William Lundigan and Peggie Castle star in the 1954 feature film The White Orchid, an adventure movie that starts off spinning its wheels a little, yet finishes strongly. As far as movies go about jungle expeditions, you would certainly expect to see a little danger and excitement, maybe the appearance of a creature or two among other things on the trip. There are certain standards that most incorporate into a film such as this to make it successful and while this movie had a few of them, it decided to take a bit of a different route. It was not necessarily the wrong one, but instead of focusing on the action, the focus was on the relationship between the two leads and the introduction of a love triangle to complicate it all. Being more melodrama than anything else is not a bad thing, it was simply surprising as you would naturally assume one thing, only to get another.
Lundigan is an archaeologist in the film and he is tasked with finding an ancient Mexican city. To his despair, he is saddled with a woman photographer who he believes will only slow him down and cause no end of trouble. So it is that Kathryn as played by Castle has to prove herself to Lundigan’s character Burton and while she eventually does so, the moment their guide Juan enters the picture, complicates things to no end because Burton is starting to fall in love with Kathryn. Eventually, the three reach the village where Kathryn is about to be sacrificed by the natives and it is only through the self-sacrifice of another, that they live to see another day.
On the plus side, the characters are fleshed out quite well for the viewer and you get to know them and their personalities. Lundigan is a little wooden in his performance at times and the chemistry between him and Castle was not as great as it should have been, especially considering that the bulk of the movie was centered on their relationship, as volatile as it seemed to be at times. Castle herself was quite spirited in the role and along with Armando Silvestre, managed to carry the slack left in Lundigan’s wake. In fact, the picture only becomes more interesting once Silvestre is introduced and from there, really begins to take off.
There is no terror or horror present and very little danger except for the finale of the film where leading lady Castle is about to lose her life in ritual sacrifice and it is a bit of a shame, as the movie could have featured a few more thrills and chills during the trek to the fabled city. The surroundings are beautiful and the cinematography was well done, providing enough eye candy for those moments where the film tended to lag and thus another reason to pepper in some jeopardy as it would have been completely unexpected. Still, The White Orchid was entertaining enough that you did not feel as if your time was wasted. It could have been better, but then the same can be said of almost everything in life.
3 out of 5