06 April, 2008

JUNGLE OF FEAR (1993 Workprint)

Edgar Allan Poe haunted by the spectre of the golden beetle.

The Austrian born William Berger, before his famous drug bust, in a shot from Mario Bava's FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON (1970). He would go on to appear in a number of Jess Franco films over the next twenty three years until his death in 1993. He fell ill on the set of JUNGLE OF FEAR and died shortly afterwards in Los Angeles.

Jess Franco has adapted Edgar Allan Poe's THE GOLD BUG more than once, most curiously as a kind of Family Film with kung fu action in a tropical setting with 1983's EN BUSCA DEL DRAGON DORADO, a rather bizarre and interesting Golden Films Internacional obscurity featuring children in the lead roles.

In the early 1990's, after the disastrous reception of Franco's edit of Orson Welles' DON QUIXOTE* project, he filmed another version in Spain with the late William Berger (KEOMA; JUEGO SUCIO EN CASABLANCA) in what was probably his last film role before his death in October 1993. In fact, Berger looks quite ill in the 125m workprint which I have seen. He plays the hunchback Dr. Quasimodo, who leads the expidition on the final leg of the search for the domain of the golden beetle.

I now have the JUNGLE OF FEAR video clip circulating on YouTube up on my CINEMADROME board. Of course, the timecoded workprint doesn't have the title JUNGLE OF FEAR on the footage since there are no credits. There is also no effects or music tracks. Only a poor quality, heavily accented English language track, which was presumably a guide track recorded with pick-up on-set microphones, and some minimal sound effects are present on the workprint. Franco has talked of completing the project and shooting additional scenes, but at this stage that's unlikely to happen.

The mountains of the South Asian country are covered with dense rainforest. A cobra (a crude mock-up), scorpions and other jungle creatures infest the jungle floor as Machado (Antonio Mayans) cuts his way through the undergrowth toward a gold mine in the style of Indiana Jones. Suddenly, the giant bettle flies out of the hidden cave and attacks the neck of one of the adventurers, turning gold when satiated with blood. So begins JUNGLE OF FEAR.

Besides Berger and Mayans the only other familiar face is Lina Romay who appears as an editor employed by a video producer who leads an expidition around the world in search of the valued bug, a crystal skull and a fortune in gold. Several other groups, including a team of thugs led by dominatrix, are also on the trail. The remainder of the cast is made of expatriate US actors who were working in Spain at the time and an amusing cameo by Uncle Jess himself who appears as a local guide who introduces himself with "Me famous... like Michael Jackson."

Given the poor video quality and lack of complete soundtracks it's still a fascinating artifact. Franco uses what seems like miles of stock footage to represent various South Asian and Far Eastern locations, which is intercut with the improbable adventures of the protagonists. It's all in the spirit of those 1930s and 40s Hollywood Jungle serials. There is an attempt at some humor but it's more unintentionally funny than the ill-timed jokes in this cut. There are numerous missing reaction shots, blown takes, slates and scenes which are incomplete.

A grade Z attempt to replicate INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM. I mean that as a compliment!

Click on the CINEMADROME link at the top of the sidebar at left to view the video clip.

Thanks to Francesco Cesari.

An excerpt from the Poe Story:

by Edgar Allan Poe (1843)
What ho! what ho! this fellow is dancing mad!
He hath been bitten by the Tarantula.
All in the Wrong.

MANY years ago, I contracted an intimacy with a Mr. William Legrand. He was of an ancient Huguenot family, and had once been wealthy; but a series of misfortunes had reduced him to want. To avoid the mortification consequent upon his disasters, he left New Orleans, the city of his forefathers, and took up his residence at Sullivan's Island, near Charleston, South Carolina.

This Island is a very singular one. It consists of little else than the sea sand, and is about three miles long. Its breadth at no point exceeds a quarter of a mile. It is separated from the main land by a scarcely perceptible creek, oozing its way through a wilderness of reeds and slime, a favorite resort of the marsh-hen. The vegetation, as might be supposed, is scant, or at least dwarfish. No trees of any magnitude are to be seen. Near the western extremity, where Fort Moultrie stands, and where are some miserable frame buildings, tenanted, during summer, by the fugitives from Charleston dust and fever, may be found, indeed, the bristly palmetto; but the whole island, with the exception of this western point, and a line of hard, white beach on the seacoast, is covered with a dense undergrowth of the sweet myrtle, so much prized by the horticulturists of England. The shrub here often attains the height of fifteen or twenty feet, and forms an almost impenetrable coppice, burthening the air with its fragrance.

In the inmost recesses of this coppice, not far from the eastern or more remote end of the island, Legrand had built himself a small hut, which he occupied when I first, by mere accident, made his acquaintance. This soon ripened into friendship --for there was much in the recluse to excite interest and esteem. I found him well educated, with unusual powers of mind, but infected with misanthropy, and subject to perverse moods of alternate enthusiasm and melancholy. He had with him many books, but rarely employed them. His chief amusements were gunning and fishing, or sauntering along the beach and through the myrtles, in quest of shells or entomological specimens;-his collection of the latter might have been envied by a Swammerdamm. In these excursions he was usually accompanied by an old negro, called Jupiter, who had been manumitted before the reverses of the family, but who could be induced, neither by threats nor by promises, to abandon what he considered his right of attendance upon the footsteps of his young "Massa Will." It is not improbable that the relatives of Legrand, conceiving him to be somewhat unsettled in intellect, had contrived to instil this obstinacy into Jupiter, with a view to the supervision and guardianship of the wanderer.

