The Emerald Forest (1985) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Brainscan
|The Robbins Recipe: The Searchers
meets Bridge on the River Kwai. That's a complicated
reference. I'll have to explain it gradually.
John Ford's classic The Searchers comes into play immediately. The Searchers (Spielberg's favorite movie, and rated in the all-time top 100 by IMDb users) was about the encroachment of the new ways upon the vanishing American frontier, and centered around the kidnapping of a white girl who was raised by the Comanches, the long search for her, and her immersion into Comanche culture. The Emerald Forest is about the encroachment of our modern world upon the vanishing Amazon rainforest, and centers around the kidnapping of a white boy by an indigenous Indian tribe, the long search for him, and his immersion into the indigenous culture.
|Powers Boothe plays an American engineer who is in Brazil for a multiple-year assignment to build a dam at the edge of the wilderness. Shortly after he arrives, his son is stolen into the vast rainforest, and he searches for the boy for ten years, with only a single clue in the form of a feathered arrow left behind by the tribe. He learns multiple native dialects and learns wilderness survival in order to continue the quest on his own when necessary. (In The Searchers, John Wayne learned the way of the Comanche, and could speak their tongue). He finally comes close when one person is able to identify his clue as the work of the so-called Invisible Tribe.||
for Tommy is only the set-up. The real story starts when
he finds Tommy, and realizes that his boy, now a man,
can't come back to the civilized world. So he returns,
reluctantly, without his son, after the tribe makes him
an honorary member. The story then picks up Tommy's life
with the Invisible Tribe. The tribe has been living
peacefully and undisturbed in the rainforest since the
dawn of memory, but their lifestyle is being altered by
So you see that the story is filled with fairly heavy-handed connections. All of the father's unhappiness centers around losing Tommy and Tommy's subsequent misery, but all of Tommy's misery, from his original kidnapping to the fate of his peaceful tribe, is directly caused by his own father's actions. Even the father's attempts to help had unfortunate consequences.
Tommy and the few remaining members of his tribe are too weak and primitive to recapture their women from the brothel guarded by the Fierce Ones and the Evil White Guys with "fire lances", so Tommy rows a canoe to the city, scales a high-rise like a tree, and asks his father for help. Together they stage a raid on the brothel, rescue the women, have a farewell chat, and Tommy disappears back into the jungle.
Ah, yes, I need to explain my reference to The Bridge on the River Kwai. Tommy's dad then drives back to the dam that he spent ten years constructing, plants a massive bomb in it, orders it evacuated during a dangerous flood, and ...........
... and I think you know the rest. (well, not exactly, but close enough)
In addition to the basic story line, the appeal of the movie lies in two things:
|Is it a good movie? Yes
and no. There is a lot of heavy-handed symbolism, not
only in the items I discussed above, but also in the
connection between the indigenous tribes and nature. They can see with the eyes of the frickin' hawk, and swim
like the frickin' fish, and have the courage of the
frickin' jaguar. A little bit of that goes a long way
with me, but the script used and re-used a lot of it. In
addition to the pretentiousness of the conceit, it
irritates by slowing down an already convoluted and
excessively ambitious story.
But there's a lot of mythic power on display as well, and I enjoyed watching the film for its strengths, while my mind glossed over the weaknesses. Boorman (Deliverance, Excalibur) directed, he loves big mythical themes, and he does them better than most people.
Boorman's own son played the lead (Tommy). he did a good job, and has continued to work as an actor, but never got a lead this big again, and probably was never as effective again as he was here.
Brainscan's comments in yellow:
My big bro, who has a decade on me, describes a National Geographic magazine that arrived one day when he was twelve. That issue had a big photo story about Micronesia, which in the 60's had yet to go entirely Western in dress and customs. That means the women walked around topless. Real babes, too, or so he remembers. Not so much an idyllic lifestyle to his adolescent mind, but an ideal one... no work, lots of babes, all of them topless.
John Boorman must have seen the same magazine because he filmed it. Oh, sure, he moved it to Brazil and all, but he made a movie about Western encroachment into an ideal society. Lots of babes, all of them topless.
And young, too. Only one old fart in the whole movie and he was the chief. Even his wife was a MILF. Nobody else over the age of 30, so far as I could see. This was National Geographic meets Logan's Run, because sure as shootin' something was killing off the natives as they reached what we would regard as early adulthood.
So the Westerners encroach and the noble savages, who spend most of their time frolicking around something resembling the Clampett's See-ment pond, fight back mystically... and all is made right.
I'm not siding with the Halliburton crowd, who would burn down the Amazon rain forest for a few more bucks in their pockets, but the story ought to be told as something other than a fairytale where all virtue resides with the savage and none resides with the civilized.
But then there are the babes and their delightfully natural nekkidness.
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