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Customer Review

193 of 200 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All the MGM movies plus extras in a worthy four disc set, 30 Jun. 2007
This review is from: The Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan Collection [DVD] (DVD)
Things that stay with you from childhood. Music, how great /terrible school dinners were, scars, how endless the summer holidays seemed to be, and certain things on TV . I have vivid memories of watching particular things on television. The 1970 World Cup Finals, "Banana Splits" on a Saturday Morning along with something I thought I had imagined -"Marine Boy" -until I found the theme tune online. Then there were the Tarzan films starring Johnny Weissmuller .

Even though they were filmed in the 1930,s the films seemed bang up to date( Special effects between the 30,s and early 70,s had yet to take the hyper leap they were to later in the decade) and astonishingly exotic with their jungle locations , thrilling escapades and quixotic plots. Now all the six MGM movies from that golden period are available in a four disc box set -two movies per disc with the fourth disc given over to extras of variable quality.

Tarzan The Ape Man( 1932) is the first of the Weissmuller films and ignore the genesis of Tarzan instead opting for an expedition hunting for "The Elephants Graveyard" into deepest uncharted Africa. The expedition is lead by Harry Holt( Neil Hamilton not that one but the one later to play Commissioner Gordon in the Batman TV series) who is guiding cantankerous James Parker ( C Aubrey Smith) and his beautiful daughter Jane ( Maureen O,Sullivan ) along with a band of highly dispensable ( the films are very politically incorrect when it comes to these poor fellows) native bearers. They ascend the Mutia escarpment where Tarzan, his interest piqued by the lovely Jane kidnaps here off to his tree top home. Jane learns the perils of Jungle life with alacrity and her companions are attacked by a tribe of ferocious pygmies . Overall the movie is superbly done , well edited and undeniably pulse quickening. The acting is variable with Weissmuller convincing physically but less so as an actor of any great depth.

The best of the bunch is undoubtedly Tarzan And His Mate ( 1934) which nowadays might be a lads all together picture but in those days meant Tarzan and Jane were shacked up together. This DVD version is the original full pre-release version -the theatrical version having been shorn by 23 minutes and that is the one shown on TV down the years so this is real treat. The plot has Harry Holt ( Neil Hamilton reprising his role) returning to Africa to procure all the ivory he found in The Elephants Graveyard . Aided by roguish Martin Arlington ( Paul Cavanaugh) the expedition has a second aim -to find Jane and return her to civilisation. Things go swiftly awry when their map is stolen by two villains s who are quickly murdered gruesomely , especially for this era, by hostile natives.

The films looks superb , even by contemporary standards ,but then it should .MGM lavished money on the production bolstered by the phenomenal success of King Kong the previous year. The relationship between Tarzan and Jane (Maureen O,Sullivan again wearing a very risqué costume for those times) is importantly believable but never resorts to schmaltz and the action sequences are tremendously tense and electrifying, the final climatic battle with a pride of marauding lions and murderous natives is a real tour de force.

Tarzan Escapes(1936)sadly couldn't maintain the standard. It had a turbulent production , with up to 80% of the scenes being scrapped and re-shot by numerous directors though there is confusion about how much is original footage . The ending involving giant vampire bats had to be toned down as it was considered too gruesome .Consequently the climax is very tame and actually makes little narrative sense. The plot has Jane's cousins Rita ( Benita Hume) and Eric (William Henry) seeking out her out in order to facilitate her help in their receiving a million dollar inheritance. It ,s a flimsy conceit anyway and the film is not helped by endless recycling of stock footage - a glaring fault of the Tarzan series. How many times does the ape man tackle that ridiculously huge crocodile? You think they'd give up and call it a draw.

Tarzan Finds A Son(1939) suggests a descent into gross sentimentality but is actually handled with restraint and dexterity. A plane bound for Capetown carrying Lord Greystokes nephew crashes with remarkable coincidental luck atop the Mutia escarpment and is found by Tarzan who calls him "Boy" which seems fair enough . The film originally meant to have Jane die saving the child but chickens out by having her miraculously recover but there are some terrific scenes involving her and the child and Weissmuller is very good as the distraught Tarzan coming to terms with her apparent demise. Johnny Sheffield plays Boy as a precocious five year old using the Jungle as his playground and getting into all kinds of trouble doing so including a run in with some loathsome giant spiders.

