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Tarzan and the Mermaids

USA 1948
produced by
Sol Lesser, Joseph Noriega (associate) for RKO
directed by Robert Florey
starring Johnny Weissmuller, Brenda Joyce, Linda Christian, George Zucco, Fernando Wagner, John Laurenz, Edward Ashley, Gustav Rojo, Matthew Boulton, Andrea Palma
screenplay by Carroll Young, based on characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, music by Dimitri Tiomkin

Tarzan, Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller), Tarzan at RKO, Sol Lesser's Tarzan

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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The taboo island Aquitania, not far off Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller) and Jane's (Brenda Joyce) home, is ruled by the living God Baluh and his High Priest Palanth (George Zucco). Of course, the living God is really a white man, pearltrader Varga (Fernando Wagner), who just uses the Aquitanians - who despite supposedly being Africans all have a Latino look to them - as pearldivers, to always keep his warehouses in good stock. But Varga is not only a God and pearltrader, he is also a man, and thus he has chosen lovely Mara (Linda Christian) to become his wife ... and who would turn down a God ?

Well, Mara would, because she is in love with Tiko (Gustavo Rojo), who has fled the islaqnd many moons ago ... and at her wedding to God Baluh, Mara does the same, successfully outdiving an army of trained pearldivers.

Eventually, Mara ends up on Tarzan and Jane's doorstep, who promise to help her ... but soon enough, she is recaptured, and when trying to save her, Jane and Tiko (who has somehow trailed Mara to Tarzan and Jane's home) plus the local Commissioner (Edward Ashley) and the singing mailman Benji (John Laurenz) are also captured by the Aquitanians. Only Tarzan can evade them and somehow find his way into Varga's secret chambers ... and since Varga is presently absent, Tarzan assumes the role of Aquitania's living God, grants all his friends freedom and promises Tiko Mara's hand in marriage ... and High Priest Palanth has to accept everything the living God says, even though he knows it's not Vargas in the costume, because otherwise the natives would uncover the charade.

It's wedding day for Tiko and Mara, which the natives seem to celebrate with endless cliff jumping ... but then, Varga returns to Aquitania, resumes his role as God Baluh and condemns all of Tarzan friends to death ... but somehow, Tarzan manages to make it to Baluh, tear off his mask and expose him tot he natives ... and before long, Vargas falls off a cliff and Tarzan's friends, Tiko and Mara's love and Aquitania as such all are saved ...

 

Despite having been shot on location in Mexico and thus looking much more authentic and exotic than the Hollywood-lensed jungle adventures of the time, there are two words to sum up this film: High Camp. This movie is miles away from the best Tarzan films (which for my taste are still Tarzan the Ape Man and Tarzan and his Mate), it's even miles away from being a good film at all ... yet it's utterly hilarious and enjoyable. Everything is just great - in the weird sense of the word - about this film: the supporting cast made up almost entirely of Latinos, the Latino sidekick Benji constantly singing bad songs, the pyramid that poses as Baluh's temple that is obviously Mexican and not African, massive cliff-jumping footage, George Zucco as a high priest, ...

Of course, if you take this film the least bit seriously, you will hate it, but if you enjoy cheesy jungle adventure as much as I do, you just might love it even if against better judgement.

 

By the way, the last Tarzan film starring Johnny Weissmuller, and perhaps rightly so: by the time this was filmed he was 44 and looked too old, too well groomed (his hair looks like the work of an expensive hairdresser) and too well-fed (despite still bing in good shape, wearing only a loincloth Weissmuller looked a bit stuffy) for the role. He went on to do Jungle Jim next ...

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
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Tales to Chill
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
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written by
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