Turner Classic ran this film Saturday at noon Eastern in their regular slot for Tarzan. It was next up in order and was Mike Henry’s first time as the iconic hero. It had been many years since I last saw it. I reported on the Fritz Leiber novelization in a previous post. Far superior by the way.
The Tarzan in this film had a Bondian flair. James Bond was all the rage back then, with four films out(Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, and Thunderball) and another due the next year(You Only Live Twice). Exotic kill devices(exploding jewelry), David Opatashu as the international criminal/villain, a thuggish henchman named Mr. Train, Tarzan in a tailored suit and carrying a brief case at the beginning, a silenced handgun, a battle with a helicopter, Tarzan using machine guns.
Tarzan comes to Mexico at the behest of an old friend, Ruiz, for help with a small boy and his leopard who’d wandered out of the jungle wearing a medallion of solid gold with a map engraved upon it. The villain Vinaro had got a hold of him, he’d escaped, and Ruiz wanted Tarzan to help him find his home, somewhere in the mountains.
He arrives at the compound of his friend to find it burning, everyone shot, and Ruiz dying. He tells Tarzan of Vinaro’s men taking the boy. Vinaro is already headed for the valley with a tank and a small army.
It’s at this point that the civilized Tarzan fades away and he dons the loin cloth and follows with a lion, Major, the boy’s leopard, and a chimp named Dinky. The lion and chimp are old friends living in Ruiz’s compound.
The rest of the story runs pretty much as you’d think, except for the battle with the helicopter. Not a great Tarzan film, but I enjoyed it.
Leiber’s novelization was much better, taking a fairly pedestrian script and making an actual Tarzan novel that one could be enjoy alongside Burroughs. It’s mentioned in the introduction that he wrote a sample chapter that the Burroughs family approved before they would let him write the novel. That sample chapter is the first in the book, Tarzan “fighting” the bull in a ring in Spain. Not exactly in a manner Spaniards were used to seeing though. He does talk to animals you know.
Check out Todd Mason\'s blog, Sweet Freedom for other overlooked movies and other stuff.