Friday, February 12, 2016
Tarzan and the Mermaids (1948)
With TARZAN AND THE MERMAIDS Johnny Weissmuller hung up his loin cloth and put on the khakis of Jungle Jim. It’s a breezy entry in the series and while nowhere near the best, it’s far from the worst as well.
The film has Mara, one of the sea people of the title, fleeing her home when an evil priest in co-hoots with an evil outsider use heir god as a means of getting pearls from the people. Mara is to be married to the god, but she suspects the truth and will have none of it and leaps from a cliff only to pursued by henchmen. Eventually ending up in the jungle she meets Tarzan and Jane who offer to help her.
Oddly constructed and paced film the film begins with a 10 minute or so sequence that has Mara escape from the clutches of the bad guys. The film then shifts to the jungle where Tarzan and Jane get an update on Boy who is off at college. The sequence feels stretched and more like filler. More time passes before Mara meets Tarzan and he agrees to help. By the time he’s heading off about half the film is done and very little has actually happened. However once Tarzan gets to the “mermaids” the film picks up and races to the ending.
Basically it’s a good first 10 minutes and a very good last 35 minutes surrounding a mediocre central 20. The last 35 minutes are the reason to see the film.
As the Weissmuller films come to a close and we move on to Lex Barker who takes over for several films, it’s time to take stock of the series so far and of the man most identified with Edgar Rice Burroughs ape man.
While there is no doubt the best of the run are the earlier MGM films, many of the later films have a certain charm. Weissmuller never was much of an actor and he never tried to be. 99% of his output was the Tarzan or Jungle Jim film (considered to be Tarzan with clothes). The end run of the Jungle Jim films gave no pretense who was on screen, it was Weissmuller since the series carried his name when the right to use Jungle Jim was lost. The final Tarzans are like that as well with the early cinematic incarnation of the ape man gone and the literary one all but obliterated.
Despite the films use of stock footage and stock situations the films managed to pump enough action and excitement into the plot lines that you kept watching. Even in the weaker efforts I would perk up once the set pieces kicked in.
Would I watch the films again? Most certainly. Actually except for one or two I’m even looking forward to going back and watching them again after I make it all the way through all of the films in the sequence.