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Steve Corbett (Glen Ford) is given a mission to find a former Honduras
president who was recently deposed in a result of a coup d'etat in order
give him money that will help him to come back to power. In order to do
he is made to join a group of prisoners who were being transported on a
boat, force the captain to take them to the shore and set them free,
as hostages an American couple (played by Ann Sheridan and Zachary Scott)
and embark on a dangerous journey through Central American jungle in order
to fulfill his mission whatever the cost.
Though the film has it's interesting moments, such as location shots of the jungle and it's inhabitants, the story is weak with uninteresting characters not managing to convince one to care for them. 5/10
It was with some interest that I read that Appointment in Honduras was
shot in the Los Angeles Botanical Gardens serving as the Central
American jungle. We should probably be grateful that RKO did spring for
color and did not use the old King Kong set once again.
I can see the minds at RKO now (read Howard Hughes). Rita Hayworth is Harry Cohn's main meal ticket at Columbia, no getting here, but we can probably get Glenn Ford's services. Since they were such a popular screen team, we can team Ford with another redhead and see if the public will buy it. Ann Sheridan was past her best days and she'd work cheap, so the team of Ford and Sheridan was sent to the tropics.
Central America was in the news at the time. The Central Intelligence Agency had a big hand in overthrowing the government in Guatemala of Jacobo Arbenz. Ford's role is rather unclear in this film. At the end he identifies himself as a planter, but I suspect he's probably got some CIA involvement.
The film opens with Ford on a tramp steamer off Central America. He's got a mission of some kind and HAS to get off there, but the captain won't stop. So Ford's got some bad choices to make. He frees some convicts headed by Rudolfo Acosta to help him get ashore. They in turn take quarreling couple, Zachary Scott and Ann Sheridan along as hostages. Acosta's idea, not Ford's.
After that it's a competition between the steamy jungle and the steamier romance heating up between Ford and Sheridan. The two of them do their best, but they're not Ford and Hayworth. It's definitely not Gilda, it's not even Affair in Trinidad.
Some nice color cinematography of the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens is the best thing about Appointment in Honduras. Maybe it might stimulate one to go there to see where a Thanksgiving beauty was shot.
This movie has an interesting plot. A wealthy couple is taken hostage and taken through the jungle of Honduras by bandits and Corben, a man that tries to set the group to his hand with promises and lies if necessary. They don't only have to fight the dangers of a jungle, but there's also a strong film noir element going on with the characters. They are all different and have all different plans with their future, but have to put up with each other to survive the jungle. It's a bit like how the characters in Ford's Stagecoach are played out against/for each other. The movie feels somewhat dated since it's so obvious it is recorded in studios, but like most Tourneurs, it's fine for a late rainy night at home. APPOINTMENT IN HONDURAS couldn't get my attention throughout the whole movie though, but I'll keep the video tape still. 5/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For a Glenn Ford junkie, which is easy for me to be with the films he
made in the late Forties and early Fifties, Appointment in Honduras is
a temptation hard to resist. Ford hadn't become a superstar yet. Most
of his movies during this period had decent budgets and solid co-stars.
A lot of them were adventures and westerns. Appointment in Honduras,
however, has a lot of clichés to overcome before you can decide if Ford
makes it worthwhile. In fact, next to Ford, the best thing about the
movie is Rodolfo Acosta who plays Reyes, a murdering bandito who has
charm and ruthlessness. Compared to Ford's stalwart integrity and firm-
jawed decisiveness, Acosta's cheerful lack of conscience makes the
Ford co-stars with Ann Sheridan and Zachary Scott. They re passengers on a tramp freighter carrying five prisoners to Nicaragua. Jim Corbett (Ford), a tough guy with more grease on his hair than your car needs for an oil change, frees the prisoners, takes over the ship and then lands on the coast. They'll head inland. They take fellow passengers Harry and Sylvia Sheppard (Scott and Sheridan) with them as hostages. Corbett is carrying a money belt stuffed with currency. As they start to hack their way through the jungle toward Guatemala, we learn Corbett is bringing the money to help overthrow a ruthless dictator. What he hasn't counted on is Reyes' determination to come out ahead, or that Harry Sheppard, weak, sleazy and sniveling, is rich enough to tempt the criminals. It doesn't help that Sylvia Sheppard didn't have time to pack when they left the ship. For most of the movie Ann Sheridan has only a nightgown, cut low, to wear. Corbett may avert his eyes, but Reyes enjoys the view.
