Release List Reviews Price Search Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray/ HD DVD Advertise
DVD Talk
Reviews & Columns
Reviews
DVD
TV on DVD
Blu-ray
International DVDs
Theatrical
Adult
Reviews by Studio
Video Games

Features
Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
Interviews
DVD Talk TV
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Columns
Anime Talk
XCritic.com
DVD Savant
HD Talk
Horror DVDs
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum

Resources
DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info
Links

Columns



DVD SAVANT

The Tarzan Collection Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Vol. 2
Tarzan Triumphs, Tarzan's Desert Mystery, Tarzan and the Amazons, Tarzan and the Leopard Woman, Tarzan and the Huntress, Tarzan and the Mermaids


Warner DVD

Tarzan Triumphs, Tarzan's Desert Mystery, Tarzan and the Amazons, Tarzan and the Leopard Woman, Tarzan and the Huntress, Tarzan and the Mermaids

Starring Johny Weissmuller
From characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs

B&W
1:37 flat full frame
Street Date October 31, 2006
39.98 the boxed set
Not Available separately

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson


Warners' The Tarzan Collection Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Vol. 2 moves on to Tarzan's RKO years, when his waistline expands and his face looks chubby. The six films here represented are usually considered inferior to the earlier MGM efforts, but they have their own charm; they tend to be shorter and introduce always-welcome external elements like rampaging Nazis, a prehistoric monster or two, strange lost cities and plenty of va-voom 40s jungle princesses. In fact, the titles of the last four installments feature tropical-type sirens. Tarzan trades monosyllabic niceties with these temptresses and even swims with one of them, but his heart remains with Jane.

When Jane returns in the third film she's played by Brenda Joyce, and it takes a while to get accustomed to her. Meanwhile, we get to enjoy the economical but expressive artistry of the RKO studio departments, as well as a heightened level of screen violence perhaps made possible by the fact that the country was at war.



Tarzan Triumphs
1943 / 76 min.
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Johnny Sheffield, Frances Gifford, Stanley Ridges, Sig Ruman, Philip Van Zandt, Rex Williams, Pedro de Cordoba
Cinematography Harry Wild
Production design Harry Horner
Art Direction Hans Peters
Film Editor Hal Kern
Original Music Paul Sawtell
Written by Carroll Young, Roy Chanslor, Carroll Young
Produced by Sol Lesser
Directed by William Thiele

"Now Tarzan make war!" shouts Weissmuller as he lunges forward, knife in hand. We're told that wartime audiences whooped in approval when their fantasy hero Tarzan discarded his isolationist instincts to strike back against the Nazi invaders. Tarzan Triumphs is trim and violent ... and gave wartime audiences the exact escapist thrills they craved.

Synopsis:

Nazis invade the jungle to loot the mineral treasures of the secret city of Palandria. Colonel Von Reichart (Stanley Ridges) forces the natives to work the mines, and kills the brother of the beautiful Zandra (Frances Gifford). She goes to Tarzan for help. Tarzan and Boy have aided a German who has parachuted off course with the Nazis' only radio. Cheta keeps swiping the radio's antenna coil, preventing the invaders from calling for reinforcements. Boy and Zandra try to convince Tarzan to join in the fight, but only when Tarzan becomes aware of Nazi treachery (and realizes that they're the same aggressors mentioned in Jane's letters from London) does he commit to the fray.

The patented Tarzan thrills are all here, and chances are that many kids didn't notice much of a difference in the shows. The signature yell is gone, along with the 'jungle rhythm' main title, but those MGM touches were getting old along with the constant vine-swinging and animal battles. The RKO series has vines but Tarzan doesn't use them for cross-country jaunts, just for the occasional swoop or two.

The RKO Tarzans also stop trying to hide the fact that darkest Africa is really the dry grasslands of Southern California. Black extras are used for native bearers but this Africa is heavily populated by Arabs and mysterious white tribes living on high 'Shangri-La'- type mountains.

