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Sunday, September 6, 2015

Tarzan and the Trappers (1958) – Review

Tarzan and the Trappers is the result of producer Sol Lesser trying to get a Tarzan television series off the ground, but when all three networks turned it down he had the three pilots edited together as one 70 minute black and white movie. 

tarzan and the trappers

After an endless narration telling us all how awesome and dangerous Africa is the story finally kicks off with Tarzan (Gordon Scott) teaching Tartu (Rickie Sorensen), his and Jane's adopted Jungle Boy, some of the rudimentary vine swinging techniques, all while Jane (Eve Brent) is blissfully napping nearby. But as established earlier, Africa is a dangerous place, so shortly we see a venomous mamba slither towards poor Jane while she sleeps, but luckily Cheta the chimp was there to beat the snake to death with a stick. *sigh*  Note: If you find yourself being saved by Cheta you may want to re-examine your life. Eve Brent’s Jane is probably given the least to do of all the Janes in the series; in this cobbled together movie all she does is keep house for Tarzan and their adoptive son. Even when the villains need a hostage or bait to control Tarzan they capture Tartu or some local friend of Tarzan's. Jane is apparently not worth anyone’s time.


Tarzan even dumps on her for trying to teach Tartu to read.

The first portion of the movie once again deals with evil white hunters who have come into forbidden lands to poach the local wildlife. Schroeder (Lesley Bradley) and Rene (Maurice Marsac) have captured numerous animals but Schroeder, the clearly more villainous of the pair, won’t leave until he gets a baby elephant. Schroeder shoots a mother elephant and has two of his native bearers chain the poor baby to a tree while he and Rene go back for the trucks. Schroeder is warned numerous times that Tarzan enforces the law of the jungle around here, but he’s not afraid of any stupid ape man.


America’s greatest export is generic evil white hunters.

Tarzan shows up, confronts the natives, and embarrassingly makes them dance to prove they are local natives and not from another territory. Their dancing reveals them to be from out of town so Tarzan beats the crap out of them and frees the baby elephant. Meanwhile the ever annoying Cheta manages to get caged by Schroeder, and when Tartu shows up demanding they release his chimp they take the kid hostage. So not only are these idiots poaching in Tarzan’s territory but they then decide to up the stakes by kidnapping his kid and chimp friend. Criminal masterminds these two are not. That this was made for television is the only reason these two morons don’t end in a gruesome death, instead Tarzan calls for the standard elephant stampede that frees all the caged animals and allows Tarzan to rescue Tartu and Cheta.


Stock footage of elephants is Tarzan’s greatest weapon.

Commissioner Brandini (Bruce Lester) shows up to arrest Schroeder and Rene, and then thanks Tarzan for taking the place of the deputies he needs but can never get. The imprisonment of Schroeder leads to the films second villain arriving in the form of Sikes (Sol Gorss), a sadistic hunter who just happens to be Schroeder’s brother. Sikes wants revenge for what happened to his brother and teams up with local criminal kingpin Lapin (William Keene) who would like Tarzan out of the way for his own reasons.


A collaboration of idiots.

Lapin believes that the Lost City of Zarbo is located in the lands guarded by Tarzan, and if the Ape Man was out of the way all the gold and jewels would be easy pickings. Sikes, to prove he’s stupider than Lapin, has decided that his revenge will come in the form of hunting “The Most Dangerous Game.” This is one of the more used plotlines, having appeared in dozens of movies and television shows over the years, but even the world’s craziest villain wouldn’t pick Tarzan, on his own turf, as prey. Worse is the fact that Sikes confronts Tarzan, explains his plans to hunt him, and then gives Tarzan a two hour head start. You may as well grant this guy the Darwin Award now. Shockingly Sikes finds it difficult to track a man who can swing through the jungle, so it’s up to Lapin to devise a better plan. They kidnap Chief Tyana (Scatman Crothers) who is a known friend to Tarzan, and who could also possibly know the location of the lost city. This plan starts off working great as Tarzan walks right into a net trap, but then the Tyana’s warrior’s attack, freeing both the Chief and Tarzan. The warriors, who are well armed and outnumber the white hunters, for some reason just grab their chief and go, instead of slaughtering the white invaders who’d captured and tortured their leader.


Tarzan seen here in his standard captured pose.

The movie ends with Sikes, Lapin and his group of expendables finally finding the Lost City of Zarbo, but only after Tarzan blazed a trail for them to follow. These idiots thought Tarzan had finally gotten sloppy and walked right into his trap. So while the group tramps through the ruins of Zarbo Tarzan picks off the native bearers one by one. Eventually he decides to attack the remaining whites, beats them all soundly, Sikes and Lapin are arrested, and the day is saved.


Tarzan, kicking ass since 1912.

This is not one of the better Tarzan movies, but as it was meant to be individual episodes that were to air on television, it is not all that surprising it fails. Standards and Practices for television shows of the time would certainly have curbed Tarzan’s ability to kill his enemies, so in this film Tarzan is basically just a jungle cop. The use of the “Most Dangerous Game” plotline failed in this setting as the villains were just too dumb to be a credible threat, and the actor playing Sikes gave possibly the worst performance of any actor in a Tarzan film. There is some decent action to be found here, Tarzan is a serious brawler in this one, but the writing is so atrociously bad, with dialogue so haltingly awkward, and add to that the tired plot made this project doomed from the start.


Tarzan, you can defeat multiple enemies but not the combined work of hack writers.”

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