Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Tarzan Movies

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The Tarzan Jungle Movies are of varying interest, and are treated accordingly.

1. Tarzan of the Apes US movie (1918). National Film Corporation of America/First National. Pr William Parsons. Dir Scott Sidney. Screenplay Lois Weber, Fred Miller. Based on Tarzan of the Apes (1914) by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Starring True Boardman (John Clayton, Earl of Greystoke), George B French (Binns), Gordon Griffith (young Tarzan), Thomas Jefferson (Professor Porter), Colin Kenny (Cecil), Kathleen Kirkham (Alice, Lady Greystoke), Elmo Lincoln (Tarzan), Enid Markey (Jane Porter). circa 95 mins (8 reels). B/w. Silent.

There is a mutiny aboard the Fuwalda, bound for Africa, and a sailor called Binns saves Lord and Lady Greystoke from death at the hands of the crew. The trio are marooned on a jungle-girt shore; soon afterwards Binns is abducted by slavers. The Greystokes have a baby, but then die. The infant is reared by Kala the she-ape, who dubs him Tarzan. Years pass. Tarzan finds his parents' cabin and a knife, which weapon enables him to become top ape. Binns, free of the slavers, befriends Tarzan and teaches him to read; he then returns to England, where the incumbent Greystokes commit him to an asylum to shut him up about the true heir. However, a party is eventually sent to Africa, among them Jane Porter and her father, plus Tarzan's cousin Cecil. Tarzan secretly observes them and, when Cecil tries to seduce Jane, beats him up; he then rescues Jane from, in succession, a lion, a rapist and a hostile tribe. At last she agrees to remain in the jungle with him.

TOTA, a lavish production (it cost about $300,000, and was shot partly on location in Brazil) was a great hit, turning its production company and distributor into major commercial forces and making Elmo Lincoln (born Otto Elmo Linkenhelter) a star. However, Burroughs, earlier wildly enthusiastic about the bringing of his hero to the screen, seems to have cooled dramatically by the time of TOTA's release, probably because the movie's depiction of a brutish, inarticulate giant was a long way from the civilized John Clayton of the written tales. Burroughs made unsuccessful efforts to halt the inevitable sequel, 2. [JG]

2. The Romance of Tarzan US movie (1918). National Film Corporation of America/First National. Pr William Parsons. Dir Wilfred Lucas. Screenplay Bess Meredyth. Based on Tarzan of the Apes (1914) by Burroughs. Starring True Boardman (John Clayton, Earl of Greystoke), George B French (Binns), Gordon Griffith (young Tarzan), Thomas Jefferson (Professor Porter), Colin Kenny (Cecil), Kathleen Kirkham (Lady Greystoke), Elmo Lincoln (Tarzan), Cleo Madison (La Belle Odine), Enid Markey (Jane). circa 82 mins (7 reels). B/w. Silent.

This follows the early story of 1, but diverges when the search party arrives from England. After Tarzan has saved the party from hostile natives, Cecil persuades the others he has seen Tarzan die, so they set sail. Eventually Tarzan makes his way to California, where he joins what passes for polite society near the Mexican border. By astonishing coincidence, a kidnapped Jane has also been brought here, and he rescues her. Foiling a murderous plot by Cecil and the loose but beautiful Odine (who succumbs to Tarzan's charms), Tarzan woos Jane; but Cecil has told her that Tarzan loves Odine, and she rejects her jungle lover, who returns disconsolately home. Odine confesses the truth to Jane who, with her father, sets forth once more for Africa. [JG]

3. The Revenge of Tarzan US movie (1920). Numa/Goldwyn. Pr George M Merrick. Dir Harry Revier. Screenplay Robert Saxmar. Based on The Return of Tarzan (1915) by Burroughs. Starring Franklin Coates (Paul D'Arnot), Armand Cortez (Nicholas Rokoff), Walter Miller (Ivan Paulovich), Gene Pollar (Tarzan), George Romain (Count de Coude), Karla Schramm (Jane), Estelle Taylor (Countess de Coude). circa 82 mins (7 reels). B/w. Silent.

Filmed as The Return of Tarzan but released cut from 9 reels to 7 and with the name changed, this represented a rapid decline even from 2. It was the only movie of the new Tarzan, Gene Pollar (born Joe Pohler), a New York fireman. Tarzan, sojourning in civilization, tries to thwart a scam and earns the mortal enmity of Paulovich and Rokoff, who remain undefeated at movie's end – although at least Tarzan is reunited with Jane, who is serendipitously shipwrecked on the island on which Tarzan's enemies have marooned him. [JG]

4. The Son of Tarzan US serial movie (1920). National Film Corporation of America. Dir Arthur J Flaven, Harry Revier. Screenplay Roy Somerville. Based on The Son of Tarzan (1917) by Burroughs. Starring Eugene Burr (Ivan Paulovich), Mae Giraci (young Meriem), Gordon Griffith (young Korak/Jack), Manilla Martan (Meriem), Karla Schramm (Jane), Kamuela C Searle (Korak), P Dempsey Tabler (Tarzan). 15 episodes. B/w. Silent.

The real star of this tortuous tale is Jack, son of Tarzan and Jane, who have long been married and living as Lord and Lady Greystoke in civilization. Paulovich (from 3) is still intent on revenge, especially when Jack disrupts Paulovich's exhibition in England of Akut, one of Tarzan's old ape friends. Akut and Jack abscond to Africa, where the lad rescues a girl-child, Meriem, from Arab slavers and becomes Korak. The two grow up together and fall in love. Discovering their son is still alive, Tarzan and Jane come to fetch him; both women are captured by and rescued from the slavers, whose sheik Korak eventually kills. Korak is saved from death at the stake by a friendly elephant, and, reunited, all set sail for home.

In reality, Searle was fatally injured during his "rescue" by the elephant, and Korak's last few scenes were filmed with a substitute, seen only from the rear. This tragedy significantly increased the serial's popularity. An edited feature-film version (circa 111 mins) was released in 1923 as Jungle Trail of the Son of Tarzan. [JG]

5. The Adventures of Tarzan US serial movie (1921). Weiss Brothers-Numa/Great Western. Dir Robert F Hill. Screenplay Hill, Lillian Valentine. Based on The Return of Tarzan (1915) by Burroughs. Starring Charles Islee (Professor Porter), Elmo Lincoln (Tarzan), Louise Lorraine (Jane), Frank Whitson (Nicholas Rokoff), Lillian Worth (La). 15 episodes, re-edited 1928 as 10 episodes. B/w. Silent.

The early story of Tarzan and his romance with Jane is rehashed; the rest of the serial is a nonstop collection of adventures in which Tarzan saves Jane from kidnappers, hostile natives, wild animals and more. The whole is fuelled by two McGuffins: a nerve-gas formula stolen by the villainous Rokoff (from 3) and the treasure of the jungle kingdom of Opar, the only Map to which chances to be tattooed on Jane's shoulder. This was Lincoln's final appearance as Tarzan. [JG]

6. Tarzan and the Golden Lion US movie (1927). RC Pictures/FBO Gold Bond. Exec pr Joseph P Kennedy. Dir J P McGowan. Screenplay William Wing. Based on Tarzan and the Golden Lion by Burroughs. Starring Dorothy Dunbar (Jane), Boris Karloff (Chief), Lui Yu-Ching (Weesimbo), Edna Murphy (Flora Hawkes), Fred Peters (Esteban Miranda), Jim Pierce (Tarzan). circa 75 mins (6 reels). B/w. Silent.

Tarzan's old friend Weesimbo tells him of the treasures of the lost City of Diamonds. Villainous Miranda, overhearing, abducts Weesimbo (plus Jane's niece Flora and her fiancé) and makes him act as guide. Tarzan pursues with his golden lion Jad-bal-ja, saves Flora from Human Sacrifice and returns home triumphant. Pierce was Burroughs's personal selection as Tarzan, but never played the role on screen again (although offered the part for 10). In due course Pierce married Burroughs's daughter Joan, and the couple played Tarzan and Jane in a weekly radio series. [JG]

7. Tarzan the Mighty US serial movie (1928). Universal. Pr William Lord Wright. Dir Jack Nelson. Screenplay Ian McClosky Heath. Based on Jungle Tales of Tarzan (coll 1919) by Burroughs. Starring Al Ferguson (Black John), Lorimer Johnston (Lord Greystoke), Natalie Kingston (Mary Trevor), Frank Merrill (Tarzan), Bobby Nelson (Bobby Trevor). 15 episodes. B/w. Silent.

Another rewrite of Tarzan's biography. Black John, of a villainous jungle "tribe" descended from Pirates, discovers shipwrecked Mary Trevor and her little brother Bobby on the shore. Tarzan and Mary become interested in each other; Black John threatens Bobby will die unless Mary marries him. Tarzan rescues Mary, and she tells him some old documents he cannot read are proof he is the Greystoke heir. Black John obtains the documents and pretends to be first Tarzan and then Tarzan's uncle, Lord Greystoke – who has by chance arrived in search of the heir – in hope of gaining both girl and title. Leopards rip Black John to bits; Tarzan is offered the luxuries of England but determines to remain in the jungle with Mary as his loving "bride". [JG]

8. Tarzan the Tiger US serial movie (1929). Pr William Lord Wright. Dir Henry McRae. Screenplay Ian McClosky Heath. Based on Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar (1918) by Burroughs. Starring Mohammed Bey (Paul Panzer), Al Ferguson (Albert Werper), Natalie Kingston (Jane), Kithnou (La), Sheldon Lewis (Achmet Zek), Frank Merrill (Tarzan), Clive Morgan (Philip Annersley). 15 episodes. B/w. Silent.

