Today, December 1st, This Day in Twilight Zone History celebrates the 1961 debut of "The Jungle."
John Dehner, who we previously honored on his birthday last month, stars as Alan Richards, a civil engineer who has just returned from Africa and a hydro-electric project that has run afoul of a native curse. Unable to convince his disbelieving boss to halt the project that has violated sacred native lands, Richards heads home, only to confront supernatural forces in the city that scare the living daylights out of him.
Well-traveled writer Charles Beaumont was the master of the macabre. Next to Serling, he was the most prolific writer on the TZ team. Long before concerns for the environment became a front page issue, Serling and Beaumont were creating stories that began to shatter the illusion that big business was society's best friend, and that all progress – technological and economic – was beneficial.
In the case of "The Jungle," Beaumont was perhaps inspired by all the Tarzan movies of the 1930s and 1940s – films that began to wonder if marching into pristine native lands and setting up cities, factories, dams and air strips wasn't the best idea – especially for the natives. Beaumont just threw in the supernatural element, which turns what appears to be a practically deserted New York City into a cacophony of sound and jungle terror that Alan Richards must navigate to reach the sanctuary of his apartment.
Kudos to director William F. Claxton for turning the Asphalt Jungle into a real jungle of terror and let's hoist some high-potency jungle juice to John Dehner for hitting this one out of the park.