Johnny Weissmuller is no longer thin and graceful but is still adequate to the task of wrestling forest fauna to their knees. Like Lon Chaney Jr. in the Universal series, he's on the hefty side but only appears so because he's practically naked throughout ... so I think the guy deserves a solid break. Johnny Sheffield's Boy grows to manhood in four fast features between 1943 and 1947, and the shows rely heavily on his character. Cheta fulfills the cute animal requirement and provides good comedy relief -- he's truly funny, whether mugging at the camera or playing with a pack of baby lions.

In this first episode Jane is absent, away in England caring for a relative. That covers for Maureen O'Sullivan's decision not to continue (she probably couldn't leave MGM anyway) and also allows time to pass for the audience to accept the new Jane three films down the line.

Tarzan Triumphs might have been called "Tarzan versus the Swastika", as it boils down to a grade-school primer on Nazi villainy. The paratroops move in and betray the kindness of their hosts by enslaving all of Palandria. The leering commander (Stanley Ridges is always good) offers to allow Zandra to be his 'companion' but she begs off.

The film gives Tarzan and Zandra several scenes, including a Garden of Eden swim that recall the early MGM films. But ideas of romance are a tease; Tarz proves impervious to femme charms outside of his common law marriage to Jane. Frances Gifford was already popular in a pair of Republic serials as "Nyoka, the Jungle Woman," so she fits right in.

The kids are of course waiting for the big action to commence, and Tarzan Triumphs has the typical escape scenes (a helpful chimpanzee is a must) followed by a full-scale revolt and battle. Tarzan knocks over a storm trooper and gives his machine pistol to a Palandrian, shouting "Shoot Nahzees!" The fact that they are Nazis allows a higher degree of sadism than expected, as noted when Tarzan cooly tricks the main baddie into falling into a Lion pit. Agonized screams are provided for the amusement of all.

Frances Gifford's Zandra is a true doll and we start wondering if Jane will have grounds for divorce. Philip Van Zandt and Sig Rumann are nasty and befuddled Nazis, respectively, with Rex Williams playing the blonde Aryan frustrated by Cheta's harassment. The famous, silly ending has Cheta broadcasting over the radio to Berlin; whereupon the high commander identifies the "Ooo-Ooo-Eee-Eee" chatter as coming from Der Fuehrer!

As I am expected to point out such things, we see Tarzan disable a roof-mounted machine gun by tossing its cartridge clips away. Stanley Ridges climbs to reach to one of these guns (shades of The Wild Bunch) and in a wide shot the gun definitely has the full side ammo clip attached. But across a cut it disappears. It's a goof! Somebody made an error!



Tarzan's Desert Mystery
1943 / 70 min.
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Nancy Kelly, Johnny Sheffield, Otto Kruger, Joe Sawyer, Lloyd Corrigan, Robert Lowery
Cinematography Russell Harlan, Harry Wild
Art Direction Ralph Berger, Hans Peters
Film Editor Ray Lockert
Original Music Paul Sawtell
Written by Edward T. Lowe, Carroll Young
Produced by Sol Lesser, Kurt Neumann
Directed by William Thiele

With Jane still away, Tarzan goes off on a rather clever change-of-pace adventure. This time the babe along for the ride is Nancy Kelly, future mother of the evil Rhoda in The Bad Seed. The story offers an interesting new locale, an inventive story, and some welcome gruesome thrills. New to the series is associate producer Kurt Neumann (The Fly, Kronos), who would direct three subsequent entries.

Synopsis:

Tarzan sets out with Boy and Cheta to cross a desert to a forbidden jungle to obtain some secret medicine to send back to Jane in London. Along the way he becomes involved in a Nazi plot to take over a desert kingdom. American magician Connie Bryce (Nancy Kelly) is smuggling a message to Prince Selim (Robert Lowery), warning him that Paul Hendrix, a businessman aiding his father, is really a scurvy German agent named Heinrich (Otto Kruger). Murders, a rigged trial and various escapes lead the adventurers to the scary Forbidden Jungle.

This entry is short and sweet, with little time wasted on standard Tarzan schtick. Tarzan and Boy befriend a beautiful desert horse, only to have it seized by Otto Kruger's bad guy. Smart-talking Connie Bryce and Tarzan never become an item, but her patter makes for some amusing dialogue scenes.