Tarzan goes back to Opar (> 5) to gather extra gold for the Greystoke estates, but in an accident is hit on the head and loses his memory. Despite this, despite the villainous wiles of Zek, Werper and Annersley, and even despite the lustful grapplings of Queen La of Opar, Tarzan manages to recover not only sufficient jewels to pay off the estate debts but also to regain his memory, in the process twice saving Jane from a ghastly doom.

Kingston, who had in 7 played an alternative amour for Tarzan, was here cast as Jane: no wonder mighty man of jungle bit confused. A dubbed version of this, the last of the silent Tarzans, was released: it had sound effects, music and Tarzan's triumphal yell, but no dialogue. [JG]

9. Tarzan the Ape Man US movie (1932). MGM. Pr Bernard H Hyman. Dir W S Van Dyke. Screenplay Cyril Hume, Ivor Novello. Starring Alfredo Codona (Weissmuller's body-double), Neil Hamilton (Harry Holt), Forrester Harvey (Beamish), Doris Lloyd (Mrs Cutten), Maureen O'Sullivan (Jane Parker), C Aubrey Smith (James Parker), Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan), Ivory Williams (Riano). 99 mins. B/w.

Jane comes to Africa to find her father. He, with partner Holt, is about to set out in search of the Elephant's Graveyard (and its ivory), reputed to lie beyond the Taboo-ridden Mutia Escarpment. She goes with them, and is soon captured as a curiosity by the wordless Tarzan, to whose sexuality she responds with innocent curiosity. She is recovered by Holt and her father, who kill an ape in the process; an angry Tarzan murders most of the black members of the expedition by way of revenge, but is then himself shot by Holt. The elephant Timba carries Jane to Tarzan, and she nurses him back to health, falling in love with him the while. Later the expedition is captured by a tribe of murderous dwarfs, and rescued by Tarzan and a herd of elephants. Jane, her father having died, determines to remain in the jungle as Tarzan's mate.

Cinema's mythology persists in depicting this as a fine movie, but in fact it is not: it is little better than its precursors in the series, and the sexual electricity that made later Weissmuller/O'Sullivan Tarzan collaborations so memorable failed to spark here. Furthermore, it is unremittingly racist: the only way of dealing with darkies, it seems, is by use of the whip; indeed, the black members of the safari are less servants than slaves.

The movie had its genesis in Trader Horn (1930; > Jungle Movies), which went way over budget and was almost scrapped. However, photographer Clyde de Vinna had shot more footage of African wildlife and African tribes than could be used in that movie, so MGM's Irving Thalberg decided another movie must be made to exploit this material; he struck a deal with Burroughs that, while his characters would be used, his plots would not. In the event Burroughs waived most of his rights concerning the use of his plots. [JG]

10. Tarzan the Fearless US serial and feature movie (1933). Wardour/Sol Lesser/Principal. Pr Lesser. Dir Robert F Hill. Screenplay Walter Anthony, Basil Dickey, George Plympton, William Lord Wright. Based on an original story, possibly by Burroughs. Starring Mischa Auer (Eltar), Matthew Betz (Nick Moran), Symonia Boniface (Arab woman), Buster Crabbe (Tarzan), Frank Lackteen (Abdul), Philo McCullough (Jeff Herbert), E Alyn Warren (Dr Brooks), Jacqueline Wells (Mary Brooks), Eddie Woods (Bob Hall). 12-episode serial, 85 mins feature (only feature survives). B/w.

Mary Brooks is part of a safari come to Africa to seek her father, a scientist who is a good friend of Tarzan's. She first encounters the apeman when she foolishly goes skinny-dipping in a croc-infested river (the apparent bareness of her buttocks possibly had consequences for 11), and love ensues. Co-expeditioners Herbert and Moran have been offered £10,000 by the Greystoke estate if they can bring back proof Tarzan is dead, but give this up when they discover Dr Brooks has departed in search of a temple packed with treasure; also in the party are nice Bob Hall, who loves the gel, and sinister Arabs Abdul and his lovely sidekick, who kidnap Mary ... There is much more of this sort: the movie is overloaded with plot, its genesis as a serial being very obvious in its need to have regular, increasingly arbitrary cliffhangers.

Existing prints of TTF are made up of the first 4 episodes of the serial, initially released together as an hour-long teaser, plus cobbled-on surviving bits from the other episodes. [JG]

11. Tarzan and His Mate US movie (1934). MGM. Pr Bernard H Hyman. Dir Jack Conway (uncredited), Cedric Gibbons. Screenplay James Kevin McGuinness. Starring Paul Cavanagh (Martin Arlington), Alfredo Codona (Weissmuller's body-double), Nathan Curry (Saidi), Neil Hamilton (Harry Holt), Forrester Harvey (Beamish), Josephine McKim (O'Sullivan's body-double), Maureen O'Sullivan (Jane), Desmond Roberts (Henry Van Ness), William Stack (Tom Pierce), Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan). 116 mins, cut to 95 mins for general release; restored 1991 video release 104 mins. B/w.

Holt (from 9) is still optimistic that he can win Jane. He lures to Africa his sociopathic old friend Arlington, an ivory merchant keen to discover the Elephants' Graveyard; attempting to thwart them are Pierce and Van Ness. They meet Tarzan when he calls off a band of giant apes from slaughtering the safari's bearers; Arlington is immediately smitten by Jane. Tarzan and Jane live in a state of Pastoral bliss, innocently sexual until the Westerners start to introduce foreign concepts like "modesty"; the Beauty and the Beast theme is frequently underlined, as when Tarzan repeatedly saves Jane from wild animals, being an animal himself during these contests (most were to be recycled intact in later Weissmuller Tarzan movies). When Tarzan learns of the expedition's intended destination he declines to lead it further, regarding the pillaging of the Elephants' Graveyard as a desecration; Arlington, who has already murdered one of the bearers pour encourager les autres, promptly shoots and mortally wounds one of Tarzan's elephant friends, so that it leads them to the place. Tarzan heads a herd of elephants to stop the theft of the ivory; Arlington agrees to return it, but next day shoots Tarzan and persuades Jane her lover has been killed by a crocodile. But Tarzan is alive, as Jane soon discovers. By then, however, the expedition is being attacked by hostile natives and a vast herd (eh?) of lions. Tarzan arrives with his elephants to save Jane, but too late for the others.

This was a long movie for its day, and even longer at its premiere, before the Legion of Decency protested – possibly in part because Jacqueline Wells had bared much in 10 but in the main because, despite the adventures, TAHM is essentially a movie about Sex, depicting its innocence in surroundings uncorrupted by "morals": there is nothing remotely objectionable to the modern eye about Jane in her revealing garb or even, as we see her briefly (a body-double was used), naked (a moment notably fictionalized in Theodor Roszak's Flicker [1991]); it is only when she is dressed in "acceptable" fashion costumes brought to Africa by the Englishmen that any hint of voyeurism intrudes. In short, TAHM deliberately argued that sex is a moral activity unless fetishized. Needless to say, the Legion of Decency saw only the offence of an underclad woman (Tarzan's even briefer customary costume escaped censure); a brief sequence in which Tarzan and Jane decide to head treewards for an (off-screen) bout of lovemaking served further to inflame the self-appointed guardians of morality – who won the argument, in the sense that none of the further MGM Tarzan movies dared to be ambitious.

TAHM cannot be described as a distinguished debate between innocence, on the one hand, and decorum, on the other – it is too marred by pointless adventures and bad spfx for that – yet it does represent an important landmark in the way the Cinema was prepared to depict sexuality. It is certainly the best of the Weissmuller Tarzan movies. [JG]

see also: One Million Bc (1940).

12. The New Adventures of Tarzan (vt Tarzan's New Adventure) US serial movie (1935). Burroughs/Tarzan Enterprises. Pr Ashton Dearholt. Dir Edward Kull. Screenplay Charles F Royal. Based on original story by Burroughs. Starring Frank Baker (Major Martling), Herman Brix (aka Bruce Bennett; Tarzan), Don Costello (Raglan), Ashton Dearholt (Raglan), Harry Ernest (Gordon Hamilton), Ula Holt (Ula Vale), Dale Walsh (Alice Martling). 12 episodes. B/w.

With varying purposes, the cast set out from Africa to Guatemala in search of a statue stuffed with jewels: the Lost Goddess of the Dead City. After battles with the Mayans whose property the sacred object is, our heroes share the valuables among themselves.

