Thursday, January 9, 2014
Tarzan Goes Abroad!
Somehow in my many decades on this planet I have never ever seen the two Jock Mahoney Tarzan flicks. I fixed that oversight early last week. Sy Weintraub got hold of the Tarzan franchise and smartly realized it needed some juice. His solution was to go abroad, to take the Tarzan show out of the friendly confines of the studio and into the wild. It was a high-profile move, one which I can say was successful, at least successful as an entertainment. I have no idea how these movies fared at the box office.
Tarzan Goes To India begins briskly as Tarzan shows up to help save some elephants which are trapped in a valley scheduled to be flooded in a fast-moving and nearly completed dam project. The men in charge of the dam are an assortment with Leo Gordon supplying one of his typically dandy villainous turns. There's a kid, Jai the Elephant Boy who shows up astride Gajendra and from that point the movie keeps a wonderful pace with some of the best animal stunt work I've seen in a movie, especially elephant work. For the first time in a Tarzan movie the elephants are not just props but actually achieve the level of characters. The locations are lush and colorful and convincing. The action is elevated above reason, but it hangs together sufficiently to complete the story, which offers up a few surprises.
Even better was Tarzan's Three Challenges filmed in Thailand. This one offers up a Tarzan again who appears suddenly out of the sky from an airplane into a not-real Oriental country which has a bewildering ethnic mix of peoples. Woody Strode is on hand to compete with Mahoney's Tarzan and its first-rate competition. This one reminded me as much as any Tarzan flick I've seen of a new Burrough's tale, modern but also fanciful, a tale told in a land where mysticism isn't quite confirmed, but isn't quite rejected. Tarzan takes on the task of protecting the new candidate for holy leader of this unnamed country, who it turns out is a young boy. There is treachery and heroism galore and actual real danger. The setting is exotic and visually spectacular.
This was the movie alas which sadly broke Mahoney's health. He suffered an illness during filming which is reflected in a dramatic weight loss during the film. Some say it hurts the movie's credibility, but I don't agree. Despite being thin, Mahoney is convincing as an action hero throughout.
Mahoney gave way to Mike Henry as Tarzan. I'll have something to say about those three flicks tomorrow.