Cheta is again indispensable, this time getting a lot of laughs swiping turbans to make an escape rope for Tarzan. By now Cheta's shenanigans are so ingrained, we forget that he's a trained animal. Boy has slightly less to do in this one.

The change of background helps. Tarzan looks plenty exposed in the desert sands, and the Arab city appears to be an oft-used standing set. The Forbidden Jungle scenery comes complete with man-eating plants and giant lizards, courtesy of stock shots from One Million, B.C., methinks. Best of all is a spooky cave where Boy is trapped in a spider's web. The creeping spider monster ends up feeding (at length!) upon the unlucky bad guy. It's pretty revolting, or hilarious, depending on one's mood, but it must have been socko entertainment back in '43.

Nancy Kelly heads back to civilization with all the jungle medicine Jane needs, and Tarzan has made a new friend. On the other hand, I'd really like to see a London post-script scene in which Connie delivers the goods to Jane ... Jane's never had the problem of a female competitor (where is that wedding ring, Jane-O?) and these RKO pictures would seem to tempt Tarzan with plenty of enticing jungle man-bait.



Tarzan and the Amazons
1945 / 76 min.
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Brenda Joyce, Johnny Sheffield, Shirley O'Hara, Mme. Maria Ouspenskaya
Cinematography Archie Stout
Production Design Phil Paradise
Art Direction Walter Koessler
Film Editor Robert Crandall
Written by John Jacoby, Marjorie L. Pfaelzer
Produced by Sol Lesser, Kurt Neumann
Directed by Kurt Neumann

Speaking of enticing Jungle man-bait, this third entry in the RKO series has an entire kingdom populated by statuesque babes, and of a much higher quality than the poorly filmed chorus girls of 1950s lost kingdom and female planet movies. The Amazon maidens are beautiful, poised and rather good archers. But they have the same drawback found in almost every kingdom-of-gorgeous-women: Men don't seem to last very long inside city limits.

Jane reappears in this episode, but is conveniently trapped under a tree while Tarzan sorts out his female trouble, African style. We don't hear about the book she wrote in London, Gorillas That I Miss.

Synopsis:

On their way to greet Jane (Brenda Joyce) on her return from England, Tarzan and Boy come to the aid of Athena (Shirley O'Hara) and return her to the forbidden, top secret, beware-the-dogs mountaintop city of Palmeria. Jane's archaeologist friend Sir Guy Henderson (Henry Stephenson) finds a gold wristlet that Cheta has palmed and his expedition heads for Tarzan's camp to convince him to lead them to Palmeria. Tarzan has pledged the Amazon Queen (Mme. Maria Ouspenskaya) to stay mum and refuses, but Boy gets it into his head to defy his Dad. Taken prisoner by the Amazons, the explorers talk themselves out of a death sentence but are confined to life imprisonment. When Boy asks Athena to help them escape, Ballister (Barton Maclane), the rough leader of the group, goes ballistic and loots the Amazon's golden riches.

Another tightly-packed adventure, Tarzan and the Amazons is slowed only by the necessity of re-establishing Jane in the series. After a three-year absence, she returns in the form of Brenda Joyce, the notable winner of a highly visible role in 1939's The Rains Came. She makes an appropriately bright and fresh Jane, but of course lacks the immediate sex-connection that Weissmuller enjoyed by Maureen O'Sullivan back in those two Pre-Code pictures. With Boy now a young teenager, Joyce's Jane is more like a 50s TV mom. Tarzan wrestles an alligator to prove that he still has the old stuff, and we wonder why Jane is even concerned; it's just another chore of the kind he's been handling daily for thirteen years. Then again, with Tarz slowed up by all the weight he's put on, maybe there is need to worry.

