After a long stretch, I decided to resume my watch of all the classic Tarzan films, deciding to go on with Tarzan Triumphs, made in 1943 and a most interesting entry because the plot sees Tarzan fighting against Nazis. In hindsight it actually isn’t that surprising that a story was written to pit Tarzan against the Third Reich. After all, in 1943 World War II was in full swing and many stories of this type were being told. Still, it is a little jarring to see Tarzan existing in the same world with Nazis, since I’ve always associated the character with the late 19th century (or at the very least the turn of the 20th century). The plot sees Tarzan (eventually) go to war against a contingent of Nazis who have taken over the hidden city of Palandrya in an effort to steal its riches to support the war effort.
That being said, as jarring as it is at first, this might be one of my favorite Tarzan films yet. Considering that Nazis are involved in the plot, you know from the start that it’s only a matter of time before Tarzan and the Germans come to blows, and once that starts, it goes just about the way you think it will. But I’m getting ahead of myself, there’s a few details to talk about first.
Since this is the first Tarzan film made for RKO Studios, Tarzan Triumphs is also the first film in the series to be made without Maureen O’Sullivan in the role of Jane. While the film does explain Jane’s absence by explaining that she’s tending to her mother in England, O’Sullivan’s absence in the story does leave a noticeable hole in, well, everything, one that isn’t quite filled by Frances Gifford in her role as Zandra. That isn’t the only difference between the RKO films and the original MGM films either. The iconic Tarzan yell is absent too (oh, he makes one, but it’s not the one everyone knows). Also, the entire set up of the hidden city of Palandrya is a bit much to take (it’s a hidden city of white people in the middle of the African jungle).
If you can overlook these issues, however, then you will like Tarzan Triumphs, particularly once Tarzan decides to get involved in fighting against the Nazis. Frustratingly, it takes Tarzan most of the film (and the kidnapping of Boy) to decide that the Nazis are a problem. I should mention that the Nazi characters are all easy-to-hate characters (though one is a near unending source of comic relief), which makes sense given it was wartime when this was made. It’s great fun to see Tarzan take the enemy down, especially when he takes special care to hunt down the head Nazi, chasing him into the jungle to give him the coup de grace.
While the story does suffer from the absence of Jane, Tarzan Triumphs is an enjoyable story once all is said and done. I particularly enjoy watching the Nazi characters fumble about in the jungle (two fall prey to “cannibal fish”) before finally receiving their comeuppance. Tarzan’s initial stubbornness is also incredibly frustrating but if you stick with the film it pays off in the end. And for what it’s worth, I do like watching Zandra interact with Tarzan and Boy (even if it isn’t quite the same as having Jane in the story).
Let me know what you think about Tarzan Triumphs in the comments below and have a great day!
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