This serial, in which Burroughs himself was directly involved (note production credits), was later edited as a feature, The New Adventures of Tarzan (1935). It was sequelled by 14, also from Burroughs/Tarzan Enterprises. [JG]

13. Tarzan Escapes US movie (1936). MGM. Assoc pr Sam Zimbalist. Dir Richard Thorpe. Screenplay Cyril Hume. Starring John Buckler (Captain Fry), E E Clive (Masters), William Henry (Eric Parker), Benita Hume (Rita Parker), Darby Jones (Bomba), Herbert Mundin (Herbert Henry Rawlins), Maureen O'Sullivan (Jane), Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan). 95 mins. B/w.

Jane's Uncle Peter has died, leaving her half his fortune. Her impecunious cousins – his other niece Rita and nephew Eric – come to Africa to persuade her to return briefly to England so she may claim her inheritance and give much of it to further Eric's studies. Unscrupulous big-game hunter Fry leads them on safari to the Mutia Escarpment, his plan being to capture the "great white gorilla" said to live there as King of the Apes and bring him back for public display in a specially constructed "durallium" cage ("I'll guarantee it'll hold anything"). Fry – who later tries to barter the lives of the rest with the murderous Hymandi tribe – eventually gets his comeuppance, and Tarzan and Jane are left in peace in their jungle idyll.

This version of TE was in fact the second one made, a completed previous movie having been scrapped because felt by MGM not to be exciting enough. It is marked by an increased domestication of Tarzan and especially Jane, who now sleeps fully clothed in a far more demure costume (> 11); the pair have an elaborate tree house with cleverly constructed mod cons. (Amusingly, one erotic moment far more highly charged than anything that had gone before was allowed to slip through.) The Bomba here is the leader of Fry's native bearers, and is not to be confused with the hero of the Bomba Movies. [JG]

14. Tarzan and the Green Goddess US movie (1937). Burroughs/Tarzan Enterprises. Pr Ashton Dearholt. Dir Edward Kull. Spfx Howard Anderson, Ray Mercer. Screenplay Charles F Royal. Based on an original story by Burroughs. Starring Frank Baker (Major Martling), Herman Brix (Tarzan), Don Costello (Raglan), Ula Holt (Ula Vale). 72 mins. B/w.

This sequel to 12 was in fact directly derived from 12, with some clever editing and a modicum of new footage being used to create a fresh story. The statue stolen by our heroes in 12 apparently contains, aside from the jewels, the formula for a super-explosive. After many adventures the baddies are slain and the goodies decorated, back in the UK, for their services to civilization. Although theoretically set in Guatemala the movie shows wildlife including lions and rhinoceroses. This was the end of Burroughs's dream of seeing his own version of Tarzan on screen. [JG]

15. Tarzan's Revenge US movie (1938). 20th Century-Fox/Principal. Pr Sol Lesser. Dir D Ross Lederman. Screenplay Robert Lee Johnson, Jay Vann. Based on "a novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs", although it is difficult to establish which. Starring George Barbier (Roger Reed), C Henry Gordon (Ben Aley Bey), Eleanor Holm (Eleanor Reed), Hedda Hopper (Penny Reed), John Lester Johnson (Koki), George Meeker (Nevin Potter), Corbet Morris (Jigger), Glenn Morris (Tarzan), Joe Sawyer (Olav). 70 mins. B/w.

Pretty, spoilt Eleanor Reed, her toping father Roger, her allergic mother Penny, her humourless, cowardly fiancé Nevin and their servant Jigger arrive near Toocompac, on the Luckbar River, for a hunting safari; they hire twitchy, drying-out alcoholic Olav as local guide, little realizing he is also in the pay of Sheikh Ben Aley Bey, ruler of a region further inland; earlier Bey has been captivated by Eleanor, and he commands Olav to deliver her to his harem. Tarzan, also captivated by Eleanor and keen, too, to protect the wildlife, secretly dogs the safari, and saves the day. Eleanor decides to stay with Tarzan as the others return to Evanston, Illinois.

In many ways this is a much better movie than its approximate contemporaries in the Weissmuller series (although one is far more conscious of the fact that it is shot on set, not on location), and it lacks the dreadful recycled sequences. Yet it is largely affectless – in part because there is no O'Sullivan but perhaps in larger part because it is a story of white folk who encounter Tarzan in Africa rather than one about Tarzan's (and Jane's) interactions with white folk in his Land-of-Fable home territory. [JG]

16. Tarzan Finds a Son! US movie (1939). MGM. Pr Sam Zimbalist. Dir Richard Thorpe. Screenplay Cyril Hume. Starring Laraine Day (Mrs Richard Lancing), Ian Hunter (Austin Lancing), Frieda Inescort (Mrs Austin Lancing), Morton Lowry (Richard Lancing), Maureen O'Sullivan (Jane), John Sheffield (Boy), Henry Stephenson (Sir Thomas Lancing), Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan), Henry Wilcoxon (Sande). 95 mins. B/w.

Their baby son is the only survivor when the plane bearing Richard Lancing (favourite nephew of Neville, Lord Greystoke) and his wife crashes on the Mutia Escarpment. The infant is rescued by chimps in a reprise of Tarzan's own earliest history; but then Cheeta brings the child to Tarzan and Jane, who adopt him – naming him, at Tarzan's insistence, "Boy". Five years later Lord Greystoke is dead, having left his fortune to his nephew Richard and Richard's heirs, to be held in trust for 20 years unless it can be proven Richard is dead. To the Mutia Escarpment comes a safari led by Lord Greystoke's brother Thomas and including Richard's cousin Austin and his wife (who hope to find all dead so they can inherit) plus local hunter-guide Sande. Invited to the treehouse for a grotesque parody of a suburban lunch party, they tell their story. Jane immediately sends Tarzan and Boy off on a swimming expedition so they will not see her lie as she claims the plane crash left no survivors. That swimming expedition – including underwater sequences with an elephant and a turtle – is one of the most charming and effective stretches in the entire Tarzan oeuvre; it ends with Tarzan saving Boy from tumbling over a huge waterfall. Sir Thomas, watching, recognizes features of Richard in Boy, and is all for doing the decent thing; the younger Lancings, abetted by Sande, decide to take Boy to England where, as guardians, they may exploit his fortune. The villains persuade Jane she owes it to Boy to let him take up his inheritance. She thus traps her mate in a ravine and sets off alongside Boy with the safari, promising to return. Sir Thomas is murdered by Austin, who then, despite Jane's warnings, leads the party into hostile Zambeli territory; they are captured and an orgy of Human Sacrifice starts. Jane is wounded aiding Boy escape to fetch Tarzan and, when Tarzan arrives at the head of a herd of elephants, seems dying. But his declaration of love revives her, and the family is reunited, the Lancings being peremptorily dismissed.

Although the persistent use of ludicrously speeded-up motion makes some action sequences hilarious rather than exciting, there is comparatively little use of matter recycled from earlier Tarzan movies, and overall this is a thoroughly enjoyable movie. It is also often affecting, thanks to the brilliance of O'Sullivan's performance as she struggles with the difficulties of explaining ethical complexities to one so determinedly simplistic as Tarzan; Weissmuller does well as her foil. This was Sheffield's first appearance: he played in seven further Tarzan movies (17-23) before going off to star in the Bomba Movies. [JG]

17. Tarzan's Secret Treasure US movie (1941). MGM. Pr B P Fineman. Dir Richard Thorpe. Spfx Warren Newcombe. Screenplay Myles Connolly, Paul Gangelin. Starring Tom Conway (Medford), Philip Dorn (Vandermeer), Barry Fitzgerald (Dennis O'Doul), Cordell Hickman (Tumbo), Maureen O'Sullivan (Jane), Reginald Owen (Professor Elliott), John Sheffield (Boy), Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan). 81 mins. B/w.

The first of the real Tarzan-by-numbers movies of the Weissmuller sequence. Life is yet more domesticated in the Tarzan household, with even an egg-timer and a refrigerator. Finding gold nuggets on the riverbed during a family swim, Boy is treated to a lecture by Jane and then Tarzan on the meaning of riches: gold is valueless, because you cannot eat it. Yet off Boy goes, leaving a note: "Gone to see Civilzashun. Back tomorrow." Instead he finds African boy Tumbo being threatened by a rhino, and saves his life. Tumbo's village is plague-ridden: Tumbo's mother dies as the two lads watch. The rest – including the famous Rubber Crocodile and O'Doul, a comic-cuts Irishman – is predictable.

Despite the dreary recycling, the Weissmuller sequence had kept up a reasonably high standard until now; this was the beginning of the slide. O'Sullivan, visibly ageing (18 would be her last Tarzan movie), acts as if a redundancy notice has been served. There is a nastily racist moment when Cheeta, offered a photograph of a disc-lipped tribesman, kisses it passionately. Cordell Hickman's Tumbo, and his relationship with Boy, illumine an otherwise bleak landscape. [JG]

18. Tarzan's New York Adventure US movie (1942). MGM. Pr Frederick Stephani. Dir Richard Thorpe. Spfx Arnold Gillespie, Warren Newcombe. Screenplay Myles Connolly, William R Lipman. Starring Charles Bickford (Buck Rand), Virginia Grey (Connie Beach), Russell Hicks (Judge Abbotson), Paul Kelly (Jimmy Shields), Cy Kendall (Ralph Sargent), Elmo Lincoln (Roustabout), Maureen O'Sullivan (Jane), John Sheffield (Boy), Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan), Chill Wills (Manchester Mountford). 71 mins. B/w.

