threatening sounds of tribal drums and predatory animals. Austin arrives home to find a lion feeding upon his wife.
            The story is not one of Beaumont’s best, overly long and written with uncharacteristically dense passages of exposition. It does, however, offer a number of interesting ideas, most of which Beaumont carries over into his adaptation. One which he was forced to abandon was the idea of over-population. Beaumont presents an interesting moral dilemma in his treatment of the subject as he illustrates a future world in which population problems are handled by government purges, forcing Austin and his colleagues to build their city not only to escape over-population but also the waves of government-mandated executions. It is interesting to note that the idea of primitive magic, and jungle magic in particular, was prominent in supernatural fiction of the 1940s and 1950s, especially in the pulp magazines and pre-code horror comics of the time. Much of it, unfortunately, was characterized by the racial stereotyping too common at the time, but some of the more successful treatments of theme, by writers such as Ray Bradbury and Fritz Leiber, proved to be important influences upon Beaumont’s original story and later adaptation.

II. "The Veldt" 

“. . . my eyes focused upon a scene, a large house with two people in it. I saw a flight of vultures on a blazing flesh sky, I saw yellow lions, and I heard voices.”
            -Ray Bradbury, “Prologue: The Illustrated Man”

“The lions were finished with their red feast.”
            -Ray Bradbury, “The Veldt”

      
Illustration by Jim Burns for
Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man
      One writer whose influence can be felt in many episodes of The Twilight Zone is Ray Bradbury. Though Bradbury only contributed a single teleplay to the series, season three’s “I Sing the Body Electric,” his hand can be felt in nearly every episode of the show. According to Bradbury (from his introduction to John Collier’s Fancies and Goodnights (New York Review Books, 2003)), Rod Serling came to Bradbury's home looking for suggestions for stories to adapt for The Twilight Zone, then still in development. Besides Collier, Bradbury also recommended two young writers whom he had mentored as they developed into professionals, Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont, two writers who would go on to be the principal writers on the show behind Serling.
Beaumont was a teenager when he met Bradbury in a Los Angeles bookstore years before. At the time Bradbury was publishing horror stories in Weird Tales, stories which would eventually comprise Bradbury’s first book, Dark Carnival (1947). When Beaumont began to write his own stories, Bradbury read the stories and gave Beaumont constructive criticism. In the early 1950s, Beaumont began regularly selling his material to the pulps and science fiction digest magazines. By the end of that decade, much like Bradbury before him, Beaumont had largely graduated to the “slick magazines” (Playboy, Esquire, etc.) and developed a style that was distinctly his own. The early stories, however, clearly show Bradbury’s influence. An early story such as “Elegy” (published in 1953 and adapted for the first season of The Twilight Zone), in which three astronauts land on a planet that looks like a pastoral version of Earth only to discover the planet’s deadly secret, in many ways resembles Bradbury’s famous 1948 story “Mars is Heaven!” (collected in The Martian Chronicles (1950) as “The Third Expedition”). 

