TARZAN OF THE APES
Created out of the modest daydreams of arch-fantasist
Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1912,
the Jungle-Lord became one of the biggest
cross-media franchises of the twentieth-century
Of all the great mythic twentieth-century heroes – James Bond, Batman, Superman or Flash Gordon, plus Sherlock Holmes and Dracula who are both technically nineteenth-century creations, few of them achieved the universal presence of Tarzan, the real King Of The Swingers, the real Jungle VIP. There have been Tarzan movies for as long as there have been movies – silent, black-&-white, talkies, Technicolor, CGI… DVD’s, barely a year of that lapsed century passed without one movie version or another appearing at the local flea-pit, or later, on the TV screen. Everyone is familiar with the exploits of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ ape-man.
Yet, although it has become an essential part of mainstream Pop-culture, Tarzan’s secret domain began as part of a sub-literary sub-genre of Lost World fantasies. One that also encompasses Arthur Conan-Doyle’s wonderful ‘The Lost World’ – set on an inaccessible South American plateau, or H Rider Haggard’s proto-Indiana Jones ‘King Solomon’s Mines’ – located in a remote African region. ‘King Kong’ from Skull Island – discovered off the coast of Sumatra, operates within the same Lost World genre, as do exploits in submerged Atlantis, within the molecular structure of matter – as in Ray Cummings’ “Girl In The Golden Atom”, or through a convenient dimensional portal to Clark Ashton Smith’s “City Of The Singing Flame”.
In fact, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ had a fictional penchant for placing lost civilisations in every possible – and numerous highly improbable places. At the Earth’s core – where Tarzan links up with ERB’s other fantastic voyagers in Pellucidar, or the mist-shrouded island of Caspak, as well as the Moon, Mars and Venus. Back then – in October 1912 when the first Tarzan ‘Romance Of The Jungle’ emerged as the dramatic cover-story of Munsey’s fifteen-cent ‘All-Story Magazine’, it was still possible to think in terms of his African home as being a ‘Dark’ partially-unexplored continent in which strange and startling discoveries were yet to be made. Lost children reared by apes perhaps, even if the wealth of Lost Cities, Hidden Valley Civilisations and Forgotten Realms he habitually stumbles across seemed less likely. It’s odd that the Tarzan myth remains as seductive now, in an age when satellite surveillance global-mapping has left no part of the Earth’s surface unobserved and unknown.
Tarzan is also a member of the English aristocracy – he is the cultured Lord Greystoke, so it could equally be argued that his triumph over nature is due to his upper-class bloodlines. But Burroughs was a democratic American who stood for no truck with the superior claims of the Ruritanian European class structure, beyond a kind of hazy fairy-tale romanticism. His aristocracy is more a plot-device, than evidence of any political subtext. No, it is Tarzan’s natural attributes of courage, decency, and sense of fairness that sets him apart, not race or class. Tarzan is less about white supremacy than he is about the persistent legends of feral children brought up by animals, a belief that goes back at least as far as Romulus & Remus, and analogous to Rudyard Kipling’s Mowgli, reared by wolves.
Stories persist to this day of real-life cases, about children discovered living wild with animals. Edgar Rice Burroughs was reworking that idea, integrating it into the heroic-fantasy pantheon, to create one of the great fictional images of the age. Tarzan speaks the secret language of animals. There are battling war-like natives, but largely Tarzan respects, and is respected by noble African tribes-people. Tarzan’s primary opponents are the white exploiters who seek to penetrate the jungle only to despoil and desecrate the rainforest environment in which he is so perfectly at home, to rob it of its primordial purity. So claims to an eco-conservationist subtext give it renewed contemporary relevance. Yet like all of ERB’s stories, Tarzan is an escapist power-fantasy, a daydream wish-fulfilment that answers to, and is only responsible to the rules of dream. And like dream, it embodies something of the desires, aspirations and archetypes of the subconscious forces that generate it.
Although he had no great love for the character, Harold R Foster illustrated the first 300 panels of ‘Tarzan of the Apes’. The thirty-six-year-old artist later claimed, ‘I had no instructions at all, just the book, I did the adaptation myself.’ Those strips were initially drawn from ERB-stories that first appeared in ‘All-Story’, and later in ‘Argosy’. And Foster’s artistic innovations rapidly develop into impeccable draftsmanship, with accurate anatomy and dramatic strongly-masculine composition, all executed with crisp rendering. To Brian Kane, ‘Foster created the definitive Tarzan. He established a look of nobility and aristocracy that would influence Burne Hogarth, Rubimor (Amilcar Ruben Moreira), Bob Lubbers, Russ Manning, Gil Kane, Mike Grell, Gray Morrow, Joe Kubert, John Buscema, and every other artist who illustrated the Ape-Man.
Another Foster trademark that appears for the first time in comics is the use of captions instead of word balloons. This technique, known as the story-strip, allowed Foster to create compositions containing amazingly detailed backgrounds unhindered by text. As an indicator of the synergy that exists between comics and cinema, Tarzan was on the newsstands both in his picture-strip incarnation, and in fan-mags that relied on stills from his career as a movie-hero. And those two visual methods of story-telling – developing more or less simultaneously across the same years, had a profound effect on each other. A two-way interaction of weird angle shots and imaginative frame-composition suggesting new techniques for visual progression.
Lured away by William Randolph Hearst in 1936, Foster took his classicism on to create ‘Prince Valiant’, leaving Tarzan to the more vigorous pen and unparalleled ingenuity of Burne Hogarth, who – from 1937 to 1945, then from 1947 to 1950, was to become one of the most celebrated Tarzan artists. He was also instrumental in setting up ‘The Cartoonists & Illustrators School’ in 1946 designed for ex-GI’s who had aspirations of retraining as cartoonists. Among its alumni were Harry Harrison, Al Williamson, Wally Wood and Roy Krenkel.
Although Tarzan films seldom fail to do good box-office, and despite expenditure on wardrobe requirements being negligible, the celluloid exploits were subject to severe budgetry restrictions which limited the scope of the adventures to tribal cults and ivory-hunting poachers. Comic-strips – like the original ER Burroughs novels which they soon outgrew, were restrained only by the reach of the creator’s imagination, and by his technical ability to convincingly portray it in a series of picture-frames.
Those movies actually predate the picture-strips, starting and captivating audiences during the very earliest days of Hollywood’s black-&-white silent era, going on to originate and develop powerful new elements of the mythos, including the famous Tarzan-cry. The vine-swinging. Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan improvised the ‘Me Tarzan, you Jane’ routine in the Culver City parking lot of ‘Tarzan, The Ape Man’ (1932), the first Tarzan ‘talkie’. Although not in the original script, their playful spontaneity was retained. Perhaps the greatest screen-Tarzan of them all, Weissmuller-as-Tarzan went on to be commemorated on the Beatles’ ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ (1967) album cover-collage, just behind Ringo, looking at Paul.
The personable Sheffield features in eight Tarzan films, carrying Johnny through from age seven, to sixteen. Philip José Farmer also manages to tease out the potential of the erotic subtext through a series of playful novels. Meanwhile, the noble ape-man spawned an entire category of imitators, spoofs, variants and would-be-rivals, complete magazines and comic-books devoted to ‘Jungle Adventures’. ‘Sheena: Queen Of The Jungle’ was created by ‘W Morgan Thamas’ (an aka of SR Powell), she began in ‘Jumbo Comics’ (September 1938) but graduated into her own title by Spring 1942. Elsewhere, the list of clones extends all the way from ‘Jungle Jim’, ‘Ki-Gor’, to Terry Scott’s hapless flabby ‘Ugh The Jungle Boy’ in ‘Carry On Up The Jungle’ (1970)…!
A remorseless defender of natural order, visiting swift justice on despoilers of his savage realm, the Tarzan archetype has remained as potent across a century in which every corner of the planet has been subjected to the most scrupulous scrutiny, has been exhaustively Google-Earth mapped, and is now routinely reduced down to a global theme-park. Tarzan’s longevity provides absolute evidence of the enduring power of the image ERB envisioned.
TARZAN: STORY BY STORY
… EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS
(1912) ‘TARZAN OF THE APES’ published in the October 1912 issue of Frank A Munsey’s pulp ‘All-Story Magazine’, the dramatic cover-story ‘A Romance Of The Jungle’ alongside short stories by Frank Comstock, Ella Argo, Frank Condon, John Swain, Jack Brandt and RA Ellis
(1913) ‘THE RETURN OF TARZAN’ serialized in seven parts in ‘New Story Magazine’ from June to December 1913, taking Tarzan from America to Europe, a sequence of adventures with Arabs in Algeria, then back to Africa where he becomes chief of the Waziri tribe who lead him to the lost jungle city Opar. He rescues Jane from the Oparian ape-men, assisted by the beautiful priestess La, who loves him. The novel ends with Tarzan marrying Jane
(1914) ‘THE BEASTS OF TARZAN’ serialized in ‘All-Story Cavalier’ magazine, Tarzan and Jane have a son – Jack, who is kidnapped by Tarzan’s adversaries from the previous novel, Nikolas Rokoff and Alexis Paulvitch. Marooned on a jungle island Tarzan uses the panther Sheeta and Akut’s tribe of great apes to escape and pursue the bad guys
(1914) ‘THE SON OF TARZAN’ again serialized in six-parts in ‘All-Story Weekly’, in England, Paulvitch is exhibiting the captured Akut. When Jack assists the ape to escape back to Africa, Paulvitch is killed, and Jack flees into the jungle where he’s named ‘Korak’ by the Mongani apes. He rescues an abused girl, Meriem, and shares a jungle life with her before he’s reunited with his parents at their Waziri estate. In London, Jack and Meriem are married
(1919) ‘JUNGLE TALES OF TARZAN’ collection of tales originally run in ‘Blue Book Magazine’, with ‘Tarzan’s First Love’ (1916), ‘The Capture Of Tarzan’ (1916), ‘The Fight For The Balu’ (1916), ‘The God Of Tarzan’ (1916), ‘Tarzan And The Black Boy’ (1917), ‘The Witch-Doctor Seeks Vengeance’ (1917), ‘The End Of Bukawai’ (1917), ‘The Lion’ (1917), ‘The Nightmare’ (1917), ‘The Battle For Teeka’ (1917), ‘A Jungle Joke’ (1917), ‘Tarzan Rescues The Moon’ (1917).
(1920) ‘TARZAN THE UNTAMED’ made up of ‘Tarzan The Untamed’ (from ‘Red Book’, 1919) and ‘Tarzan & The Valley Of Luna’ (‘All-Story Weekly’, 1920), fearing Jane has been killed by invading World War I German troops, Tarzan’s quest for revenge takes him to a secret desert valley and the lost city Xuja
(1921) ‘TARZAN THE TERRIBLE’ following clues that Jane is still alive, Tarzan reaches Pal-u-don, a hidden valley of dinosaurs, where he encounters two tailed human-like tribes, the hairless white-skinned Ho-don and hairy hill-dwelling Waz-don. Held here by her German abductor, Jane escapes, only for Korak to intervene and save both of his parents. The book edition includes a map and glossary
(1922/ 1923) ‘TARZAN & THE GOLDEN LION’, two expeditions to Opar, one led by Flora Hawkes with a Spanish actor ‘fake’ Tarzan, Esteban Miranda, the other by Tarzan himself. La has fallen out of favour with the High Priest, and escapes with Tarzan into the Valley of Diamonds where intelligent gorillas have enslaved devolved humans. With help of Jal-bal-ja, his Golden Lion and the natives, Tarzan restores La to power. Then he confronts the ‘fake’ Tarzan!
