Even today there remain tribes in the far reaches of the Amazon rainforest that have avoided contact with modern civilization. In this gripping first-person account of adventure and survival, author Scott Wallace chronicles an expedition into the Amazon’s uncharted depths, discovering the rainforest’s secrets while moving ever closer to a possible encounter with one such tribe—the mysterious flecheiros, or “People of the Arrow.” On assignment for National Geographic, Wallace joins Brazilian explorer Sydney Possuelo at the head of a thirty-four-man team that ventures deep into the unknown in search of the tribe. Laced with lessons from anthropology and the Amazon’s own convulsed history, The Unconquered reveals this critical battleground in the fight to save the planet as it has rarely been seen, wrapped in a page-turning tale of adventure.
A fascinating read full of history and adventure that had me hooked from the beginning.
Recommended for anyone seeking armchair adventure.
Especially perfect for Lost City of Z fans.
Based on a short story, The Most Dangerous Game (1932) is a pre Hayes Code (or the “No Fun Code” as it ultimately became, stripping Hollywood films of any whiff of sex or immorality for almost 40 years) gem that features the same set and some of the same cast and production crew as King Kong which was made the following year. Clocking in at a brisk 62 minutes it has pretty much everything you’d want in a pulp adventure: shipwrecks, sharks, a mysterious tropical island, a strapping hero, a distressed damsel, and best of all – an evil aristocratic-castle-owning -tuxedo (with tails) wearing- goateed Russian villain General Zaroff (who naturally has a scar running down the side of his forehead, owns a grand piano and has a brutish mute henchman named Ivan). General Zaroff is a professional hunter who lures unsuspecting travelers to his shore (it’s easy when you own an island called Ship Trap Island) ultimately releasing his captives into the jungle where he and his savage dogs hunt them down for sport. He’s a man of big appetites or as he puts it “Hunt first the enemy, then the woman. It is the natural instinct. The blood is quickened by the kill. One passion builds upon another. Kill, then love! When you have known that, you have known ecstasy.” The damsel (Canadian born Fay Wray) sees things differently as she and the hero Joel McCrea (who also happens to be a professional hunter) run through the swampy jungle – crossing the same chasm spanning felled tree that was used to great effect in King Kong – attempting to evade capture and death at the hands of General Zaroff.
The last film on this list also features a shipwreck on a tropical island – The Island of Lost Souls (1932) and like the others here, was based on a work of fiction – H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau. This is one odd ball movie that really sticks with the audience after viewing. Charles Laughton plays Dr. Moreau who conducts gruesome experiments on the island’s animals, attempting to make them more human while insisting on strict obedience from his hairy hybrid charges (Bela Lugosi plays the lead manimal The Sayer of the Laws) . The shipwrecked hero causes quite a stir and upsets the balance of power on the island –there is also some chemistry between him and Lota the Panther Woman who as the name suggests is part woman, part panther. If you’re a fan of the band Devo (and who isn’t?) the line “Are We Not Men?” will ring a bell as it was one of their album titles as well as refrain of the island inhabitants in their bid to be more human. The movie was banned in England for decades and no doubt also banned from H.G. Wells’ life as word has it he hated this adaptation. According to the internet,we owe the saying “The natives are restless” to this film which had Dr. Moreau say “Yes, they are restless” in response to a question about the locals natives.
With a little luck and some time to organize I’ll finish up with a few more posts before too long featuring such films as the incredible I Was a Fugitive From a Chain Gang and Fury among others.
Many months ago I wrote a blog entry about the 1930s covering in a very whirlwind and utterly selective manner a few people places and things which got my “interesting stuff” antennae twitching. At the time I called the 1930s my second favourite decade (there has been no change in rankings in the interim) and now 9 months later it’s time to complete my tribute to this era with a look back at some films from the libraries’ collection which makes me flip my lid.
She (1935) – Based on H. Rider Haggard’s 1887 novel She: A History of Adventure – Believe it or not this was already the 5th film adaptation of this work (and we think Hollywood recycles ideas now!) directed by the King of Stop Action Claymation Ray Harryhausen who only died just last May. The original plan was to film in colour but at the last minute was switched to black and white (it was finally colourizied by Harryhausen in 2006) She was unfortunately a disaster at the box office and in fact was thought lost for years until rather bizarrely an original print was found in Buster Keaton’s garage. The film features an amazing set of grand art deco design and starred Helen Gahagan in her only film role playing the menacing queen of Kor aka She (Who Must Be Obeyed). Five years after playing She Who Must Be Obeyed, Gahagan was one of the first women to be elected to the US House of Representatives as a left leaning Democrat, had a public love affair with Lyndon Johnson (seriously…LBJ!?) and eventually ended her political career after losing to Richard Nixon but not before she coined the nickname Tricky Dick.
Another adventure film based on a book was The Lost Horizon ( 1937). James Hilton wrote the book and Frank Capra (who had a run of classics in the 30s and 40s) directed the film. The story tells of group who stumble upon the hidden paradise of Shangri-La deep in the Himalayas after a rescue mission gets hijacked and subsequently crash lands. It turns out once you find paradise where nobody ages; it becomes a tough habit to quit. This film was also a bust initially and went way over budget. Like She, The Lost Horizon was also considered for colour film but was deemed too expensive, even so it still went way over budget and initially ended up with a whopping 6 hours run time eventually whittled down to a more manageable 134 minutes. Somehow through all the cutting and re-releasing and re-editing a total of 7 minutes of the film has been lost forever which explains why in the library’s dvd contains just the audio track and various promotional stills which fill in the gap of the missing footage. It’s a bit jarring upon first viewing but “lost forever “ is “lost forever” so what are you gonna do?