Illustration by Al Parker for
"The World the Children Made"
“The Jungle” owes much to Bradbury’s fiction as well, both in style and tone, and in particular to Bradbury’s famous story “The Veldt,” originally published in the September 23, 1950 issue of The Saturday Evening Post, as “The World the Children Made,” and collected in The Illustrated Man (1951). Although thematically Bradbury is attempting something altogether different with “The Veldt,” the core aspect of the story also concerns a futuristic setting beset by the dangers of an older world. Both writers use the images of Africa to juxtapose a future in which an advanced society is confronted with the dangers of primeval places.
On the genesis of “The Veldt,” Bradbury wrote: “What if you could create a world within a room . . . and introduce a family to that room where its walls might operate on their psyches and deliver forth nightmares?” (“Dancing, So as Not to Be Dead,” introduction to The Illustrated Man, 1999). "The Veldt" illustrates the direction in which the supernatural story was headed in the middle part of the 20th century. Many writers of supernatural fiction were reevaluating the traditional Gothic story in the wake of the horrors of the Second World War, fears of developing technologies, and the increasing industrialization of the modern American city.
In “The Veldt,” a story of the near future, a family purchases a fully automated home. In this home they install a nursery in which virtually anything can be simulated for a child’s enjoyment through marvels of sensory manipulation. As the family becomes more dependent upon the automated home, the nursery begins to replace the parents in the eyes of the children. The result of the room’s influence on the children’s psyche is that their increasingly aggressive nature is reflected by an African veldt, in which predatory animals stalk their prey. Soon, the room responds only to the children’s demands and assumes a preternaturally life-like effect. When the parents threaten to permanently shut down the room, the children’s murderous impulses fuel the room’s occult power to devastating effect. The character who is left to sort through the mess is, naturally, the family’s psychologist.
The primary link between Bradbury’s story and Beaumont’s “The Jungle” is the image of Africa as infused with a magic that can supersede all the efforts of science to combat superstition. The lion is the central image upon which both stories conclude.
“The Veldt” was one of the first stories that firmly pushed Bradbury out of pulp territory and into the realm of mainstream literature. It was a hugely influential story on the development of the type of science fantasy which was regularly exhibited on The Twilight Zone. The story would go on to become one of Bradbury’s most renowned stories, anthologized dozens of times, and one in which he derived a significant amount of mileage. The story was presented on radio by NBC for Dimension X in 1951 from a very faithful script adaptation by veteran radio writer Ernest Kinoy. Kinoy’s script was reused, with an added happy ending, four years later for NBC’s science fiction radio series X Minus One. Bradbury adapted the story as a one-act play in 1963 and presented it at the Coronet Theatre in Los Angeles in October, 1964 as one third of The World of Ray Bradbury, directed by Charles Rome Smith. The other two thirds were comprised of Bradbury’s “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit” and “To the Chicago Abyss." "The Veldt" was one of three Bradbury stories adapted for the 1969 anthology film The Illustrated Man (along with "The Long Rain" and "The Last Night of the World") and Bradbury later adapted the story into a teleplay for The Ray Bradbury Theater. One wonders how Bradbury would have adapted the story for The Twilight Zone.

III. "Conjure Wife" 

“The room seemed to darken. There was a faint, mighty roaring in his ears, as of motors far underground. He had the sense of standing suddenly naked and unarmed before something menacingly alien.” 
            -Fritz Leiber, Conjure Wife

