The Naked Jungle

The Naked Jungle is a 1954 film directed by Byron Haskin, and starring Charlton Heston and Eleanor Parker. Telling the story of an attack of army ants on a Brazilian cocoa plantation, it was based on the 1937 short story "Leiningen Versus the Ants" by Carl Stephenson.[2]

The Naked Jungle
Promotional film poster
Directed byByron Haskin
Produced byGeorge Pal
Screenplay byRanald MacDougall
Ben Maddow
Philip Yordan
Based onLeiningen Versus the Ants by Carl Stephenson
StarringEleanor Parker
Charlton Heston
Abraham Sofaer
William Conrad
Music byDaniele Amfitheatrof
CinematographyErnest Laszlo
Edited byEverett Douglas
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • March 3, 1954 (1954-03-03)
Running time
95 min.
CountryUnited States
Box office$2.3 million (US)[1]

It is noteworthy for its use of special effects, especially the time-lapse photography, which was a hallmark of George Pal, and is often said to have been overlooked that year in the Oscar for Special Effects. However, in the context of the film, it is largely an unconventional romance, and whilst the special effects are impressive they are confined to the final scenes of the film.[3]


Set in 1901, Joanna (Eleanor Parker) arrives from New Orleans at a South American cocoa plantation to meet her new husband, plantation owner Christopher Leiningen (Charlton Heston). This has been arranged by his brother in New Orleans, with whom she has had some form of relationship. Not only is Leiningen unhappy about getting his brother's "hand-me-downs" he is even more upset that she is a widow, as he wished to marry a virgin. She tells him a piano plays better if it has already been played.

Leiningen is cold and remote to her, rebuffing all her attempts to make friends with him. She is beautiful, independent, and arrives ready to be his stalwart helpmate. There is a strong sexual tension, which appears hard to resolve.

He mocks her lack of understanding of the native ways and takes every opportunity to belittle her. Although there is a mutual softening she resolves to leave him and return to America. Leiningen decides to advance this plan by a month when he hears from the local commissioner of a potential attack by an army of ants, as he does not wish her to be harmed.

As she awaits the boat to take her back to the United States, they learn that legions of army ants - the "marabunta" - will strike in a few days' time. Leiningen refuses to give up the home he fought so hard to create. Instead of evacuating, he resolves to make a stand against this indomitable natural predator. The ants take several days to arrive and during that time their joint effort brings them closer and love begins to blossom. Joanna joins the fight to save the plantation.

Leiningen's most drastic action is blowing up a timber dam to flood his own estate, washing the ants away.



The screenplay was co-written by Ranald MacDougall and the blacklisted writer Ben Maddow. The film was produced in Technicolor by George Pal, who also made The War of the Worlds, Tom Thumb, and The Time Machine.

William Conrad, who had starred as Leiningen in adaptations of Stephenson's story for the radio programs Escape and Suspense, appears in the film as a district commissioner.[4]

The unique "sound" of the ants devouring everything in their path was created by swirling a straw in a glass of water with crushed ice, which was then amplified. Much of the Rio Negro (Amazon) jungle riverscape, as well as the bridge dynamiting and sluice scenes, are second-unit stock footage shot in Florahome, Florida, according to IMDb.


The film was adapted for radio on the June 7, 1954 broadcast of the Lux Radio Theatre; Charlton Heston reprised his role as "Leiningen" and Donna Reed played "Joanna".

A scene from the film was used in the 1971 film The Hellstrom Chronicle.

The film strongly influenced the 1985 MacGyver episode "Trumbo's World", which also featured clips from the film.


In 1970, it aired on WVUE-TV in New Orleans, Louisiana, as part of its highly publicized switch of channel positions with that city's PBS member station, WYES-TV.[5]


  1. "1954 Boxoffice Champs". Variety. January 5, 1955. p. 59. Retrieved June 28, 2019 via
  2. Crowther, Bosley (3 April 1954). "Bosley Crowther review". The New York Times Company. Archived from the original on 7 July 2013. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  4. "Escape-Leiningen Versus the Ants". 22 April 2017. Archived from the original on 11 November 2012. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  5. "WVUE Channel 8 News Collection". Earl K. Long Library. University of New Orleans. June 2005. Archived from the original on 2 March 2016. Retrieved 22 February 2016.

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