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Monday, June 22, 2015

Tarzan’s Savage Fury (1952) – Review

Tarzan’s Savage Fury has Lex Barker once again as the titular jungle man, but we have another Jane which makes this four Jane’s in just four movies. One has to start wondering if maybe Tarzan is constantly replacing his mate after losing her to one of the many jungle dangers and then just brainwashing a new one into believing she is Jane. I think that could make for an interesting movie, Tarzan sneaking into English manor houses to make off with his new Jane, but sadly that is not this case with this movie as it is far from that interesting.

Tarzans Savage Fury Poster

As in the last film Tarzan’s Peril this series is sliding back into the old tropes that made up the bulk of the Johnny Weissmuller films; white man enters jungles with nefarious reasons, Jane at some point will be endangered, then Tarzan will kill the villain and rescue Jane.

Though in this one Jane gets a death trap right out of a Saturday movie serial.

This entry begins with two men hunting; Lord Oliver Greystoke and his guide Rokov (Charles Korvin), and just as Lord Greystoke is about to bag himself a lion Rokov shoots him in the back. Turns out that Rokov is a villainous Russian agent who needs Greystoke’s name to acquire a large amount of diamonds but the actual man would be in the way. Enter Edwards (Patric Knowles), a spineless English traitor who Rokov has brought along to take the place of the now deceased Lord Greystoke. The plan stems from an old diary that belonged to Tarzan’s father who was the Eighth Earl of Greystoke, in this journal were references to the Waziri tribe and their vast supply of diamonds. To protect the Waziris Tarzan’s father tore out all references to their locations so Rokov needs Tarzan’s help in finding this mysterious tribe.

Step One: Trick Tarzan Lord of the Jungle. Step Three: Profit.

Next we are introduced to Joey Martin (Tommy Carlton), a jungle boy who since being orphaned of his parents by lions, seems to just tribe hop and is now currently being used as bait for crocodiles. Joey and other children of this tribe jump into the water, splash around to attract crocs and then just as they are about to be eaten the men of the tribe pull them to shore via a safety line. The strangest thing here is how excited the kids are to be doing this, they even fight for their turns, and until Joey’s line gets snagged on a submerged branch everything seemed like another day in the jungle to these guys. Lucky for Joey that Tarzan (Lex Barker) was nearby to pull off a last minute rescue.

Not sure where this falls in under Child Labor Laws.

Tarzan reprimands the natives for this barbaric practice and even lays the beat down on a couple of them, what is sad is that Tarzan takes Joey away from them but doesn’t seem concerned about the other kids who were used as bait. The only rational here is that the other kids were black and Joey is decidedly not.

We white jungle orphans have to stick together.

Joey’s not keen on returning to the local mission, so Tarzan brings him home to Jane (Dorothy Hart) with an almost “Can we keep him?” attitude. What is never mentioned in this series, as it was also abandoned in the Weissmuller one, is that of the character of Boy who Tarzan and Jane adopted in Tarzan Finds a Son (1939) and as Joey Martin is dropped after just one appearance one wonders why they even bothered with another jungle boy. He really adds nothing to the plot as most of the film’s running time has to deal with Rokov and the fake Greystoke, and if his part was excised completely it would hardly be missed.

Tarzan, you have to stop bringing small boys home.

Eventually Rokov and Edwards arrive at Tarzan’s home and the movies actual plot can get going again. It’s from Rokov that we learn that Tarzan’s father was a doctor/missionary and that he actually took his wife and young son on these African expeditions that eventually took their lives and orphaned their boy. Rokov informs Tarzan that his father befriended the Waziri and now they wish Tarzan to re-open relations so that England can get a hold of the massive amounts of diamonds they are rumored to have. This is not about greed but for England’s military complex as the diamonds are needed for tools and such for weapons of war. Tarzan claims to have forgotten where the Waziri live, though it is clear that he does remember but is not a fan of gun production so has decided to play dumb. Unfortunately, Jane falls for Rokov’s story hook line and sinker and she uses her womanly wiles on Tarzan to get him to change his mind.

Just lay back and think of England.

With Tarzan finally on board they form up a safari and press on to find the Waziri tribe, and because this a jungle adventure movie there are many dangerous travails for a little group to overcome.

Tarzan must face off against intimidating stock footage.

A bearer will have a nasty encounter with a crocodile.

A long hike across the harsh African desert.

And of course the requisite angry cannibals.

During all this travelling Rokov commits acts that make Tarzan want to toss him off a cliff, getting one of the bearers eaten being the biggest one, but because of his promise to Jane he lets these things slide with but a few threats. It’s when the group is attacked by cannibals and Edwards catches a blow dart in the back that things start to look really bad, but then the Waziri show up and the cannibals flee for their lives.

Even cannibals are no match for hats of this caliber.

So the Waziri witch doctor throws some bones and declares that the intruders must be killed, but lucky for our group there is an old native who remembers Lord Greystoke and his little boy, and for some reason taking Tarzan to Greystoke’s old cabin to find a Bible will back this up. So Tarzan leaves Jane and company behind while he treks off with this old dude, and of course things go badly for those left behind. Thanks to Cheeta finding Greystoke’s passport, that clearly reveals Edwards to be a fake, Rokov accelerates his plan to acquire the diamonds.

Grabbing the jewels, murdering the witch doctor, and running. Brilliant plan.

This results in Jane left holding the bag and Tarzan miles away. Can Joey the jungle boy reach Tarzan in time? Will Rokov escape with the diamonds? If you’ve ever seen a Tarzan movie before the answers to those questions are pretty obvious. What this film does bring to the party that is a bit new is the name dropping elements from the Burroughs books; Greystoke, Tarzan’s family name has not been used before even if they completely screw up the origin story, the Waziri warriors are right out of the Return of Tarzan though in the books they are Tarzan’s best friends and work almost like his jungle entourage.


This film is called Tarzan’s Savage Fury but there really is no fury here, savage or otherwise. This was director Cy Endfield last film in the United States as he found himself under the gun of the House Un-American Activities Committee and was blacklisted in Hollywood, but he went on to make such fun films as Mysterious Island and Zulu, which is at least some small compensation.

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