There were about a half a dozen movies based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs character before the incredibly hulking Johnny Weissmuller put on a loincloth for his legendary role as Tarzan. Turner Classic Movies and Warner Home Video are celebrating these classic black and white films almost 80 years after the first Weissmuller masterpiece was released.
TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection, Tarzan Volume One and Two (available separately) highlight eight of the 12 Weissmuller Tarzan films, including the original Tarzan The Ape Man, which opens Volume One of the classic set. The films sees a safari discovering the ape man in the jungle and begins the relationship between Tarzan and Jane.
For movies that date back to almost 80 years, they have been preserved as best can be expected. Some of the 60ish Tarzan films that have been released on various low and no-name collections available on DVD at most clearance outlets are low quality and often serve as collectors pieces only. The TCM versions are enjoyable to watch and although there are flaws in the transfers, I’m confident these are as good as they’ll get.
I have special memories watching Tarzan movies on television with my Dad, who seemed to be fond of the mysterious ape man. Taking into account the age of the films and the God-aweful transfer we were watching on our 1970s televisions, it’s pretty obvious the stories were what made the movies so inticing. Thankfully, I kept my Tarzan reenactments in my underwear, exclusively to the bedroom only.
Weissmuller is fun to watch and these films are classics. Hollywood has been unable to capture the Tarzan magic since and any attempts have been somewhat campy and unnecessary. After watching this
TCM collection, you’ll see why it can’t be re-done.
The breakdown of the collections are as follows:
TARZAN THE APE MAN (1932)
The first teaming of Johnny Weissmuller as Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Jungle Lord and Maureen O’Sullivan as Jane sets a high adventure standard and includes an exciting sequence of elephants rescuing Tarzan and Jane from pygmy captors.
TARZAN ESCAPES (1936)
A vile bwana has Tarzan caged and ready to ship to England for display as a sideshow freak. Can steel bars hold the ape man? Catch fascinating glimpses of Tarzan and Jane’s jungle domesticity, including their dazzling tree house.
TARZAN AND HIS MATE (1934)
This second Weissmuller/O’Sullivan film includes footage edited shortly after the movie’s original release, including a playful skinny-dip sequence. Tarzan also subdues a rhinoceros, wrestles a crocodile and rescues Jane as she’s besieged by lions and warriors near a sacred elephant burial ground.
TARZAN FINDS A SON! (1939)
There’s a new cry in the jungle – the cry of an infant. A baby that survived a plane crash is adopted by Tarzan and Jane. John Sheffield debuts as Boy and outside intruders trigger a family rift igniting a crisis of kidnap, rescue and reunion.
TARZAN’S SECRET TREASURE (1941)
A discovery of gold endangers the Jungle Lord’s family. Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O’Sullivan and John Sheffield star. Reginald Owen, Barry Fitzgerald, Tom Conway and Philip Dorn play interlopers who stir up trouble.
TARZAN’S NEW YORK ADVENTURE (1942)
“Stone jungle,” Tarzan says when he sees New York City. But the Lord of the Apes can master any jungle – especially when determined to find son Boy, kidnapped by unscrupulous circus operators.
TARZAN AND THE AMAZONS (1945)
Tarzan welcomes home Jane (Brenda Joyce) from a family visit to England and then rushes to the aid of a secluded female tribe put in jeopardy after Boy leads a party of archaeologists to their hidden valley.
TARZAN AND THE LEOPARD WOMAN (1946)
A murderous tribe that wears the disguise and claws of leopards attacks a visiting caravan and menaces Jane and Boy.