Tag Archives: Johnny Weissmuller

My Thoughts on: Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)

While I started the Tarzan films somewhat out of order, I did eventually make my way to Tarzan the Ape Man, the first Tarzan film starring Johnny Weissmuller all the way back in 1932. The film looks at how Tarzan and Jane first met, and establishes that the titular character lives way up high on an escarpment deep in Africa, a place filled with treasures that many from the outside world would crave if only they could get to them. Like an elephant graveyard loaded to the brim with ivory…

Now believe it or not, but I actually didn’t like this film as much as some of the others, particularly Tarzan and His Mate. Don’t get me wrong, Tarzan the Ape Man is a good film, and any film series has to start somewhere. But I think the fact that Tarzan and Jane’s relationship isn’t an established thing really bothered me while watching this film. Also, while Weissmuller’s Tarzan generally doesn’t talk very much, he speaks even less in this film. It’s just awkward, for me, to go from the later films back to the first one, where most of the things I’m used to seeing (Tarzan and Jane’s treehouse, Boy, Tarzan and Jane’s relationship) simply aren’t there.

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That being said, Tarzan the Ape Man does a good job of setting up the basic template that the rest of the Weissmuller films follow. One circumstance or another leads to a group reaching Tarzan’s escarpment, the group meets Tarzan, adventures of various kinds ensue, and the bad guys are suitably punished. It’s not a bad setup for a plot, and it does serve as a good opening for Tarzan’s adventures. Although if you’re hoping for an onscreen explanation of how Tarzan got to the top of the escarpment, then you’re in for a disappointment because it isn’t brought up. For all we know, this version of Tarzan is also secretly Lord Greystoke, but as it’s never brought up it doesn’t really matter where he came from either.

Also, I really like Jane’s introduction in this film. You can tell from her very first appearance that this is not the typical woman, in fact she’s just right for someone like Tarzan. If anyone else had gone into the jungle, the story just wouldn’t have worked out. So Jane is bold, adventurous (and she knows how to use a gun!), and willing to take chances the average woman wouldn’t.

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All told, you will like Tarzan the Ape Man. As far as origin stories for Tarzan and Jane, it does a good job of setting up the scenario. Neil Hamilton and C. Aubrey Smith do a good job of rounding out the main cast as Harry Holt and James Parker (Jane’s father) respectively. In fact Hamilton reprises his role in Tarzan and His Mate. Just be sure to watch this film first before you see the others.

Let me know what you think about Tarzan the Ape Man in the comments below and have a good night!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Tarzan and His Mate (1934)

My Thoughts on: Tarzan Escapes (1936)

My Thoughts on: Tarzan Triumphs (1943)

My Thoughts on: Tarzan and the Amazons (1945)

Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Tarzan Escapes (1936)

The next Tarzan film I decided to see is Tarzan Escapes from 1936. Like Tarzan and His Mate, this film once again sees outside forces attempting to return Jane to civilization, this time in the form of her cousins Eric and Rita. These two mean well, but their actions sure do cause a lot of grief for Jane and Tarzan, especially when a certain revelation is made at the end of the film (but I’ll get to that in a little bit).

Tarzan Escapes has two primary conflicts: one centers on whether or not Jane will return to civilization to sign some financial papers that will help her cousins, and the other involves Captain Fry, a big game hunter who has nefarious designs on Tarzan. The latter plays out as exactly the way you think it will (Tarzan does get caught but it doesn’t last for long and revenge is exacted). The big heart wrenching element in this film comes when Jane has to explain to Tarzan why she needs to go away for a few months to help her cousins. The only part of it that Tarzan understands is that Jane is going away, and it clearly breaks his heart. It’s enough to make me want to cry, even though I’ve rewatched the scene several times by now. Weissmuller’s Tarzan is so in love with Jane, even a temporary separation feels like the end of the world.