(1924) ‘TARZAN & THE ANT MEN’, first published as a seven-part serial in ‘Argosy All-Story Weekly’, travelling through the thorny jungle-belt of the Alali – ruled by their females, Tarzan enters Minunia with its inhabitants one-quarter human size. The Minunians live in magnificent city-states that frequently wage war against each other. Tarzan befriends king Adendrohahkis, and prince Komodoflorensal of the city called Trohanadalmakus, and joins them in war against the onslaught of their warlike neighbours from Veltopismakus. He’s captured in battle and imprisoned by Gefasto of the Veltopismakusians, whose scientist Zoanthrohago conducts an experiment reducing him to the size of a Minunian, and the ape-man is imprisoned and enslaved among other prisoners of war. He meets Komodoflorensal in the dungeons, and together they’re able to make a daring escape. There are elements of ERBs Barsoom stories here, ‘The Master Mind Of Mars’ or ‘Swords Of Mars’
(1927, 1928) ‘TARZAN, LORD OF THE JUNGLE’ in a ‘forbidden valley’ hidden in the mountains, Tarzan discovers an outpost of European knights and crusaders
(1929) ‘TARZAN AT THE EARTH’S CORE’ In response to a radio plea from Abner Perry, a scientist who with his friend David Innes has discovered the interior world of Pellucidar at the Earth's core, Jason Gridley launches an expedition to rescue Innes from the Korsars (corsairs), the scourge of the internal seas. He enlists Tarzan, and a fabulous airship is constructed to penetrate Pellucidar via the natural polar opening connecting the outer and inner worlds. The airship is crewed primarily by Germans, with Tarzan's Waziri warriors under their chief Muviro also along for the expedition. In Pellucidar Tarzan and Gridley are each separated from the main force of the expedition and must struggle for survival against the prehistoric creatures and peoples of the inner world. Gridley wins the love of the native cave-woman Jana, the Red Flower of Zoram. Eventually everyone is reunited, and the party succeeds in rescuing Innes. As Tarzan and the others prepare to return home, Gridley decides to stay to search for Frederich Wilhelm Eric von Mendeldorf und von Horst, one last member of the expedition who remains lost (The missing Von Horst's adventures are told in a sequel, ‘Back to the Stone Age’, which features neither Gridley nor Tarzan)
(1930, 1931) ‘TARZAN THE INVINCIBLE’ Tarzan, his monkey friend Nkima, and Chief Muviro and his faithful Waziri warriors prevent Russian communists from looting the lost city of Opar
(1932) ‘TARZAN & THE CITY OF GOLD’ Tarzan rescues Valthor from a group of ‘shiftas’ bandits, and befriends this warrior of the lost city of Athne, City of Ivory and capital of the land of Thenar. Tarzan is captured by the insane yet beautiful queen Nemone of its hereditary enemy, Cathne, City of Gold, capital of the land of Onthar. Tarzan is forced to fight Cathne’s strongest man in its arena, and easily overpowers his antagonist. ThenTarzan is forced to fight a lion, he at first believes he can outrun the beast but this lion is specifically selected for endurance, and ultimately an unarmed Tarzan must turn to face him. Fortunately his own lion ally, Jad-bal-ja, whom he had raised from a cub, arrives and intervenes, killing Belthar and saving Tarzan. Nemone, who believes her life is linked to that of her pet, kills herself when it dies. Unusually for lost cities in the Tarzan series, which are typically visited but once, Cathne and Athne reappear in a later Tarzan adventure, ‘Tarzan the Magnificent’ (the only other lost city Tarzan visits more than once is Opar)
(1933, 1934) ‘TARZAN & THE LION MAN’ Tarzan discovers a mad scientist with a city of talking gorillas. To create additional havoc, a Hollywood film crew sets out to shoot a Tarzan movie in Africa and brings along an actor who is an exact double of the apeman himself, but is his opposite in courage and determination
(1935) ‘TARZAN & THE LEOPARD MEN’ an amnesiac Tarzan with monkey companion Nkima are taken by an African warrior to be his guardian spirits, and as such come into conflict with the murderous secret society of the Leopard Men
(1938) ‘TARZAN & THE FORBIDDEN CITY’ Brian Gregory’s gone missing on his quest to find the legendary city of Ashair, lured by rumor of the world’s hugest gem – the Father of Diamonds. Tarzan cares little for him, but responds to Paul d’Arnot’s request to guide the expedition Gregory’s father and sister organize for his rescue. The enigmatic Atan Thome is also obsessed with the gem, and uses agents in the safari to spy out its route and sabotage its efforts. Both parties reach their goal, remote Ashair... as prisoners of its priests, doomed to die in hideous rites
(1939) ‘TARZAN THE MAGNIFICENT’ made up of ‘Tarzan and the Magic Men’ (1936) and ‘Tarzan and the Elephant Men’ (1937-1938), Tarzan encounters a lost race with uncanny mental powers, after which he revisits the lost cities of Cathne and Athne, encountered in the earlier novel ‘Tarzan and the City of Gold’. As usual, he’s backed up by Chief Muviro and his Waziri warriors
(1947) ‘TARZAN & THE FOREIGN LEGION’ while serving in the RAF during World War II under his civilian name John Clayton, Tarzan is shot down over the island of Sumatra in the Japanese-occupied Dutch East Indies. He uses his jungle survival skills to save his comrades in arms, and fight the Japanese while seeking escape from enemy territory
(1964) ‘TARZAN & THE MADMAN’ Tarzan tracks down yet another impostor resembling him, who is under the delusion he is Tarzan
(1965) ‘TARZAN & THE CASTAWAYS’ made up of ‘Tarzan and the Castaways’ (1941), ‘Tarzan and the Champion’ (1940), ‘Tarzan and the Jungle Murders’ (1940)
Other ERB stories:
(1963, for younger readers) ‘TARZAN & THE TARZAN TWINS’ with ‘The Tarzan Twins" (1927), and ‘Tarzan and the Tarzan Twins and Jad-Bal-Ja the Golden Lion’ (1936).
(1995) ‘TARZAN: THE LOST ADVENTURE’ (with Joe R Lansdale)
‘TARZAN’ by other authors:
By Barton Werper: (never authorised by Burroughs, Inc, and destroyed following litigation)
(1964) ‘TARZAN & THE SILVER GLOBE’
(1964) ‘TARZAN & THE CAVE CITY’
(1964) ‘TARZAN & THE SNAKE PEOPLE’
(1965) ‘TARZAN & THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMEN’
(1965) ‘TARZAN & THE WINGED INVADERS’
(1966) ‘TARZAN & THE VALLEY OF GOLD’ (the first novel authorized by the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate, and numbered as the 25th book in the Tarzan series).