Much of Tarzan and the Amazons omits Tarzan's direct involvement. He's sort of a "Father Knows Nothing" type, slamming the door on Boy's curiosity about the scientists and their various 'scopes: Telescopes, microscopes and binoculars. Tarzan is jealous of Boy's contact with the learned outsiders but we know all along that his decision not to help the expedition is wise. The scientists begin in a spirit of curiosity but bad guy Ballister soon turns the trip into a treasure raid. Tarzan dealt with that problem in every MGM show, and knows that strangers with guns and noble causes are not to be trusted. I vote we put Tarzan in charge of our National Parks and Wildlife Preserves.

RKO adds great matte and effects work on the way to Palmeria and, once we arrive, a battalion of terrific Amazon cuties. Arched pathways show the way to Palmeria in dizzy depth, an impossible eyrie in the mountains. It's the kind of fantastic landscape that appeals to imaginative boys, from Tom Sawyer's Island to the bizarre settings of Garden of Evil and the 1960 The Lost World. Palmyra is ruled by Maria Ouspenskaya's diminutive Queen. The great actress (Kings Row, The Wolf Man) need only say a few words, and we accept Palmeria as a real place with a right to whatever rules it sets. The Queen's minions are all gorgeous she-warriors free from the burley-Q foolery of later nonsense like Queen of Outer Space, or even the walls of muscled thighs seen in Italo fare like Hercules. I think Ouspenskaya makes the difference.

Tarzan finally gets involved when the action is over. The movie doesn't go soft on the violence. Several Amazons are shot dead while perforating the retreating raiders with well-aimed arrows. Boy is sentenced to die at noon, and learns a lesson in Doing What Dad Says Without Asking Questions. In Triumphs Tarzan watched the head Nazi being torn to bits, with the identical observation the victim had made earlier: "In the Jungle, the strong win." Here Tarzan comes up against the worst of the gold thieves, and allows them to sink into a quagmire without lifting a finger. By returning a couple of sacred gold objects to Palmeria, Tarzan somehow squares accounts with the Queen, even though her sacred treasure vault has been trashed and crucial icons dinged up. And we don't even get to see Boy receive the whipping he deserves -- he's single-handedly brought on the deaths of at least a dozen people!



Tarzan and the Leopard Woman
1946 / 72 min.
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Brenda Joyce, Johnny Sheffield, Aquanetta, Edgar Barrier, Tommy Cook
Cinematography Karl Struss
Production Design Phil Paradise
Art Direction Lewis Creber
Film Editor Robert O. Crandall
Original Music Paul Sawtell
Written by Carroll Young
Produced by Sol Lesser, Kurt Neumann
Directed by Kurt Neumann

Tarzan and the Leopard Woman begins on an unpromising note, with Tarzan and family on a shopping trip in a local Arab town ... Tarzan's remote escarpment seems to be only a day or so away from the edge of the Sahara desert. The British overseers of the territory (it's assumed that Africa rightly belongs to the Brits) are spreading their sphere of influence to a more remote principality, and we're shown an English school with four (gorgeous) young teachers preparing to help the natives become proper English subjects. Happily, the episode soon turns into a giddy tale of a feral death-cult run by an honest to-Ayesha jungle queen, played by the gorgeous Aquanetta. I can see older males pushing kids out of the way to get to the box office for this one!

Synopsis:

Tarzan agrees to accompany an expedition to find out if leopards are wiping out caravans sent to a remote province. They indeed fight their way through a leopard ambush, but Tarzan still doesn't believe that the cats are responsible. As the authorities dispatch another caravan (with four young teachers), we find out the truth: A demonic leopard cult run by the High Priestess Lea (Acquanetta). She's in cahoots with a local dignitary, Dr. Ameer Lazar (Edgar Barrier) and is responsible for sending out squads of killers wearing leopard claws and pelts. Young cult delinquent Kimba (Tommy Cook) infiltrates Tarzan's home by pretending to be a lost orphan, when he really wants to earn his cult merit badge by slaying an outsider -- Jane!

While Universal was getting a lot of steamy mileage from its pin-up love goddess Maria Montez, they neglected the equally zaftig Acquanetta, a Wyoming girl who started out with the slightly less exotic name Mildred Davenport. Aquanetta was wasted in Universal's Captive Wild Woman and Jungle Woman, where her glamour wasn't exploited for half its potential. In Tarzan and the Leopard Woman she does little more than stand around or glide across sets wearing a costume designed to grab male attention. Films such as this one may have been what set puritan visionary Hugh Hefner on the road to a fleshier future.

