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Monday, February 23, 2015

Tarzan Goes to India (1962) - Review

In Tarzan Goes to India Sy Weintraub decided he wanted to go with a leaner less muscular Tarzan and so cast Jock Mahoney to play the Ape Man this time around and who funnily enough actually played the primary villain in the previous film Tarzan the Magnificent. Also returning is director John Guillermin who helmed Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure which is arguably one of the best of the Tarzan movies. Sadly this entry is not even close to being as good as the two previous installments.


The plot of Tarzan Goes to India is a simple one but unfortunately also a rather tepid and boring one. Tarzan (Jock Mahoney) is called to India by the dying Maharajah (Murad) and is informed by Princess Kamara (Simi Garewal) that about three hundred elephants are endangered by the construction of a hydroelectric dam. Once the dam is completed, and the other end of the valley is sealed off, all of the elephants will drown. Having Tarzan being an ecological warrior is certainly nothing new and as some of his best friends are elephants this is certainly something close to his heart but as plots go “Must get elephants out of valley before dam is built” isn’t all that thrilling, and hey maybe it could have been made to be thrilling but they certainly fail to do it here.

Tonight’s villain…progress!

One thing that bothered right out of the gate was that Tarzan flies to India at the behest of an old friend but he fails to put on pants or a shirt. Now we all know Tarzan runs around Africa in just a loincloth but if you are going to visit a Maharajah you think he would have dressed for the occasion. This is not the simpleton Tarzan from the Johnny Weissmuller days who may or may not know what pants are, this is an intelligent and articulate man who understands the conventions of the civilized world. So if Tarzan wants to run around the jungles of India in a loincloth that is fine, but if you are visiting the palace put on some goddamn pants!

no shirt 
I’m sorry Tarzan, no shoes, no shirt, no service.

When the Princess introduces Tarzan to O’Hara (Mark Dana) the project manager we learn that the main problem is that there is currently only one way out of the mountain pass and it will be soon closed by O’Hara and his men because monsoon season is coming and the project must be completed before then. The elephants could be driven out of the valley in time but Tarzan is informed that the herd is being led by a rogue elephant. Say what? I’m not sure if the writers of this movie are clear on what rogue means but I’m pretty sure that by definition it certainly does not mean leader.

He’s a rogue elephant who doesn’t play by the rules.

A construction timetable and a rogue elephant is not Tarzan’s only worries he also has to deal with Bryce (Leo Gordon) the chief engineer who has had past dealings with Tarzan on a similar project in Africa. It seems that Bryce has a thing about shooting elephants and poaching ivory as a hobby.

I’ll be your stock cartoon villain today.

Bryce is your standard two dimensional villain whose acts are not based on any notable character trait other than he’s evil. When he is told that there is an area of the construction site that needs more support he ignores it and when some workers die because of this his response is as follows, “Life is the cheapest commodity we got.” Yep, he’s evil or at least a Republican. In this film he shoots at elephants, chains up Tarzan so that he can be threatened by a leopard, and kidnaps a small boy for some reason. All the film was missing was him tying the Princess to some railway tracks while twirling his moustache. Even worse is that he is killed by an elephant at the hour mark leaving us with only corporate douchebag O’Hara as a villain for the remaining thirty minutes.

Ironic deaths are big in the jungle.

So the villains suck but how does our hero stack up in this outing? Now Tarzan is in India so he’s a bit out of his element so when he tries to eat some inedible berries I cut him some slack but when he is treed by a cobra and then saved by a mongoose that is just unacceptable. I’m also not sure if animal cruelty laws apply in India because I’m pretty sure they just let a mongoose loose to kill that cobra for real.

Mongose rescue 
Don’t worry Tarzan; I Rikki-Tikki-Tavi will save you.

Even worse is that as Tarzan flees from that life or death struggle he immediately steps into a tree snare and finds himself caught by a young boy and his elephant.

Elephant Boy 
Anybody tells Jane about this day I’m having and I’ll feed them to the lions.”

It is here that we are introduced to the other key player in our little drama, Jai the Elephant Boy (Himself) who wants to be a man and with Tarzan’s help and the help of his elephant friend Gajendrah he just may do that.

Or maybe he can just go hang out with Mowgli instead.

The film is horrible paced and the threat of drowning elephants never feels that imminent or real. When Bryce is killed we are still told that O’Hara will not let the elephants through the pass because you know, “Fuck elephants!” O’Hara creates a bamboo barricade, because that is known for being elephant proof, but he also places explosives to blow up Tarzan and the elephants. I’m assuming in the sixties companies didn’t have to worry about things like bad press after blowing up 300 elephants.

Stampede alert 
Rogue Leader to Rogue Five, come in Rogue Five!

Of course the day is saved by Tarzan’s classic go to problem solver “The Elephant Stampede” In the Johnny Weissmuller days an elephant stampede was Tarzan’s go to response for any crisis ranging from a kidnapped Jane to running low on peanut butter.  Also Tarzan equipped himself with a dynamite arrow because, why not?

“Take that, Duke Boys!”

This movie was certainly a step back after such excellent entries as Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure and Tarzan the Magnificent. Jock Mahoney makes for a decent Tarzan I just wish he’d had a better script for his first outing.

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