A collection of adventurers penetrate the South American jungle in search of ancient Incan treasure. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. plays Keith Brandon, John Howard plays Hal Scott, George Sanders plays Forrester, and Vincent Price plays David Richardson. Fortunately for Price, he dies early in the film. Richardson’s wife Stephanie (Joan Bennett) is brought to their camp by hired bearers to join him, but too late. She becomes the focus of lust, rivalries, and jealousies. The Incan treasure is found but the expedition is attacked by hordes of natives with poison dart-guns.
The film was directed by James Whale of the Frankenstein and Invisible Man movies, but this film is pretty universally described as one of the worst films ever made. Vincent Price called James Whale a wonderful man but said it was about the most unintentionally funny film ever produced. The story is preposterous, a ludicrous jungle melodrama containing every jungle cliché in existence. The director did not care a whit about the movie and the actors were either in hell or doubled over with laughter. When a book called The Fifty Worst Films of All Time was published, Vincent Price wondered how they could have left out Green Hell. I know you’re dying to see it.
The best thing in the film is the Inca Temple constructed inside a massive indoor jungle set. It was 125 feet high, 225 feet wide, and 45,000 square feet in extent and was a major cause of the film’s financial disaster. It was used later that year by Universal Pictures for The Mummy’s Hand and for Phantom of the Opera in 1943. The story and script were by Frances Marion and it was produced by Harry Eddington. Joan Bennett played Vincent Price’s wife but they did not meet until years later. Typically ludicrous is a scene in which the men, thousands of miles away from home in the steaming jungle, sing, “Home, home on the range.”