The 1942 live-action adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book offers up an entire menagerie of real-life jungle animals in its opening minutes. Before we meet any of the film’s main characters, we are treated to footage of predatory wolves, mischievous monkeys, lumbering elephants, leopards, bears, hyenas, jackals and a man-eating tiger. It reminded me of the terrific Disney True Life Adventure documentary series I watched when I was a kid.
The footage is a masterful way to open the story. Unfortunately, real-life bears, leopards and gazelle are notoriously temperamental when it comes to performing traditional movie duties like, say… delivering lines, hitting their marks and recounting their cocaine addictions to Mary Hart. So, after these few fun first minutes, the live animals all but disappear, and we spend the next ninety minutes with stuffed tigers, rubber snakes on strings, and an alligator who’s head completely separates from the rest of his body whenever his jaw opens for the camera. I choose to believe this particular alligator merely suffers from a herniated disc in its neck and just needs some good acupuncture. I’m still working on an excuse for the fact that I could hear its motor.
Still, considering it’s nearly seventy years old, The Jungle Book is a pretty ambitious film. The human actors, once they arrive, do a fairly good job at moving the story along. And even though most of the animals may be constructed from fiberglass and paint, they still demonstrate more charisma than my actual living cat does any day of the week.
Oh Z, what would become of you in the wild?
This pizza is really simple to make, and I recommend it to anyone who may be looking for an alternative to the traditional tomato sauce-heavy pies, of which I myself have recently tired. All you need to make this is the crust of your choice, about a 1/3 pound of Brie, a medium onion (I chose a Visalia), some honey, a few red pepper flakes, a bit of olive oil and, if on hand, some fresh basil and baby spinach, though I think this pizza would wholly satisfy even without the greens on top (but they help carry the visual a long way). The Brie melts fantastically, pairs beautifully with the honey, which is in turn offset just a touch by the heat in the red pepper flakes.
A memorable meal with minial effort!
Honey, Brie and Onion Pizza
- 1 pizza crust, pre-bought or rolled out to 9 inches in diameter.
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 1 Tbsp olive oil for onions, additional 1 Tbsp olive oil for pizza dough
- 1-2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/3 pound Brie cheese, sliced (keep the rind on – it’s delicious!)
- 1/4 cup loosely packed baby spinach and basil, mixed close to a 50/50 ratio
Pre-heat your oven and pizza stone to 500º F. While slicing your onion, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a pan. Add onions to pan and let cook for approximately 5-10 minutes, stirring regularly with a spatula. Once onions have softened and browned, remove them from heat and let cool slightly.
Spread olive oil and honey generously across the top of your rolled-out pizza dough. Scatter red pepper flakes over the top, and then score the dough by poking small holes gently into it with a fork. Transfer to oven and let cook for approximately three minutes.
Remove pizza from oven. Add cheese and basil/spinach mixture. Top with sauteed onions and return to oven. Let cook for another 7-10 minutes or until edge of crust is golden brown. Remove from oven, cool and dig in!
“Jungle Boy” Mowgli is played in this film by Indian actor Sabu Dastagir, whose other most memorable credit is as Abu in the 1940 British film The Thief of Bagdad. Taken in by a family of wolves after his father is mauled to death by the tiger Shere Kahn, Mowgli grows to be a young man able to communicate with any animal in the jungle, most often in rhyming verse. It worked so well for Mowgli in the film that I decided it would help me better exert my will over the cat, so I marched right up to Z and commanded, “Honorable feline, soul un-remitting… arise at this moment… and perform all my bidding!”
It didn’t work.
The human villains of the film are a trio of more-than-slightly buffonish local villiagers who follow Mowgli to a mysterious lost city where they discover a cavern filled with lost treasure. The threesome decides to rape the jungle of its precious, golden heart. Mowgli works desperately to thwart them. Since this film is aimed squarely at kids, correctly guess who wins and I’ll give you a coconut.
There’s a pretty amazing fire sequence near the picture’s end. The very ahead of its time cinematography by W. Howard Greene and Lee Garmes (Gone With the Wind, Since You Went Away) makes the most of the color – vibrant jungles, serene lagoons and imposing ancient ruins are always just a few frames away. They more than make up for the disastrously dated animal technology that would make the birds in “The Enchanted Tiki Room” smack their little feathered foreheads in embarrassmnet. One final note… the film has fallen into public domain, so there are tons of pirated and murky prints floating around out there. Best bet is to locate its next airing on TCM, curl up with your favorite wild animal, and let your eyes lose focus just a bit whenever one of the grips kick-starts the alligator and floats him into the shot.