The winters in the latitude of Sullivan's Island are seldom very severe, and in the fall of the year it is a rare event indeed when a fire is considered necessary. About the middle of October, 18--, there occurred, however, a day of remarkable chilliness. Just before sunset I scrambled my way through the evergreens to the hut of my friend, whom I had not visited for several weeks --my residence being, at that time, in Charleston, a distance of nine my miles from the Island, while the facilities of passage and re-passage were very far behind those of the present day. Upon reaching the hut I rapped, as was my custom, and getting no reply, sought for the key where I knew it was secreted, unlocked the door and went in. A fine fire was blazing upon the hearth. It was a novelty, and by no means an ungrateful one. I threw off an overcoat, took an arm-chair by the crackling logs, and awaited patiently the arrival of my hosts.

Soon after dark they arrived, and gave me a most cordial welcome. Jupiter, grinning from ear to ear, bustled about to prepare some marsh-hens for supper. Legrand was in one of his fits --how else shall I term them? --of enthusiasm. He had found an unknown bivalve, forming a new genus, and, more than this, he had hunted down and secured, with Jupiter's assistance, a scarabaeus which he believed to be totally new, but in respect to which he wished to have my opinion on the morrow.

"And why not to-night?" I asked, rubbing my hands over the blaze, and wishing the whole tribe of scarabaei at the devil.

"Ah, if I had only known you were here!" said Legrand, "but it's so long since I saw you; and how could I foresee that you would pay me a visit this very night of all others? As I was coming home I met Lieutenant G--, from the fort, and, very foolishly, I lent him the bug; so it will be impossible for you to see it until morning. Stay here to-night, and I will send Jup down for it at sunrise. It is the loveliest thing in creation!"

"What? --sunrise?"

"Nonsense! no! --the bug. It is of a brilliant gold color --about the size of a large hickory-nut --with two jet black spots near one extremity of the back, and another, somewhat longer, at the other. The antennae are --"

"Dey aint no tin in him, Massa Will, I keep a tellin on you," here interrupted Jupiter; "de bug is a goole bug, solid, ebery bit of him, inside and all, sep him wing --neber feel half so hebby a bug in my life."

"Well, suppose it is, Jup," replied Legrand, somewhat more earnestly, it seemed to me, than the case demanded, "is that any reason for your letting the birds burn? The color" --here he turned to me --"is really almost enough to warrant Jupiter's idea. You never saw a more brilliant metallic lustre than the scales emit --but of this you cannot judge till tomorrow. In the mean time I can give you some idea of the shape." Saying this, he seated himself at a small table, on which were a pen and ink, but no paper. He looked for some in a drawer, but found none.

"Never mind," said he at length, "this will answer"; and he drew from his waistcoat pocket a scrap of what I took to be very dirty foolscap, and made upon it a rough drawing with the pen. While he did this, I retained my seat by the fire, for I was still chilly. When the design was complete, he handed it to me without rising. As I received it, a loud growl was heard, succeeded by a scratching at the door. Jupiter opened it, and a large Newfoundland, belonging to Legrand, rushed in, leaped upon my shoulders, and loaded me with caresses; for I had shown him much attention during previous visits. When his gambols were over, I looked at the paper, and, to speak the truth, found myself not a little puzzled at what my friend had depicted.

"Well!" I said, after contemplating it for some minutes, "this is a strange scarabaeus, I must confess: new to me: never saw anything like it before --unless it was a skull, or a death's-head --which it more nearly resembles than anything else that has come under my observation."

"A death's-head!" echoed Legrand --"Oh --yes --well, it has something of that appearance upon paper, no doubt. The two upper black spots look like eyes, eh? and the longer one at the bottom like a mouth --and then the shape of the whole is oval."

"Perhaps so," said I; "but, Legrand, I fear you are no artist. I must wait until I see the beetle itself, if I am to form any idea of its personal appearance."

"Well, I don't know," said he, a little nettled, "I draw tolerably --should do it at least --have had good masters, and flatter myself that I am not quite a blockhead."

"But, my dear fellow, you are joking then," said I, "this is a very passable skull --indeed, I may say that it is a very excellent skull, according to the vulgar notions about such specimens of physiology --and your scarabaeus must be the queerest scarabaeus in the world if it resembles it. Why, we may get up a very thrilling bit of superstition upon this hint. I presume you will call the bug scarabaeus caput hominis, or something of that kind --there are many titles in the Natural Histories. But where are the antennae you spoke of?"

"The antennae!" said Legrand, who seemed to be getting unaccountably warm upon the subject; "I am sure you must see the antennae. I made them as distinct as they are in the original insect, and I presume that is sufficient."

"Well, well," I said, "perhaps you have --still I don't see them;" and I handed him the paper without additional remark, not wishing to ruffle his temper; but I was much surprised at the turn affairs had taken; his ill humor puzzled me --and, as for the drawing of the beetle, there were positively no antennae visible, and the whole did bear a very close resemblance to the ordinary cuts of a death's-head.

He received the paper very peevishly, and was about to crumple it, apparently to throw it in the fire, when a casual glance at the design seemed suddenly to rivet his attention. In an instant his face grew violently red --in another as excessively pale. For some minutes he continued to scrutinize the drawing minutely where he sat. At length he arose, took a candle from the table, and proceeded to seat himself upon a sea-chest in the farthest corner of the room. Here again he made an anxious examination of the paper; turning it in all directions. He said nothing, however, and his conduct greatly astonished me; yet I thought it prudent not to exacerbate the growing moodiness of his temper by any comment. Presently he took from his coat pocket a wallet, placed the paper carefully in it, and deposited both in a writing-desk, which he locked. He now grew more composed in his demeanor; but his original air of enthusiasm had quite disappeared. Yet he seemed not so much sulky as abstracted. As the evening wore away he became more and more absorbed in reverie, from which no sallies of mine could arouse him. It had been my to pass the night at the hut, as I had frequently done before, but, seeing my host in this mood, I deemed it proper to take leave. He did not press me to remain, but, as I departed, he shook my hand with even more than his usual cordiality.

It was about a month after this (and during the interval I had seen nothing of Legrand) when I received a visit, at Charleston, from his man, Jupiter. I had never seen the good old negro look so dispirited, and I feared that some serious disaster had befallen my friend.

"Well, Jup," said I, "what is the matter now? --how is your master?"

"Why, to speak de troof, massa, him not so berry well as mought be."

"Not well! I am truly sorry to hear it. What does he complain of?"

Dar! dat's it! --him neber plain of notin --but him berry sick for all dat."

"Very sick, Jupiter! --why didn't you say so at once? Is he confined to bed?"

"No, dat he ain't! --he ain't find nowhar --dat's just whar de shoe pinch --my mind is got to be berry hebby bout poor Massa Will."

"Jupiter, I should like to understand what it is you are talking about. You say your master is sick. Hasn't he told you what ails him?"

"Why, massa, taint worf while for to git mad bout de matter --Massa Will say noffin at all ain't de matter wid him --but den what make him go about looking dis here way, wid he head down and he soldiers up, and as white as a gose? And den he keep a syphon all de time --"

"Keeps a what, Jupiter?"

"Keeps a syphon wid de figgurs on de slate --de queerest figgurs I ebber did see. Ise gittin to be skeered, I tell you. Hab for to keep mighty tight eye pon him noovers. Todder day he gib me slip fore de sun up and was gone de whole ob de blessed day. I had a big stick ready cut for to gib him d--d good beating when he did come --but Ise sich a fool dat I hadn't de heart arter all --he look so berry poorly."

"Eh? --what? --ah yes! --upon the whole I think you had better not be too severe with the poor fellow --don't flog him, Jupiter --he can't very well stand it --but can you form no idea of what has occasioned this illness, or rather this change of conduct? Has anything unpleasant happened since I saw you?"

"No, massa, dey ain't bin noffin onpleasant since den --'t was fore den I'm feared --'t was de berry day you was dare."

"How? what do you mean?"

"Why, massa, I mean de bug --dare now."

"The what?"

"De bug --I'm berry sartain dat Massa Will bin bit somewhere bout de head by dat goole-bug."

"And what cause have you, Jupiter, for such a supposition?"

"Claws enoff, massa, and mouff too. I nabber did see sich a d--d bug --he kick and he bite ebery ting what cum near him. Massa Will cotch him fuss, but had for to let him go gin mighty quick, I tell you --den was de time he must ha got de bite. I didn't like de look ob de bug mouff, myself, no how, so I wouldn't take hold ob him wid my finger, but I cotch him wid a piece ob paper dat I found. I rap him up in de paper and stuff piece ob it in he mouff --dat was de way."

"And you think, then, that your master was really bitten by the beetle, and that the bite made him sick?"

"I don't tink noffin about it --I nose it. What make him dream bout de goole so much, if tain't cause he bit by de goole-bug? Ise heerd bout dem goole-bugs fore dis."

"But how do you know he dreams about gold?"


Douglas Alan Waltz said...


Where do I get a copy of this???

David Zuzelo said...

Awesome post, thank you so much for clarifying. I know I need to sit down with this at some point. A Jess Franco workprint? A must see.

Robert Monell said...

Doug: I got this sent to me from Europe on a R2 DVD. Email me for further details: monell579@hotmail.com

Robert Monell said...

Hi David: I got the idea to finally watch this from your blog. Thanks.

Robert Monell said...

For a longer, more detailed alternate review you guys might want to check out an archived review I just put up on my CINEMADROME board on the Yuku Members section: JESS FRANCO ARCHIVE:2. www.cinemadrome.yuku.com/

Scott Mosley said...

Thanks for the info Robert. Living in the low-country of South Carolina myself, I've always thought the area, including the islands have a mystical allure. Poe really captures it in his tale.