Tarzans Secret Treasure (1941) sees Boy and Jane kidnapped by nefarious scientists originally searching for a lost tribe but who learn of the existence of a mountain rich in gold. Their proposition is simple -Tarzan can lead us to the gold and the captives will be released. Needless to say things aren't that straightforward with several perilous situations presenting them selves including that same crocodile and a recurring run in with a rhino. Obviously the producers were hoping that audiences would forget about the repetition of scenes film to film and they mostly would have done but watching them closely together on DVD it becomes rather irritating and robs the films of a little excitement .Other minor irritations includes Jane's new glam Hollywood look -she's, worth it alright ...but in the jungle! And Tarzans tree top home having modern appliances. Overall though this is an enjoyable movie with some quality emotional interplay between the characters and some entertaining comic interludes via Cheetah .

Tarzans New York Adventure(1942) is the last of the MGM Tarzan and does that staple dramatic thing of taking someone and placing them in an alien environment . Here the roles are reversed as its Tarzan who finds himself thrust into a place where it's customs and surrounding s are completely unfamiliar, ending up ,as the title implies in New York , similarly to Crocodile Dundee many years later. Why you may ask? Well Boy is again kidnapped ,this time by lion trappers who decide he would be a good circus act. They head off to New York and Tarzan and Jane follow to bring him back. This is Maureen O,Sullivans last outing as Jane and is mercifully short at 72 minutes as it's, even by the standard of these films, complete and utter bunkum . Some amusement is had by Tarzan ,s interaction with his new surroundings -on hearing an opera singer on the radio he exclaims "Women sick , cry for Witch doctor" -and Cheetah runs amok but overall it's not the best movie to end the series on though it undoubtedly provided good escapist fun for its wartime audience.

All the films are in their original full frame ratio but the picture quality isn't that great but is probably as good as it's going to get .The sound is the real problem. It's rusty to say the least and is best watched with no other noise distractions. Some may even want to use the sub-titles. The extras are a mixed bunch with a documentary "Tarzan :Silver Screen King Of The Jungle" being the highlight as it gives a potted history of the character and features interviews with Weissmuller and O,Sullivan. The short on location footage from Tarzan Finds A Son is interesting as well.

Fans of Tarzan will love this but it should also appeal to fans of simple straightforward adventure films and for those of us of a certain age they are magnificent nostalgia . Two of the films here are certainly amongst the best ever Tarzan movies and arguably are the best . This box set whets the appetite for the RKO movies that followed on .To me it's a series ripe for a ( serious)contemporary re-telling but they would have to go some way to better the best of these vintage classics.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 15 Mar 2010 13:50:06 GMT
Paul Smith says:
just received this set, and there is only three discs and no extras? is yours region 1?

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Mar 2010 19:17:43 GMT
In truth Paul i never actually owned this myself .I borrowed one my Father had and it definitely had the extras and i am pretty sure it was'nt region 1 either. I will check with the old man and see if he still has it ( he has a habit of selling things on ) amd get back to you if thats okay.

Posted on 9 Feb 2011 16:02:34 GMT
OmC says:
Are there subtitles, you say? Because Amazon does not provide the information that there are any subtitles or languages. So, if the sound is as poor as you say it is very important to know...

Posted on 5 Jan 2013 13:06:12 GMT
Nice review, Russell. A sidebar: back in the 70s I remember people asking the BBC why Tarzan The Ape Man was never shown like the others, and the Beeb's reply was there wasn't a print of sufficient quality available. Having watched it for the first time in this set, it now seems likely that it was simply too adult to be screened in the morning time slot. Although it's subtly done, it's obvious that at one point Jane is afraid Tarzan is going to rape her. This and the follow up Tarzan And His Mate are clearly not the kiddie fare that the series became from that point on.

Posted on 31 Jan 2013 14:50:17 GMT
A. W. Wilson says:
I know I am 6 years late, but...An excellent helpful review. I am amazed that you appear to be the onl;y person who bothers to write about the QUALITY...So important (to me). Thankyou. AW

Posted on 31 Jan 2014 01:05:16 GMT
mickram23 says:
'Marine Boy' is one of my biggest memories of the early 70's. That and the superb
'Double Deckers'!
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Location: halifax, west yorks

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