Right - there's a movie to be reviewed here. Aquanetta is only a cog in the works of a plot that looks to be lifted from the story of Captain Sleeman's uncovering of the Kali Cult in India, as portrayed in The Stranglers of Bombay and the Pierce Brosnan period adventure film The Deceivers. The Leopard Men prey on caravans, bringing home the booty to their corrupt cult leaders. The killers' little scheme is thwarted by the usual Tarzan-Boy-Cheta combination, with Cheta using a knife to cut Tarzan's bonds right during the concluding death ceremony.

Much more interesting is young miscreant Kimba's deceitful trickery in Tarzan's home. All tears and whining, he's really waiting for the right moment to cut out Jane's heart. Jane and Tarzan are pretty amusing as they ignore Kimba's repeated sneaky looks and duplicitous actions. Young Tommy Cook also played the young John Garfield in Humoresque the same year.

A satisfying development would be to have Boy prove his mettle by going mano-a-mano with Kimba while Tarzan takes on the rest of the Leopard Cult, but the movie doesn't work out that way. It's certainly exciting and violent, although we miss not having a scene of the evil Lea trying out her wiles on our loin-clothed hero ... in the later Hercules movies it was always, uh, stimulating to see glamorous dishes like Gianna Marie Canale and Sylvia Lopez salivate over the musclebound Steve Reeves. Tarzan's relationship with Jane here isn't all that exciting!



Tarzan and the Huntress
1947 / 72 min.
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Brenda Joyce, Johnny Sheffield, Patricia Morison, Barton MacLane, John Warburton, Charles Trowbridge
Cinematography Archie Stout
Production Design Phil Paradise
Art Direction McClure Capps
Film Editor Merrill White
Original Music Paul Sawtell
Written by Jerry Gruskin, Rowland Leigh
Produced by Sol Lesser, Kurt Neumann
Directed by Kurt Neumann

Tarzan returns to the MGM formula for an episode dealing with cruel animal poachers, and ends up providing an almost literal analogy for the 'new' politics of the Third World. After all the hot-cha girl-watching to be found in the last two installments, the only female action to be found is Cheta repeatedly stealing the purse and compact of the bad lady animal hunter.

Synopsis:

Tanya Rawlins and Carl Marley (Patricia Morison & John Warburton) are upset to find that their expedition to harvest large numbers of jungle animals for zoos has hit a snag: Wrangler Paul Weir (Barton Maclane) reports that the local chieftain King Farrod (Charles Trowbridge) will only approve of the taking of two animals of any species, and will not yield to gifts or other inducements. Tanya reluctantly approves when Weir makes a crooked side deal with Farrod's duplicitous nephew Prince Ozira (Ted Hecht). Ozira arranges for Farrod to be 'accidentally' shot, and then allows the exploitative hunt to proceed so he can profit personally. Tarzan smells a rat in all of this and uses his jungle call to summon all of the animals to his side of the river, where the hunters are not allowed. Weir, Marley and Tanya cross the river, threatening to kill anyone who gets in the way of their business enterprise.

Tarzan and the Huntress is a good early demonstration of the ecology mindset, and a demonstration of the way undeveloped countries are exploited by big business. Tanya and her associates want a free hand to reap a particular resource in a region. When the local government refuses, the promise of a big payday is enough to inspire a mini-revolution in favor of the outsiders' interests. Tanya is soon scouring the jungle of everything that moves. Once they have the upper hand, her henchmen ignore any law that gets in their way. It's only a step or two from this to the nasty anti-American politics of The Wages of Fear. It's bizarre that this particular story would come from RKO under the leadership of Howard Hughes, the man who offered the directorship for his I Married a Communist project as a litmus test to find out who was and wasn't a pinko. Neither Rowland Leigh nor Jerry Gruskin have any immediately traceable 'radical' elements in their writing background, and in fact, Gruskin wrote for Dragnet. But this is one of the more overtly subversive shows of the late 40s!

The 'poison' of profit is immediately felt in the Tarzan household, where only Tarzan and Cheta are immune to the temptations of the outsiders. Jane rather lamely sees no harm in the project: "The animals will be in nice, clean zoos!"(para.). As for Boy, the little jerk steals two lion cubs from their ma and trades them for a &*#% flashlight. The movie makes a Mother Nature statement worthy of Gorgo with one image of the lionness standing in silhouette, staring across the water where her cubs disappeared.

Tarzan thus becomes the protector of the wild. Kids must have roared with approval when he and Boy and wreak havoc with the safari, like good little terrorists. They swipe the hunters' guns, free the trapped animals and break a few necks here and there. When push comes to shove, an elephant stampede settles the dispute, kicking villains off cliffs and turning a few into jungle pancakes. Oh, the fantasy part comes when the usurper gets his just desserts and an appropriate & benign sovereign is returned to the throne. We wonder why Tarzan doesn't just unite all the tribes, secret societies and hidden cities of Amazons together into a Federation of Tarzanian Principalities (FTP), and tell the Europeans and Yankees to go blow their noses.

Once again, Tarzan's Africa seems to be populated with every kind of human except blacks; these generic natives are similar to those shown in fantasies about Southeast Asia or the Pacific isles -- dark, but not of African descent. I wonder what happened to all those bloodthirsty tribes of maniac savages that shot people full of arrows and hacked them to bits back in Tarzan and His Mate?

Poor Brenda Joyce is once again along for the ride as Jane. Weissmuller definitely looks on the paunchy side, although I'm sure he could still break the average DVD reviewer into small pieces. Barton Maclane returns as yet another scurvy creep. Patricia Morison does well with the partly sympathetic Tanya, who tries to be civilized yet ends up outsmarted by a Chimpanzee. She bribes Cheta into betraying Tarzan with the promise of her silver makeup compact, and then reneges after the deal is done. Jungle tip # 42: Never cross a female chimp, and if you do don't act catty about it. Cheta gets the last laugh. In fact, Cheta has one of her best film moments reacting to a thrown knife. She looks at the hole the knife made in a box, does a take, does a second take, and the shakes her head with an "I'll be damned" expression. That silly chimp is a real trouper.

This is Johnny Sheffield's last Tarzan outing. Weissmuller decrees that he's a man early in the film. He's certainly as big as his screen pop, quite a contrast to the little tyke of Tarzan Finds a Son! When the happy family's group swim looks more like a water ballet, it's time for Boy to go to school in England.



Tarzan and the Mermaids
1948 / 68 min.
Starring
Cinematography Jack Draper
Art Direction McClure Capps
Original Music Dimitri Tiomkin
Written by Albert DePina, Carroll Young
Produced by Sol Lesser, Joseph Noriega
Directed by Robert Florey

As if saying "and now something completely different" we come to Tarzan and the Mermaids, which relocates Tarzan to the part of Africa just inland from sunny Acapulco. RKO under Howard Hughes did quite a few Mexican co-productions and this entry was shot on what looks like an expensive location. Robert Florey takes over for Kurt Neumann and his touch can be felt in some stylized sequences involving the fearsome living god Balu. What it lacks in action -- there are few standard jungle thrills here -- Tarzan and the Mermaids makes up in novelty.

Synopsis:

The secret land of Aquatania flourishes on the rocks of an unreachable peninsula, where tropical natives reap the fish and pearls of the sea. But two charlatans have perverted the Aquatanian religion for profit. Pearl trader Varga (Fernando Wagner of The Wild Bunch) poses in costume as Balu, the sun god, and his henchman Palanth (George Zucco) serves as a mouthpiece for the god's will, which naturally is to collect as many pearls as possible for smuggling purposes. 'Balu' also covets a woman, and the simple Aquatanians are persuaded to force beautiful young Mara (Linda Christian of The Devil's Hand) to marry him. She escapes and flees upriver. Tarzan fishes her out of the water, prompting the local postman and balladeer Benji (John Laurenz) to dub her a 'mermaid.' Palanth's henchmen kidnap Mara once again, and soon she, Jane, Benji and a British official (Matthew Boulton) are prisoners of Balu on his island temple. Tarzan succeeds in impersonating Balu in the 'god costume,' but when Vargas returns our heroes are re-captured and sentenced to death.

