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TitleTarzan the Ape Man (1932)
Alternative/Original Title
DirectorW.S. Van Dyke
CastJohnny Weissmuller Maureen O'Sullivan Neil Hamilton C. Aubrey Smith
NotesB/W The first sound version of the Tarzan films from the books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Jane looking for ivory with her father is abducted by Tarzan. But in a foreshadowing of the Stockholm Syndrome (where hostages held by terrorists came to like their captors) she falls in love with Tarzan and teaches him to speak: "Me Tarzan, you Jane". The film is quaint, formal and you'd never believe the 'natives' were in their own country. Putting this aside this is a surprisingly good film. The story is thought through, the dialogue good and the settings are superb. This film was released in 1932 and I'm writing this just after reviewing a British film "Island of Terror" made in 1966 where the outside settings are simply appalling. The set designer has triumphed over the limitations of the studio. And even the 'fights' Tarzan has with lions and tigers look good. This is the first Tarzan film with Weissmuller and the first Tarzan talkie and the studio has spent real money even though the actual jungle shots are from an earlier film "Trader Horn" (1931). The editing between interior and exterior shots is good even when the backdrops are obvious. The scene in which the party is walking along a narrow path on the side of a mountain is a work of art. We are quite aware that the cliff and the huge vastness below are studio manufactured yet the picture looks so good. Jane, whose excuse for being in Africa is to see her father, says "I'm through with civilisation I'm going to be a savage". And at the end of her sentence the 'natives' bring in trunk after trunk of her belongings as she stands at a mirror washing herself with face cleanser. The purpose of the hunting party is to find the elephants' burial ground which is expected to be a great source of ivory. There are adventures with precipices, hippopotami,crocodiles, and savages in which the native bearers are lost without any regard for cost. At the moment they meet Tarzan the party is being attacked by pygmies, most of whom will go on to star in "The Wizard of Oz". During this distraction Jane is kidnapped by Tarzan. He hasn't a clue what to do with her except poke her with his finger. And for a party piece he kills a leopard. For a jungle man who one would expect to be environmentally friendly he doesn't hesitate to kill quite a few of its four-legged inhabitants and he's helped by an elephant. But Tarzan and Jane are taken by the pygmies to their stockade. Oddly when Jane asks "pygmies" Tarzan answers "dwarfs". The pygmies or dwarfs have an amusing past-time which is to dangle their captives over a pit at the bottom of which is a huge ape. Of course everyone is rescued, the party eventually finds the elephants' graveyard where Jane's father dies and the elephants dead and alive are left in peace. And Jane stays behind to set up home with Tarzan. First made in 1918 Re-made in 1959 and 1981.

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