Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Bloody Pit #15 - The Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films!

Tarzan is one of the best known characters in all of English language fiction. Created by Edgar Rice Burroughs more than one hundred years ago the jungle lord descended from British aristocracy has become one of the most easily recognizable figures in world literature. Along with Dracula and Sherlock Holmes he forms a kind of trinity of classic fiction that is constantly ripe for rediscovery and reimagining. With the huge level of success reached by the ape man novels many, many imitations have been created over the years and even the number of official adaptations are too many to take in easily. There were many attempts to film the story of Tarzan in the silent era but it wasn't until MGM Studio obtained the rights in the early 1930's that a profitable series of movies was produced. Indeed, the MGM series was so successful for so long that there has yet to be a longer, uninterrupted film run for Tarzan onscreen or for a single actor in the title role. Of course, at a certain point RKO Studio took over production of the movies but that doesn't really matter- unless you were concerned about budgets!  

The dozen Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films are the way the character was burned into the world's popular consciousness and I honestly doubt that Tarzan would be as famous and well known if not for this hugely popular film series with him as the star. Perhaps the character endures because the black & white images from these films were absorbed into the brains of a generation or two of children hungry for adventure in the trees? Maybe one of the biggest reasons the original 24 Tarzan novels never go out of print is that young boys were inspired to seek out more of the jungle man’s thrilling tales than the films can provide? Regardless, these movies are a large amount of fun for the adventure fan hungry for jungle action.

Joining me to discuss (briefly) all twelve of Weissmuller's run is my buddy Chris Herzog. Chris is a freelance writer and all around nice guy - it was he who proposed the idea of doing this episode of the podcast. In fact, it was all his idea and I wash my hands of it! No, no. Chris was able to convince me this was a good idea pretty easily even though I knew I would have to finally finish watching the series and then refresh my memories of the early entries. That took time but it was great fun. I hope that he and I will be able to collaborate on more shows in the future even if it might only be once a year.

If you have any comments or suggestions please write to us at thebloodypit@gmail.com and we just might incorporate your ideas into a later show. I apologize for the near constant background buzz in the audio but it was either have that noise in the show or fry in the oppressive May heat- we opted for the buzz. Sorry! The show ends with a song from the late, lamented Boston band The Cavedogs called Tarzan and his Arrowheads- the lyrics always struck me as quite ERB inspired. Enjoy!

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