Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Tarzan Goes To India

Former stuntman Jock Mahoney, who played western hero Yancy Derringer on television and main heavy Coy Banton opposite Gordon Scott in TARZAN THE MAGNIFICENT, stepped into Scott’s loincloth for this exciting adventure shot in India. Also back to keep some semblance of continuity were producer Sy Weintraub and director John Guillermin (KING KONG), who had earlier helmed TARZAN’S GREATEST ADVENTURE.

Mahoney is leaner, more agile, and—at age 42—older than earlier screen Tarzans. I think he’s miscast as the Jungle King, but his natural charm and athleticism, as well as the stellar work turned in by Guillermin and the picturesque locations, more than balance it out. Jocko gets on our good side right after the credits by leaping out of a biplane into a lake—what an entrance! A Tarzan who can do his own stunts is a real boon to the movie, although shots of Mahoney fighting a stuffed leopard look just as phony as they did in 1932.

There is a human villain—Leo Gordon’s Bryce, a sadistic engineer who could care less about the lives of humans and animals—but it’s nice to have a plot based around a rescue, rather than crime. And a rescue of animals too, as Tarzan is summoned from Africa to rescue three hundred elephants trapped in a valley that will soon be flooded by the new dam being built by O’Hara (Mark Dana) and Bryce.

As mentioned above, Mahoney is lither than previous Tarzans, which takes getting used to. On the other hand, his physical dexterity allowed Guillermin to put him right into the action, so when you see Tarzan dodging a rogue elephant or getting caught in a noose trap, you can see it’s Mahoney. Weintraub’s decision to shoot completely on location on rather large sets packed with hundreds of extras (and elephants) gives the film a visual scale that makes every frame a joy to look at. Mahoney played Tarzan only twice and also guest-starred in two episodes of Ron Ely’s TARZAN TV series.

No comments: