Tarzan (Jock Mahoney) is more accustomed to the African jungle he has made his home, but his contacts range far and wide and now he has been asked to visit India by the daughter of a Maharaja who wishes him to take care of a wildlife problem in the region she lives. Princess Kamara (Simi Garewal) is most concerned about the plight of a herd of three hundred elephants which is in danger should the plans to build a dam go ahead, for that will flood a large area of jungle and kill countless animals, not simply the elephants. Tarzan arrives by jumping from a biplane into a river, suitably athletic, and after a swim walks up to the palace; he finds the Maharaja ailing, but the Princess very persuasive...
Jock Mahoney had been the bad guy in the previous Tarzan movie, Tarzan the Magnificent, but producer Sy Weintraub who had the rights to the famous character wanted a change in look for the series and hired legendary stuntman Mahoney for the role. As with the previous pictures, location filming was a big draw for the audiences, which ultimately proved less of an attraction than Weintraub anticipated for the film made a substantial loss on its initial release, suggesting the jungle hero was wearing thin in the popular imagination. Couple that with the fact that Ron Ely was going to be the star of a hit Tarzan television series this decade, and it would seem the big screen ape man's adventures were numbered.
So they were, for the long-running franchise finished in the nineteen-sixties, though not without some valiant rallying and an attempt to position Tarzan as a James Bond figure (!), but where did this leave the Indian excursion? It did find some fans down the years who appreciated the change of tack, but it was a diminished Tarzan who we saw here, and not merely because Mahoney was far leaner than the muscle man that was Gordon Scott, but he was a lot older as well. At forty-two, he was more like a benevolent father to the animals he was looking after, and more significantly the elephant boy he ends up as the inspiration to, young Jai ("as himself") who Mahoney ended up taking care of in real life too.
An international Sabu Dastagir-style celebrity was not awaiting Jai, indeed you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who knows what his surname is never mind what happened to him after this film, he was plucked from obscurity like his elephant boy predecessor from the streets of Bombay, which was fine by his father who proceeded to gamble away his son's earnings as fast as he could be paid. Recognising Jai needed some guidance, kind-hearted Mahoney took the kid under his wing for the duration of the shoot, so at least some good came of this, and as a screen presence the boy was no better or worse than any other amateur given such an opportunity, though what he did do was much as Johnny Sheffield had done in the forties make it clear that Tarzan was now largely aimed at the children.
Whether the children actually wanted to see an audience surrogate in their Tarzan movies was debatable, but that's what they had, and Jai would not be the last such case of making a popular character more appealing to the juvenile customer. Perhaps more problematic was that our leading man did spend too much of his time at a disadvantage, whether getting knocked out, captured or largely on the back foot for long stretches in the plot: even Jai manages to string him up in a trap, and he rides an actual elephant which is his closest ally. Leo Gordon was not breaking any new ground in the villain role, the heavy hired by the company boss Mark Dana even as his unsafe work conditions claim lives, but oddly he was out of the picture for the final third, leaving that to the elephant exodus which at least provided visual interest as Weintraub would have been hoping a trip to the subcontinent would. His interest in keeping the character global continued to the series' end, annoying the purists, but keeping things more vital than, say, the Lex Barker instalments would. Music by Ken Jones.