But what really bugs me about all of this, as I mentioned earlier, is that none of it had to happen. You see, early in the film Eric and Rita make it plain that Jane needs to come with them to provide her signature on some documents. However, once the status quo has been restored, it comes out that Eric and Rita were lying through their teeth: Jane never needed to come with them, she could’ve just signed a paper in the jungle and that would’ve been that. Maybe I’m overthinking it, but this revelation makes me more than a little angry on Jane and Tarzan’s behalf. Essentially, Tarzan’s heart was ripped out and stomped on (when he thought Jane was leaving) for no reason.

And I can’t leave a review of Tarzan Escapes without talking about Captain Fry, or more specifically what happens to him at the end of the story. After racing to safety through a treacherous swamp, Tarzan turns and forces Fry to go back the way they just came. He doesn’t say much, but he doesn’t have to, after everything that’s happened, it’s clear that Tarzan consider’s Fry’s actions to be unforgivable and nobody, not even Jane, can convince him otherwise. It’s a spine-chilling moment and a reminder that Tarzan is not one to mess with, for any reason.

Tarzan Escapes is another enjoyable entry in the series of Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films, and one that everyone should see if they get the chance.

Let me know what you think about Tarzan Escapes in the comments below and have a happy New Year!!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)

My Thoughts on: Tarzan and His Mate (1934)

My Thoughts on: Tarzan Triumphs (1943)

My Thoughts on: Tarzan and the Amazons (1945)

Film Reviews

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook

My Thoughts on: Tarzan and His Mate (1934)

Some time ago I was very excited to finally get my hands on the first six Tarzan films starring Johnny Weissmuller. Having never seen any of these films before (but having heard about them since I was little), I decided to start with Tarzan and His Mate, the second Tarzan film starring Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan as Tarzan and Jane respectively. This is a direct sequel to Tarzan the Ape Man (1932), as it sees the return not only of Harry Holt (Neil Hamilton) as Jane’s would-be suitor, but also the return of the elephant graveyard that was being sought in the previous film. Like most, if not all of the Tarzan films I’ve seen to date, the plot is familiar: someone wants to plunder the treasures of Tarzan’s jungle and Tarzan does everything in his power to stop it while complications inevitably ensue.

As I’ve quickly discovered with these films, Tarzan and His Mate is pure adventure of the best kind. Even at its darkest point, it never feels like Tarzan or Jane are in serious danger, because even when they are you just can’t believe that anything bad is going to happen to them (mostly because Tarzan is bound to swing in to the rescue).

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One thing that delighted me about Tarzan and His Mate was learning that Jane had her own unique “Tarzan yell.” Of course I knew about Weissmuller’s yell, it’s been the template for all Tarzan yells for over 50 years (with The Legend of Tarzan admittedly being an exception), but I had no idea that Jane (and later Boy) had their own unique yells.

Johnny Weissmuller is, for obvious reasons, one of my favorite parts of this movie. While he’s nothing like his animated counterpart, and definitely not much like his literary predecessor (in terms of vocabulary), I have no trouble believing that Weissmuller is Tarzan. He just fits the role so well.

It was also really cool seeing Neil Hamilton star in something other than Batman. For years all I knew the actor for was his work as Commissioner Gordon in the Batman television series and I really liked his work in this film and the previous installment.

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Also, you can really tell that Tarzan and His Mate is a pre-Code film. Not only is Jane’s costume extremely revealing (there’s little left to the imagination), there’s also an underwater sequence where Jane (played by a body double) is completely naked! My eyes popped out when I saw that scene for the first time. I mean, I knew pre-Code films took risks like that, but I didn’t know they did that! I’m really glad the copy I have restored that scene, because I read that it was cut out of the film for the longest time.

If you want to start watching the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films, I highly recommend starting with Tarzan and His Mate. Let me know what you think about this film in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)

My Thoughts on: Tarzan Escapes (1936)

My Thoughts on: Tarzan Triumphs (1943)

My Thoughts on: Tarzan and the Amazons (1945)

Film Reviews

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook