Tarzan the Tiger
Many installments back, just after Greystoke:
The Legend of Tarzan appeared (March '84?), I fearlessly predicted
that we would eventually see a complete, three-hour-plus version of that
movie, probably when it arrived on network television. (Actually I couched
my prediction in somewhat more ambiguous terms, but that was what I meant.)
Well, Greystoke finally made it to network television a couple of
months ago, and if anything it was probably shorter than in its theatrical
Much of the early--and best--footage
was gone; the whole sequence of Tarzan growing up among the apes seemed
markedly shorter. The network version featured even less action (ďviolenceĒ)
than the original, deleting the scene in which Tarzan avenges Kalaís death
by snapping a native across his back.
I sat through all of this rather grimly,
paying less attention as the movie continued. Then, to my astonishment
(and too late to capture it on videotape!), I realized that at least one
formerly missing scene had been restored. You will recall the abrupt ending
to the section set in the ivory poachersí village. At last we know what
transpired there: DíArnot, unable to pay his bill at the tavern, is held
down across a table by a number of the local men, and the sadistic proprietor
(glimpsed earlier disciplining a small boy) prepares to use his switch
on him. From the balcony above them Tarzan sees this scene, growls fiercely,
and leaps down. He picks up a lantern and throws it at the men (or does
he kick it over? Iím not sure now), and the building goes up in flames.
What a disappointment. Some of this
footage was seen briefly in the TV previews for the original theatrical
release, and Tarzan in action looked good--until you see it in context.
In this scene, too, Hugh Hudson managed to eviscerate what in other hands
might have been a truly exciting sequence.
There may have been other scenes restored
to the movie, later on. I abandoned the movie in favor of reading a bedtime
story to my older son, so I canít say for sure. Do any of you know?
Through the courtesy of former ERB-APA
member Dr. George Jones, I have obtained tapes of three silent Tarzan serials--Adventures
of Tarzan with Elmo Lincoln, Son of Tarzan (a poor, incomplete
version, Dr. Jones has warned me), and Tarzan the Tiger starring
Frank Merrill (who doubled for Lincoln in many of the action scenes in
Thus far Iíve only had the opportunity to view this last film.
Tarzan the Tiger, a serial
released from October 1929 through February 1930, was both the last silent
Tarzan film and the first to feature sound. It was released with and without
a recorded sound track, and until only a year or two ago it was considered
to be one of the irretrievably lost silent films. Its discovery and availability
on videotape--with its recorded sound track!--is indeed an unexpected boon
for Burroughs fans and silent movie buffs alike. That sound track, by the
way, is fairly good; it consists of background music, occasional animal
noises or human screams, and the very first recorded rendition of Tarzanís
I wonít keep you in suspense. The
cry goes something like this: ďNee-yah! Nee-yah!Ē Nowhere near as elaborate
as the yell concocted by MGM, but Iíll bet it was pretty thrilling to the
kids watching this serial week after week in late 1929.
Tarzan the Tiger is adapted
from ERBís novel
Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar, and itís a reasonably
close adaption, too. Albert Werper and Achmet Zek are the primary villains
(though Tarzanís cousin arrives from England toward the end, intent on
stealing the Greystoke title); La isnít quite the beauty Iíve always imagined,
the beast men of Opar look quite human, and Opar seems to be so centrally
located (the way everyone keeps going to and from it), that itís hard to
believe itís managed to remain undiscovered since the sinking of Atlantis.
Nevertheless, the basic plot line is the same, amnesia and all. Natalie
Kingston, who played Mary Trevor (one of the alternate Janes the movies
were so inexplicably fond of in the early years) in Tarzan the Mighty,
the serial just previous to this one, now gets to be Lady Greystoke; sheís
pretty and competent, but not memorable.
Merrill at times looks very much the
part, but his awkward, across-the-chest leopard skin outfit, complete with
headband and slippers, has too much of a farcical look to it. There are
one or two really well done action sequences (enraged, having reverted
to his earlier ape mentality, Tarzan rips up saplings and snaps them in
his hands--much as the king ape does in Greystoke). He wrestles
lions, crocodiles, and apes; his Tarzan rides elephants and regularly swings
from tree to tree using conveniently placed vines--perhaps for the first
time in cinema history. One interesting trick: Occasionally Merrill unslings
his grass rope from about his chest and throws it ahead of him, twisting
its end around some object, then swings on the rope. The problem with Merrill
as Tarzan, though, is that he always looks stiff--never lithe and supple,
like Weissmuller. When he walks, heís even stiffer than Mike Henry (though
not as muscle bound).
A number of times we glimpse a tiger
in the great forest, presumably to bolster the ridiculous title of the
film. There are numerous references in the quaintly written captions to
ďTarzan the Tiger,Ē suggesting that this is an epithet by which the ape-man
was known to the denizens of the jungle. If you can watch any of
the old movie serials without excessive snickering, youíll probably be
able to tolerate this sort of nonsense as well.
The quality on my tape is only fair.
The images lack sharpness, but arenít blurry enough to be annoying, or
even particularly distracting. Anyone seriously interested in the history
of the Tarzan films will enjoy this five or six hour extravaganza.
--September 20, 1988