And it certainly wasn’t Tarzan.The movie states that it is based on the characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and though this is roughly true this film is more a remake of the 1932 MGM Tarzan, the Ape Man starring Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan than anything to do with the source material.
Note: It was so far from the source material that the Burroughs Estate sued the studio over the film's graphic sexual nature.They did their best to prevent the film from seeing the light of day, but failed. So is that art triumphing?
The plot deals with Jane’s father hunting for the legendary elephant’s graveyard, something Tarzan never did in the books but is constantly happening in the movies, and Jane’s dad even has a partner named Harry Holt as he did in the 1932 version. And once again our heroes will have to climb a perilous escarpment that will claim the life of at least one of the native bearers. I’m really not sure how white explorers were able to constantly find so many locals willing to go on suicidal safaris.
Who exactly would follow this guy anywhere?The movie begins with narration provided by Wilfrid Hyde-White as he tells the story to his fellow members of the Explorers Club, the story of how Jane Parker (Bo Derek) came to Africa looking for father James Parker (Richard “I need more Scotch” Harris) and fell in love with a jungle man. On route to the Parker camp Jane is forced to shoot an attempted rapist, and that kind of sets the bizarre tone for this whole film. Director John Derek does his best to make this film into the most beautiful softcore erotica ever made, but the film eventually fails both as erotica, and as a Tarzan movie. It basically fails as a film all together.
Just what the hell is this supposed to represent?Jane’s father is not happy to see her, he abandoned her and her mother shortly after she was born so he could go off adventuring, and now that his beloved wife is dead he has to deal with his hot daughter crashing in on his fun. To say the scenes between James and his daughter are creepy, bizarre and rife with sexual tension would be putting it mildly. Of course weird sexual tension between Jane and her father is nothing compared to the later stuff between Jane and Tarzan’s ape friends. In the 1932 version Harry Holt was a rival for Jane’s affection, but in this one Holt (John Philip Law) is nothing but a neutered cameraman who just follows Jane and her dad around taking pictures.
“I played the master criminal Diabolik, for Christ’s sake!”James does not want Jane along on this expedition, but because this movie has about a teaspoon of originality anytime James forbids her something the film will than smash cut to Jane getting her way. Editing clichés can be found even in the darkest parts of Africa. When they do make it to the top of the escarpment, after losing the required native bearer, the find the fabled “Inland Sea” which according to legend is near the location of the elephant’s graveyard. It’s while Jane is gadding about in the surf that she first encounters Tarzan (Miles O’Keefe) and his lion wingman.
“So Numa, that’s what a human female looks like. I don't get what the fuss is all about.”After Tarzan and the lion terrify the half-naked Jane for a while Holt finally shows up to chase the two jungle jerks off. Thus begins the terrible “Will they, won’t they” relationship between Tarzan and Jane. Even in the 1932 version the beginning of their relationship was a tad rapey at the start, and decades later not much has changed. James Parker is all set to hunt down this bastard who dared touch his daughter, and mount the beast’s head on his wall. I’m not sure how that would work as I think even the British Aristocracy of the Explorers Club would see a human head mounted on a wall as something of questionable taste, and even more questionable legality.
“We're not safe 'til his head is mounted on my wall! I say we kill the Beast!”When James Parker’s native squeeze, who he named Africa for some reason (Akushula Selayah), is abducted the old codger becomes incensed with tracking down this “White Ape” and killing it, but it wasn’t Tarzan who stole the woman, turns out there is a particularly nasty and colourful tribe up on this escarpment, and they are the ones who made off with Africa. Now this doesn’t mean Tarzan isn’t capable of abducting a woman as that’s exactly what he does with Jane mere moments later.
Standard non-consensual jungle elopement.Jane is able to frighten him off with her gun, but after Tarzan runs away she immediately regrets it. It’s not made quite clear if her regret stems from the idea of being alone in this dangerous jungle or the fact that Tarzan is kind of a nice piece of beefcake. Regardless she eventually needs his help when a Burmese python attacks.
Note: This is the magical Africa that is home to Burmese pythons, Orangutans, and Asian elephants.
Tarzan leaps to the rescue and we are treated to an incredibly long fight with the snake (one that routinely changes from a Burmese python to a reticulated python) that isn’t helped by the horrible slow-motion photography. Most of the action in this movie is shot in slow-motion thus sucking any possible life out of the scenes. The fight with the python goes on forever and you can’t even tell what’s going on.