Nasty Rand and moderately nice Mountford arrive on the Mutia Escarpment in a plane piloted by very nice Shields, their aim to capture wild lions for Sargent's Circus, Long Island, USA. Tarzan gives them 24 hours to complete their mission and get out. They are leaving when Boy appears, impressing them by his tricks with three baby elephants. They plot to kidnap him, but Shields vetoes this; Mountford, too, is on Boy's side after Boy saves him from a lion. The Joconi attack. Boy calls Tarzan, but the Joconi set the shrub on fire. Believing Tarzan and Jane dead, the Westerners take Boy back to the USA. Tarzan, Jane and Cheeta pursue. The three have merry enfant-sauvage adventures in New York before rescuing Boy and, in court, being granted permanent custodianship of the lad.

Despite its fervent attempt to break the series mould, this is a flat movie. It was to be the last Weissmuller made for MGM: he moved with Sheffield to Sol Lesser at RKO, in the process losing O'Sullivan (who retired temporarily from the movies to tend a husband with typhus) and much of the series' scant remaining interest. Elmo Lincoln, who had played Tarzan in 1, 2 and 5, here had a bit part. This was a miserable swansong for O'Sullivan, an actress too fine for the role: she would not again attain cinematic fame until Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), where among her co-stars was her daughter Mia Farrow. [JG]

19. Tarzan Triumphs US movie (1943). RKO/Principal. Pr Sol Lesser. Dir William Thiele. Screenplay Roy Chanslor, Carroll Young. Starring Stanley Brown (Achmet), Pedro de Cordoba (Patriarch), Frances Gifford (Zandra), Stanley Ridges (Colonel von Reichart), Sig Rumann (Sergeant), Johnny Sheffield (Boy), Philip Van Zandt (Bausch), Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan), Rex Williams (Corporal Reinhardt Schmidt). 78 mins. B/w.

A propaganda movie – anti both the Nazis and the US noninterventionist movement – but a surprisingly good addition to the oeuvre. Jane has gone to England to tend her sick mother (a close analogue to the real reason for O'Sullivan's absence; > 18). Boy, straying near the lost city of Palandria, is rescued from a scrape by Zandra, a woman of that city. Soon a Nazi plane lands paratroopers in Palandria; the radio operator, Schmidt, inadvertently falls as far afield as Tarzan's home, where he is nursed by Tarzan and Boy (and calls himself Shelton). He betrays their trust by trying to use his radio to call in a Nazi invasion force; when he attempts to kill Cheeta (who throughout TT is more of a Trickster than ever before) he himself is killed by one of her elephant friends. The Nazis swiftly enslave Palandria; Zandra flees when her brother Achmet is murdered, and seeks help from Tarzan. Boy is on her side, but Tarzan heeds the dictum that, if the Nazis do not directly harm him, he has no quarrel with them; at Boy's instigation, Zandra even dons Jane's costume to swim with Tarzan, hoping to seduce him to her way of thinking. However, when the Nazis come from Palandria to seize the radio and take Boy as well, Tarzan at last declares war.

The huge gap in TT is of course the absence of O'Sullivan; Gifford, physically much like her, does her best, but there can be no romance between her and Tarzan – mighty man of jungle not commit adultery. The shift from MGM to RKO thankfully meant the end (for a while) of recycled action scenes. As a final propagandistic joke, when German HQ hear Cheeta gabbling and screeching over the radio they assume it is a broadcast from Der Führer. [JG]

20. Tarzan's Desert Mystery US movie (1943). Sol Lesser/RKO. Pr Lesser. Dir William Thiele. Screenplay Edward T Lowe, Carroll Young. Starring Lloyd Corrigan (Sheik), Nancy Kelly (Connie Bryce), Otto Kruger (Paul Hendrix/Heinrich), Robert Lowery (Selim), Joe Sawyer (Karl), Johnny Sheffield (Boy), Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan). 70 mins. B/w.

Jane, still in England, sends a message begging Tarzan to take some of his jungle medicine to help fever-stricken Allied soldiers in Burma. With Boy and Cheeta, he crosses the desert to the patch of jungle where the relevant vines grow. En route he releases a wild stallion, Jana, from a gang of thugs. These thugs are in the entourage of Hendrix, alias Heinrich, a Nazi who has tricked the Sheik of nearby Birherari into accepting him as right-hand man. Elsewhere, Sheik Amir of Alakibra has asked peripatetic US Magician Bryce to convey to Selim, Birherari's Crown Prince, a note to the effect that Hendrix/Heinrich is a spy. Bryce, saved from a desert ambush by Tarzan and Boy, is escorted by them to Birherari. There Tarzan is immediately imprisoned for the theft of Jana. Selim receives the note from Bryce, but is immediately murdered by Heinrich; as he dies he gives it to Cheeta. Bryce, framed for the murder, is sentenced to hang. Tarzan bursts out of prison and, with Boy and Jana, saves Bryce; they go to the patch of jungle containing the medicinal vines – also found there are giant lizards (> Dinosaurs), man-eating plants and a bull-sized tarantula Spider, which almost has Boy before eating Heinrich instead. Back in Birherari our heroes are honoured.

The poorness of realization of this movie is bizarre: that a patch of jungle should exist in the middle of the desert is weird; that it should be populated by an elephant herd (which rescues Tarzan from a mantrap plant) beggars belief; that it should be further populated by prehistoric Monsters is, in context, almost acceptable. [JG]

21. Tarzan and the Amazons US movie (1945). RKO. Pr Sol Lesser. Dir Kurt Neumann. Screenplay John Jacoby, Marjorie L Pfaelzer. Starring Don Douglas (Anders), Steven Geray (Brenner), Brenda Joyce (Jane), J M Kerrigan (Splivvers), Barton MacLane (Ballister), Shirley O'Hara (Athena), Maria Ouspenskaya (Queen), Johnny Sheffield (Boy), Henry Stephenson (Sir Guy Henderson), Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan). 76 mins. B/w.

On the way to welcome back Jane (who has mysteriously, while away, morphed from brunette O'Sullivan to blonde Joyce), Tarzan and Boy save Athena from a couple of leopards and a black panther. They take her home to the a land "beyond the mountains", Palmyria, ruled matriarchally yet worshipping a male Sun God and his associated Serpent and "ever-living Tree". A scientific expedition led by Henderson arrives on the same boat as Jane and spots Athena's dropped bracelet, which Cheeta has purloined. They determine, with the aid of murderous local agent Ballister, to seek Palmyria, a notion vetoed by Tarzan but approved by Boy, who guides them. In Palmyria they are promptly sentenced, as male intruders (Tarzan is exempt from this rule), to death – a sentence commuted to life imprisonment. Athena helps them escape, but Ballister and 'umorous Cockney sidekick Splivvers determine to loot the Sun God's sacred gold; Ballister murders both Athena and Henderson to still their dissent. Athena lives long enough to raise the alarm; the expedition flees with huge loss of life, Boy being recaptured and sentenced anew to death. Tarzan springs to the rescue, rushing surviving trekkers Ballister and Anders into a mudpit – where they drown – returning the stolen gold and persuading the Queen of Palmyria to free Boy.

The Amazon-style society is quite well depicted, but TATA focuses more on action and mayhem. Nevertheless, in the context of 20 and 22, TATA is not as poor a movie as it might have been, and established a trend in Tarzan movies of the plot hanging on an encounter with a weird Lost Race. [JG]

22. Tarzan and the Leopard Woman US movie (1946). RKO. Pr Sol Lesser. Dir Kurt Neumann. Screenplay Carroll Young. Starring Acquanetta (Lea), Edgar Barrier (Dr Amir Lazar), Anthony Caruso (Mongo), Tommy Cook (Kimba), Dennis Hoey (District Commissioner), Brenda Joyce (Jane), Johnny Sheffield (Boy), Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan). 72 mins. B/w.

The area around the town of Zambesi is plagued by adherents of a leopard cult (> Cats), whose High Priestess is the beautiful Lea. The British administrators – unaware that educated half-caste Dr Lazar is Lea's lover and a prime mover in the virulently anti-British cult – believe the killings are the work of real leopards, but Tarzan knows better. Lea's psychotic little brother Kimba vows to cut out a human heart as proof he is a warrior, and insinuates himself into the Tarzan family; he picks Jane as softest target. When a jungle convoy escorting a quartet of newly trained missionary teachers is massacred by the cult and Boy lands himself in danger, Tarzan uses jungle cunning to save goodies and kill baddies. But he, Jane and Boy are captured by the cult. Luckily Cheeta frees them all and the Villains get a nasty comeuppance.

Weissmuller looks old, and possibly ill. Sheffield looks old, too: all semblance of the cute kid has gone. In a welter of Blacks-are-bad-or-at-the-very-least-untrustworthy, TATLW has few saving graces. [JG]

23. Tarzan and the Huntress US movie (1947). RKO. Pr Sol Lesser. Dir Kurt Neumann. Screenplay Jerry Gruskin, Rowland Leigh. Starring Ted Hecht (Ozira), Brenda Joyce (Jane), Barton MacLane (Paul Weir), Patricia Morison (Tanya Rawlins), Wallace Scott (Smitty), Johnny Sheffield (Boy), Charles Trowbridge (Farrod), John Warburton (Karl Marley), Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan). 72 mins. B/w.

