Monday, December 23, 2013

Tarzan's Three Challenges

Trying to add to my Tarzan experiences, I watched Jock Mahoney's second and final outing as the lord of the jungle in Tarzan's Three Challenges (1963).

Following Tarzan Goes to India, this installment again takes Tarzan out of Africa.  This time, Tarzan goes to an unnamed Asian country (portrayed by Thailand.)  There, he must escort a child "chosen one" to safety for his installment as new leader of the nation.  But the current ruler's brother, Khan, is a jealous type.  Tarzan's road will be beset by villains.  But first, he must prove he is Tarzan and worthy to protect the child, and he undergoes three challenges of dexterity, strength and wisdom.

This movie was mostly enjoyable, a few moments over the top and some lingering shots of the exquisite locales of Thailand.  It is good rainy Saturday afternoon adventure matinee fair, if nothing else.

My favorite moment was Tarzan's third challenge; the challenge of wisdom.  I am not sure which martial philosophy it was taken from, but it is a nice little gem.  (Paraphrasing, because I can't find the exact quote online;)

Monk: After a march of a thousand miles, you will face your enemy in the morning.  What is the first thing that you make certain?

Tarzan: I make certain that it is my enemy, not me, who makes the thousand mile march!

The only drawback was, unfortunately, Jock Mahoney's portrayal.  The acting wasn't bad, but the physique and athleticism were wrong.  He was lanky, thin and seemed to have awkward and stiff body motion.

It turns out, that was with reason.  Mahoney contracted fever, dysentery and pneumonia nearly as soon as the production started on location in Thailand.  Co-star Woody Strode attributed the illness to Mahoney's own braggadocio of swimming across the largest river in Thailand - which was also the most polluted.  Mahoney was also, at that time, the oldest man to play Tarzan.  Mahoney lost 45 pounds during the movie, and it shows.

Though eventually he recovered, Mahoney was never quite the same and he was done with Tarzan and many other physical action roles he would have taken in the past.

I acquired this movie through the Warner Brothers Archive collection - on-demand printed DVDs of many movies that weren't available before.  A set of 5 Tarzan movies (2 starring Jock Mahoney and 3 starring Mike Henry) was released earlier this year.  Two weeks ago the price plummeted 45% on Amazon, so I finally grabbed them.  (It is currently still down 40%.)

I look forward to revisiting Mahoney in his first outing, and watching the other Tarzan movies in the near future.

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