If you are a fan of Tarzan films there is always the desire to see the various screen interpretations of the Jungle Lord. The urge to compare and contrast each actor in the role to see if they match up to the image conjured when reading the books is certainly strong for me and it has lead me to seek out most of the films over the years. A couple of weeks ago I finally caught up with TARZAN GOES TO INDIA (1962) and found both Jock Mahoney as Tarzan and the movie itself to mediocre. Mahoney just didn’t have the handsome face, powerful voice or presence I always picture Lord Greystoke having even if his physique was perfect. I might have been more forgiving of this if the movie had been less dull and obvious. The producers of the 1950s and 1960s film series were far too impressed with elephants as a plot element and this entire film revolves around saving a herd of the animals from a newly built dam flooding their home. It’s pretty ho-hum overall even with an ‘evil’ construction engineer sliming up the place. Add in a shrilly irritating Indian child character with his pet elephant and I’m surprised I was able to finish the whole film! It’s a plodding exercise and for an adventure film that is death.
The one area of Tarzan film history that is a real blank space for me remains the early silents made before the first Johnny Weissmuller movies at Warner Bros. I love silent cinema but I rarely go out of my way to find new pictures to watch relying on the fairly random programming of occasional examples on Turner Classic Movies to give me a surprise or two every few months. So I’m thrilled to learn that in conjunction with the production of a new documentary on the subject the very first Tarzan film is being restored and released on disc. Titled TARZAN OF THE APES the movie was made in 1917 and was filmed in a small town in Louisiana. The movie has been talked about for years but rarely seen with its main point of interest being the presence of Elmo Lincoln in the titular role. The production originally had the blessing of Edgar Rice Burroughs and was the first movie to actually feature black actors playing the African native characters. While most of the original running time of the film has been lost to the ages the longest possible version has been pieced together with a newly created score and is set to come out in April.
Just as interesting to me is the documentary about the making of the film called TARZAN: LORD OF THE LOUISIANA JUNGLE. The documentary premieres in April in Morgan City, Louisiana where TARZAN OF THE APES (1918) was shot ninety-five years ago. I will be thrilled to see both the film and he doc when the DVDs are available. I'll post a notice here when its possible to buy them online but you can keep up with new developments on the doc's FaceBook page.
I need to eventually finish watching the last of the Weissmuller movies too! Here's the trailer for the documentary.