When I was growing up in the 70's a local station used to
show Tarzan and other jungle adventure movies every Sunday morning at 9
under the Jungle Action banner. I
started watching because there was nothing else on besides
that time, but it soon became something I looked forward to. (I still remember how upset I was when Jungle
Action was replaced with Shirley Temple Theater.) The
thing that I quickly came to realize is
that Tarzan movies are known commodity:
pick just about any film staring the Lord of the Jungle and
an implausible, but rip-roaring fun adventure.
Watching one is a great way to enjoy a couple of hours.
That's definitely true of the Tarzan Collection put out by
the Warner Archive Collection. It's a
set of five Tarzan films made between 1962 and 1968 featuring Jock
then Mike Henry as the King of the Apes.
Not only that, but these films would be end of the classic
movies. He wouldn't be featured in a
film (aside from a movie made from edited TV shows) for nearly a decade
half. The next time he'd grace the
silver screen would be in 1981's Tarzan,
the Ape Man and what's even worse than the long delay is that top
was given to the actress who played Jane (Bo Derek).
When producer Sy Weintraub bought the rights to the
franchise in 1958, he made some immediate changes.
Tarzan no longer spoke in broken Pidgin
English and Jane was removed from the series.
Tarzan became more of and adventurer, and in the five films in
collection he travels the world helping out those in need.
The first movie in this set is the freshman appearance of
Jock Mahoney in the lead role. Mahoney
played a villain in the previous Tarzan film (1960's Tarzan
the Magnificent) and impressed the producer so much that he
landed the job.
Tarzan Goes to India
Having been called to India by his old friend the
Maharajah, Tarzan arrives in a spectacular manner, jumping out of an
without a parachute, into a lake. It's a
great scene that sets the tone for the whole movie:
it's going to be a fun ride, as long as you
don't think about it too much.
Once there, the beautiful Princess Kamara relates the
problem: a hydroelectric dam is nearing
completion and when it's finished it will provide electricity for
a large area, but there's a large number of elephants trapped in the
that can't climb the mountains to escape the flood waters.
There is one passage that they could use, but
it will be closed in a couple of days and the herd is being led be a
elephant that can't be controlled.
Tarzan is the only one who could possibly save the pachyderms.
Taking a tour of the dam project, Tarzan butts heads with
the wonderfully villainous lead engineer, Bryce (Leo Gordon), an avid
hunter who doesn't care for neither animal nor human life, just getting
project completed before the monsoon rains start. Tarzan
heads out to the jungle to find the
herd and encounters "Jai the Elephant Boy," an orphan who owns a
elephant and won't leave the valley.
He's sure his pet is so strong that he can fight the onrushing
water. (My guess is that he was raised
on The Iliad and loved the part where Achilles attacks the Xanthus River.) It's
clear that Tarzan has his work cut out
The first thing that strikes viewers about this film is that
they've moved production off of the back lot and actually went to India
the movie. This helps the franchise a
great deal as they're able to do things that just couldn't be
and around Hollywood. The impressive of these is the climactic
elephant charge with a reported 300 pachyderms.
There's also a full scale damn project including hundreds of
carrying rock and working on bamboo scaffolding. There
are also some scenes that couldn't be
shot today, most notably an actual fight between a cobra and a mongoose.
Jock Mahoney, who was a highly accomplished stuntman before turning to acting, creates a Tarzan that's a bit different from
what has come before, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. He speaks English well and uses complete
sentences, something that was started earlier in the franchise, but
to see it carried on.
Mahoney is also an older Tarzan (he is the oldest actor to
play the role on the silver screen) and he's not as muscular as his
predecessor. While this has bothered some
actually works well with the script (in both this and the following
film). This is a Tarzan who has been
around for a
while and it both wiser and more thoughtful.
He's still strong and agile, but he considers a problem before
The only thing that really drags the film down is Tarzan's
juvenile side-kick, Jai the Elephant Boy.
The character comes across as irritating and obnoxious rather
and endearing. It's too bad that he mars
an otherwise fun and enjoyable Tarzan adventure.
The spiritual leader of the people is dying and has named a
youth named Kashi as his successor. That doesn't sit well with Khan,
leader's brother (Woody Strode) who plans to kill the child and assume
So Tarzan (played by Jock Mahoney... his second and last
appearance in the role) is summoned to Thailand (where he jumps
out of a
plane again... this time wearing a parachute) to protect the young boy. Before he can reach the monastery where Kashi
lives however, the party escorting him is ambushed and his guides are
leaving only the boat pilot (secretly an agent of Khan's) to get him to
Once there, the holy men aren't sure that the man before
them is really Tarzan the Ape Man and submit him to a series of trails
his worth. Surprisingly, these three
challenges of the title actually only take up a few minutes of screen
then it's off across the country to get Kashi to the capital, but Khan
plan to make it easy for him.
Like the previous movie, this one features a more cerebral
and thoughtful Tarzan. He teaches Kashi
along the way about violence and death, and serves as a friend as much
guard. There is plenty of action, make
no mistake. The film ends with a duel to
the death between Tarzan and Khan that involves a foot race, bungee
into a river and ultimately a knife battle on a rope lattice above pots
Filmed on location once again, the settings are a bit bland
at times (much to the time they're just walking through bursh) but the
and people are authentic. There's a big
parade/celebration near the end, at it was quite an elaborate staging.
One last word on Jock Mahoney: he's a very
good Tarzan, but he doesn't
really look the part. I was surprised
when doing research for this review that many people claimed that
hired in order to get back to the franchise's roots and what Edgar Rice
originally envisioned for the character.
While this may very well have been producer Sy Weintraub
of the Tarzan from the books, it wasn't accurate. As
Burroughs described his most famous
character in the first book, Tarzan of
the Apes, he was incredibly strong: "Though but ten years old he
as strong as the average man of thirty, and far more agile than the
practiced athlete ever becomes. And day by day his strength was
increasing." When he was fully grown, he
was described thus:
His straight and perfect figure,
muscled as the best of the ancient Roman gladiators must have been
yet with the soft and sinuous curves of a Greek god, told at a glance
wondrous combination of enormous strength with suppleness and speed.
A personification, was Tarzan of the Apes, of the primitive man, the
hunter, the warrior. With the noble poise of his handsome head upon
those broad shoulders, and
the fire of life and intelligence in those fine, clear eyes, he might
have typified some demigod of a wild and warlike bygone people of his
It's pretty clear that the author was describing a man who
looked very formidable.
In any case, near the end of filming this movie, Jock
Mahoney came down with dysentery (reportedly after swimming in a
river) and lost a lot of weight. It took
him 18 months to recover and through mutual agreement he was let out of
Tarzan and the Valley of Gold
For the new Tarzan it was decided to go with someone more
muscular and fit, and LA Rams Linebacker Mike Henry was selected. Henry really looks the part and is incredibly
buff, and he filled the role well.
However things had changed in the three years since the last
movie: Bond-mania had struck.
Arriving into Mexico
on a plane (this time his
host has actually arranged for the machine to land) Tarzan of the
off in a tailor-fit suit looking both suave and debonair.
He's picked up by a driver, and driven inside
a sports arena. The driver pulls a gun
and tries to assassinate his passenger but Tarzan is too quick for him
ends up on the wrong side of the gun.
Tarzan isn't out of danger yet, however.
A sharpshooter has been stationed in the stands for just such an
eventuality. Tarzan leaps out of the car,
grabbing the driver's gun (Tarzan with a gun?!?) and proceeds, through
and strength, to take care of the sniper.
This sounds like a spy movie, doesn't it? The
trappings of the spy genre continue to
expand before we finally get to the jungle. Tarzan
meets the local authorities where he
finally gets an explanation: There is an
international criminal, Augustus Vinero (David Opatoshu), who heard of
boy, Ramel (Manuel Padilla Jr.), who is supposedly from the legendary Valley of Gold.
He caught the boy and obtained the location of the valley and
a small army, armed with machine guns, a helicopter, and a tank, to
gold by force.
Ramel managed to escape and he's being hidden on a farm by a
friend of Tarzan's. By the time they
arrive there, it's too late. Vinero's
men have killed everyone and kidnapped the boy.
The police offer Tarzan everything at their disposal to bring
justice and announce that they'll have 50 men there in the morning. Tarzan refuses their offer... that's too many
men to movie quickly and quietly. When
they ask him what he wants he replies with one of the better lines in
Tarzan film: "I'll need a good rope, a hunting knife, and a soft piece
leather." And he's right, that's pretty
much all he needs.
This film hasn't aged as well as the others in the series,
but it's still a lot of fun. Trying to
cash in on the popularity of James Bond was a mistake and results in
the film's more goofy moments. The gun
battle at the beginning of the movie just seems out of place, and
right in on the set of an Austin Powers movie.
When people "upset" him, he gives them an expensive watch that
about a minute after it has been put on, and he's quite willing to blow
up who works for him just because they have the audacity to ask for
pay. Having Tarzan fire a Browning
Machine Gun (one of those heavy tripod-mounted things) from the hip and
tank makes him seem more like a resourceful spy than the Lord of the
In any case, even though they're trying to cash in on the
popularity of spy movies, this is still a good flick.
Mike Henry seems at home in the jungle and
cuts an imposing figure as he's swinging through the trees. The action, while a bit over the top, is
still enjoyable. Who cares if it's a bit
unrealistic to have Tarzan take out a helicopter from the ground? It's still cool. His
taunting of his rival via a two-way radio
is fun too. Overall it has a different
feel from the earlier movies, but it's still worth watching. (And it makes me wonder how a Bond movie
staring Mike Henry would have turned out.)
Tarzan and the Great River
Since turning Tarzan into a Bond-like character didn't work
it was decided that the franchise really needed some comic relief. This took the form of borscht belt comic and
Squares personality Jan Murray. He plays Captain Sam, the owner of a
riverboat that's been hired to take a shipment of desperately needed
up the Amazon for Dr. Ann Philips (Diana Millay, Dark
Shadows). Also living
on the boat is Pepe (Manuel Padilla Jr. who played Jai in the 1966
series), an orphan that Sam has taken under his wing.
Complicating this idyllic existence is Barcuna (Rafer
Johnson) the leader of an evil cult. His
men have been conquering Indian villages and enslaving the people that
don't kill. He's using the slaves to
mine diamonds, for reasons that aren't really explored.
When a friend of Tarzan's who has been making
trouble of Barcuna ends up dead, the jungle man heads off into the
forest to settle things once and for all.
After saving Captain Sam and Pepe from an ambush by Barcuna's
Tarzan joins the group to protect them, and eventually Dr. Philips.
This would have been a much better film if they had made
Captain Sam a straight character. His
doesn't fit in with the movie at all, and what's worse is that it's not
funny. The banter between Sam and Pepe
is supposed to be humorous and cute, but it's just dumb.
A typical joke:
Sam: This boat isn't
as young as she used to be.
Pepe: Neither are you
This hokum took up too much time in what would otherwise
have been a pretty good film.
Tarzan and the Jungle
The final film in this collection has Tarzan returning to
his roots: Africa. Though it was filmed in Brazil (and a lot of
footage was reused from the previous two pictures) Tarzan and the
feels a lot like an old Johnny Weissmuller-era film, though it does
The film gets off to a great start with the two sons of a
tribal leader competing for the right to become chief when their father
dies. Buhara (Edward Johnson) and
Nagambi (Rafer Johnson) are evenly matched in the contest until Nagambi
and tries to kill his brother and is deemed unfit to lead.
Once their father dies however (moments after
the contest has ended) Nagambi ambushes his brother, ties him to the
and leaves him for the lions.
Buhara has some help however, in the form of Erik, an Anglo
child who was lost in the jungle six years ago.
Erik rescues the wounded chief and tries to tend to him while
dodging Nagambi and his men.
Meanwhile Tarzan is searching for Erik (future soap opera
star Steven Bond) too, after a pushy photojournalist, Myrna Claudel
Gur), informs him that there's a young boy fending for himself in the
jungle. The jungle king searches by
himself, but Myrna pays a guide to sneak her into the forbidden area
has been rumored to live. It's up to
Tarzan to save the real tribal chief as well as Myrna from the evil
well as locating the lost jungle boy.
There's a lot that works with this movie. They
got rid of the comic relief (with the
slight exception of Cheeta) and spy aspects and made a straight Tarzan
flick. They include all of the
trappings: friendly jungle animals to
assist Tarzan, an attractive female lead, an evil villain to challenge
jungle king, and some great action scenes.
The only problem is that it doesn't work quite as well as it
should. There are a few storylines that
are all competing for screen time, which means that Tarzan doesn't play
of a role as he should. On top of that
there's a lot of walking a jungle scenes, which makes the film feel a
Mike Henry had enough of playing the role by the time
production on this film wrapped. He was
supposed to be the lead in the Tarzan
TV series but declined. (Ron Ely would
end up playing the role.) During his
three films, which were shot back-to-back on location, he suffered from
dysentery, was bitten by a chimp (which needed 20 stitches), got food
poisoning, and a disease of the liver.
He ended up suing producer Sy Weintraub for "maltreatment,
and working conditions detrimental to my health and welfare."
And so ends the classic run of Tarzan, a film series that
can trace its origins back over 35 years to 1932's Tarzan the Ape Man
Weissmuller, the man who would make the Tarzan name synonymous with
The two channel audio is pretty decent across the five
titles. There is a hiss that's pretty
evident in the background of Tarzan and
the Great River, but aside from that the soundtrack sounds pretty
films as old as these.
The original 2.35 : 1 aspect ratio has been preserved for
all of the films, which is great. After
seeing these as pan-and-scan hack jobs on TV, it's wonderful to see the
image. The picture is generally
fine. While none of these has been
restored, the level of detail is nice and the colors look good. There is some dirt and spots on the prints,
especially at the beginning of the films, but it's never distracting or
Unfortunately, there are no extras.
A quintet of fun jungle action flicks, the Tarzan Collection
is well worth checking out. Several of
the films are very good and none of them are actually bad.
Even the lesser entries feature some great
action scenes and some fun adventure. If
you're a Tarzan fan this is a no-brainer.