Saturday, February 13, 2010

TARZAN'S GREATEST ADVENTURE/MAGNIFICENT


We fans of the Tarzan movies (there seem to be less and less of us these days) got a real shot in the arm from Warner Bros. Their Archives series has issued two of the best non-Weismuller Tarzan flicks, TARZAN'S GREATEST ADVENTURE (1959) and TARZAN THE MAGNIFICENT (1960), both starring Gordon Scott as Edgar Rice Burroughs' iconic ape man. Both films were made with adult audiences in mind, although children will be enthralled, and Scott's Tarzan is closer to Burroughs' concept than most, speaking good English and a more complex character than the earlier Weismuller/Barker tree swingers. Sara Shane (Angie) is right out of a James Bond movie (a couple of years before the Bond films), a sexy adventuress not too timid to sneak into the villains' boat after medical supplies for an injured Tarzan, and the villains themselves are a superb blend of ex-Nazis (the great Niall Macginnis), a troubled ex-con (Al Mulock), Slade (Anthony Quayle), an ex-rival of Tarzan, and his ambitious girlfriend (Scilla Gabel) and best of all, an Irish adventurer named Obannion played by a young Sean Connery a couple of films before Bond made him an international superstar. Inter-gang tensions wipe out most of the gang and Tarzan takes care of the rest.
TARZAN THE MAGNIFICENT involves Tarzan escorting criminal Coy Banton along with several stranded travelers through the jungle/veldt while Banton's family, led by legendary John Carradine attempt to free him. Al Mulock is again along for the ride and the trip is memorable, culminating in a great fight between Banton (Jock Mahoney) and Tarzan with death as the prize (guess who wins!). The producers were so taken with Mahoney's physical performance (he had been a stuntman) that they offered him the lead in the next Tarzan epic and Scott was out of work, but not for long. He went to Italy and cashed in on that country's craze for musclemen movies.
Warner Bros. Archives is a service they provide to put films out on DVD that don't warrant a full release. They're DVDr releases and are pretty bare-bones, with no extras and plain packaging, but the films are widescreen and not bad copies. This is the first U.S. video release for either of these films. They are not cheap, but I plunked down my twenty bucks for each without blinking.