Monday, February 29, 2016

Tarzan's Revenge (1938)

When is a Tarzan film almost not a Tarzan film?

Odd ball Tarzan film that was released by Fox and produced by Sol Lesser who would take over the series for RKO when MGM would give it up.This is one of the films produced because of the convoluted rights issues that Edgar Rice Burroughs created by signing deals with various producers in the silent days. MGM of course was not happy but considering the film is barely remembered except by Tarzan fans and people who find it in the bargain bins history has had it's revenge.

Lesser had wanted to cast Lou Gehrig in the lead but cast Glenn Morris, an Olympic athlete as the ape man instead. As his Jane he cast Eleanor Holm, an Olympic swimmer who was so popular that he changed Jane's name to Eleanor. Morris would have one more on screen appearance but for Holm this was the only time she'd be on screen.

The film has Eleanor and her family going into the jungle to collect animals for zoos. They have no cages and nothing to catch the animals with, only rifles, which one of their party uses to kill anything he can. Eleanor is engaged to a wimpy guy with very little back bone, Why she is with him is beyond anyone. While on the boat into the jungle Eleanor comes to the attention of a rich Arab with 100 wives. He likes her fire and wants to add her to his harem. Fleetingly Tarzan appears and somehow romances Eleanor.

While not the worst Tarzan film ever made this film is no gem.  Its a big screen formulaic film cranked out of the studio system. You can feel the basic Tarzan plot being added to and modified by studio hacks who decided to retread the Tarzan meets Jane story one more time rather than come up with something great or even watchable- I mean not a hell of a lot happens.

The real question is why did they make a Tarzan film where he barely appears?

Half way into the film there is one meeting with Eleanor and some fleeting shots of him, but you could cut them out and you'd never know it was about the ape man. I'm guessing the studio heads were hoping that Eleanor Holm would decide to stay in pictures and they'd have a pre-made star. She is after all not a bad actress. The problem is she was one and done, and this film didn't help her cause not because she's bad but because the movie is.

This movie really is crappy. Its more dull than  anything else. It sets up all sorts of possibilities in the first couple minutes and than dumps them for people wandering around the jungle.

You're probably wondering why after 28 days of Tarzan films I'd choose to end with a clunker. The reason has less to do with quality and more to do with the fact that this was one of the few films that actually competed with the MGM series.  I had previously done THE NEW ADVENTURES OF TARZAN which Edgar Rice Burroughs made himself so that left  the remake of TARZAN THE APE MAN from 1960, which I was too lazy to track down (sorry it's true) or TARZAN THE FEARLESS which starred a young Buster Crabbe as Tarzan and which wasn't remotely interesting enough to sleep through again.  Seriously I've seen the feature version a couple of times and I've fallen asleep every time. I kept thinking it was because it was late and I was tired but I finally saw it one afternoon and promptly fell asleep.  The upshot of all of that the only film left was REVENGE.

And now we return to new releases and lots of festival coverage.

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