Director: William Claxton
Writer: Charles Beaumont
Cast: John Dehner, Walter Brooke, Jay Adler, Emily McLaughlin, Hugh Sanders, Howard Wright, Donald Foster, and Jay Overholts
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 12/1/1961
Production Code: 4806
Returning from Africa after being cursed by a local witch doctor, Doris Richards (Emily McLaughlin) insists that her husband Alan (John Dehner) wear a protective amulet to ward off evil spirits. In spite of his dismissive attitude, Alan soon discovers that a savage beast is awaiting him in the concrete jungle of New York City.
A unique season-three installment, “The Jungle” will likely appeal to fans of Cat People—a cult horror classic directed by Jacques Tourneur. Enthusiasts of The Twilight Zone, on the other hand, may feel disappointed by this episode, which fails to generate an absorbing layer of suspense to complement its main narrative conflict (i.e. an upper-class, well-educated businessman falling prey to the superstitions of a primitive African tribe).
Having exemplified the subtle paranoia of a man unable to shake the feeling of being hunted, John Dehner (whom viewers of The Twilight Zone will recognize from season one’s “The Lonely” and season five’s “Mr. Garrity and the Graves”) deserves praise for his portrayal of Alan Richards—a villain protagonist with sympathetic qualities.
Despite offering an imaginative twist on the voodoo curse trope, this episode lacks the creepy, atmospheric tension that would be expected of a scenario in which one or more characters are stalked, taunted, and attacked by a wild animal. Specifically, the jungle noises—though initially spooky and unnerving—grow exceedingly repetitive over the course of Alan’s late-night stroll, eventually resulting in a tedious outcome.
“The Jungle” should also be criticized for its twist ending, which, in addition to being somewhat predictable, is never explained from a logical or remotely plausible standpoint—an aspect that may confuse and annoy the audience, even when accounting for suspension of disbelief.
Possibly intended as a commentary on colonialism, “The Jungle” explores the folly of those who disrespect or look down upon the long-established beliefs, practices, and traditions of various cultures around the world.
“The Jungle” is a poorly paced, underwhelming entry of The Twilight Zone. This episode should, however, be noted for the performance of Dehner, the gravitas of whom adds a hint of realism and seriousness to the bizarre, fantastic premise of Charles Beaumont.
Overall Quality: 3/10
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