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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Tarzan and the Valley of Gold (1966) - Review

When one thinks of Tarzan one doesn’t think “Globetrotting Adventurer” but in this series produced by Sy Weintraub that’s exactly what Tarzan has become, and it’s actually quite a good idea. Elephants in trouble get help when Tarzan Goes to India. In Thailand he helps put a boy on the throne in Tarzan’s Three Challenges, and now Tarzan arrives in Mexico for Tarzan and the Valley of Gold. I really like the idea of an international man of mystery in a loincloth.


This isn’t just another jungle adventure in a different locale for it’s also pretty much a Bond movie with Tarzan replacing 007. At the behest of a friend Tarzan (Mike Henry) leaves Africa and travels to Mexico only to find a hit squad waiting for him. International criminal Augustus Vinero (David Opatoshu) has had the driver that was to pick up Tarzan killed and replaced so that the Ape Man could be driven into an ambush. Unfortunately for them Tarzan’s keen sense of smell detected the spilled blood and is on his guard. He easily survives the gun battle with the killers and ends the fight by taking out the last one with a giant Coke bottle.

This is not how we expect a Tarzan movie to start.

I’ll just say it’s nice to see Tarzan arriving in a foreign country wearing a suit and a tie and not traipsing around the city in his loincloth. I would have given the film even more credit if he was addressed as John Clayton or Lord Greystoke instead of Tarzan while in his civvies, but I’m betting rights issues with those names were still in play. After taking out the hired killers Tarzan reports to the local authorities where he learns about Vinero and how the fiend that called for Tarzan had found out about a small boy who walked out of the jungle and could possibly know the location of a fabled valley of gold. Vinero briefly had the kid in his clutches but the boy managed to escape and now resides with Tarzan’s friend.  Tarzan is also informed that Vinero has a penchant for giving people that annoy him with gift watches that explode and kills the wearer.

They demonstrate the device for Tarzan, for some reason.

When Tarzan is driven out to his friends compound they are too late, the place is in flames, the boy is missing and his friend is only alive long enough to confirm it was Vinero’s men who came and took the boy. Tarzan strips out of his suit and dons his trademark loincloth and along with a chimpanzee named Dinky, a lion named Major and the boy’s pet leopard Bianca as tracker he heads into the jungle.

In the jungle where stock footage roams unchecked.

The leopard leads Tarzan and company right to the kidnappers and the group engage in a brutal battle that leaves all the kidnappers dead and sadly Bianca as well. The young boy Ramel (Manuel Padilla Jr.) doesn’t know the exact route to his home only that it is through a cave in mountains that surround his valley. They have to beat Vinero there which will be tricky, as bastard stole the kid’s map.

Ramel is just lion around with Tarzan.

This leads to one of the most badass action scenes in Tarzan history. Vinero sends some goons in a helicopter to take care of Tarzan, but our jungle action hero unloads a Browning machine he liberated from the dead kidnappers and then when it runs out of ammunition he combines two grenades and his rope to make a lethal exploding bolas. One good throw later and the villains are down one helicopter.

Before there was Rambo there was Tarzan, Lord of the Apes.

A little word on tonight’s villain; not only does Vinero murder people with trick watches, he kills off subordinates that look a little greedy, has a giant bald henchman named Mr. Train (Don Megowan), and when his “girlfriend” Sophia Renault (Nancy Kovack) becomes too much of a bother he leaves her in the jungle with an explosive necklace that will go off at the slightest jarring. He’s one volcano lair away from true Bond villainy.

Do you think we could we fit a piranha moat in this tent?

Tarzan and Ramel find Sophia in the jungle paralyzed with fear because of the rigged necklace that is welded shut around her neck. With steady hands and brute strength Tarzan breaks the chain without causing the pendant to explode. We find out that it was Sophia that originally helped Ramel to escape the clutches of Vinero and so she now joins our happy group of adventurers.

A tense moment in the jungle.

Tarzan, Sophia, Ramel, Major and Dinky head for the City of Gold and manage to stay ahead of Vinero and his army of mercenaries.  Ramel finally recognizes where they are and is able to lead them to the cave entrance, but unfortunately Vinero is right on their heels and it’s up to Tarzan to buy them some time. And by unfortunate I mean awesome as this leads to Tarzan stalking Vinero’s men through the cavern, taking out one of the goons, stealing his machine gun and then using the gun to shoot down stalactites so they fall upon more of the mercenaries.

Tarzan Science Fact: Stalactites are light and mostly made of foam rubber.

When our group make it through to the City of Gold they are greeted quite friendly but are a bit shocked when the old chief of this lost city explain to them that they are a peaceful people and that they will not fight against Vinero’s men, “All this gold is not worth a single life.”  Tarzan thinks this is a nice sentiment but not much good against a man as ruthless as Vinero.

Welcome to The Aztec Gift Shop.”

When Tarzan makes it clear that he has no intention of letting Vinero and his men attack and pillage this city the chief imprisons Tarzan with a trick stone door that traps the jungle man. When Vinero and his army arrive they demand all the gold and to “meet their guest from Africa”, this he punctuates with an explosive shell from a tank which kills some of the peaceful inhabitants of this lost city. The Chief releases Tarzan and has all the gold piled out in the city square but he let slips that there is one piece of treasure still inside the temple. Vinero demands to see it and is taken to the “empty” treasure room where he pulls on a gold ornament on the wall that triggers the room to quickly fill with gold dust. Vinero is slowly buried alive.

Death by irony is one of the worse ways to go.

Though the villain suffocating to death is pretty sweet it’s not very actiony so we also get Tarzan in a hand to hand battle with Vinero’s hulking henchman who he dispatches with a fatal full nelson.

Tarzan wrestles crocodiles in his spare time so this isn’t much of a challenge.

Directed by Robert Day (who also directed the excellent Tarzan the Magnificent) this Bond-like Tarzan adventure is pure matinee gold, with great villains, a beautiful woman and the most badass hero to ever strap on a loincloth. What’s not to love? Mike Henry makes for a fantastic Tarzan for not only is he super ripped but he plays him like the smart and sophisticated man John Clayton Lord Greystoke would be. The Sy Weintraub series of Tarzan films continually providing the best portrayal of The Lord of the Jungle to have been brought to the big screen, and it was nice to finally see Tarzan dress appropriately when not in the jungle, him killing countless thugs with guns and grenades was just a bonus. This movie is definitely a must see for Tarzan fans.

Can I keep the lion?

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