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The deepest African jungle: James Parker (C.Aubrey Smith) & his young
associate Harry Holt (Neil Hamilton) are just about to embark on an expedition
to the fabled, secret & forbidden elephant graveyard to exploit its ivory, when Parker's yooung
daughter Jane (Maureen O'Sullivan) arrives for a visit, & she insists on
joining the 2 on their dangerous endeavour ... & who are the 2 to turn her
down, Parker never could refuse his daughter anything, & Harry has fallen
for her right away.
However, once in the jungle, Jane has to realize not
everything is as nice & easy as she had imagined when a few of their boys
are eaten by crocodiles, another falls down a high cliff to his death (&
Jane almost follows), & a native tribe kill another one, believing he is
going to desecrate their sacred elephant's graveyard.
But as if all that
wasn't enough, our expedition soon discover a savage white man - Tarzan (Johnny
Weissmuller) of course -, & even though Tarzan has probably never seen a
woman before, he instantly knows what's good for him, kidnaps Jane & takes
her to his world in the trees. But even though Jane notices Tarzan is not quite
as wild, savage & violent as she first thought, she seizes the first
opportunity to make an escape. When tarzan & his apes come after her, Harry
shoots his favourite gorilly & wounds Tarzan. As a sort of revenge,
Tarzan's other apes soon kidnap Jane again.
Back in Tarzan's tree-world,
Jane gradually warms up to the savage man, nurses him back to health & even
teaches him a few words in English. Gradually she even falls in love with him.
It is only when she by chance sees her father again that she realizes she has
to return to him to not break his heart ... she breaks Tarzan's heart instead.
the jungle wouldn't be the jungle wouldn't our expedition soon run into trouble
again, as they are kidnapped by a tribe of pygmies who delight in hanging their
captives &/or throwing them to their wild ape-beast.. But fortunately
Tarzan learns of this, & attacks the pygmy village with a horde of
elephants. & not only do the elephants defeat the pygmies for good, also
one of them is mortally wounded & heads right off to the elephants'
graveyard ... & our heroes follow.
Once there though, Parker, feeling his
dream is fulfilled, dies from a wound inflicted by the pygmies. Without her
father around anymore, Jane decides to stay with Tarzan, Harry meanwhile will
return to civilisation all alone ... but promises to soon return for the ivory
Despite its age, Tarzan the Ape Man still remains a
delightful adventure yarn, thanks to reasonably fast-paced storytelling, good
central performances (Johnny Weissmuller, who in later movies more often than
not looked a little silly is very convincing as the savage creature, &
Maureen O'Sullivan is a very lively, likeable Jane), the right portion of
humour injected into the screenplay & some nice sets intercut with
authentic location material from Trader Horn.
entertaining Tarzan and his Mate
from 2 years later would be the
direct sequel, in all MGM would make 6 Tarzan features with
Weissmuller, before Weissmuller moved over to RKO
to do some more.
In the 1930's alone, 3 other actors did actually play Tarzan:
Buster Crabbe in Tarzan the Fearless (1933), Henry Brix (= Bruce
Bennett) in New Adventures of
Tarzan in 1936 & Glenn Morris in the rather ridiculous Tarzan's
Revenge in 1938. None of these films/serials could however compete with
the first Weissmuller Tarzans (later films of his series were in
fact rather ridiculous, too).