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LIZ TAYLOR & DANA ANDREWS TAKE A GIANT 'ELEPHANT WALK'

Peter Finch, Elizabeth Taylor and Dana Andrews YEAR: 1954
Elephants are beautiful, majestic, powerful and... potentially dangerous — not man-eaters but could easily become human-stompers if something got in their way...

So in ELEPHANT WALK the gallant gray beasts provide a suspenseful element of doom, and it's not their fault...

As usual, vapid, selfish humans are to blame: The backstory goes: In the British Dominion of Ceylon, an immense watering hole that herds of elephants would rush to during drought season has a "bungalow" mansion as a bulwark to their path, and only a large backyard wall serves as protection. KING KONG proved how ineffective that can be, and like that movie, the plot is simple, and most important, extremely familiar to Elizabeth Taylor fans...

Novel Artwork
Opening of the book and narration by Finch
In two years she'd star alongside Rock Hudson and a posthumous James Dean in what would (arguably) be her greatest film, GIANT – as the wife of a stubborn, determined, old-fashioned (or simply, Texan) millionaire, she was equally set in her ways and not too crazy about the ingrained "boys club" mentality...

While here, being the only white woman in a land full of natives, she's not as headstrong as her newly-wed husband she'd met in England, played by Peter Finch, the owner of the "Elephant Walk" Tea Plantation. Their hotel-like chateau perpetually harbors a dozen or more guests; loud and obnoxiously-drunk Englishmen play bicycle polo in the main hall. Instead of putting her foot down, Taylor's more vulnerable, ladylike character whines, mopes and desperately yearns for the man she fell for back home – who we only caught five minutes of during the prologue, making Finch's role one-dimensional and severely limited.

Elizabeth Taylor and Dana Andrews in Elephant Walk
During that first night, after meeting the Brits and an untrusting servant/butler (foreshadowing Mercedes McCambridge, the controlling sister in GIANT, and also reminiscent of a character in REBECCA, another movie this one mirrors), her only bright spot is our man of the hour, Dana Andrews (a James Dean in Cary Grant attire), who managed the plant while the boss was away...

Both have a conversation so overly flirtatious that, later on, they never quite gain momentum for a windswept romance, or for that to be unique or surprising. Soon enough, Finch gets injured and, reluctantly in bed for two weeks, the handsome duo partially-bond outside, riding horses against the lovely exterior of hilly regions, tall trees and a giant Sleepy Buddha statue.

SCORE: ***1/2
The best scenes involve Taylor's mounting fear of not only the elephants outside... one particular "bull" roaming around with obvious vengeful rancor... but a morbid curiosity about the plantation's founder: her husband's deceased father (where the true REBECCA similarity exists), known as either The Governor or The Master, buried at the foot of the backyard anti-Elephant wall in a bizarre, godlike fashion.

Elizabeth Taylor finds her port in the storm
The suspense is palpable as she realizes the dead Master's phantom grip has altered her husband's aura, making Andrews the sole logical idealist. Sadly, his part could have been played by anyone who looked dapper in a suit. In fact, only Taylor's role seems intended for her and her alone, and if the filmmakers realized the horror/terror potential by using those lumbering beasts more effectively, this Anti-Capitalist, Melodramatic Romance would have had more of a necessary edge. When the natives contract a fatal disease, the third act attempts an epic scope the likes of HAWAII, channeled into a "programmer" b-picture level. What is here, though, is worthwhile – resulting in a bombastic finale that, while utterly predictable, finally embraces an element that'd been previously neglected.
Menu for the Warner Archives Elephant Walk DVD
Dana Andrews is driven crazy by the fickle Liz Taylor in Elephant Walk
Buried leading male role Peter Finch with who's really a special guest star  or "And" (tho 2nd billed) Dana Andrews
Love that Elephant Logo... Here the tea is stored inside a Trunk...
Elizabeth Taylor Dana Andrews Elephant Walk Elizabeth Taylor Elephant Walk
The Elephant Airplane Ramp in ELEPHANT WALK
Dana Andrews in Elephant Walk 
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