The jungle is strictly back-lot make believe. One can almost see the potted banana plants being shifted around for each new scene. Every menace that every jungle movie ever had shows up...piranhas, pumas, crocodiles, an anaconda, biting ants, bats, malaria, and a cloud of what were either locusts or really sturdy mosquitoes. Ford's grim determination and Scott's sneering become tiresome. The emerging romance between Corbett and Sylvia is intriguing but unlikely, since after two days of sweating in the fetid jungle neither probably wants to stand downwind from the other, much less embrace.
But the movie has enough of Ford's underplaying to justify staying with it. Ann Sheridan, in my book one of the best of the Forties movie stars, doesn't have much to do except look worried. Sheridan's film career was just about over, but she still was a star who was sexy, good-humored, intelligent and warm-hearted. For those who also like this period in Ford's career, even if the movies weren't always very good, try Lust for Gold (1949), The White Tower (1950), The Secret of Convict Lake (1951), Affair in Trinidad (1952), The Green Glove (1954) and Plunder of the Sun (1953.
On board a tramp steamer sailing of the coast of South America is
Corbett a mysterious man trying to get to Honduras. However with a
revolution raging within its borders, the captain refuses to land
there. Desperate to get his package to the leaders of the
counter-revolution, Corbett frees some prisoners on the ship and takes
control. Drifting close enough to the coast to make it into the delta
and head up river, they take a rich American couple (the Sheppards)
along for the ride as hostages. However none of them are really
prepared for a jungle voyage that sees them face crocodiles, tiger
fish, ants, pumas and the Honduran military.
When I started this film I was a bit put off by the stiff tone but I didn't know anything about the Honduran revolution and thought it would be interesting. Very quickly I found that this backdrop was no more than the background for a fairly standard jungle adventure film that sees all the usual stuff bring rolled out in regards animal attacks etc. The story is not that interesting on the surface and I did find it hard to really get into even with such a short running time; however it did have some interesting aspects at times that it could (and should) have made more of. Chiefly the power battle between Corbett and Reyes is too obvious for the most part and could have been written with more subtlety and intelligence it produces some good stuff and a reasonable conclusion. The dynamics between Corbett and Harry Sheppard while Sylvia appears to long for the tough man over her own husband is very interesting but given too little time but still made me wake up every so often.
Unfortunately the film tends to shy away from this stuff in favour of more crowd-pleasing stuff with all the usual animal attacks. Wrestling with pumas and shooting at stock footage crocodiles is not great fun but I did draw breath at the stock footage of a crocodile being picked bare by tiger fish. The effects for ants and flies are terrible by modern standards and may get some laughs but none of it is really exciting. The cast do OK when given the chance with the material but mostly they are pretty average. Ford is nothing special and is mostly just tough jawed and nothing more. Acosta's Reyes is by the numbers and his crew match him. Sheridan and Scott are more interesting and their tense interplay is interesting sadly they are not the focus and they really could have bee better used than this.
Overall this is an average jungle adventure film with all the usual fare in a plot that doesn't really use its setting very well. The plot does allow some interesting stuff in the characters but these are not made the most of, leaving a film that is fairly enjoyable but is really nothing special and is certainly not comparable to the more famous films in the Jacques Tourneur back catalogue.
