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Tarzan the Ape Man
Tarzan der Affenmensch

USA 1932
produced by
Bernard H. Hyman, Irving Thalberg (uncredited, naturally) for MGM
directed by W.S.Van Dyke
starring Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O'Sullivan, Neil Hamilton, C.Aubrey Smith, Doris Lloyd, Forrester Harvey, Ivory Williams
screenplay by Cyril Hume, Ivor Novello (dialogue), based on the novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Tarzan, Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller), Tarzan at MGM

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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The deepest African jungle: James Parker (C.Aubrey Smith) & his young associate Harry Holt (Neil Hamilton) are just about to embark on an expedition to the fabled, secret & forbidden elephant graveyard to exploit its ivory, when Parker's yooung daughter Jane (Maureen O'Sullivan) arrives for a visit, & she insists on joining the 2 on their dangerous endeavour ... & who are the 2 to turn her down, Parker never could refuse his daughter anything, & Harry has fallen for her right away.

However, once in the jungle, Jane has to realize not everything is as nice & easy as she had imagined when a few of their boys are eaten by crocodiles, another falls down a high cliff to his death (& Jane almost follows), & a native tribe kill another one, believing he is going to desecrate their sacred elephant's graveyard.

But as if all that wasn't enough, our expedition soon discover a savage white man - Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller) of course -, & even though Tarzan has probably never seen a woman before, he instantly knows what's good for him, kidnaps Jane & takes her to his world in the trees. But even though Jane notices Tarzan is not quite as wild, savage & violent as she first thought, she seizes the first opportunity to make an escape. When tarzan & his apes come after her, Harry shoots his favourite gorilly & wounds Tarzan. As a sort of revenge, Tarzan's other apes soon kidnap Jane again.

Back in Tarzan's tree-world, Jane gradually warms up to the savage man, nurses him back to health & even teaches him a few words in English. Gradually she even falls in love with him. It is only when she by chance sees her father again that she realizes she has to return to him to not break his heart ... she breaks Tarzan's heart instead.

But the jungle wouldn't be the jungle wouldn't our expedition soon run into trouble again, as they are kidnapped by a tribe of pygmies who delight in hanging their captives &/or throwing them to their wild ape-beast.. But fortunately Tarzan learns of this, & attacks the pygmy village with a horde of elephants. & not only do the elephants defeat the pygmies for good, also one of them is mortally wounded & heads right off to the elephants' graveyard ... & our heroes follow.

Once there though, Parker, feeling his dream is fulfilled, dies from a wound inflicted by the pygmies. Without her father around anymore, Jane decides to stay with Tarzan, Harry meanwhile will return to civilisation all alone ... but promises to soon return for the ivory ...

 

Despite its age, Tarzan the Ape Man still remains a delightful adventure yarn, thanks to reasonably fast-paced storytelling, good central performances (Johnny Weissmuller, who in later movies more often than not looked a little silly is very convincing as the savage creature, & Maureen O'Sullivan is a very lively, likeable Jane), the right portion of humour injected into the screenplay & some nice sets intercut with authentic location material from Trader Horn.

 

The equally entertaining Tarzan and his Mate from 2 years later would be the direct sequel, in all MGM would make 6 Tarzan features with Weissmuller, before Weissmuller moved over to RKO to do some more.

In the 1930's alone, 3 other actors did actually play Tarzan: Buster Crabbe in Tarzan the Fearless (1933), Henry Brix (= Bruce Bennett) in New Adventures of Tarzan in 1936 & Glenn Morris in the rather ridiculous  Tarzan's Revenge in 1938. None of these films/serials could however compete with the first Weissmuller Tarzans (later films of his series were in fact rather ridiculous, too).

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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On the same day
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written by
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out now on DVD