THE TARZAN COLLECTION, VOLUME 2
Although other actors have essayed the role in both films and on television, I grew up at a time when Johnny Weissmullerís films still played on television regularly and for this reviewer Weissmuller will always be the one true Tarzan. The character of the jungle dwelling Tarzan was created by Edgar Rice Burroughs and when MGM set out to bring the character to life on the silver screen, Olympic Gold Medal winning swimmer Johnny Weissmuller was cast in the role for which he will always be remembered.
Between 1932 and 1942 MGM Studios made a series of six Tarzan movies, before selling the series to RKO, where an additional six films Weissmuller were made. THE TARZAN COLLECTION, VOLUME 2 ($40) features the six films made during the RKO years of 1943 to 1948. Of course these latter six Tarzan films arenít as glossy as those made by MGM, not to mention that Maureen OíSullivan stayed back at her old studio, but the RKO Tarzan films prove to be highly entertaining programmers that bring back a lot of fond memories for long time fans. Additionally, Cheta's antics add plenty of good-natured comic relief to the RKO films.
TARZAN TRIUMPHS finds Tarzan is flying solo, while Jane is back in England. The basic structure of this film serves as an introduction to the new series, with the typical jungle dangers in this offering giving way to Germans goose-stepping their way into Tarzanís domain. In TARZAN TRIUMPHS, the Naziís invade a small jungle nation to plunder the natural resources for their war effort on the African continent. Although the Lord of the Jungle isnít initially interested in taking on the Naziís, Tarzan "goes to war" when Boy (Johnny Sheffield) becomes their captive. The cast of TARZAN TRIUMPHS also includes Frances Gifford, Stanley Ridges, Sig Ruman, Philip Van Zandt, Rex Williams and Pedro de Cordoba.
TARZAN'S DESERT MYSTERY
In TARZAN'S DESERT MYSTERY, Jane is still off in England due to the war, but she has corresponded with Tarzan requesting his help in gathering medicinal herbs to make malaria serum. Along the way, Tarzan and Boy encounter the expected contingent of Nazis, land in jail and find themselves going up against giant creatures and man eating plants right out of ONE MILLION B.C. The cast of TARZAN'S DESERT MYSTERY also includes Nancy Kelly, Otto Kruger, Joe Sawyer, Lloyd Corrigan, Robert Lowery, Frank Puglia and Philip Van Zandt.
TARZAN AND THE AMAZONS
TARZAN AND THE AMAZONS brings the character of Jane back into the fold, but this time she is being portrayed by Brenda Joyce. The plot of TARZAN AND THE AMAZONS has Jane's return from England coinciding with Tarzan and Boy coming to the aid of a beautiful "Amazon" whom they help return to her nearly inaccessible, secluded kingdom, which has been hidden away from the world of man. Jane arrives with an archaeological expedition in tow, which certainly doesn't please Tarzan all that much. As expected, the archaeologists catch wind of the hidden "Amazon" kingdom, and faster than you can say "looting party" they trick Boy into revealing the hidden city's location. Of course, Tarzan's services are required to save the day. The cast of TARZAN AND THE AMAZONS also includes Henry Stephenson, (the incomparable) Maria Ouspenskaya, Barton MacLane, Donald Douglas, Steven Geray, J.M. Kerrigan and Shirley O'Hara.
TARZAN AND THE LEOPARD WOMAN
TARZAN AND THE LEOPARD WOMAN proves to be another fun, albeit slightly cheesy, entry in the series, with the plot centering upon leopard attacks on a series of caravans being sent to a remote kingdom. Of course, it takes Tarzan's jungle prowess to deduce that actual leopards arenít carrying out the attacks, but members of an evil leopard cult dressed up in the pelts and claws of the big cats. Look for the lovely Acquanetta as Lea the High Priestess of the cult. The cast of TARZAN AND THE LEOPARD WOMAN also includes Edgar Barrier, Dennis Hoey, Tommy Cook and Anthony Caruso.
TARZAN AND THE HUNTRESS
TARZAN AND THE HUNTRESS is way ahead of its time as the film definitely tries to send the right message about protecting animal populations from uncontrolled hunting, poaching and zoos. The basic premise of TARZAN AND THE HUNTRESS finds that the war has taken its toll on zoos, with a trapping expedition being led by Tanya Rawlins (Patricia Morison) coming to Tarzan's little corner of Africa to gather new specimens. King Farrod (Charles Trowbridge) decrees that only two animals of any single species may be taken, which doesn't sit too well with certain members of the trapping expedition. Not surprisingly, an assassination follows, with a new ruler who just happens to be more receptive to the trappers cause, taking the throne. As expected, Tarzan comes to the aid of the animals, not to mention a few wronged people. Please note that Johnny Sheffield as pretty much a "man" by the time TARZAN AND THE HUNTRESS was made, so it should come as no surprise that this film marked his last appearance as Boy. The cast of TARZAN AND THE HUNTRESS also includes Barton MacLane, John Warburton, Ted Hecht and Wallace Scott.
TARZAN AND THE MERMAIDS
TARZAN AND THE MERMAIDS marked Johnny Weissmullerís cinematic swan song as the Lord of the Jungle. The film itself is nice to look at, but is slightly geographically challenged, as Mexico substitutes for supposed African locations. TARZAN AND THE MERMAIDS has our loincloth hero rescuing a damsel in distress from the water and she is dubbed a mermaid by a local balladeer/postman. As it turns out, newly christened "mermaid" is a refugee from an isolated water bound kingdom, where the local superstitions are being used to turn a hefty profit, thanks to a pair of villains pretending to be a local god and his high priest. As for the lovely young "mermaid," she was betrothed to the god before fleeing her homeland. Of course, it falls to Tarzan to expose the fake god and set things right. The cast of TARZAN AND THE MERMAIDS also includes George Zucco, Linda Christian, Andrea Palma, Fernando Wagner, Edward Ashley, John Laurenz, Gustavo Rojo and Matthew Boulton.
Warner Home Video has made all six films that comprise THE TARZAN COLLECTION, VOLUME 2 available on DVD in the proper 1.37:1 full screen aspect ratios of their original theatrical presentations. For the most part, these RKO Tarzan movies look good on DVD, but there are mild reminders that the majority of these films are more than sixty years old. There are some blemishes and scratches, as well as brain. Additionally, contrast can be a little inconsistent, with certain shots in individual films appearing somewhat harsh, with slightly blown out whites, plus there are moments where the grayscale seem a bit truncated. Across the set, sharpness and detail are generally quite good, but there are times, where things come up as mildly soft. I donít want to make it seem I am nitpicking, so let me say again that overall these movies look quite good and are certain to please fans. Film grain is noticeable across the board, but digital compression artifacts are never a cause for concern.
All six films featured in THE TARZAN COLLECTION, VOLUME 2 come with more than serviceable Dolby Digital monaural soundtracks. As expected, the majority of background hiss and noise have been cleaned up in the mastering process. Sure there are some minor inconsistencies that will notice across the set, but there is nothing glaring that really stands out. As the films were all produced between 1943 and 1948, fidelity is decidedly limited. Of course, dialogue remains understandable. No other language tracks are provided, but English, French and Spanish subtitles have been included.
Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard film/scene selection and set up features. No supplemental materials have been provided.
While not of the same ilk as the MGM Tarzan movies, the RKO films certainly have their charms and are will delight longtime fans that may have actually seen them in theaters, or as I did, watching them on television during my youth. Warner has done their usual fine job with the DVDs, offering these vintage films in above average to superior presentations. Recommended.
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