Glenn Ford is on a mission. He must get to Honduras at all costs. We get the feeling he's smuggling something or is a contact person for something going down. He's on a steamer with husband-and-wife passengers Zachary Scott and Ann Sheridan. Just why they're there, I forget. But of course, they get dragged into Glenn's mission as hostages, so they have to brave the elements, too. Stuart Whitman and Jack Elam costar in this colorful and exotic film about danger at every corner and in every swamp, with alligators, crocodiles, snakes, tiger fish abound. Don't get in Glenn's way or else, because he means business here! This does have a very campy feel to it, making the viewer feel that they're not to take things too seriously. I had a lot of fun just imagining that, as they are all battling through the brush and the rain on this island, they are really on a movie set! It also helps that Ann and Glenn are practically sweating on each other, even though Ann's married to Zachary. And, the shots of a jungle and the apparent on-location outdoors helps fit the mood. I see that the rating on this is on the poor side, but I've seen worse. If you happen to come across this and want some entertainment for 75 minutes, then this over-the-top film should fulfill your adventure fix with some good company. Just watch out for those tiger fish!
Bad script, bad editing, bad direction, bad film but great for fans of really bad movies with interesting casts: Glen Ford, still leading man quality; Zachary Scott with his usual smooth performance; and Ann Sheridan, the reason I bought the DVD, always worth watching even if her good roles were in the past. As they wandered through the jungle I kept wondering why they didn't just step off the set and go the commissary. Things I liked were the red-yellow color tones on the DVD I saw and the crude - scratching on film - special effects of the ants and the flying insects, whatever they were and it was interesting to see Stuart Whitman in a small role as the telegraph operator at the beginning and Jack Elam as one of the bad guys.
Since Tarzan went to Guatemala in 1935, Charlie Chan to Panamá in 1940 and Fox organized a "Carnival in Costa Rica" in 1947, I decided to watch Jacques Tourneur's "Appointment in Honduras", just to have a richer view of how Hollywood depicted Central America in the old days. Now they are a bit more exact, although the approach (from the "exotic value" perspective) has changed little, if we consider how Costa Rica has been a Jurassic garden for T-Rexes, Panamá a center for tailors who are UK spies, while Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are still the settings of stories of violence. But back then things were so corny (and not from the natives' side, but from Hollywood's), that one has to take most of these films with a grain of salt and laugh. Of those I think that "Charlie Chan in Panamá" is the best, due to its dark plot of treason during II World War, but this fabrication is as ugly as it is opportunistic, using recent facts as starting points without even considering all the tragedy, deaths and losses that can be originated by a political assassination or a coup d'état (with the assistance of the CIA or any other American "industry"). In days of the real overthrowing of Jacobo Arbenz (president of Guatemala), with the collaboration of highly paid American hired-assassins (1954), Glenn Ford plays Corbett, somebody quite close to those men, who supposedly has to help an overthrown president instead. Guatemala is replaced by Honduras, the president is called Prieto, and he has to receive money "for the cause" from Corbett. To do so Corbett has to take command of a ship, make it stop by the Honduran shore, and then cross the jungle up a river in search of Prieto to fulfill his mission. You can have three guesses to determine why Corbett does all that, but in the end, when he identifies himself as a farmer, no character in the film and nor the audience watching believes him. Before he finds Prieto, of course, Corbett has to make that dangerous jungle trip with four convicts that helped execute the operation, led by wicked Rodolfo Acosta, who took two passengers along as hostages: Ann Sheridan, who has to cross the jungle in her night gown, and her rich, mean and coward husband, played by Zachary Scott, good as usual. In their way they meet soldiers, crocodiles, ants, serpents, jungle cats, tropical storms, swarms, piranhas that swam all the way up from South America to appear in this film, an anopheles mosquito that transmits malaria to Corbett and all the clichés scriptwriter Karen DeWolf imagined or believed you would find in the Central American jungles. They never see an orchid, a high full moon, a bright butterfly or a marijuana plant that would have been so helpful to keep them relaxed. All that is left is bare tension by primitive motives, bad acting and Tourneur's boredom or indifference to the material, all in Technicolor. I don't know you, but I'd rather stick to Tarzan, Charlie Chan and the Costa Rican carnival.
Unfortunately, disAppointment in Honduras does a good job
wasting talent. The only thing worth watching in this movie is Ann
who looks fabulous but is given much too little to do.
On a minor side note, it was interesting to see Ann Sheridan and Zachary Scott teamed up again as a couple with marital problems, as in the 1947 release The Unfaithful.
Leonard Maltin's 1987 movie guide pretty much summed up this movie when it said, "Sheridan is not focal point, and a pity."
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