Tarzan The Ape Man (1932) – W.S. Van Dyke


I’d already seen the first title in the action section of the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book, The Thief of Bagdad with Fairbanks, but the recommendations should be a lot of fun!

Unfortunately, with this film, we’re not off to a good start. I don’t even know where to start with this one. I was annoyed out of my jungle tree with this one. I think I was most offended on the part of Maureen O’Sullivan, I initially was kind of impressed with her character, Jane Parker, she knows how to handle a gun, can hold her own, but as soon as she’s separated from her father and her party in the jungle, and meets up with Edgar Rice Burroughs classic creation, Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller), she’s simply reduced to a damsel-in-distress stereotype.

It’s also rather difficult to like the rest of the Jane’s group, her father James (C. Aubrey Smith), Harry Holt (Neil Hamilton) and a seemingly interchangeable bunch of baggage carriers. They are looking for the location of an elephant graveyard… to pillage it for ivory.

Not exactly endearing the characters to modern audiences. Sure at the time I’m sure it was all well thought of, and tally-ho high adventure, but I was hoping Tarzan would slowly take the entire party out, one at a time, like Predator. No such luck. Instead he seems to want to be a one man animal slaughtering machine, leaving carcasses all over the savannah.


As the story progresses, Jane and her group climb a rock face and instead of tying all the group together on lines, to ensure their safety, Jane is tied off to Holt, and everyone else can fend for themselves, so it’s ok, when one of the natives tumbles to his death.

Then, there’s the time Jane spends with Tarzan, despite an alarming lack of chemistry, these two fell in love with one another somehow. I didn’t see it.

And finally there’s the climax, Jane, is reunited with her father’s party, and they are promptly captured by Pygmies, who apparently have some sort of mutant ape in a hole, to which they intend to sacrifice Jane and the others. Happily, Jane was able to call to Cheetah the Chimp, with none of the Pygmies doing anything to stop her, and send the primate off to let Tarzan know there’s trouble.

Riding a hippo, and out-swimming a couple of crocs, Tarzan arrives just in time to save the day, without a hair out-of-place, and looking like a hero with a really nice dagger in hand.

I know I should take it all in stride, and just enjoy it, but compared to some of the adventure films that were released around the same time, or earlier, Thief of Bagdad, for instance, this one just didn’t have a lot going for it. Sure Weissmuller was gold-medal winning Olympic swimmer, but he just wasn’t Tarzan, to say nothing of Sullivan’s Jane.

Oh well, let’s see what the next action title is, and hope the stories improve!






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