           
Illustration by Gene Colon & John Romita
for Fritz Leiber's Conjure Wife
          The principal task Beaumont faced when adapting “The Jungle” for The Twilight Zone was to develop a cost-efficient method of staging the play. His solution was to strip the story of its futuristic setting and to take the story out of Africa and place it firmly in a modern urban setting. In doing so, he eliminated the costly aspects and crafted a supernatural story further in-line with the developing trends of contemporary urban fantasy. The author who most effectively typified these trends, and who proved an influence on The Twilight Zone's writers, was Chicago born writer Fritz, Leiber, Jr.
            Though he is probably better known today for his science fiction and heroic fantasy, Leiber devoted a great amount of time to the tale of supernatural horror, particularly during his formative years as a writer. He would occasionally return to the form, especially late in his career with the influx of periodicals inspired by the pulp era of the horror story (Whispers, Fantasy Tales, etc.). Leiber was a correspondent of H.P. Lovecraft, who spurred the younger man to write his own stories. Leiber never fell under the influence of Lovecraft’s literary style, however, as did so many of Lovecraft’s acolytes, and always seemed more interested in juxtaposing the traditional aspects of the horror story with a decidedly modern setting.  Leiber was instrumental in developing the recognizable traits of the modern urban fantasy story and the supernatural fiction which grew out of his work, fiction informed by the terrible events of the Second World War, eschewed much of the Gothic trappings of the supernatural fiction which came before in order to examine the characteristics of a persecuting supernatural occurrence in the 20th century.
            During the 1940s, in magazines such as Unknown and Weird Tales, Leiber re-imagined the archetypes of the Gothic story in a modern setting. These stories were greatly influential and many are now considered masterpieces of the form. These include Leiber’s innovative takes on ghosts (“Smoke Ghost”), witchcraft (Conjure Wife), werewolves (“The Hound”), and vampires (“The Girl with the Hungry Eyes”). The best of Leiber’s early macabre tales are found in Night’s Black Agents.
             For his adaptation of “The Jungle,” Beaumont borrowed heavily from both Conjure Wife and “Smoke Ghost.” Soon afterwards, Beaumont collaborated with Richard Matheson to adapt Leiber’s Conjure Wife into a screenplay. Both writers, when deciding what property to adapt, came to the same conclusion that Leiber’s novel was the best modern fantasy of the time. The resulting film was titled Burn, Witch, Burn in the U.S. (Night of the Eagle in the U.K.) and released in 1962, the second of three films to be taken from Leiber’s novel after 1944’s Weird Woman, starring Lon Chaney, Jr., and followed by 1980's Witches’ Brew.
            Both Conjure Wife and “Smoke Ghost” are psychologically charged tales of supernatural persecution. In Conjure Wife, a sociology professor discovers that virtually every woman in his small college town, including his wife, is a practicing witch. The women use their magical powers to influence university politics. Like Beaumont’s story, the husband in Conjure Wife also finds items of primitive magic in his wife’s belonging and burns the items to his detriment. What follows greatly mirrors the action of “The Jungle” in that the husband, now unprotected, is the victim of an onslaught of magical attacks. Leiber generally sheds the African influences and uses the stone image of an eagle in place of Beaumont’s lion.
            Leiber’s “Smoke Ghost” presents us again with the prevailing image of the psychoanalyst (Leiber took a psychology degree himself in 1932 from the University of Chicago) as unable to help the persecuted individual. “Smoke Ghost” is one of the most innovative and effective ghost stories of the 20th century and still manages to unnerve the sympathetic reader 75 years after it was first published.
            Leiber was one of a select handful of writers (along with Bradbury, Robert Bloch, and Theodore Sturgeon) who strongly influenced the Southern California Group of writers. “Smoke Ghost” exemplifies what many of these younger writers were, a decade later, attempting to replicate in their own work. Some passages from Leiber’s stories read like precursors to later work by the Group. One example is this from “Smoke Ghost”: “. . . then an opaque monstrous form leaping out from the roof in a parabolic swoop-an unmentionable face pressed close against the window, smearing it with wet coal dust-huge paws fumbling sloppily at the glass.” This passage could nearly have been lifted from Richard Matheson’s famous 1962 story “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” which was memorably adapted for the fifth season of The Twilight Zone. In Matheson’s story, a man is terrorized by a supernatural being on an airplane. In Leiber’s story, the protagonist is terrorized by a supernatural being on an elevated train. Like the action in “The Jungle,” the doomed protagonist of “Smoke Ghost” experiences a physical and mental feeling of utter isolation, despite the fact that he is a resident of a large city. The city itself seems to work against his efforts to connect with other people who may provide salvation from the supernatural force.

IV. A Man Walks Home Alone At Night 

“. . . mankind had once again spawned a ghost world, and that superstition once more ruled.”
            -Fritz Leiber, “Smoke Ghost”

            The standout sequence in “The Jungle” is when Alan Richards makes his way home through an eerily deserted city in the middle of the night. To achieve the effectiveness of this sequence required the considerable skills of cinematographer George T. Clemens, sound engineers Bill Edmondson and Franklin Milton, editor Jason Bernie, and, perhaps most importantly, actor John Dehner and director William Claxton. 
            The story presented in “The Jungle” could easily have fallen into laughable territory and it was imperative that John Dehner play the role with absolute seriousness to ground the fantastic nature of the episode in its realistic urban setting. Beaumont had very little time to establish any logic to the supernatural element and was forced to begin the episode with his main character displaying a dead finger to his wife, followed quickly by a dead goat in the doorway. It is easy to imagine how this could have crumbled in lesser hands.
            Dehner was more than capable of assuming the skeptical demeanor necessary for his character. His long, expressive face perfectly displays the slow degeneration of his character’s mental state until he arrives back at his apartment in a frenzy. By the time Dehner is bringing a drink to his lips with a badly shaking hand, the physical and mental decline of the character is convincingly complete. The wide, unbelieving expression on his face when opening the bedroom door on an adult male lion is simply perfect. Dehner was a talented character actor and showed impressive range in his three appearances on The Twilight Zone. He played a sympathetic character of authority in the first season episode “The Lonely,” and displayed his talent for droll comedy in late fifth season episode “Mr. Garrity and the Graves.”
            Born in Richmond, New York in 1915, Dehner established himself professionally as a disc jockey, pianist, and an animator for Walt Disney Studios before trying his hand at acting in the early 1940s. Dehner appeared most frequently in western television programs, often as a villain, and amassed over 250 film and television credits over his long career. His distinctive baritone voice was heard on several radio programs in an equally long and busy career, starring in such programs as Philip Marlowe, Frontier Gentleman, and the radio version of Have Gun-Will Travel. He died on February 4, 1992 in Santa Barbara, aged 76.
            William Claxton, not to be confused with the American photographer of the same name, was a versatile television director who found a niche directing western and frontier programs, turning in memorable work on shows such as Bonanza (1962-1973) and Little House on the Prairie (1974-1981), programs through which he developed a solid working relationship with actor Michael Landon. Claxton later directed Landon in Highway to Heaven (1985), one of his final credits as director. Claxton directed the cult 1972 film Night of the Lepus, concerning giant rabbits on the rampage, and a memorable episode of Boris Karloff’s Thriller, “The Hollow Watcher.”
            Claxton displays an exceptional visual style in “The Jungle.” Alan Richards’s journey through the city is a tensely staged sequence on par with the exceptional work on display in similar episodes such as “The Hitch-Hiker” and “The After Hours.” The perspective shot within the taxicab is a particular highlight of the sequence. The staging of the physical action in accordance with the distinctive sound effects was also expertly handled. “The Jungle” is arguably Claxton’s finest work on the series, likely because it offered the finest material for stylistic interpretation. Claxton does have the distinction of having interpreted the work of the major writers on the series: Richard Matheson (“The Last Flight”), Charles Beaumont (“The Jungle”), Rod Serling (“The Little People”), and Ray Bradbury (“I Sing the Body Electric!”), only missing out on one of George Clayton Johnson’s efforts. Claxton was born on October 22, 1914 in Los Angeles and died in Santa Monica on February 11, 1996, aged 81. His last directing credit was for the television movie Bonanza: The Next Generation (1988).

            “The Jungle” remains an effectively eerie episode that uses the full spectrum of sensory manipulation to set the viewer on edge. In particular, the innovative use of sound and the wonderfully creepy deserted city are highlights of the show’s third season. With “The Jungle,” Charles Beaumont solidified himself as the show’s most psychologically incisive writer, one interested equally in the existential effects of mental aberration and in strictly physical horrors. He would continue his explorations of these themes in outstanding later episodes such as “Person or Persons Unknown,” “In His Image,” and “Miniature.”

Grade: B

Notes:
-William Claxton directed three additional episodes: “The Last Flight” from season one, and “The Little People” and “I Sing the Body Electric” from season three.
-John Dehner also appeared in “The Lonely” from season one, and “Mr. Garrity and the Graves” from season five.
-Walter Brooke also appears in “A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain,” from season five.
-Hugh Sanders also appears in “Judgment Night,” from season one, and “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville,” from season four.
-Jay Adler also appears in “He’s Alive,” from season four.
-Howard Wright also appears in “What’s in the Box,” from season five.
-“The Jungle” was adapted as a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Ed Begley, Jr.
-Charles Beaumont’s original script for “The Jungle” is included in The Twilight Zone Scripts of Charles Beaumont, Volume One (Gauntlet Press, 2004), edited by Roger Anker.

-JP

9 comments:

  1. I would also recommend the little known radio show BRADBURY 13. Produced in the 80s possibly it had literally 13 episodes,was introduced by Paul Frees and has my favorite rendering of THE VELDT.

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  2. Thanks, Dale, and I can second that recommendation. I believe the series is easily gotten on CD these days.

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  3. The Jungle is a very good episode in my opinion, with John Dehner perfectly cast in the lead. It's probably best appreciated as a Val Lewton tribute episode, such as there can be said to be one on the show, as it plays so close to the style of a Lewton picture it's near impossible for an experienced TV and movie person not to be struck by this.

    Beautiful, evocative use of MGM's New York streets is a big plus. Downside: overall, the ending is predictable. Given the feeling of impending doom in The Jungle from its earliest scenes one can guess the ending well before the first commercial break. It's a bit odd for a Twilight Zone to veer so heavily into horror territory as this one does. The series went there only a relatively few times; and its tone throughout is "classic Hollywood", not "New Age sci-fi".

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  4. I certainly agree with you about the Val Lewton influence on this episode. Of course, Jacques Tourneur, who directed many of those Lewton films (including "The Cat People" (1942) and "The Leopard Man" (1943), the two films which seem to have exerted the most influence over "The Jungle"), would provide us with the small masterpiece that is "Night Call," from season five. That episode's writer, Richard Matheson, so enjoyed Tourneur's work that he lobbied to have the director brought onto the show and it was well worth it.

