Tuesday, June 21, 2011

1930's jungle double feature- Jaws of the Jungle and Beyond Bengal

Today a double feature of two travelogue/nature documentaries from the 1930’s

Jaws of the Jungle (1936)
This is a semi-documentary story of a village in motion across the island of Ceylon after an attack by vampire bats. While much of it seems staged- the human sacrifice and other things- the over all effect is realistic (after all one could never believe that they would have allowed a baby and woman to be pitched over a cliff, and as for the big cat attack as tense as it is its there are too many cut aways.) The plot isn’t important here. What is important here is the nature footage, which is spectacular. Also important is the little bits of every day life of the people are nicely documented. This is an old school look at the life and time of the people and it’s definitely not your typical discovery channel special.(IMDB lists the running time as as short as 26 minutes, but the two different prints I have put the run time closer to 50 minutes)

Beyond Bengal (1934)
This is Harry Schenck’s record of his trip into the jungles of the Malaysian peninsula via an elephant train. Stunning real life nature footage mixes with some staged footage (romance, crocodile attacks) for a wild hour long trip back in time to another time and place.

Beginning with the party taking leave of the sultan and then heading out, we watch as the supplies are sent ahead via ox cart and the main party sets out days later via elephant. If you ever wanted to know what it took to be an explorer back before satellite imaging and helicopters, this is it. This is very much not a Hollywood adventure and it's clear from many of the non staged scenes things were not comfortable.

For the most part the film works, with scenes such as the monkey/python fight. the valley full of elephants and much of the monkey and gibbon footage over coming the clunky bits, like the "cat hunt" and the staged bits.

While not perfect by today's standards the film is a nice flash back to a time passed when we had to hope for a film like this to see anything similar.

Worth a look.

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