By Philip José Farmer:
(circa 1966) ‘A FEAST UNKNOWN’ A character based on Tarzan (Lord Grandrith) appears in the Nine trilogy (circa 1966) ‘LORD OF THE TREES’ and ‘THE MAD GOBLIN’
(1972) ‘TARZAN ALIVE’, a fictional biography of Tarzan (here Lord Greystoke), one of two ‘foundational’ books – along with his ‘Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, of the Wold Newton Family. (1974) ‘THE ADVENTURES OF THE PEERLESS PEER’
(1985) ‘TIME’S LAST GIFT’ explains how Tarzan came to be in Ancient Opar (see below)
(1999) ‘THE DARK HEART OF TIME’ officially authorized by the ER Burroughs estate, and uses the ‘Tarzan’ name rather than just inference
(1974) ‘HADON OF ANCIENT OPAR’
(1976) ‘FLIGHT TO OPAR’ The ER Burroughs estate authorized the ‘Opar’ novels in which a secondary character – while not specifically named as ‘Tarzan’, is intended by Farmer to be Tarzan, and is included as such by most Wold Newton Family scholars. Farmer also wrote a novel based on his own fascination with Tarzan, entitled ‘LORD TYGER’, and translated ERB’s original ‘TARZAN OF THE APES’ novel into Esperanto.
By R.A. Salvatore:
(1996) ‘TARZAN: THE EPIC ADVENTURE’
By Nigel Cox:
(2004) ‘TARZAN PRESLEY’ spoof novel about a character named ‘Ted Nugent who combines elements of Tarzan with Elvis Presley, set in New Zealand and America. Subject to litigation, has not been reprinted since its initial publication.
(September 1918) ‘THE ROMANCE OF TARZAN’ (National Film Corporation Of America, 96-minutes, although now lost) Dir: William Lucas. Based on the second part of ER Burroughs’ novel ‘Tarzan Of The Apes’, adapted by Bess Meredyth. Tarzan (Elmo Lincoln) follows Jane (Enid Markey) to the Porter’s Californian ranch where complications with outlaws, and romance set in. Also features Thomas Jefferson (as Prof Porter) and Cleo Madison (as La Belle Odine, who Jane mistakenly believes has designs on Tarzan)
(May 1920) ‘THE REVENGE OF TARZAN’ (Goldwyn, 90-mins, now lost) with Robert Saxmar’s screenplay based around ER Burroughs’ ‘The Return Of Tarzan’, this silent film stars Gene Pollar (his only screen-Tarzan) as an unconvincing Ape-Man, and Karla Schramm (Jane) – she will return as Jane for ‘The Son Of Tarzan’
(March 1932) ‘TARZAN, THE APE MAN’ (MGM, 99 minutes) Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan), Maureen O'Sullivan (Jane), Dir: WS Van Dyke. With dialogue by Ivor Novello. Among its notable firsts, this is the first Tarzan ‘talkie’, the first to feature Cheeta the Chimp, the famous Tarzan-call, and the famous ‘Me Tarzan, you Jane’ sequence. Weissmuller is easily the best-known movie Ape-Man and does a great job, even if his Tarzan isn't portrayed as the intelligent guy he is in the books. And Maureen O'Sullivan IS Jane, intelligent, sexy and quite capable of taking care of herself – until she meets Tarzan. She tags along with her father, James Parker (played by C Aubrey Smith) and his partner Harry Holt (Neil Hamilton)’s safari searching for the mysterious elephant graveyard. Once they’re deep in the jungle, Tarzan ‘discovers’ Jane and promptly kidnaps her. They quickly fall in love and then the action begins. The safari is captured by a tribe of pygmies and Tarzan must rescue them – with the help of his elephant friends. A classic adventure film, remade in 1959 with Denny Miller, and in 1981 with Miles O'Keeffe
(April 1934) ‘TARZAN AND HIS MATE’ (MGM, 93 minutes) Dir: Cedric Gibbons. Johnny Weissmuller. Maureen O'Sullivan. After barely surviving first time around Harry Holt, with womanizing new partner Martin Arlington (Paul Cavanagh), returns to seek the elephant graveyard, hoping Tarzan will help them, but when he refuses they go it alone. Only to find themselves fighting for their lives surrounded by hostile natives. Tarzan – and the elephants, arrive just in time to save Jane. For many, this is the ULTIMATE Tarzan movie! The extended footage included on the video release makes it even better! Tons of exciting action, a cool villain, great photography and Miss O'Sullivan in a leather bikini! The characters are well portrayed and the excitement/wonder never stops. The much-repeated crocodile battle sequence happens here for the first time
(November 1936) ‘TARZAN ESCAPES’ (MGM, 89-mins) Director: Richard Thorpe. Johnny Weissmuller. Maureen O'Sullivan. Jane's cousins want to inform her of a large inheritance she’s received, and hire an unscrupulous guide to help them find Tarzan. The guide, on the other hand, wants to capture Tarzan and make an exhibit of him. Once again the safari is surrounded and captured by hostile natives and, with the help of the elephants, Tarzan rescues them. Film-goers get their first glimpse of Tarzan’s famous tree-house. Jane wears more clothing this time around, but she’s still breathtaking
(June 1939) ‘TARZAN FINDS A SON’ (MGM, 82-mins) Director: Richard Thorpe. Johnny Weissmuller. Maureen O'Sullivan. Johnny Sheffield. A small plane crashes in the jungle, its only survivor a baby boy. The baby is rescued by Cheetah and taken to Tarzan's home. He and Jane raise the child as their own and name him Boy. Later, a safari arrives looking for the lost plane. The safari, Jane and Boy manage to get captured by (you guessed it) hostile natives and, after a breathtaking escape by Boy, are rescued by Tarzan and his elephant friends. I love this movie. It is exciting and I always wished (and I sometimes still do) I could be Boy…
(December 1941) ‘TARZAN'S SECRET TREASURE’ (MGM, 81-mins) Director: Richard Thorpe. Johnny Weissmuller. Maureen O’Sullivan. Johnny Sheffield. Boy runs away in search of civilisation. But winds up in a plague-infested native village, from where he’s rescued by a scientific team. Boy unknowingly informs two less scrupulous members of the party – Medford (Tom Conway) and Vandermeer (Philip Dorn), of the existence of gold in Tarzan’s jungle-escarpment. They kidnap Jane and Boy in order to make Tarzan show them the location of the gold. But soon the group is captured by bad natives, so they, in turn, must be rescued by Tarzan (with the elephants). Meanwhile, Boy befriends a young African lad, one of the few black people in a Tarzan film to actually say much more than ‘Yes, Bwana’!
