Friday, November 16, 2012
My Favorite Tarzan Film
I'm very fond of Mike Henry's three Tarzan films, partly because Henry, of all the various actors who had played Tarzan, came the closest to looking like Edgar Rice Burroughs' descriptions of the character . Tall, and leanly muscular, with jet black hair, he almost seemed a Russ Manning drawing come to life. I also like that in all three of his movies, Tarzan and the Valley of Gold, Tarzan and the Great River, and Tarzan and the Jungle Boy, he managed to show Tarzan as a man who could function just fine in civilization, but who became a ruthless and implacable enemy back in the jungle. Henry's Tarzan wasn't someone to mess with.
I'm also fond of the first half of the movie Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan. Why only the first half? Because that part almost gets the origin spot on. It's very close to the books. Unfortunately, the second half of the movie goes off on some 'noble savage' tangent and never recovers. I always turn the movie off right where Ralph Richardson's character dies. It's downhill from there. But boy, that first half is a blast.
However, having considered the question for a bit, I think my absolute favorite Tarzan movie is the aptly named Tarzan's Greatest Adventure. This is a tightly written, no nonsense little movie, a straight ahead thriller that is not only a very good Tarzan movie, but just a very good movie. You could enjoy this without ever having seen a Tarzan film before.
This was producer Sy Weintraub's first attempt to drag the apeman into contemporary times and make him more realistic. He got rid of all the trappings that Tarzan had been saddled with since the Weissmuller days. No mention of Jane. No Boy. None of that 'me Tarzan' stuff. Cheetah the chimp makes only a brief appearance.
In Tarzan's Greatest Adventure four criminals slaughter a bunch of villagers in order to steal dynamite they need for a diamond stealing plot. Tarzan goes after them and tracks them through the jungle. Like I said of Mike Henry, this is a no nonsense Tarzan. Just like ERB's character, who thought little of killing an enemy, this Tarzan will do whatever has to be done to stop the bad guys.
There are some good performances from the villains, particularly Anthony Quayle as the leader of the crew, and a pre-Bond Sean Connery as a sadistic grinning rogue. Worthy villains for the apeman. The movie was shot mostly on location in Africa and it shows. Gone are the fake looking jungles and obvious sets.
Gordon Scott, who had already made a couple of pseudo-Weissmuller Tarzan movies, got to show that he could actually act if given a chance. This is probably his best film. He's a little beefy for ERB's Tarzan, but he's convincing in the role and he did most of his own stunts.
So yeah, that's my favorite Tarzan movie. Well worth a look.