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  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
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  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo

    The Emerald Forest

    Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 109 mins . M15+ . PAL


    John Boorman has always received mixed reactions to his films. He puts a lot of himself into them, often recruiting family members for roles, and manages to both inflame and annoy audiences. Excalibur, the adaptation of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, received the broadest spectrum of audience opinion, while Deliverence is one of the most widely recognised films ever made, even by people who have never seen the thing. (And we all know why).

    Here he tells the story of Tommy, a small boy stolen from his white parents and raised by tribesfolk of The Invisible People in the jungles of South America. For ten years his father, Bill Markham, searches the jungles on his time off from engineering a massive dam that will flood the river of one section of the forest to power white folk’s homes. On one trip he enters the forest with a reporter and stumbles upon The Fierce People, a tribe untethered by the encroaching dam development. He narrowly escapes with his life and is discovered by Tommy (now, Tom-Meh) quite by chance. He recuperates amongst The Invisible People, discovering Tom-Meh was raised by the chief and is in line for the throne, as it were.

    This white man, an engineer intent on destroying the forest with the dam, now learns the ways of the natives and comes to learn a thing or two about himself and the white people and how far removed they are from nature. When the uprooted Fierce People attack, coincidentally while Bill is being returned to civilisation, they steal all the young women (including Tom-Meh’s wife) for slavery in a brothel operated by unscrupulous types who trade for modern guns and alcohol. Realising they need Bill’s help to navigate the white world, Tom-Meh makes a pilgrimage through the city to find him and get his tribe’s women back.

    I loved this film when I was 15, though it may well have been for the numerous bare-chested women running around the jungle. I did love the idea though of retreating to the wilds and getting all primal again. However, watching The Emerald Forest as an adult there seemed to be just a little bit too much ham-fisting in delivering the moral(s) of the story. Plus, the final moments of the film are just a little bit too unrealistic and taint what is otherwise a nice telling of tribal life in the ever-waning rainforests of South America.

    Still, the rest of the film is worth the trip and if one can ignore the ignominious ending, there is a fairly decent story here, which is in fact, based on real events (except the ending methinks).


    While we are delivered a massive 2.35:1 aspect ratio here, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of it being utilised by Boorman. I’d think there’d be multiple chances to make full use of the immense landscape of the South American setting, and while we do get occasional sunsets over the hills or wide hillside vistas they aren’t exactly shot in their best light, as it were. A wasted opportunity there. However, the transfer is still quite good and looks for the most part fairly artefact-free and is still ably shot. Colours are firmly entrenched in the cool palette and earth tones and this naturally suits the film.

    Flesh tones (so many) are all natural and capture the coffee colour of the native South Americans well while shadow detail fluctuates between very good and very murky in some of the deeper night shots or shots lit only by fires. Occasionally the deeper blacks get a little bit green as well, though this is a rarity and only pops up once or twice. At 88:30 there’s a film burn followed by a series of vertical white scratches that resemble falling rain, but this is the only real noteworthy damage to the original stock.


    Of course an older budget release gets itself a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, but this is more than adequate for the film. Dialogue in the jungle is mostly the native tongue of The Invisible People but is subtitled well enough. There is a strange subtitle issue though that appear at 15:03. For some reason a line appears on screen even though subtitles are disabled and the original line is in English. Weird.

    Music is scored by Junior Homrich and Brian Gascoigne and this fits the film well in a mystical, almost precursor to The X-Files sort of way. However, it also plants the film knee-deep in the ‘80s but in a pretty good way, not a Flock of Seagulls way.


    Sadly the extras here are among The Invisible People and won’t appear anywhere. This is a shame and another missed opportunity, this time for Universal.


    This is an interesting and different telling of a theme that has been done before (Tarzan, for one, The Jungle Book for another) but holds unique interest as it is based on a true story. I found revisiting this film many, many years later was enjoyable and even with the benefit of adulthood and hindsight, didn’t find much wanting in the memory (but for that ever-lamented ending).

    Well worth the look for anyone wanting a different action story that takes its time and delivers its unmissable point a little too obviously. And people who wanna look at scantily clad natives.

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      And I quote...
    "An unusual story (based on true events) that delivers a message still more than necessary today, if done so a teeny bit clunkily. "
    - Jules Faber
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