Tag Archives: World War II

My Thoughts on: Tarzan Triumphs (1943)

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.

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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.

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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!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)

My Thoughts on: Tarzan and His Mate (1934)

My Thoughts on: Tarzan Escapes (1936)

My Thoughts on: Tarzan and the Amazons (1945)

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My Thoughts on: Downfall (2004)

I have always been intrigued by films that show World War II from the perspective of the enemy (that is, the Germans or the Japanese). Given that so many films on this subject show the Allies as the protagonists, its jarring to see a story featuring the losing side of the war. But it’s also interesting because these films (like Das Boot) remind us that, for all the atrocities committed, the enemy were human beings with human desires (though this does not excuse their actions in any way).

This is why I’ve been drawn to the 2004 film Downfall since I first saw it on Netflix several years ago. The bulk of the film is set in the last ten days of Adolf Hitler’s rule of Nazi Germany (beginning with his 56th birthday on April 20th, 1945) and ending not long after his suicide. The film’s plot is drawn from several accounts of those days, primarily from the memoirs of Traudl Junge, Hitler’s secretary (archival footage of the real Junge, who died in 2002 appears at the beginning and end of the film), Albert Speer (Hitler’s architect) and other eyewitness sources.

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The film broke a taboo in German cinema by featuring Hitler as one of the main characters (in years past if Hitler appeared at all it was in a cameo role often shot from behind so as to not show the face) in the story. Not only that, but according to what I read after first watching the film, it was one of the first (if not THE first) to have Hitler portrayed by a native German speaker (another taboo broken). Bruno Ganz’s performance as the infamous dictator is chilling and brilliant. The actor spent four months researching how to play Hitler, including studying a rare 11-minute recording of Hitler speaking in a normal tone of voice (the only recording of its kind), practicing an Austrian-accent and observing Parkinson’s patients to better mimic the symptoms Hitler showed toward the end of his life (it is now widely believed that Hitler was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, which caused tremors in his hands and stooped his shoulders). Ganz’s performance is brilliant as I said, you have no trouble believing that he is one of the most evil men who ever lived.

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I also have to highlight Ulrich Matthes’ performance as propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. The actor’s physical similarity to the real Goebbels is uncanny and his peformance will unnerve you to your core.

The film does humanize the Nazi leaders…to a point anyways. These aren’t evil, one-dimensional caricatures by any stretch. No, they’re all fully fleshed out, which really makes them even more terrifying because you see the depths of their twisted thoughts. Don’t worry about potentially feeling sympathy for them (except for the Goebbels children, they might be the only true innocents in the story), you won’t. The story really does bring home the horrors of the last days of the war in Berlin: everything is blasted to pieces, the streets are full of the dead and those left live in a panic bordered on hysteria. There are actually two scenes that show wild parties taking place. It seems that, in light of the Russians being days away, many in Berlin devolved into a “let us drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” sort of attitude. I’m not sure what’s worse, the characters who indulged in senseless parties knowing that all was lost, or the characters who stubbornly held onto their hope in “final victory” until the bitter end.

Downfall is definitely one of those films that you should see at least once before you die, though I warn you there are some pretty intense and graphic moments before the story ends. If you’ve seen Downfall, what did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

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