"Amiably Goofy" is a good way to describe Tarzan and the Mermaids, a barely digested omelet of mixed fantasy motifs. The annoyingly infantile Benji (not a dog) gives forth with instant ballads, like Sir Lancelot of I Walked With a Zombie, only this is Africa, not the West Indies. George Zucco struts his stuff on what appears to be an authentic Aztec pyramid instead of an Egyptian fake, and there's not a Tana Leaf in sight. Beautiful young Linda Christian joins other Mexican cast members in replaying a quickie version of Bird of Paradise minus the volcano. Balu is a fairly impressive quasi-Aztec deity (and not a singing bear).

This is no cheap movie, even if RKO had a special deal with the Mexican studios. A lot of care is taken to tie together the Acapulco location and the island pyramid with a lot of on-site construction. An entire village puts out to sea in canoes, as in a South Seas picture ... in fact, Polynesian imagery abounds, such as the flower Tarzan puts in Mara's hair after he rescues her. Tarzan wrestles a pack of bad guys and fights an octopus in some okay underwater footage, but also uses his noggin in ways we don't expect, pulling a slick God-impersonation trick of his own. The ending is an unmasking straight out of The Man Who Would Be King.

Paul Sawtell did most of the music for the earlier RKO Tarzans but Howard Hughes must have liked this show because none other than Dimitri Tiomkin provides the stirring score. It sounds in some aspects like a mini-version of The Fall of the Roman Empire and really dresses up the action and ritual scenes. Most of the movie plays outdoors but the interior of Balu's lair has nice, atmospheric shadow work. Considering that the 'jungle adventure' genre was at this time the domain of some of the cheapest filmmaking in Hollywood, I don't see how Tarzan and the Mermaids could have earned back even a fraction of its cost.


The Tarzan Collection Vol. 2 gives Edgar Rice Burroughs and Johnny Weissmuller fans the RKO releases they want, yet is as plain-wrap a presentation that I've seen from Warners so far. The quick menus simply lead to the features, chapter selections and choice of subtitles, a satisfactory arrangement for those of us that don't need another clip-show featurette.

The RKO library is full of restoration surprises, in that plenty of pictures that by rights should be printed to death can be made to look fine, while some minor productions have problems. The first four titles in this set look very good and are obviously from prime elements. Tarzan and the Huntress and Tarzan and the Mermaids take a sudden downturn in quality, as if the only materials available were dupes two or three generations removed. One possible explanation is that some or all of these films were redistributed by other companies after the 1958 demise of RKO; perhaps the original negatives of those two titles were damaged, or simply lost. Parts of Huntress are a little contrasty and washed out, and the tracks don't sound quite as clean. The quality dip is only apparent because the other four titles look so good. Savant wasn't seriously bothered, but hardcore Tarzan fans may have a different attitude.


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Tarzan Triumphs rates:
Movie: Very Good
Video: Very Good
Sound: Very Good
Tarzan's Desert Mystery rates:
Movie: Very Good
Video: Very Good
Sound: Very Good

Tarzan and the Amazons rates:
Movie: Very Good
Video: Very Good
Sound: Very Good
Tarzan and the Leopard Woman rates:
Movie: Very Good
Video: Very Good
Sound: Very Good

Tarzan and the Huntress rates:
Movie: Very Good
Video: Good -
Sound: Very Good
Tarzan and the Mermaids rates:
Movie: Very Good
Video: Good -
Sound: Very Good

***
Packaging: three discs in plastic and card folder in card sleeve
Reviewed: November 2, 2006




DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

Advertise With Us

Review Staff | About DVD Talk | Newsletter Subscribe | Join DVD Talk Forum
Copyright © DVDTalk.com All rights reserved | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use

Release List Reviews Price Search Shop SUBSCRIBE Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray/ HD DVD Advertise