Disparate characters arrive for a flight to Rio, including what sounds like the beginning of a joke (a nun, an actress, and a business man). Also along for the ride, a foppish rock band and Terror in the Jungle’s de facto star, young Henry, a kid in a red blazer with a stuffed tiger under his arm, who is led onto the tarmac by pops for his first flight. And what a flight.
When the plane runs into mechanical difficulties, the pilots decide to dump luggage, an interesting strategy as commercial airlines have pressurized luggage compartments that cannot be opened. Here though, it includes the luggage stored in the overhead bins. How this gambit would affect the overall drag is anyone’s guess, but this was 1967. Was it worth having one of the nuns sucked out the door? Probably not.
The plane emergency lands in the Amazon jungles of Peru — nothing too strange about that — but what was strange is that the entire film’s credits rolled at the beginning, including catering, drivers, grips, etc and then 10 minutes into the film, a crawler thanks the government of Peru for making it all possible!
Henry survives (he’s one of the lucky ones) and floats down river in a blue boat (where this boat came from, anyone’s guess). Local rescuers in a float-plane, descend into the jungle, and…they’re set upon by sun-worshiping Inca descendants with blow-guns!
Young Henry spends the bulk of his time crying. Fair enough, he’s 7. This is interrupted briefly when the natives begin treating the blonde youngster like a god, bestowing offerings and having village girls give him ablutions. Village elders decide whether to sacrifice the boy when the weather proves overcast for several days.
Meanwhile, there are unconvincing cutaways to a slew of rain forest fauna, including jaguars, anacondas and crocodiles. All the while, poor little Henry bawls his little eyes out while Catholic missionaries, rescue parties and his dad finally track him down.
You can likely draw a line between Terror in the Jungle and the mondo genre and later Italian cannibal flicks. True, there’s no actual cannibalism depicted here (after all, it was 1967), but there were rumors spread on that ill-fated flight and the Peruvian natives do sport Marky Ramone coifs, a la Dr Butcher MD and some of the later cannibal exploitation films.
A truly oddball film, Terror in the Jungle never explains what happens to the people on board the plane who weren’t named Henry. Good for several laughs.
*** (out of 5)