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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Adventure > Serial > TV > Tarzan - King Of The Jungle set

Tarzan – King Of The Jungle (Passport)


Picture: C-     Sound: C     Extras: C+     Films: C+



Like Sherlock Holmes, there is plenty of material on Tarzan not available on DVD at all and the new Passport 5 DVD box Tarzan – King Of The Jungle tries to remedy that somewhat with little-scene films of the vine-swinging hero.  As you watch the other versions, their failure always has to do with either sticking with the Johnny Weissmuller model that could not be replaced or trying something different that was not as well rounded.


Tarzan The Fearless (1933) was Buster Crabbe’s only outing in the role, with a yell that never worked and a production mess that did not allow Crabbe a chance, even if he had one.  For the time, he is more naked (i.e., his loin cloth is almost a thong from behind!) than just about any actor in the role to date.  The New Adventures Of Tarzan (1935) offered Herman Brix, who later changed his name to Bill Bennett in the first of two film versions of serial.  This feature print has the name change.  Tarzan & The Green Goddess (1938) is the other film.  Tarzan’s Revenge (1938) has Glenn Morris taking the role over, but is not in the film much.  Tarzan & The Trappers (1958) is actually three episodes of the TV series edited together with Gordon Scott in the role.  Scott is probably the second most successful actor in the role to date, but is not remembered much, while Ron Ely (also a TV Tarzan who landed up on the big screen) went on to be a bigger star).


What is interesting about these films is how they almost work, though I do not take the Scott entry included as his best work in the role.  Also, it was more than just how well Weissmuller fit into the role, or the money MGM put into his entries, as his RKO films also are in the spirit that made the character a hit on the big screen to begin with.  It is about well roundedness and the drive for the later productions to add color, naturalism, more locations and even widescreen formats (RKO-Scope, CinemaScope, Panavision, even Super 35) is a very interesting aspect in trying to compete and catch a new wave of Tarzan-mania.  It is amazing how this never fully materialized, despite the continued publishing of the Edgar Rice Burroughs books and the hit success of several comic book series.  This set, despite quality issues, makes for an interesting look at direction of that progression.


The 1.33 X 1 image throughout on all the material is muddy and poor, with only the occasionally sharper shot or relatively clean scene.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is also aged throughout, even including the two 1996 featurettes on the first two DVDs.  Extras include those productions.  Tarzan At The Movies is in two parts, covering the films of Johnny Weissmuller (out on DVD from Warner, who owns the old MGM films) by using public domain trailers, then offering a retrospective on all the actors to Joe Lara on TV to play the lead.  Too bad they did not update it for a few new actors who fell through in the role, including Casper Van Dien (from Starship Troopers), Travis Fimmel (a TV version with the one-time underwear model that tried to catch the lame “romantic superhero couples” cycle of deconstruction that has only worked twice with Superman so far; it was called Tarzan & Jane and deservedly bombed) and even the huge animated hit Disney feature or even the underrated Filmation series of the mid-1970s.  Some of those later color and widescreen films ought to be issued on DVD.  Kid’N Africa is an early Shirley Temple short that sends up Tarzan with some question, while the last two discs offer episodes of the 1950s TV series Sheena: Queen Of The Jungle (Forbidden Cargo, Curse Of The Voodoo) and DVD 5 has a Tarzan health advisory.  A section of memorabilia would have been nice too, but maybe next time.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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