Walter Mencken 11:31 a.m., Feb. 1
DVD Rentals: Tarzan Triumphs
Me like Tarzan movies!
Me like Tarzan. Too cheap to drop $40 retail on box set. Find Volume 2 in pawn shop. Cost five bucks. No resist.
After M.G.M. shuttered their Tarzan unit, the King of the Jungle hopped a vine and swung across town to the R.K.O. lot. Gone were the Florida location shoots (Sherwood Forest, California and reels of stock footage would now replicate the Congo), the budgets shrank, and Metro contract player Maureen O'Sullivan would never again play Tarzan's mate. In truth, Ms. O'Sullivan was sick of the series and delighted to be out. O'Sullivan was so strongly identified with the role that the first two Tarzan outings at R.K.O. went Jane-less.
In Tarzan Triumphs, Jane's absence is explained in a letter from London. Jane's communiqué brings news of Tarzan's mother-in-law's health, as well as alerting her husband and Boy to the Nazi overthrow of Europe. Tarzan's escarpment dwelling appears to have regular mail delivery, but no daily newspaper.
The opening image perfectly sets the film's tone: the credits play over a freeze-frame of an elephant's ass. A planeload of Nazis invade the neighboring Polandria (cut out: "ria") in search of tin, rubber, and, of course, oil. Jane's absence from the equation doesn't necessarily mean Tarzan has to "swim" alone. Oman (Pedro de Cordoba), ruler of Polandria, may look like a dress extra from Sign of the Cross, but he has a super hot Daughter, Zandra (Frances Gifford) who seems to share Tarzan's knack for saving the day. She also gives excellent river.
Tarzan doesn't want anything to do with the Nazis, but Zandra's subtle persuasion, coupled with Boy -- a Hitler Youth poster child if ever there was one -- getting kidnapped, changes his mind. Besides, Zandra is a good cook and the best way get Tarzan to kill Nazis is through stomach.
Initially, the Germans admire 'Juju-Man's' spirit of isolationism, but after they aim a few bullets at our hero's loincloth, and eventually conceal Boy, Tarzan make war! The Nazis might have figured out how to exterminate millions, but they are no match for Cheeta. The pixilated primate gargles, gets pelted with fruit, and cackles on cue, but as soon as Sig Ruman lays hands on Boy, the passive chimp goes bananas.
When war broke out, the Hollywood propaganda machine initially depicted Nazis as stock ignoramuses, not lethal killing machines. Tarzan Triumphs appears to have been made on the cusp. The vicious Colonel Von Reichart (Stanley Ridges) slaps Boy repeatedly across the face, while his underlings, Philip Van Zandt and particularly Sig Ruman, provide comic relief. Now that I'm complaining; Sig Ruman's fast motion ride on a vine marked the film's high point.
As the series progressed, the running times decreased. At 78 minutes, and with more than its fair share of atrocities committed against Nazis, this Tarzan is indeed a triumph...of unintentional howls. Cannibal fish dine on Kraut sushi, Cheeta takes out Phil Van Zandt, and one goose-stepping goon falls to his death in a manner more befitting a Merrie Melodies cartoon! There is even a bust of Herr Schickelgruber to make it official.
The next entry in the series also features Nazis. I'm a bit Ape Man-ed out at the moment, so that review will have to wait.
SPOILER ALERT! DON'T REVEAL THE ENDING!
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