The huntress is Rawlins, who comes with Marley to collect live animal specimens for Western zoos; their local contact is corrupt trapper Weir (played by MacLane, a villain as recently as 21). King Farrod permits exportation of only one pair of each species; his ambitious nephew Ozira, an eye on the throne, is more tractable. Farrod is assassinated, but Tarzan manages in the end to save the animals: Marley, Weir and Ozira all meet ghastly ends; Rawlins, who has behaved reasonably correctly, is permitted to escape; the rightful heir ascends to Farrod's throne; the movie feels like one that lies towards the end of a series – which indeed it did, since Sheffield thankfully made this his swansong (> Bomba Movies) and Weissmuller would have just one more outing. [JG]

24. Tarzan and the Mermaids US movie (1948). RKO. Pr Sol Lesser. Assoc pr Joe Noriega. Dir Robert Florey. Screenplay Carroll Young. Starring Linda Christian (Mara), Brenda Joyce (Jane), John Laurenz (Benji), Andrea Palma (Luana), Gustavo Rojo (Tiko), Fernando Wagner (Varga), Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan), George Zucco (Palanth). 68 mins. B/w.

Earlier (19-20) O'Sullivan's departure was "explained": she was in England fulfilling various obligations; now the departure of Sheffield was similarly "explained". Another change was that long-time Tarzan musical sound-track composer Paul Sawtell was replaced by Dimitri Tiomkin (although the style is unaltered). Perhaps the biggest change of all was the disappearance of Kurt Neumann, who had been either associate producer or director, usually both, of the last four Tarzan movies (he reappeared for 29). Indeed, even though veteran scripter Young was still at work, TATM has a different feel from its predecessors, beginning with a tourist-advertisement-like introduction to the lost land of the Aquaticans, denizens of the area where Tarzan's river debouches into the sea; they worship the "living" God Baloo, whom the virgin (> Virginity) Mara is doomed to wed. She knows the "god" is a fake – the Germanic pearl thief Varga, who is in cahoots with High Priest Palanth – and anyway she loves Tiko, who has fled to the outside world. On the verge of the ritual marriage she too flees, only be snared in one of Tarzan's fishing-nets. She is welcomed by the Tarzan family, but a passel of Aquatican males comes to retrieve her. Tarzan pursues; Jane is threatened; Varga is cast to his death from a high cliff; wrongs are righted.

Christian, despite being thespianically challenged, had the smoulder – which Joyce lacked – to have made a good Jane; it was not to be. An embarrassing newcomer was calypso-singing Benji, a family friend of and errand-runner for the Tarzans. Despite a great deal of dross in TATM, there is some splendid stuff – e.g., the camerawork and set design involved as Tarzan swims through the river's last subterranean stretches to the sea. It was fitting that Weissmuller's last Tarzan movie should be, at least visually, one of the best. [JG]

25. Tarzan's Magic Fountain US movie (1949). Sol Lesser/RKO. Pr Lesser. Dir Lee Sholem. Screenplay Harry Chandlee, Curt Siodmak (1902-2000). Starring Evelyn Ankers (Gloria James), Lex Barker (Tarzan), Albert Dekker (Trask), Charles Drake (Dodd), Brenda Joyce (Jane), Henry Kulky (Vredak), Elmo Lincoln (bit part), Alan Napier (Douglas Jessup). Voice actor Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan's war cry; this was used in many further Tarzan movies). 74 mins. B/w.

The first Lex Barker Tarzan, and the last with Brenda Joyce as Jane; also the last Tarzan in which appeared Elmo Lincoln, who had played the lead role in 1, 2 and 5, plus a bit part in 18.

The pilot Gloria James, who crashed in Africa 20 years ago, is not dead, as universally assumed, but has found refuge among the white Lost Race who dwell in the secret Blue Valley, succoured by a Fountain of Youth. Later, after restoration to the modern world, James returns to Africa with husband Jessup, both hoping to drink the fountain's waters and regain their youth; with them they bring crooked locals Trask and Dodd, who plan to steal the Immortality-conferring water for sale. After much adventuring, James and Jessup are accepted in the Blue Valley, whose secret is preserved; Trask and Dodd fall foul of Blue Valley warriors.

Barker played the part so much as Weissmuller had done that often one has to blink to realize it's a different man. [JG]

26. Tarzan and the Slave Girl US movie (1950). Sol Lesser/RKO. Pr Lesser. Dir Lee Sholem. Screenplay Arnold Belgard, Hans Jacoby. Starring Robert Alda (Neil), Lex Barker (Tarzan), Vanessa Brown (Jane), Tony Caruso (Sengo), Denise Darcel (Lola), Hurd Hatfield (Prince), Mary Ellen Kay (Moana), Arthur Shields (Dr Campbell), Robert Warwick (High Priest). 74 mins. B/w.

Sengo and henchmen are abducting beautiful women from the jungle to improve the breeding stock of their plague-ridden lost city, Lyolia – whose civilization shares characteristics of Ancient Rome and Ancient Egypt, with citizens generally clad in Sherwood Forest garb. Among the abductees are Jane and Dr Campbell's nurse Lola. With Campbell (who has a serum for the plague) and Lola's boyfriend Neil, Tarzan pursues, arriving to find that vile Sengo has had the two spirited girls immured for showing resistance. Needless to say, all is sorted. Barker is very good in this movie, as is Darcel; Brown is a pretty but witless Jane. [JG]

27. Tarzan's Peril (vt Tarzan and the Jungle Queen) US movie (1951). Sol Lesser/RKO. Pr Lesser. Dir Byron Haskin. Screenplay John Cousins, Samuel Newman, Francis Swann. Starring Edward Ashley (Connors), Lex Barker (Tarzan), Dorothy Dandridge (Melmendi), Douglas Fowley (Herbert Trask), Virginia Huston (Jane), George Macready (Radijeck), Alan Napier (Peters), Frederick O'Neal (Bulam). 79 mins. B/w.

Departing British Commissioner Peters and his replacement, Connors, witness the coronation of Queen Melmendi of the peaceful Ashuba and her indignant refusal to marry King Bulam of the warlike Yorango. Later the commissioners are shot dead by Radijeck, head of a trio of gunrunners including also Andrews and Trask. The baddies sell guns to Bulam, whose people attack the Ashuba, again demanding Melmendi as Bulam's bride, but now more forcefully. Tarzan, after rescuing both himself and a baby elephant, saves Melmendi and kills Bulam. Radijeck, having murdered Trask, tries to hold Jane as ransom for his life, but is killed by Tarzan. The first 10 minutes or so of this movie, filled with African drumming and dancing, are electric. Thereafter it becomes standard. [JG]

28. Tarzan's Savage Fury US movie (1952). Sol Lesser/RKO. Pr Lesser. Dir Cyril Endfield. Screenplay Cyril Hume, Hans Jacoby, Shirley White. Starring Lex Barker (Tarzan), Tommy Carlton (Joey [Joseph Martin]), Dorothy Hart (Jane), Patric Knowles (Edwards), Charles Korvin (Rokoff). 80 mins. B/w.

Trekking in search of Tarzan and the fabled diamonds of the Wazuri, Sir Oliver Greystoke, Tarzan's cousin, is murdered by guide (and amateur Magician) Rokoff, who forces sidekick Edwards to assume Greystoke's identity to fool the jungle man. Meantime Tarzan has saved the life of and adopted the orphan Joey. Tarzan is suspicious of Rokoff and Edwards, but Jane is taken in and persuades Tarzan to help them. After a struggle with cannibals the major characters reach Wazuri territory, where the treachery is uncovered and Jane's life seems forfeit. Rokoff kills Edwards and almost kills Tarzan, but at last the apeman saves Jane and restores good relations with the Wazuri. Barker does his best amid a plethora of rerun footage from earlier movies. Hart was one of the best Janes – very reminiscent of O'Sullivan – but this was her only appearance. [JG]

29. Tarzan and the She-Devil US movie (1953). Sol Lesser/RKO. Pr Lesser. Dir Kurt Neumann. Screenplay Karl Kamb, Carroll Young. Starring Lex Barker (Tarzan), Henry Brandon (M'Tara), Raymond Burr (Vargo), Tom Conway (Fidel), Michael Grainger (Philippe Lavar), Joyce MacKenzie (Jane), Monique Van Vooren (Lyra). 76 mins. B/w.

Barker's swansong as Tarzan and MacKenzie's sole appearance as Jane is a somewhat perfunctory movie, with much of the footage – notably the elephant sequences – being recycled from the Jungle Movie Wild Cargo (1934). Ivory hunters Vargo and Lavar decide to swindle their equally vile partners Lyra (the "She-Devil" of the title) and Fidel of a huge haul. The quartet enslave the men of the Lykopo tribe as bearers, but Tarzan frees them. Next they attempt to seize Jane as hostage so that Tarzan will call the elephants their way, but believe they have accidentally killed her. Likewise thinking Jane dead, Tarzan loses interest in life. On discovering her alive, however, he calls the elephants with a vengeance, so that all the baddies except Lyra (accidentally shot by Fidel) are trampled to death in the ensuing stampede. [JG]

30. Tarzan's Hidden Jungle US movie (1955). Sol Lesser/RKO. Pr Lesser. Dir Harold Schuster. Screenplay William Lively. Starring Jack Elam (Burger), Charles Fredericks (De Groot), Ike Jones (Malenki), Vera Miles (Jill Hardy), Richard Reeves (Reeves), Gordon Scott (Tarzan), Peter Van Eyck (Dr Celliers). 73 mins. B/w.

