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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tarzan's Three Challenges (1963) - Review

In a direct follow up to 1962’s Tarzan Goes to India we find our jungle hero once again being called to help an old friend from a foreign land. What country this movie takes place in is never made clear, though most of it was filmed near Bangkok, Thailand. The decision to go with an undisclosed country is most probably due to all the made up political/religious elements that Tarzan and company have to deal with as some of the bullshit stuff in this movie has nothing to do with Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism or any religion practiced in Thailand.

Tarzan Three Challenges poster 2

The evil Khan (Woody Strode) is opposed to his dying brother’s choice of a successor, so he plans to murder “The Chosen One.” When Khan discovers that a man from Africa has been sent to guide and protect the successor on his journey to the coronation he captures and kills the man who sent for him, but not before making him reveal that it is Tarzan (Jock Mahoney) who is coming.

duel to the death 
Duel to the death interrogations just don’t seem all that practical.

This movie is your basic “Escort Mission” story which in many cases can be quite fun, unless its part of a video game then it’s just annoying. In Tarzan’s Three Challenges it’s not so much annoying as it is boring. The youthful heir Kashi (Ricky Der) is your typical ten year old who will end up at some point endangering the mission because of his inexperience and Tarzan at some point will have to be his Champion.

I’d rather play with a baby elephant than be my countries spiritual leader.”

Tarzan isn’t Khan’s only problem, as he also has to find and kill Kashi as soon as possible, because once the king dies the successor instantly becomes holy and cannot be killed. So Tarzan is on an “Escort Mission” while Khan is on a “Timed Mission”, two video game types I really don’t like and unfortunately they aren’t any better in this movie. When Tarzan arrives at the monastery he has to prove that he is Tarzan because the guide that was to vouch for Tarzan was killed during a river ambush. To get the escort job he now must undergo three challenges to prove he is Tarzan.

 Maybe if he wore pants once and awhile and carried I.D. then this type of issue wouldn’t come up.

The challenges are tests of skill, strength, and wisdom, consisting of Tarzan shooting a swinging fruit with his bow, surviving a tug of war with two water buffalo’s, and answer a stupid riddle. I call bullshit on any Tarzan test that does not involve him wrestling a lion or stampeding elephants.

pulling out the stops 
So at the thirty minute mark Tarzan has apparently pulled off his three challenges, can we go home now?

Sadly the movie has another hour left and Tarzan must travel through the jungles with only Kashi’s nursemaid, a monk and the one dude who survived the earlier river ambush and who is clearly on Khan’s payroll. They have to take a detour to some temple so that Kashi can pray, because if he doesn’t he will not be coronated. The traitor in their group sets a little fire to alert the Khan and his men to their location, but he fails to properly extinguish the fire and ends up getting killed in the ensuing conflagration.

jungle fire 
Tarzan, let me run off to get killed, I’m only dragging out this film’s running time.”

The monk in their party is shot and killed mostly due to Kashi stopping to play with a baby elephant, exposing their hiding spot and proving maybe a ten year old kid shouldn’t be the leader of your country. Eventually our intrepid group make it to the coronation, and to my surprise and delight Tarzan actually dresses for the occasion.

Tarzan in purple 
I like it but purple really isn’t my color.”

Now because this movie needs more drama, just being “The Chosen One” isn’t enough to become leader of this country; you also have to pass three lame ass tests. Kashi must pick out the one diamond out of three that once belonged to the previous ruler, one empty water goblet out of three, and then finally one urn containing the king’s ashes out of four. He manages to do this, proving that great guessing is the most important trait to these people to look for in a leader. Trouble rears its ugly head as the Khan invokes a rare and mostly forgotten fourth test. That would be, “The Challenge of Might.” This will allow Khan to fight Kashi for the throne. As Khan is a full grown man and accomplished warrior and Kashi is a kid this really doesn’t seem like much of challenge.


Kashi is able to pull out an ancient law that allows him to name a champion to defend him in this test so of course Tarzan must face off against Khan. The test itself almost makes the contest in Gymkata make sense as Tarzan and Khan are bound together by a tether to each wrist, they are taken out of the city, which they then have to race back to, they are not allowed to strike each other under pain of being shot by guys with bows, next they have to cross hand over hand along a rope over a rocky ravine, snatch up a knife to cut their bounds, bungee jump into a river gorge, and make it into the city to cross a rope net that is suspended over large jars of boiling oil. If Khan crosses the net first he will be able to kill Kashi, unless of course Tarzan is able to stop him.

The Last Challenge 
American politics could take a lesson from these guys.

Tarzan wins by bouncing up and down on the net until Khan falls through and into one of the boiling jars. As heroic wins go this is not a shining moment for Tarzan, but at least this means the movie is over and Tarzan can maybe go back to Africa and find a lost city or something.

I’d love to stay kid but I have to head to Mexico and be played by another actor.

Producer Sy Weintraub and director writer/director Robert Day saddle us with a movie that makes the tedious Tarzan Goes to India look good. Which is a shame, as it was Robert Day who gave us the decent Tarzan the Magnificent. As for poor Jock Mahoney, this was his last outing as Tarzan and his performance here was less than stellar. This could have been due to a moment of stupidity where he tried to show off his swimming skills by taking a dip in one of Thailand’s largest and most polluted rivers, which resulted in him contracting a severe case of amoebic dysentery and dengue fever, and finally pneumonia. This caused Mahoney to lose about 45 pounds which, when your character only wears a loincloth, is quite noticeable.

diet Tarzan 
“This jogging and dysentery diet works wonders.”

This is one of the films that only compulsive fans of the Tarzan should bother trying to track down as not only is it damn dull, they cast Woody Strode as the main villain and then dubbed him. An unforgivable sin, but at least he gets to do double duty as the dying leader.  So basically, the greatest challenge isn’t anything Tarzan does on screen, it’s you the viewer making it through it’s 90 minute running time without falling asleep.

Tonight on Bad Blue Screen Challenges, Tarzan!”

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