BRIDGE IN THE JUNGLE, THE (director/writer: Pancho Kohner; screenwriter: from the novel by B. Traven; cinematographer: Javier Cruz; editor: Henri Sokal; music: Leroy Holmes; cast: Charles Robinson (Gales), John Huston (Sleigh), Katy Jurado (Angela), Sergio Calderón (Pedro), Elisabeth Chauvet (Carmelita), Gilberto Ramos Atayde (Carlos), Xavier Mark (Manuel); Runtime: 85; United Artists; 1970-Mexico/US)
“A strangely evocative jungle tale…”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A strangely evocative jungle tale, as adapted from B. Traven’s novel. It’s set in the Mexican jungle where the Indians exist without the benefits of materialistic wealth and cling to their old-fashioned beliefs. The Bridge in the Jungle is a humbling tale about a naive hunter of crocodiles who learns more about life through his brief adventure in the jungle than he ever knew.
Gales (Robinson) treks to the Indian jungle to hunt crocodiles despite being warned that the white man won’t be able to take the heat. He becomes delirious and is close to dying when he’s rescued by an American who has gone native, Sleigh (John Huston). Sleigh reminds the hunter of a person called Luke, as Gales is brought back to the Indian village to recover. Sleigh is suspicious of the hunter, telling him: “I don’t like the looks of you, you look like a fool.” He’s afraid that Gales has come here for all the wrong reasons, such as greed and the search for wealth.
The wise man takes the innocent Gales hunting antelope and gets him to say the real reason he came to the jungle was to find Luke, as his father was partners with him in a jungle silver mine and Luke stole his father’s share before killing him.
That night the Indians plan to have a feast and the older brother (Xavier Mark) of Carmelita (Chauvet) returns for a two day visit to the village from where he works in the Texas oil fields and presents her young barefoot son Carlos with a pair of shiny cowboy boots. Proudly wearing his new boots the boy falls off the wooden bridge into the river and drowns as the boots, symbolic evils of civilization, fill up with water and pull him down below.
When the boy is missing for hours at night and the villagers can’t find him, the village witch, Angela (Jurado), presents the villagers with a candle blessed by the priest. The candle is floated on the river and its light leads the searchers to where the boy’s body is found. This ritual stuns Gales, as Sleigh tells him “You’re a menace because you don’t know what to believe.”
In the morning Gales leaves for the States understanding the sage’s warnings about the dangers of money and exploiting the land, and through the Indian ritual learns that he must grieve his father’s death and go on with his life and forget about seeking revenge.
REVIEWED ON 3/20/2002 GRADE: A
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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