Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Tarzan Movies

As I am reading the original Tarzan of the Apes, I also continue to explore some recommended movies.  I had bought this DVD set featuring movies from the 1960s, where Tarzan is played closer to the literary character - articulate and able to adapt and to transition smoothly from civilization to the wild jungle.

Tarzan Goes to India

Tarzan in India, trying to save a herd of elephants from being destroyed when dam engineers flood their valley.  Jock Mahoney's first outing, taking over for Gordon Scott.  Stronger film than its follow-up, and Mahoney looked a lot better than he did in the follow-up - though, he still seemed lanky and he had an awkward gait which did not create a very convincing Tarzan.  It had an enjoyable story, though, with an interesting supporting cast of characters.

Tarzan's Three Challenges (already discussed at this post.)

Tarzan and the Valley of Gold

Tarzan continues his globetrotting, finding himself in Mexico for this adventure.  The producers really upped the ante on this film.  Not only was a younger actor chosen to play Tarzan, they jumped on the James Bond bandwagon, too.  This movie comes complete with a maniacal villain who likes to dispatch people with clever little bombs inside jewelry gifts.  The budget shows, though, when a crashing helicopter hides behind a bush before it explodes, and the villain's private army has only two vehicles.

Not only was Henry a younger actor who looked the part, he also came from professional football.  It might seem an odd thing to note, but compare his Tarzan's motion when running with Jock Mahoney's gait - there is no awkwardness in Henry's dash and speed.

Also, it is worth reading Ryan Harvey's excellent Black Gate posts concerning both the movie and the novelization by Fritz Leiber.

Tarzan and the Great River

Tarzan in Brazil, this time.  He must help a doctor bring medicine upriver while also investigating and halting a violent jungle cult.  This movie suffered from "stock footage"-itis the most.  The mixing of African flora and fauna is one thing.  But, here we see hippos and other African stock footage animals in Brazil.  Worse than that, though, was the extremely lazy use of footage of Africans setting fire to an African village, in the middle of a Mesoamerican attack on a Mesoamerican village.  (All 3rd world people were the same to 1960s Hollywood, I guess?)  It turns out the village footage wasn't stock, but was part of the story in the next movie.  Because they were both filmed back to back in Brazil, actors, sets and footage were reused.

The villain of the piece and Tarzan only meet at the very end, so there is an extreme lack of tension built.  Overall, I found this to be the weakest movie of the set.

Tarzan and the Jungle Boy

Promising first act, second act sag, strong finish.  I think I enjoyed this Henry movie the most.  The James Bond hyperbole of Valley of Gold is gone.  We have a very straight-forward tale of Tarzan and company being swept up in a tribal leadership conflict between two brothers (played by real life brothers.)  Set in Africa (though filmed in Brazil) - the stock footage finally makes things more convincing rather than less convincing.  Tarzan is reflected in the young boy - also a jungle orphan - which is a nice touch.

Overall, I really enjoyed Henry's performances.  Without a doubt, Mike Henry looks the part of Tarzan more than anyone who has undertaken the role.

His acting was a little stiff but not horribly so.  I think the biggest weakness was that sometimes he sounded more like a cinematic cowboy than the king of the jungle.  It's too bad he bowed out before the television series started (which went to Ron Ely, instead.)

The movies are all fun viewing for a rainy Saturday home matinee, if nothing else.


  1. I watched the TV series with Ron Ely when I was a kid but remember very little about it.

  2. The first Tarzan movie I watched was the Lord Greystoke one. I tried to watch some of the Johnny Weismuller ones but it clashed so much with the vision of Tarzan I had in my head from reading the books.

  3. Jungle Boy was my favorite of the three Mike Henry Tarzans as well, Paul. Had a nice ERB vibe to it.