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  5. Thanks, Jordan. Night Call is the best (only true?) straight horror on the Zone, and it still frightens me every time I watch it. That's nice to hear about Richard Matheson, and that he remembered Jacques Tourneur.

    A bit OT, but we could make a short list of "Lewtonish" Zones, including the spooky western episode, The Grave. Come Wander With Me sort of qualifies for mood, though of course the whole rockabilly business makes it inconceivable for the 1940s.

    The After Hours is closer to the mark, as is, or would be, The Howling Man, if Lewton had produced a Dead Of Night style anthology picture in the 40s. John Carradine would have been good casting as the eponymous man.

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  6. The show dipped into straight horror a few times, I think. I would say "The Howling Man" is true horror, as are "The Masks" and "Living Doll."

    I can sense Lewton on any number of the episodes dealing with someone on the run from something scary, like "Mirror Image," "The Hitch-Hiker," and "The After Hours." Those RKO films from the '40s were already highly influential by the early sixties, though the Zone found a nice middle ground between Lewtonesque suggestion and the makeup created monsters of the earlier Universal cycle and the mad science monster movies of the '50s.

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  7. Thanks for this very interesting post on an episode I recall clearly even after not having seen it for years. I'll add Leiber to the list of writers I need to read before I pass on into The Twilight Zone. It's interesting that Claxton did such a good job here but the Bradbury episode is such a dud.

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  8. I highly recommend Leiber's works, especially his short fiction. He's one of those writers that wasn't adapted for television much, which is a shame. He wrote some gems that would have been excellent for the Twilight Zone.

    It seems to me now that Bradbury's association with this show was doomed from the beginning and that nothing good could come out of it, although I'm not so down on "I Sing the Body Electric" as are some viewers. I get the feeling that, by the early '60s, Bradbury was no longer interested in submitting adaptations of stories he'd written a decade earlier, during arguably his most fertile period, even though those early '50s stories would have been the most suited to the show; stories like "Zero Hour," "The Crowd," "The Veldt," "The Wind," "The Long Rain," "The Lake," "The Black Ferris," "The Pedestrian," "The Playground," and on and on, would have made excellent episodes. Most importantly, these stories could have been filmed in a cost-efficient method, which was the primary knock against Bradbury's submissions. Bradbury later wised up to the quality and versatility of these early works when he began adapting them himself for stage and television. I wish a deal could have been made to at least have Serling adapt a couple of Bradbury's classic stories. The Twilight Zone was largely born from Bradbury's works and it seems a shame that he could only be represented with a single contribution.

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  9. The Jungle, is in my opinion, one of the most frightening episodes of the TZ. John Denner does a superb job in creating tension from the get-go. He is a rational business man and is not prone to superstition exhibited by him throwing his wife's talisman in the fireplace. He then opens the door to his apartment and sees a dead antelope outside of the door. His day is not starting off well. After he and his buddy go for a drink at a downtown bar from his office, the street is deserted. The scene created really gives oneself a sense of impending doom as his buddy jumps in his car and drives away just when Alan's car won't start. It is quite humorous, though, that John Denner's character, calls out to his friend after the guy is halfway down the block. How the heck was his buddy supposed to hear him that far away? LOL. Then the fun begins. Alan hails a cab and then at the first stoplight, the cab sits there. Alan tells the driver to move on as it is a green light. The driver sits there motionless. He is dead! Then, Alan, gets out on foot and starts walking home. A panhandler taps him on the shoulder begging for money. Alan, tells the hobo, that if the hobo accompanies him across the park, he will give him more money. Just when Alan hands him the money, the hobo disappears into thin air. Very strange. Then Alan sees the twin stone lions. Presumably, the NY Public Library, makes a phone call but the phone is dead. Then it rings after he steps out of the booth, only to hear jungle noises, then as he walks through the park he hears various jungle noises. It gets windy and Alan is now starting to get sacred and starts to panic. He finally, makes it to his building and goes up to his apartment. He pours himself a drink to calm his jarred nerves. He hears a low growl. He pushes the jar slightly open and sees a male lion on the bed bending over the body of his wife. Alan, freezes in shock, and the lion roars and charges him. That is how it ends. My question is, as soon as Alan saw the lion, why did he freeze? I guess in shock. He should have shut the door as fast as possible!

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