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Human Jungle, The (1963-65)


Main image of Human Jungle, The (1963-65)
Independent Artists for ABC/ITV tx 30/3/1963-13/5/1965
26 x 60 min in two series, black & white
Directors includeSidney A. Hayers
 Charles Crichton
 Roy Baker
ProducersJulian Wintle
 Leslie Parkyn
Writers includeBill McIllwraith
 John Kruse

Cast: Herbert Lom (Dr Roger Corder); Michael Johnson (Dr Jimmy Davis); Sally Smith (Jennifer Corder); Mary Yeomans (Nancy Hamilton); Mary Steele (Jane Harris)

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The varied casebook of Harley Street psychiatrist Dr Roger Corder.

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In the early 1960s, ITV's drama output was dominated by a string of imaginative, slick and escapist filmed series aimed at an international audience. Danger Man (1960-67), The Avengers (1961-69) and The Saint (1962-69) served up their action with glimpses of an intoxicatingly glamorous, jetsetting lifestyle. In this context, The Human Jungle was a curiosity: a popular drama based around nothing more extraordinary than a psychiatrist's casebook; talky and studio-bound, with a protagonist who rarely ventured further than the Home Counties.

Though best-known for his suavely villainous roles in the likes of Night and the City (d. Jules Dassin, 1950) and North West Frontier (d. J. Lee Thompson, 1959), Herbert Lom made his breakthrough as a psychiatrist in the post-Gainsborough melodrama The Seventh Veil (d. Compton Bennett, 1945), and his unmistakeable Eastern European accent suited the public image of the profession at a time when many felt that there was something distinctly 'un-British' about consulting a shrink.

The Human Jungle's opening titles evoked the darkness and mental anguish of film noir: the moody photography enveloped Lom's Dr Corder in shadow and the smoke of his own cigarette, while the brooding jazz theme, performed by John Barry, further emphasised the hero's detachment. But though its subject was the mind's more extreme states, this was more than a mere psychological freak show. Corder's clients were of the kind that could be satisfyingly cured in a one-hour slot, but they were convincingly rounded and often bold case studies, including a suicidal stripper, a young couple suffocated by their families' love, and a schoolteacher punishing herself for a long-repressed crush on a pupil.

Dividing his time between his Harley Street practice and St Damian's hospital, Dr Corder was neither an orthodox prescription-pad psychiatrist nor a strict 'talking cure' therapist, favouring a maverick ad-hoc approach that was as influenced by the fashionable 'anti-psychiatry' of R.D. Laing as by Freud. Indeed, his quest for a rapid breakthrough often looked alarmingly reckless. As Corder himself admits of one idiosyncratic therapy, "this, of course, could be dangerous psychology, or it could be a stroke of genius."

Dr Corder lost his practice after two series, when the producers elected to devote their energies to his more profitable stable-mate, The Avengers. While it never had the same cult appeal, however, The Human Jungle remains, in its own way, as revealing of 1960s attitudes as any of its more famous contemporaries.

Mark Duguid

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Video Clips
1. Titles and opening sequence (3:47)
2. Guilt (2:43)
3. A deception revealed (1:11)
4. Trust (1:48)
5. Buried memories (2:55)
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Lockwood, Margaret (1916-1990)
Lom, Herbert (1917-2012)
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