(February 1943) ‘TARZAN TRIUMPHS’ (RKO, 76-mins) Director: Wilhelm Thiele, with Johnny Weissmuller, Frances Gifford (as Zandra) and Johnny Sheffield. ‘Now Tarzan make war!’ declares Tarzan as he battles Nazi agents intent on enslaving the hidden city of Palandrya. An absent Jane has supposedly returned to London to be with her sick mother, but Boy manages to get captured, before Tarzan begins to pick off the Germans one by one. ‘Jungle people fight to live, civilised people live to fight’ says Tarzan. Frances Gifford played Nyoka in the Republic movie-serial ‘Jungle Girl’ – on which Ike Turner modeled Tina’s early stage routine, and which features some of the coolest vine-swinging on celluloid
(December 1943) ‘TARZAN'S DESERT MYSTERY’ (RKO, 70-mins) Director: Wilhelm Thiele, with Johnny Weissmuller, Nancy Kelly, and Johnny Sheffield. Jane sends a request for Tarzan’s fever medicine to aid Allied soldiers stricken with jungle fever. Tarzan and Boy journey across a great desert to retrieve the vines needed for the medicine. They get mixed up in a spy plot involving an Arab prince, a wild stallion, and a beautiful American magician (played by Nancy Kelly). Tarzan’s battle with a giant spider has to be seen to be believed. Jane is still ‘absent’
(April 1945) ‘TARZAN AND THE AMAZONS’ (RKO, 76-mins) Director: Kurt Neumann. Johnny Weissmuller. Johnny Sheffield. Jane returns in the form of Brenda Joyce, with the longest hair in Hollywood – 39-inches, and an American accent. An archaeological team arrive in search of the lost Amazon city of Palmyria. Tarzan refuses to help them, but they trick Boy into helping them and go on anyway. Tarzan saves both the city’s relics and Boy in the nick of time
(April 1947) ‘TARZAN AND THE HUNTRESS’ (RKO, 72-mins) Director: Kurt Neumann with regular Producer Sol Lesser. Johnny Weissmuller. Brenda Joyce. Johnny Sheffield. Animal trappers come to capture animals for the zoos. They want more than they are legally allowed and have King Farrod (Charles Trowbridge), a friend of Tarzan’s, killed to avoid the quota. Tarzan gets involved and rescues the animals and makes sure the King’s son, Prince Suli assumes the throne. This movie marks Boy’s last appearance. Johnny Sheffield (11 April 1931 – 15 October 2010), in a radical career-switch, went on to play Bomba, the Jungle Boy, in his own film series through Monogram movies, directed by Ford Beebe. The twelve low-budget films run from ‘Bomba, The Jungle Boy’ (1949) to ‘Lord Of The Jungle’ (1955)
(May 1948) ‘TARZAN AND THE MERMAIDS’ (RKO, 68-mins) Director: Robert Florey. Producer: Sol Lesser. Johnny Weissmuller. Brenda Joyce. Tarzan travels to the forbidden island Aquatania, to free its people from corrupt High Priest Palanth (George Zucco). Tarzan dives from a perilously high cliff and battles a giant octopus before unmasking Aquatania’s pagan god and saving the day. Weissmuller’s last Tarzan, although he went on to star in sixteen low-budget ‘Jungle Jim’ movies – adapted from a rival comic-strip franchise created by Alex (‘Flash Gordon’) Raymond, some of which aren't too bad, and twenty-six episodes of a spin-off TV series
(1949) ‘TARZAN’S MAGIC FOUNTAIN’ (RKO, 73-mins) Director: Lee Sholem. Screenplay by Curt Siodmak and Henry Chandlee. Tarzan (Lex Barker) must protect a lost race who have discovered a fountain of youth from ruthless kidnappers. Jane (Brenda Joyce) is tricked into leading them to the hidden city. Elmo Lincoln has a cameo in this one. An exciting first Tarzan outing for Lex Barker, who makes an interesting Tarzan, filling Weissmuller’s shoes – or lack of them, admirably. In the last of her five contributions, Brenda Joyce becomes the only Jane to work with two Tarzan’s. She retires from movies, and dies in July 2009
(March 1950) ‘TARZAN AND THE SLAVE GIRL’ (RKO, 74-mins) Director: Lee Sholem. Producer: Sol Lesser. Screenplay by Arnold Belgard and Hans Jacoby. Women are being kidnapped and a plague threatens to spread out of control. Tarzan (Lex Barker) rescues Jane (Vanessa Brown) and the other women before they are forced to repopulate a plague stricken city
(March 1951) ‘TARZAN'S PERIL’ (RKO, 79-mins) Director: Byron Haskin. Producer: Sol Leser. Lex Barker. Virginia Houston (as Jane). A ruthless slaver/ gunrunner has escaped from prison and returned to his evil ways. Tarzan must stop him from contributing to a tribal war and rescue Jane in an exciting climax. The first Tarzan to be actually filmed in African locations, it has some nice, authentic, African location footage…
(March 1952) ‘TARZAN’S SAVAGE FURY’ (RKO, 81-mins) Director: Cy Endfield. Lex Barker. Dorothy Hart. Another hunting party comes to Africa - this time lead by a man claiming to be Tarzan's cousin, the current Lord Greystoke (Charles Korvin). The man is actually a crook named Rokov and he hopes to steal a cache of diamonds from the Waziri. Even with a new Boy-like character, Joey (Tommy Carlton), running around with Tarzan, this movie isn’t very good
(1953) ‘TARZAN AND THE SHE-DEVIL’ (RKO, 75-mins) Director: Kurt Neumann. Lex Barker’s fifth and last appearance as Tarzan, with Joyce Mackenzie (Jane). Tarzan must keep ivory hunters, led by the She-Devil of the title (Monique van Vooren), from slaughtering a huge herd of elephants
(April 1957) ‘TARZAN AND THE LOST SAFARI’ (MGM, 86-mins) Director: Bruce Humberstone. Producer: John Croydon. The first Tarzan movie to be filmed in Eastman-color. Gordon Scott. Betta St. John (as Diana Penrod). After rescuing the passengers of a crashed plane, Tarzan leads them safely through the jungle. The natives of Opar have other ideas and harass the party along the way. A nice premise makes for an enjoyable movie. There is a wonderful children’s book adaptation of this movie. Also features Wilfred Hyde-White (as ‘Doodles’ Fletcher) and George Coulouris (as Carl Kraski)
(July 1958) ‘TARZAN’S FIGHT FOR LIFE’ (MGM, 86-mins) Director: H Bruce Humberstone. Producer: Sol Lesser (his final Tarzan). Screenplay: Thomas Hal Phillips. Gordon Scott. Eve Brent. Tarzan must convince the local natives that the ‘white doctor’ is a good thing, despite the efforts of a devious witch doctor who doesn’t want that to happen. Another Gordon Scott stinker…
