Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tarzan and the Jungle Boy (1968)

Director: Robert Gordon

Starring: Mike Henry, Rafer Johnson, Aliza Gur, Steve Bond, Ron Gans, Edward Johnson, Jose Lewgoy

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Eric Was Just a Boy, But He Could Still Teach the Mighty Tarzan a Few Secrets of the Jungle!

Plot: A reporter comes to the jungle looking for a boy who was lost a few years ago. She goes to Tarzan for help. They go to the chief of the tribe where he was seen and they tell them that there is such a boy on their land. At the same time the chief's two sons, Buhara and Nagambi are battling each other to see who will the next chief. Nagambi cheats which Tarzan notices and saves Buhara. Because of his treachery the chief declares Buhara the new chief. But then they discover that only Nagambi knows where the boy is, and because Tarzan foiled him, he intends to find the boy and kill him. Buhara tells them that he will try to find him but their custom doesn't allow strangers on their land and anyone who violates that will be killed, and he warns Tarzan that he will kill even him if he enters their land. Tarzan decides to go and find the boy anyway and tells the reporter that he has to do it alone but she decides to follow him after he leaves.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

This is the first Tarzan picture I've watched since TARZAN'S GREATEST ADVENTURE (1959) which I saw about this time last year. Gordon Scott made a great Tarzan in that one. Not only that, it was a stellar jungle adventure movie and it was lots of fun. Cut to 1968 with JUNGLE BOY and it's a few steps in the wrong direction.

Mike Henry was OK as Tarzan (his voice sounds pretty damn close to Fess Parker's as Davy Crockett and it feels out of place) but then it's really hard to stack up to Scott's solid portrayal. Henry donned the loin cloth for three Tarzan pictures in '66, '67 and '68, with this being the last one. I'll get to them eventually but I think I'll have to space them out with the Gordon Scott pictures. This flick is OK but it's flawed.

15 minutes into the film Tarzan and pals end up at a Segunda tribal competition to see which son of the Chief will assume their pop's job. The competition lasts TEN MINUTES. No big deal, right? Yeah except we literally watch them race each other, swim, jump over spears, etc and there's very little spoken. All of this serves two purposes - to show us that one of the brothers is bad and the other is good and it's there to fill up 10 minutes of screen time which isn't necessary because the picture runs an hour and forty minutes anyway.

It's dumb stuff like this that brings the movie down a notch or two. Tarzan insists that the female photographer doesn't go with them and then he quickly changes his mind after she tells him otherwise. I hardly think the Lord of the Jungle is going to succumb to some city broad so easily. it's not like she flashed a boob or anything.

Say, wait a second...this isn't the picture I signed on for!

(and don't try to justify it simply because the chimp is female)

Brazil provides a lovely substitution for Africa (although it's supposed to be set in Africa) with some beautiful location shooting. William Loose's score is good BUT every time, and I mean EVERY TIME, Hilda (a chimp that is to the Jungle Boy as Cheetah is to Tarzan) or Cheetah show up, Loose vomits up a ridiculously silly theme. It's awful and embarrassing. Apparently the film makers think you have to have shitty music to speak to the kids at their level. When will they ever understand that you don't have to talk down to kids for kids to enjoy a movie?

The action is fine but the film suffers from being too long and rather dull. It's a shame they couldn't come up with a better character than Jungle Boy. It's a weak story but the gorgeous scenery is almost worth watching this for. If you like Tarzan pictures you'll want to see this in the great new widescreen print that Warner Bros. released as part of their burn-on-demand Archive collection. It's a lesser entry into the long-running series but not a terrible one. Gee, that hardly sounds like a recommendation.

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