The first of the Gordon Scott Tarzans, the last Tarzan distributed by RKO and the last filmed in b/w (except 33, which was a tvm) is standard stuff, including lots of rerun wildlife footage from earlier Lesser Tarzans. A big-game safari wanders into Tarzan's area, then one of them, Reeves, goes into the territory of the Sukula tribe, where he is thrown into a lion pit for having breached the Taboo against killing animals. Led by De Groot and Burger, the hunters aim to use UN Dr Celliers as a shield to penetrate Sukula territory and round up the animals for massacre; but Celliers and his nurse, Hardy, have already been befriended by Tarzan, who thwarts the plot. This movie seems to belong to the previous decade.

Miles was wasted on a Tarzan movie but not on Tarzan: she and Scott married soon after. [JG]

31. Tarzan and the Lost Safari US movie (1957). Solar. Pr John Croydon. Dir Bruce Humberstone. Spfx G Blackwell, T Howard. Screenplay Lillie Hayward, Montgomery Pittmann. Starring Peter Arne (Dick Penrod), Robert Beatty (Tusker Hawkins), George Coulouris (Carl Kraski), Yolande Donlan (Gamage Dean), Orlando Martins (Ogonooro), Betta St John (Diana Penrod), Gordon Scott (Tarzan), Wilfrid Hyde White (Doodles Fletcher). 84 mins. Colour.

The first Tarzan movie in colour. A plane containing rich adventurer Dick Penrod, his rebellious wife Diana, Dean, Fletcher and Kraski crashlands in the jungle territory of the Opar tribe, who "always try to take whites for sacrifice". Diana – whose job here is to look pretty, endanger herself and then shriek a lot – is almost immediately seized. Big-game hunter Hawkins, in league with the Opar – whose centuries-old ivory stockpile he covets – pretends to save her: his scheme is to deliver the other whites to the Opar but keep Diana for his lecherous self. Tarzan and Hawkins agree to take the party on foot to safety but, midway, Hawkins lets the Opar have them. Plenty of vile darkies are killed before Tarzan and Cheta (here so spelt) save the day. Some of the wildlife photography is fabulous, but too much of the movie was shot in the studio – there are incongruous echoes in several jungle episodes – and we have been here too often before: the novelty of colour is squandered on over-familiar scenes. [JG]

32. Tarzan's Fight for Life US movie (1958). Sol Lesser/MGM. Pr Lesser. Dir Bruce Humberstone. Screenplay Thomas Hal Phillips. Starring Eve Brent (Jane), James Edwards (Futa), Jill Jarmyn (Anne Sturdy), Henry Lauter (Dr Warwick), Carl Benton Reid (Dr Sturdy), Gordon Scott (Tarzan), Rickie Sorensen (Tantu), Woody Strode (Ramo). 86 mins. Colour.

For the first time Scott is given a Jane, in the form of Brent; she features also in 33. The plot involves a war of intellect between a malicious witch-doctor, Futa, and three real (i.e., white) doctors trying to run a jungle hospital: Warwick, Sturdy and Sturdy's daughter Anne. The argument seems to have been won when Sturdy performs a successful appendectomy on Jane, but Futa has further tricks up his sleeve, in the end dying horribly when he drinks what he believes a cure-all but in fact a deadly poison. This is one of those movies that would somehow be better if it were worse – as it is, all it achieves is dullness. [JG]

33. Tarzan and the Trappers US movie (1958 tvm). Sol Lesser. Pr Lesser. Dir Charles Haas, Sandy Howard. Screenplay Robert Leach, Frederick Schlick. Starring Lesley Bradley (Schroeder), Eve Brent (Jane), Sherman Crothers (Chief Tyana), Saul Gorse (Sikes), William Keene (Lapin), Maurice Marsac (René), Gordon Scott (Tarzan), Rickie Sorensen (Tantu). 74 mins. B/w.

Eventually released theatrically, this tvm was cobbled together from three pilot episodes produced for a tv series that never was. The story is, obviously, fitful, but involves Tarzan thwarting ruthless Schroeder and sidekick René – come to trap big game – and then Scroeder's brother Sikes, bent on revenge, and local trader Lapin, planning to steal the wealth of the lost city of Zarbo. Brent is adequate as Jane; Sorensen, as her and Tarzan's son Tantu, is fairly nauseating. There is considerable rerun wildlife footage from 30 (by Miki Carter) and elsewhere. This is the shoddiest of the Tarzans in terms of production; otherwise it is well up to the standard of some of Lesser's others. [JG]

34. Tarzan's Greatest Adventure US movie (1959). Sy Weintraub/Paramount. Pr Weintraub. Dir John Guillermin. Screenplay Berne Giler, Guillermin. Starring Sean Connery (O'Bannion), Scilla Gabel (Toni), Niall MacGinnis (Kriger), Al Mulock (Dino), Anthony Quayle (Slade), Gordon Scott (Tarzan), Sara Shane (Angie). 90 mins. Colour.

Regarded by fans as one of the best, if not the best, Tarzan movies, this succeeds because of a good script, good direction and, most especially, the pitting of Tarzan against a major villain (played by Anthony Quayle) as opposed to some of the caricatures he had confronted in earlier movies. This was Weintraub's first venture with the character – Lesser had finally given up – and the difference shows.

Tarzan and the murderous Slade are old enemies. Slade – plus criminal colleagues Dino, Kriger and O'Bannion and good-time girl Toni, carnally linked with Slade – plan to gut a diamond mine, and to this end murder a doctor and his staff in order to steal their dynamite. Tarzan and gutsy pilot Angie pursue the murderers, who proceed to murder each other with a view to increasing their share of the spoils. Last to go is of course Slade, whom Tarzan despatches himself. This movie is famous also for the sex-scene-that-never-was: featured in the posters, the entanglement of Tarzan with Angie was cut from the final edit. Tarzan would next meet a fine Villain in 38. [JG]

35. Tarzan, the Ape Man US movie (1959). MGM. Pr Al Zimbalist. Dir Joseph Newman. Vfx Robert R Hoag, Lee LeBlanc. Screenplay Robert Hill. Based on 9. Starring Joanna Barnes (Jane), Cesare Danova (Harry Holt), Robert Douglas (Professor Parker), Denny Miller (Tarzan), Thomas Yangha (Riano). 82 mins. Colour.

A dire remake of 9, using much of the same footage (tinted to give, supposedly, the effect of having been shot in colour) plus, to add interest, the famous Rubber Crocodile scene from 11. Miller and Barnes tried to breathe life into their roles, but were scuppered by poor script and direction and by the decision of MGM to make this movie as cheaply as possible. [JG]

36. Tarzan the Magnificent (vt Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan the Magnificent) US movie (1960). Sy Weintraub/Harvey Hayutin/Paramount. Pr Weintraub. Dir Robert Day. Screenplay Day, Berne Giler. Starring Earl Cameron (Tate), John Carradine (Abel Banton), Gary Cockrell (Johnny Banton), Lionel Jeffries (Ames), Ron MacDonnell (Ethan Banton), Jock Mahoney (Coy Banton), Betta St John (Fay Ames), Gordon Scott (Tarzan), Alexandra Stewart (Laurie), John Sullivan (Inspector Winters), Charles Tingwell (Dr Conway). 88 mins. Colour.

Tarzan captures Coy Banton – one of a murderous family band of robbers headed by Abel Banton – and proposes to take him to Kairobi and justice. In their first attempt to recover Coy, the Bantons strand a party of whites (Ames and wife Fay, Conway and girlfriend Laurie) up-country; with the help of Tate, a black, Tarzan treks with this party and Coy through rough country to Kairobi. Fay Ames takes a fancy to Coy, and several times betrays the party to the pursuing Bantons. By the time Kairobi is reached and Coy handed over for hanging, she and the remaining Bantons are dead. This is one of the most violent Tarzans but hardly magnificent except for the wildlife photography and the scenes among the Kikuyu and Masai. It was Scott's last movie in the part; ironically Mahoney, the psychopathic Villain here, was to be Tarzan in the next two movies (37 and 38; >>> 43). [JG]

37. Tarzan Goes to India UK movie (1962; vt [dubbed in Hindustani] Tarzan Mera Sathi 1974). Sy Weintraub/MGM. Pr Weintraub. Dir John Guillermin. Spfx Roy Whybrow. Screenplay Robert Hardy Andrews, Guillermin. Starring Mark Dana (O'Hara), Leo Gordon (Bryce), Jai (Jai), Feroz Khan (Raju Kumar), Jock Mahoney (Tarzan), Murad (Maharaja), Simi (Kamara). 86 mins. Colour.

His old friend, the dying Maharaja, begs Tarzan to come to India because ruthless engineer O'Hara is about to flood a valley in order to create a power station, an operation that will require the translocation of thousands of people and, if they cannot somehow be guided out of the valley, the drowning of a herd of 300 elephants. Tarzan performs the feat with the help of Jai the Elephant Boy, Princess Kamara and Raju Kumar, but not before seeing the death of murderous ivory hunter Bryce. This could have been, with its ecological message and its charming stars, one of the all-time Tarzan greats; instead, for some reason, it ends up being just something of a muddle. [JG]

38. Tarzan's Three Challenges US movie (1963). Sy Weintraub/MGM. Pr Weintraub. Dir Robert Day. Spfx Cliff Richardson, Roy Whybrow. Screenplay Day, Berne Giler. Starring Earl Cameron (Mang), Christopher Carlos (Sechung), Ricky Der (Kashi), Robert Hu (Nari), Tsu Kobayashi (Cho-San), Jock Mahoney (Tarzan), Woody Strode (Khan/Tarim). 92 mins. Colour.

In an unnamed Oriental nation (in fact, the movie was shot in Thailand) the old ruler, Tarim, is dying. Tarzan is appointed to bring Tarim's successor, a young boy called Kashi, to the Crown City, where Kashi must undergo certain tests to show he is indeed the Chosen One – the Reincarnation of all the previous rulers. Tarim's brother Khan wishes to instal himself as ruler, to be succeeded by his son Nari, and sends assassins and spies to thwart Tarzan's expedition. All are fought off and Kashi passes the tests. Khan challenges the outcome, and Tarzan, on Kashi's behalf, ritually fights him to the death. This is a rather good movie, although Mahoney, as Tarzan, seems old and tired (he was apparently plagued by dysentery during filming). Strode is an impressively stylish villain. [JG]

39. Tarzan and the Valley of Gold US movie (1966). Sy Weintraub/American International. Pr Weintraub. Dir Robert Day. Spfx Ira Anderson, Ira Anderson Jr. Screenplay Clair Huffaker. Starring Mike Henry (Tarzan), Nancy Kovack (Sophia), Don Megowan (Mr Train), David Opatoshu (Vinero), Manuel Padilla Jr (Ramel), Francisco Riquerio (Manco). 90 mins. Colour.

A curious mixture – as were all the Mike Henry Tarzans – of James Bond and the jungle. Tarzan is summoned by an old friend to South America: a surviving Incan civilization, somewhere in the Andes, has lost the secret of its location to the international criminal Vinero, and it would be good if Tarzan could head off Vinero's men as they attempt to plunder the treasures of the entirely pacifistic Incans. Assisted by the leopard Bianco, the lion Major, the chimp Dinky and the small Incan boy Ramel – plus, in the later stages, Vinero's discarded mistress Sophia – he does exactly this. Vinero literally drowns in gold-dust; Tarzan barehandedly kills the villain's sadistic bodyguard Mr Train. Manco, the ruling Inca, accepts that sometimes a little violence is necessary if peace is to be retained. Tarzan and Sophia blast the tunnel leading to the Incan haven, so that with luck it will be centuries before it is rediscovered. While quite enjoyable, this movie seems much longer than its 90 mins. [JG]

40. Tarzan and the Great River US movie (1967). Paramount. Pr Sy Weintraub. Dir Robert Day. Spfx Ira Anderson. Screenplay Bob Barbash. Starring Paulo Grazindo (Professor), Mike Henry (Tarzan), Rafer Johnson (Barcuna), Diana Millay (Ann Phillips), Jan Murray (Sam Bishop), Manuel Padilla Jr (Pepe). 88 mins. Colour.

An above-par offering. Barcuna is cutting a swathe through the Amazon Basin with his revival of the enslaving Jaguar Cult. Tarzan some while ago gave his animal friends to a zoo there, and is now summoned by its curator, the Professor, to tackle Barcuna. Almost at once the Professor is murdered by cultists; Tarzan doffs his civilized clothing to enter the jungle with Cheeta and friendly lion Baron. En route he encounters riverboatman Bishop and his "first mate", cute boy Pepe, who cheerfully reprise – especially after being joined by medical missionary Phillips – The African Queen (1951). The Amazon is full of hippos and flamingoes, and Baron meets another lion in the South American jungle; but these howlers hardly matter – the fact that Dinky, the chimp playing Cheeta, was killed mid-movie for having attacked Henry seems to matter a lot more.

Doc Savage, Man of Bronze (1975) owes quite a lot to this movie. [JG]

41. Tarzan and the Jungle Boy US movie (1968). Sy Weintraub/Paramount. Pr Robert Day. Dir Robert Gordon. Spfx Gabriel Queiroz. Screenplay Steven Lord. Starring Steve Bond (Jukaro), Ronald Gans (Ken Matson), Alizia Gur (Myrna Claudel), Mike Henry (Tarzan), Edward Johnson (Buhara), Rafer Johnson (Nagambi). 90 mins. Colour.

Six years ago geologist Karl Brunik drowned in Africa, but his infant son Erik survived – much as Tarzan did years before – to become Jukaro the Jungle Boy, dwelling in the depths of Zegunda country. Journalists Claudel and Matson now fly in, a low-flying aerial photographer having caught a snap of Jukaro. Tarzan agrees to try to rescue the lad to civilization, a first difficulty being that the Zegunda law is that any non-Zegunda found on their territory is killed and a second being that Tarzan has earned the enmity of Nagambi, usurper king of Zegunda; a third is that Claudel decides to follow him, with Matson, into Zegunda country. In the end Nagambi is killed by his usurped brother Buharu, who thus recovers his throne; Jukaro decides, on Tarzan's advice, to return with Claudel to civilization. This is an entertaining exploit. [JG]

42. Tarzan's Deadly Silence US tvm released theatrically (1970). Sy Weintraub/National General. Pr Leon Benson. Dir Lawrence Dobkin, Robert L Friend. Spfx Laurencio Cordero. Screenplay John Considine, Tim Considine, Lee Irwin, Jack A Robinson. Starring Gregorio Acosta (Chico), Ron Ely (Tarzan), Jock Mahoney (Colonel), Nichelle Nichols (Ruana), Manuel Padilla Jr (Jai), Woody Strode (Marshak). 88 mins. Colour.

Cobbled together from a two-parter in the tv series, this sees Tarzan defeat a neo-Nazi-style bully, The Colonel, who wants to set up a dictatorship in the jungle. Old faces reappeared in what was not a bad outing: Strode had been a villain in 32 and 38; Mahoney had been a villain in 36, then Tarzan in 37 and 38; Padilla had starred as Tarzan's little-boy friend in 39 and 40. There is a degree of sadism that might be excised from a modern tv version, as when The Colonel gratuitously whips a man to death. [JG]

43. Tarzan's Jungle Rebellion US tvm released theatrically (1970). Sy Weintraub/National General. Pr Leon Benson. Dir William Whitney. Spfx Laurencio Cordero. Screenplay Jackson Gillis. Starring Ron Ely (Tarzan), Jason Evers (Ramon), Sam Jaffe (Dr Singleton), Harry Lauter (Miller), William Marshall (Colonel Tatakombi), Manuel Padilla Jr (Jai), Ulla Stromstedt (Mary Singleton). 92 mins. Colour.

As with 42, this was cobbled together from a two-part adventure in the tv series. The Singletons come to Africa in search (for academic purposes) of The Blue Stone of Heaven, and Tarzan agrees to help them find it. Tatakombi – a fascist – gets there first, and tries to use the jewel as a means of persuading the various tribes of the jungle to fall in under his dictatorship. Tarzan violently stops such plans in their tracks. Jaffe had decades earlier received recognition as Perrault in Lost Horizon (1937). [JG]

44. Jungle Burger (vt La Honte de la Jungle; vt Shame of the Jungle; vt Tarzoon la Honte de la Jungle; vt Tarzoon the Shame of the Jungle) Belgian-French Animated Movie (1975). SND Valisa/Picha. Pr Boris Szulzinger. Dir Picha, Szulzinger. Screenplay Picha, Pierre Bartier; US screenplay Anne Beatts, Michael O'Donoghue. Voice actors John Belushi, Brian Doyle-Murray, Andrew Duncan, Christopher Guest, Bill Murray, Bob Perry, Emily Prager, Johnny Weissmuller Jr (Shame) (none but Weissmuller individually credited). 72 mins. Colour.

Extremely scatological and surprisingly clumsy – although energetically animated – Parody of the Tarzan-movie oeuvre; the English-language version, for copyright reasons, is less overt about its origins. From her subterranean "spaceship", deep within what is either a cavern or the rectum of a recumbent giantess, many-breasted Queen Bazunga seeks world conquest, but first must hide her baldness by stealing someone's scalp. A detachment of her army – cloned mobile phalluses that fire explosive semen – seize June, mate of Shame, wimpish lord of the jungle. Shame rescues the nymphomaniacal June just before her scalp is cut off. In a minor subplot, a stereotyped Tarzan-movie safari arrives in the jungle from the West; three are devoured and the fourth finally becomes – as replacement for the destroyed Bazunga – a megalomaniac jungle queen set on world conquest. There is some flirtation with racism, and women seem regarded as mere fuck-objects. [JG]

45. Tarzan, the Ape Man US movie (1981). MGM/Svengali. Pr Bo Derek. Dir John Derek. Screenplay Gary Goddard, Tom Rowe. Based on 9. Starring Bo Derek (Jane Parker), Richard Harris (James Parker), John Phillip Law (Harry Holt), Miles O'Keeffe (Tarzan), Maxime Philoe (Riano), Akushula Selayah (Nambia/Africa). 112 mins. Colour.

Orphaned adventuress Jane comes to Africa to find her father, batty Irish explorer Parker. He is mounting a trek to the fabled Elephants' Graveyard, and she goes too. On the Mutia Escarpment they discover the equally fabled Great Inland Sea; more to the point, they hear the night-time cries of legendary Tarzan, reputedly a 100ft-tall half-man half-ape. To this point T,TAM promises much. But then the archetypal Derek skinflick starts. Jane doffs all for a swim in the sea, is threatened by a lion that seems confused to find itself by the seaside, and is rescued by Tarzan. He crudely expresses amour, and is in turn driven off by Parker and expedition photographer Holt. Parker's mistress Africa is seized by hostile natives; Parker assumes Tarzan's guilt, and vows revenge. Tarzan abducts Jane; abandons her; saves her from a boa; is almost killed in the process; is nursed back to health by an elephant, chimps, an orang-utan and Jane; and has long but unconsummated byplay with the latter. The whites are all captured by natives and prepared for Human Sacrifice, which involves much manipulation of a naked Jane; Parker is slain by the monstrous tribal chief. But Tarzan, informed by Cheeta, comes to the rescue with a herd of elephants, kills the chief, and rescues Holt and Jane, before going off into the jungle with the latter for a life of unbridled Pastoral passion.

This is widely regarded as the direst of the Tarzan movies, but it has enough good bits (including some spectacular photography and moments of exquisite Wrongness) that, if cut by about 40 minutes, it would be highly regarded. As it is, it leaves a nasty taste: its intention seems to be to appeal to those who find eroticism in the sexual humiliation of women. [JG]

46. Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes UK movie (1984). Warner/WEA. Pr Stanley S Canter, Hugh Hudson. Dir Hudson. Vfx Albert J Whitlock. Mufx Rick Baker. Primate choreography Peter Elliot. Primate consultant Roger Fouts. Screenplay Michael Austin, P H Vazak (Robert Towne). Based on Tarzan of the Apes (1914) by Burroughs. Starring John Alexander (White Eyes), Alisa Berk (Kala), Cheryl Campbell (Lady Alice Clayton), Elliot Cane (Silverbeard), James Fox (Lord Esker), Paul Geoffrey (Lord Jack Clayton), Ian Holm (Capitaine Phillippe D'Arnot), Christopher Lambert (John Clayton, Tarzan), Eric Langlois (young Tarzan), Alison Macrae (young Jane), Andie MacDowell (Jane Porter), Daniel Potts (young Tarzan), Ralph Richardson (6th Earl of Greystoke), John Wells (Sir Evelyn Blount). Voice actor Glenn Close (Jane Porter's voice). 130 mins. Colour.

In 1885 Jack and Alice Clayton go from Scotland to Africa as missionaries, are shipwrecked and build a rude home in the jungle. She soon gives birth to a boy but dies of malaria; the boy's father is almost immediately killed by one of the local colony of great Apes, another of whom, Kala – who has just lost her own baby – seizes the infant and becomes his adoptive mother. The boy is reared as an ape, being an especially revered one when he discovers his father's knife and learns how to use it. When he is 12, pygmies kill Kala, and the boy retaliates by killing one of them. When he is full-grown, a UK zoological expedition arrives but, in response to their murderous ways, is massacred by the pygmies. One expedition member, D'Arnot, survives, and is nursed back to health by the boy, who meanwhile kills the vicious ape-leader White Eyes to become bull of the colony. D'Arnot discovers the Claytons' treehouse, realizes the mysterious white savage is John Clayton, heir to the Greystoke title, and persuades him to quest through the jungle to reach, eventually, Britain. There Tarzan/John is at once accepted by his grandfather, the 6th Earl of Greystoke, as the true heir, and meets Greystoke's US ward, the lovely Jane. D'Arnot leaves young John with Greystoke; John and Jane soon fall in love, despite Jane's foppish suitor Lord Esker. Greystoke is killed in a domestic accident, and D'Arnot returns for the funeral. One day, at the British Museum, John discovers where the experimental apes are held and finds among them his adoptive father, Silverbeard, whom he releases; but a police marksman soon shoots Silverbeard, who dies in John's arms. This is the final straw for John so far as "civilization" is concerned: he returns to Africa and the beloved apes whose rightful leader he is.

Probably the most successful of the Cinema's attempts during the 1980s and 1990s to breathe new life into the popular fantasy Icons created during the earlier parts of the century, this movie had a tortuous history, being first written in the mid-1970s by Towne, who planned also to direct. For various reasons it was passed to Hudson, who had the screenplay substantially revised and then set out to create a masterpiece. Masterpiece this movie may not be, but it falls little short: there is an air of authenticity that transcends the star-studded cast, and the tale is genuinely involving; the photography is stunning, as are most of the key performances. The authenticity extends to the "choreography" of the apes and of John Clayton as a human reared among apes: this was derived not at random but from existing (and some fresh) studies of primate behaviour in the wild. In many ways G can be regarded as the first real Tarzan movie. It encourages one to reassess upwards the worth of Burroughs's creation. [JG]

47. Tarzan in Manhattan US movie (1989 tvm). American First Run. Pr Charles Hairston. Dir Michael Schultz. Screenplay William Gough, Anna Sandor. Starring Kim Crosby (Jane Porter), Tony Curtis (Archimedes Porter), Joe Lara (Tarzan), Joe Seneca (Joseph), Jimmy Medina Taggert (Juan Lipschitz), Jan Michael Vincent (Brightmore). 100 mins. Colour.

This pilot for an unmade series is in effect a partial remake of 18. Tarzan comes to New York to avenge the killing of the ape Kala and recover a kidnapped Cheeta. After various standard enfant-sauvage miscomprehensions, he is befriended by cabdriver Jane Porter and, grudgingly, her private-eye father Archimedes. Cheeta is traced to the Brightmore Foundation, which is secretly experimenting in genetic engineering using apes for (fatal) trials. Brightmore himself tries with his thugs to kill Tarzan, but Tarzan kills him. Jane and Archimedes persuade Tarzan and Cheeta to stay on a while in Manhattan. [JG]

48. Others There has been a plethora of non-English-language Tarzan movies, most of them rarely seen in the West. They include: Toofani Tarzan Indian movie (1937), Tarzan ki Beta Indian movie (1938), The Adventures of Chinese Tarzan Singaporean 3-part movie (1939-1940), Toto Tarzan Italian movie (1950), Thozhan Indian movie (1959), Toofani Tarzan Indian movie (1962), Tarzan aur Gorilla Indian movie (1963), Rocket Tarzan Indian movie (1963), Tarzan aur Jadugar Indian movie (1963), Tarzan and Captain Kishore Indian movie (1964), Tarzan and Delilah Indian movie (1964), Tarzan aur Jalpari Indian movie (1964), Jungle Tales of Tarzan West German movie (1964), Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar Jamaican movie (1964), Tarzan and King Kong Indian movie (1965), Tarzan Comes to Delhi Indian movie (1965), Tarzan and the Circus Indian movie (1965), Tarzak Against the Leopardmen Italian movie (1965), Tarzan and Hercules Indian movie (1966), Tarzan ki Mehbooba Indian movie (1966), Tarzan aur Jadui Chirag Indian movie (1966), Tarzans Kampf mit dem Gorilla West German short (1968), Tarzan in Fairy Land Indian movie (1968), Tarzan .303 Indian movie (1970), Tarzan of Bengal Bangladeshi movie (1976), Jane is Jane Forever West German movie (1978), La Infancia de Tarzan Spanish movie (1979) and Tarzan Andy Italian movie (1980). Legal action by the Burroughs estate changed the titles of what were originally Tazanova Smrt Czechoslovakian movie (1962; vt The Death of Tarzan 1968 US), Tarzan Chez les Coupeurs de Tête Italian movie (1963), Tarzan Roi de la Force Brutale Italian movie (1963) and Tarzan des Mers USSR movie (1963). Parodies, aside from 44, have included Nature in the Wrong US movie (1932), Tarzan and Jane Regained Sort of ... US movie (1964) and the soft-porn Tarzan and Boy US movie (circa 1965; claimed vt Tarzan and Jane and Boy and Cheeta), Tarzan the Swinger US movie (1970) and Jungle Heat US movie (?1995; vt Dard'zan: The Humiliation of Jane France). Two possibly ghost titles are «Tarzan's Beloved» Indian movie (1964) and «Tarzan and Cleopatra» Indian movie (1965).

further reading: Kings of the Jungle: An Illustrated Reference to "Tarzan" on Screen and Television (1994) by David Fury provides sterling and generally extremely accurate coverage of all except 44 and 48.


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.