The Pink Jungle | Sunday Observer
Retro reviews: Cinema of yesteryear

The Pink Jungle

20 December, 2020

Directed by Delbert Mann, with James Garner and Eva Renzi in the lead roles, ‘The Pink Jungle’ is an adventure movie released in 1968 with a dose of comedy that moves at a pace that is neither an outright gallop nor an amble, as a fashion photographer from New York who arrives in a remote South American village to shoot photos for a lipstick ad campaign featuring a top blond model, turns into a series of dramatic events that forces the two Americans from the US fashion industry into being business partners with a surly burly South African soldier of fortune determined to mount a mule pack expedition to find vast untold riches in the form of diamonds, deep in the arid outback of South America!

Ad campaign

The story begins as fashion photographer Ben Morris, played by Garner, arrives in ‘Guadagil’ a small and remote South American town which has its police and immigration authorities suspecting Ben of being a CIA agent and doubted as actually arriving for a fashion photography job. While Ben’s luggage is being meticulously searched and damaged by the local authorities, top fashion model Alison Duquesne, played by Eva Renzi, who is to be photographed for the ad campaign to promote a new brand of lipstick, one of which is called ‘Pink Jungle’, arrives by helicopter escorted by an official from the country’s Tourist Board, named Raul Ortega, played by Michael Ansara.

But before the helicopter pilot can get back in his seat after helping his passengers unload, an armed man appears out of nowhere and climbs into the cockpit of the copter and fearlessly fires at the policemen who try to stop him. The quick action of the hijacker proves successful as he takes off with the helicopter.

The bizarre and violent incident is only the tip of the iceberg for Ben and Alison as they discover the quirky and murky melange of characters who await them after they check into a ramshackle hospitality establishment, which is understood to be the best hotel in town, and thereafter, out of sheer boredom, set off in an old hired car, that evidently operates as the town’s only taxi, to the nearest city to find some entertainment.

Helicopter crash

En route Ben and Alison are stopped at gunpoint by a man who turns out to be the helicopter hijacker who needs a ride from them to the city as the helicopter had crashed, and he is without means of transportation.

This opens the road to what seems like a typical scam to Ben and Alison as the hijacker, who reveals his name as Sammy Ryderbeit, says that he is looking for financiering for an expedition deep into the outback of the country to a location abundant with diamonds, which is unknown to the Government, but reachable due to a map that is in possession of Sammy’s business partner, a former British military officer named Captain Stopes who lives in the city.

Ben and Alison find the story an elaborate tale spun to con them out of 2,000 dollars since the offer of half the share in the diamonds found from the expedition is to be theirs as business partners in the adventurous enterprise. An offer that seems just too good to be true!

However, the truth turns out to be stranger than fiction as Ben and Alison soon find themselves caught up in the chaos arising between rivals competing for the ‘treasure map’ who murder Captain Stopes the very night he meets Ben and Alison.

The local police believe that Ben and Alison are involved in Stope’s death. It turns out that Raul Ortega has a sinister hand in the violence that is taking place as he is anything but an official of the Tourist Board!

On the run from the authorities, Ben and Alison see no choice but to take the option of funding Sammy’s expedition to the diamond region and thereafter, flee across the border, as suggested by Sammy. And thus Ben and Alison ‘saddle up’ for what turns out to be an adventure into the arid barren outback of South America that unfolds humour, betrayal and romance.

The array of events reveals that Ortega has a small station set up at the location of the diamond source, was involved in the mining and smuggling of diamonds and is wanted by the authorities for leading a rebel movement trying to overthrow the Government.

Dishonourable conduct

After a gunfight that leads to the death of Ortega’s men at the hands of Ben and Sammy and Ortega being taken captive, the adventurous trio return to the small town with the immigration station, in the helicopter which was being operated by Ortega’s men.

With a knapsack full of the diamonds that were collected by Ortega’s men, Sammy who is piloting the helicopter fantasises with Ben and Alison of the riches they will have once they sell the diamond load in their possession. However, when they land, Sammy who remains in the pilot’s seat as Ben and Alison disembark along with Ortega who is bound and held captive, takes off with the whole stash of diamonds and cheats his companions out of their share of the treasure.

Although Alison is distraught by the devious and dishonourable conduct of Sammy, Ben takes it in his stride.

The head of the local police authority manning the immigration station recognises Ortega and thanks Ben for having brought him in to their custody. No longer does the officer suspect Ben of being a subversive CIA agent and thanks him profusely and offers to put Ben and Alison in very comfortable lodgings until the next flight out of the country arrives, which is in a week!

The final moments show Ben discreetly moving towards a secluded area in the vicinity and pulling out a transmitter aerial from his camera and communicating a message to the US intelligence authorities about Ortega’s capture and that the threat posed by his movement to the Government has been neutralised.

Ben reveals to the audience that he was in fact a secret US agent operating undercover all along. Despite losing the fortune in diamonds, he is happy that he has completed his mission and found a blossoming romance with Alison.