(1958) ‘TARZAN AND THE TRAPPERS’ (Sol Lesser Productions, 74-mins) Directors: Charles F Haas, Sandy Howard, and uncredited H Bruce Humberstone. Gordon Scott. Eve Brent (as Jane). Tarzan battles a motley band of trappers... one after a lost treasure – another wants to murder Tarzan – ‘They Wont Rest Until They Capture The King Of The Jungle!’ Originally intended for a television series, three black-and-white episodes were edited together to make this slow movie
(1959) ‘TARZAN’S GREATEST ADVENTURE’ (88 minutes) Director: John Guillermin. With Gordon Scott and Sara Shane. He ape-man clashes with diamond-hunting baddies Anthony Quayle (Slade) and a young Sean Connery. There’s some violence early on, but it settles down into a reasonably entertaining yarn. Filmed on location in Africa, Scott plays an intelligent Tarzan and the pace never lets up! Slade and his cronies are traveling upriver to a hidden diamond mine. Along the way they kill and plunder, taking what they need. Tarzan must stop them before they get there and proceeds to pick off the henchmen one by one (when they aren't busy fighting amongst themselves), leaving just Slade left for the incredible finish
(1959) ‘TARZAN, THE APE MAN’ (82 minutes) Denny Miller. Joanna Barnes. A remake of the 1932 Weissmuller/ O'Sullivan film with colourised footage from earlier Weissmuller movies integrated into this film. Usually considered one of the worst Tarzan movie (I rank it a notch above Tarzan in Manhattan, 1989). In which Tarzan is never actually referred to by name. And, finally, the rubber leopard face is the funniest thing I've ever seen in a Tarzan movie!
(1960) ‘TARZAN THE MAGNIFICENT’ (88 minutes) Gordon Scott. Betta St. John. Gordon Scott returns with another winner! This isn’t quite as good as Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure but it’s mighty close. Jock Mahoney, who plays Tarzan in the next film, is the villain! Tarzan, burdened with an assortment of stranded travelers, must deliver Coy Banton, a cold-hearted murderer, to the authorities in Mantu. Following them on their journey, and determined to stop them before they reach Mantu, are Banton’s equally cold-hearted father and brothers
(1962) ‘TARZAN GOES TO INDIA’ (86 minutes) Jock Mahoney. Tarzan travels to India to save hundreds of elephants that will be drowned when a dam (for a newly constructed power plant) is completed. With the help of Jai, the elephant boy, Tarzan manages to save the elephants and the power plant. Some critics seem not to care for Jock Mahoney’s portrayal of Tarzan, despite some attractive location filming…
(1963) ‘TARZAN’S THREE CHALLENGES’ (92 minutes) Jock Mahoney. Again Tarzan travels abroad- the time to the far east, championing a boy set to assume the throne, Tarzan must battle a challenger in an ancient ritual. Mahoney took ill while filming this movie and by the end he looks horrible. It is hard to believe Tarzan could best Woody Strode in the shape he was in!
(1966) ‘TARZAN AND THE VALLEY OF GOLD’ (90 minutes) Mike Henry. Nancy Kovak. Tarzan travels to Mexico in an attempt to stop a group of mercenaries from murdering a looting a lost Incan civilization. With the help of a lion and a leopard, Tarzan tracks them down and makes sure justice is served. A kind of James Bond-meets-Tarzan theme with a trendy sixties feel to it. The Fritz Leiber ‘novelization’ works even more effectively
(1967) ‘TARZAN AND THE GREAT RIVER’ (88 minutes) Mike Henry. Diana Millay. A deadly leopard cult is sacking villages and enslaving their people to work in a hidden diamond mine. Tarzan defeats Barcuma, the cult leader, and frees the people
(1968) ‘TARZAN AND THE JUNGLE BOY’ (90 minutes) Mike Henry. A boy, presumed dead six years earlier, is found alive and well and living in the jungle. While Tarzan is trying to locate the boy, he gets mixed up in a tribal feud as they attempt to choose a successor for their dying chief. Another hopeless attempt at a Boy-like character…
(1970) ‘TARZAN’S DEADLY SILENCE’ (88 minutes) Ron Ely. Jock Mahoney & Woody Strode play the villains in this feature version of a two-part story from Ely’s television series. A madman called the Colonel is enslaving the locals and building himself a formidable army in the process. Tarzan, after temporarily losing his hearing, battles the military expert with the help of jungle animals and cunning tactics
(1982) ‘TARZAN, THE APE MAN’ (112 minutes) Miles O'Keeffe, Bo Derek. Another remake of the 1932 Weissmuller film. Tarzan doesn’t speak a word (he does grunt a lot) and Jane can’t seem to keep her clothes on. A nicely photographed movie but it still really stinks
(March 1984) ‘GREYSTOKE, THE LEGEND OF TARZAN’ (143 minutes) To follow-up his Oscar-winning ‘Chariots Of Fire’, Director Hugh Hudson attempts to re-boot the oft-filmed tale as an epic commentary on Victorian values, by returning to ERB’s original book, with added elements lifted from Philip Jose Farmer’s mock-biography ‘Tarzan Alive’. Christopher Lambert does a creditable job as the orphaned jungle aristocrat – although he’s never actually referred to as ‘Tarzan’. The opening portion of his early life (with Tali McGregor as infant, Peter Kyriakou at 1-year, Danny Potts at 5-years, and Eric Langlois at 12-years-old) is exceptionally well-done. Until he’s found and persuaded to swap his tree-house for the finery of his ancestral Scottish home. Cue an even better performance from Ralph Richardson in his final film, as Tarzan’s grandfather (the Earl of Greystoke), who tries to educate the lad in the ways of ‘civilised’ society. ‘Observer’ reviewer Philip French calls it ‘an ambitious/pretentious failure, it looks magnificent and features several memorable performances’, especially those of Ian Holm (Capitain Philippe D’Arnot), and Andie McDowell (as Jane Porter, with her voice dubbed by Glenn Close). Co-screenwriter Robert Towne replaced his own name on the credits with that of his own pet dog!
