APPOINTMENT IN HONDURAS works, to the degree it does, thanks to the cast, and a few touches from director Jacques Tourneur. Otherwise, the plot’s a joke, the special effects are shoddy and the obvious studio sets yell falso! Given the sordid history of US-Honduran relations, the mission mechanism that propels the story is a pretty rich load of rancid fruit. *
Central America, 1910. American rogue ‘Jim Corbett’ (Glenn Ford) jumps a steamer with the help of Nicaragua-bound convicts and leads them through the jungle on a trek whose true purpose he keeps secret. In tow are a hijacked couple, sultry and snappish ‘Sylvia Sheppard’ (Ann Sheridan) and her scurrilous husband ‘Harry’ (Zachary Scott).
While rugged Jim and flushed Sylvia (the makeup folk laid on with sexy perspiration) strike sparks, her rat hubby makes trouble, to go along with all the climate can offer, including “tiger fish,” (saying piranha would confuse people?), snakes, biting ants erupting out of their hive, a cloud swarm of some stinging insects, crocodiles, Ford getting malaria (and getting over it in record time), armed rebels, government troops.
Written by Karen De Wolf, the deeper they go, the more ridiculous it gets, including several characters referring to ‘going into’ or ‘staying out of’ “the jungle”, when they are completely surrounded by it. The “tiger fish” are a neat entry, but the insect swarms are terribly contrived by the special effects department. Obvious tramping through the foliage was accomplished by shooting some of the action in the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden.
Ford plays in standard gruff & surly mode, Scott hams it up like an amateur. As ever Sheridan is excellent, giving the dorky material some class. Better than the three stars is the redoubtable Rodolfo Acosta, as the leader of the convicts: his character has more color and depth than anyone else and Acosta clearly relishes the part (he also made a great bad guy that year in Hondo). There’s a pretty decent storm sequence.
A box-office take of $2,400,000 lodged it 147th for ’53. With Ric Roman, Jack Elam (using a Spanish accent), Stanley Andrews, Stuart Whitman. 79 minutes.
* Effectively run by American-owned United Fruit company, the country was the original inspiration for the term “banana republic”. The US “helped” with troops in 1903, 1907, 1911, 1912, 1919, 1924, and 1925. So the idea of Ford’s character assisting the ‘government’ of Honduras is ripe, particularly odious given that just a year later, the C.I.A. coup in Guatemala crushed democracy, ensuring dictatorship and hundreds of thousands of murders.
Speaking of involvement in international affairs—a few years later Acosta’s wife accused him of adultery, and for sharing an apartment in Mexico City with Sheridan, starting when they made this movie. So someone got more than a paycheck out of it.
Grappling in the plants—the working title was originally ‘Jungle Fury’. That makes sense given the year’s prime crop of vine & critter sagas: Mogambo, Elephant Walk, East Of Sumatra, White Witch Doctor, Seminole, Tropic Zone, and lest we forget, Tarzan and the She-Devil and two forays with Jungle Jim, Valley Of Head Hunters and Killer Ape.
Karen De Wolf wrote more than 50 scripts (many Blondie items among them), and also went by the name Gypsy Wells. She was born with the less-showbizzy handle Muriel Valentine Quack. Despite an empire-serving saga like this jungle item Muriel/Gypsy/Karen was blacklisted after writing Silver Lode, a western that had a blacklist parallel to it, even the bad guy’s name—‘McCarty’.