(1989) ‘TARZAN IN MANHATTAN’ (TV Movie, 100 minutes, DVD) Joe Lara. Kim Crosby. Cheetah is kidnapped and brought to New York to be used as an experimental test subject. Tarzan follows, meets Jane (a cab driver!) and her father, rescues the animals and foils the villain’s plans. The worst Tarzan movie ever made - the less said the better
(1996) ‘TARZAN: THE EPIC ADVENTURES: TARZAN’S RETURN’ (TV Movie, 100 minutes) Joe Lara. Cory Everson. Joe Lara is back - and he’s improved. The climax takes place in Pellucidar; something never seen before in a Tarzan film. Tarzan is (reasonably) intelligent but what is the deal with those boots!?
(1998) ‘TARZAN AND THE LOST CITY’ (83 minutes, video, VCD, DVD) Casper Van Dien (of ‘Starship Troopers’) struts his beefcake stuff as the jungle hero. He’s in England, just about to marry his voluptuous soulmate Jane March (as Jane) when they’re called back to Africa where evil mercenaries are searching (again) for the treasures of lost city of Opar. A lot of nice scenery and a decent (though short and very soft-spoken) Tarzan. More hocus-pocus than any other Tarzan movie and its not entirely clear why Opar needed Tarzan's help - they seem more than capable of taking care of themselves. US-Germany-Australia/ Director: Carl Schenkel
(1999) ‘TARZAN OF THE APES’ (48 minutes, animated, video) From Sony Wonder Home Video. Produced by Diane Eskenazi. A cheaply made, direct-to-video, animated film trying to capitalize on the Disney feature film. Some embarrassing songs and poor animation make this ‘movie’ very easy to dislike
(1999) ‘DISNEY’S TARZAN’ (100 minutes, animated feature, video, VCD, DVD) Tony Goldwyn. Minnie Driver. Disney does Tarzan and they do a wonderful job! Fantastic animation highlights this delightful story of Tarzan's youth and his first encounter with Jane. Tarzan races through the jungle like never before. The scene where Tarzan and Jane exchange names is terrific!
(2002) ‘DISNEY’S TARZAN AND JANE’ (70 minutes, animated, video, DVD) Michael T. Weiss, Oliva d'Abo. Tarzan and Jane celebrate their first anniversary together in this direct-to-video sequel. The character development, plot, and animation are all markedly inferior to the feature film version, but the movie is still quality kid's fare
(July 2016) ‘THE LEGEND OF TARZAN’ (110-minutes) Dir: David Yates. Tarzan is ‘True Blood’s’ Alexander Skarsgård in 1884 as a 30-something back in England married to Jane (Margot Robbie) in his stately pile insisting ‘my name isn’t Tarzan, it’s John Clayton III, 5th Earl of Greystoke’. There are flashbacks to his meeting Jane, before they arrive back in Africa to encounter Samuel L Jackson’s US Civil War veteran, while Christoph Waltz (‘Spectre’) is a suave Belgian villain hungry for the diamonds of Opar
(1920) ‘THE SON OF TARZAN’ (National Film Corporation Of America) 15-episode movie-serial (253 minutes) P. Dempsey Tabler. Karla Schramm. Kamuela Searle. This movie does a decent job of following the ERB book, not many Tarzan movies even try. Tarzan's son, Jack, runs away to Africa and gets involved with the kidnapping of a small girl. In the process of rescuing her (through many chapters), Jack becomes known as Korak the Killer, the Son of Tarzan. Both Tarzan and Korak are in on the finale, although Korak is the star of the movie. The big finish has Korak tied to a stake and rescued by Tantor, the elephant. Searle is terrific as Korak, but Tabler is completely out of place as the ape-man. (1920) ‘THE SON OF TARZAN’ - feature film version of serial (111 minutes) P. Dempsey Tabler. Karla Schramm. Kamuela Searle
(1921) ‘THE ADVENTURES OF TARZAN’ (Numa pictures) 15-episode movie-serial (video) Elmo Lincoln. Louise Lorraine. Tarzan battling a pair of villains in search of the lost treasures of Opar, using a map tatooed on Jane's shoulder. She manages to get captured often, but Tarzan is there to rescue her each and every time. The copy I have is very poor and hard to watch. A confusing romp with tons of action serving no purpose. Based on ER Burroughs’ novels ‘The Return Of Tarzan’ & ‘The Jewels Of Opar’
(1928) ‘TARZAN THE MIGHTY’ 15-episode movie-serial. Frank Merrill. Natalie Kingston
(1929) ‘TARZAN THE TIGER’ (Universal Studios) 15-episode movie-serial (video) The last of the silent Tarzans! Frank Merrill as an extremely well-built and fairly believable ape-man. Natalie Kingston as Jane. Based on ERB's novel ‘Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar’, the story once again deals with La and her amazing lost city, and Tarzan, battling amnesia, fights his way through
(1933) ‘TARZAN THE FEARLESS’ - 12 Chapter Serial. Buster Crabbe. Jacquelene Wells. (1933) ‘TARZAN THE FEARLESS’ - feature version of serial (85 minutes - video, DVD) Buster Crabbe. Jacquelene Wells. A safari comes looking for a friend of Tarzan, Dr. Brooks. Brooks has left in search of a lost temple and this, of course, excites the crooked safari guides. Lots of action and mischief follow. This movie (I haven't seen the serial version) is saved only by the cool shots of Tarzan swinging through the trees. The female lead is Mary, not Jane
(1935) ‘THE NEW ADVENTURES OF TARZAN’ – 12 Chapter Serial (video) Herman Brix. Ula Holt. Tarzan joins an expedition to the jungles of Guatemala in search of the Dead City and its priceless Lost Goddess. Tarzan rescues his old friend D’Arnot from Mayan captivity and, ultimately, wins the Goddess. Tarzan as an intelligent gentleman. Herman Brix looks and acts (at least for the opening chapter) more like the Tarzan of the books than any actor before or since. Too bad the story is pathetic. The two movies made from this serial make even less sense. (1935) ‘THE NEW ADVENTURES OF TARZAN’ - movie version of serial (75 minutes) Herman Brix. Ula Holt. (1938) ‘TARZAN AND THE GREEN GODDESS’ - 2nd feature from of 1935 serial (72 minutes) Herman Brix. Ula Holt
(September 1966-April 1968) ‘TARZAN’ 57-episodes. The first Tarzan television series ran from September 1966 to April 1968, for a total of 57 episodes. I saw them in syndication and they were my first exposure to the wonders of Edgar Rice Burroughs! Ron Ely played an intelligent Tarzan and I love the show
(1976) ‘TARZAN: LORD OF THE JUNGLE’ Filmation. 36-episodes. Tarzan returned to television in 1976 as an animated Saturday morning show (originally titled: Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle). The voice of Tarzan was provided by Robert Ridgely. This series (currently hard to find!) is fondly remembered for its exciting, though limited, rotoscoped animation
(1991-1994) ‘TARZAN’ 75-episodes. A new live-action adventure series with Wolf Larson portraying Tarzan as an environmentalist-protector of the jungle and its creatures. A series with very little going for it, beyond Ron Ely appearing as a guest villain
(1996-1997) ‘TARZAN: THE EPIC ADVENTURES’ 20-episodes. With Joe Lara as the ape-man, the premiere movie shows some promise - which the series doesn’t quite live up to. A series which relies more on sword & sorcery magic/hocus-pocus than ERB
(2001) ‘DISNEY’S LEGEND OF TARZAN’ 39-episodes. Picking up where the feature film left off, with animation well below the big-screen version, it’s nevertheless an enjoyable weekly dose of TV-Tarzan
USA COMIC-STRIP SERIALS:
‘TARZAN’ from 7th January 1929 drawn by Harold ‘Hal’ R Foster
(Sunday strip by Rex Maxon from 15th March 1931)
From 1937-1945 by Burne Hogarth, then again from 1947 to 1950
Rubimor (Amilcar Ruben Moreira) from 1945 to 1947
Also Bob Lubbers (Daily and Sunday strips from Summer 1950 to 1954), Joe Kubert (1972 DC Comics ‘Tarzan no.207-214’), John Buscema (launched ‘Tarzan’ for Marvel comics in 1977) and Gil Kane (Sunday pages 1979 to 1980)
Russ Manning, daily strip from 1967 to 1972, and Sunday strip 1967 to 1979, plus Dell and Whitman comic-book covers, ‘The Burroughs Bulletin’ fanzine from July 1947, European ‘Tarzan’ projects, and other work. Scripted by Don Kraar from 1982 to 1995
Sunday strip by Gray Morrow from 1983 to 2001, after which it continued as a reprint series
UK COMIC-STRIP SERIALS:
‘TARZAN COMIC’ (Peters/ United Features) 1950 (four 68-page gravure issues), to October 1951 (fifteen 36-page issues)
‘TARZAN: THE GRAND ADVENTURE COMIC’ (Westworld) 15 Sept 1951-3 April 1953 (volume 1 four-colour 12-page tabloid, 6d – opening front-page strip ‘Tarzan The Victorious’, smaller volume 2 format from 1 Aug 1952, volume 3 36-issues, it then becomes…
‘TARZAN ADVENTURES’ (Westworld/ United Features) 8 April-26 December 1959 (344 weekly issues, each volume 52 issues except volume 9 which is 32 issues) 28-pages US reprints, with cover art by George Bunting (volume 3), James Bleach (v4), J&M Thomas (v5), A Graham (v6), James Cawthorn (v7), Drummond Riddell (v8), and King- Ganteaume (v9)
‘TARZAN: WORLD ADVENTURE LIBRARY’ (World/ Dell) May-August 1967, four 68-page issues
‘TV TORNADO’ (City) includes a weekly strip by artist Don Lawrence from no.1 14 January 1967-1968, then ‘TV21’ 1968-1970, and ‘TV COMIC’ 1971-1976 (Polystyle)
‘TARZAN OF THE APES’ (Top Sellers/ Dell) 1970 – one 36-page issue, then 1971-1975 monthly. ‘TARZAN OF THE APES’ (Top Sellers/ Dell) 1972, one 260-page issue, US reprints
‘TARZAN OF THE APES: SPECIAL SUPER ADVENTURE’ (Williams/ Dell) 1972 – two 52-page issues
‘TARZAN WEEKLY’ (Byblos) 11 June 1977, 32-page US reprints
‘TARZAN SPECIAL’ (Byblos) May 1978-November 1981 (ten Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter issues)
‘TARZAN MONTHLY’ (Byblos) 1980 (one 68-page issue), 18 February 1981-25 February 1982 (thirteen 52-page issues) US & foreign reprints
With thanks to www.tarzanmovieguide.com