The year: 1910. The place: the continent of Africa and Jane Parker (Bo Derek) is travelling to see her father, James Parker (Richard Harris) who has been over there for some time now, having left Jane and her mother when Jane was a small child. Now Jane's mother has died, leaving her a great fortune, and she wants to get to know her father better, and after a long journey where she is nearly attacked by the crew of the ship she is sailing on, she finally reaches him. At first James mistakes her for his wife, the resemblance is so striking, but when he realises she is his daughter he has mixed feelings of guilt that he abandoned her and happiness that they are reunited. James is planning an expedition to discover the inland sea of legend, and perhaps even the elephants' graveyard which will be rich with ivory, but there's another legend of what they could find there: a great white ape known as Tarzan (Miles O'Keeffe)...
A better title of this ridiculous version of Edgar Rice Burroughs' classic story, adapted here by Tom Rowe and Gary Goddard, would be "Jane, the Ape Man's Girlfriend", as she is who the focus is on here. The second of John Derek's tributes to his wife, but not the last, it's Bo who's the star as she is artfully photographed amid pleasing jungle scenery. Bo had become an international sex symbol thanks to her appearance in 10, and John Derek planned to keep her at the top by directing her in features which would show her off, but unfortunately just made her a figure of fun due to her limited acting ability that couldn't carry her through the banal scripts she had to work with. If she'd starred in films away from her husband every once in a while then perhaps her fame would have lasted, as it is she was pretty much forgotten by the end of the decade.
If the acting honours don't go to Bo, then who do they go to? Well, nobody really, but if awards were being given for sheer amount of acting regardless of quality, then step forward Richard Harris to claim the prize. Over the top doesn't quite do him justice, as he either speaks his lines as loudly as possible or finds some flamboyant bit of business to enhance, and build on, the absurdity. James has apparently been spending his days lounging around waiting for Jane to arrive, although he's taken a not particularly African looking wife named, er, Africa (Akushula Seyaka) to keep him company, and has a willing photographer, Holt (John Phillip Law), to gather a record of his adventures. Once Jane has turned up, it's all systems go, after sending her to sleep with the gentle sound of a cannon going off, the next day the expedition embarks on its journey.
You may have noticed someone is missing in all this. The title character - where is Tarzan? He's at the top of a jungle plateau, oblivious to the search going on, and only when the party reaches the base of it do they hear the familiar Johnny Weissmuller call (couldn't they get O'Keeffe to come up with something himself?). "Shut up you boring son of a bitch!" roars James sympathetically. Pausing only to fire the cannon again, they then climb the plateau the next morning; one of the native bearers falls to his death after the rope breaks, but callously nobody seems all that bothered. To cut a long story short (and at this pace it does seem like a very long story), they stumble across the inland sea, and Jane goes for a nude swim as the rest of them investigate their surroundings, and who should amble along but a lion, followed by our first glimpse of Tarzan.
Presumably Jane is the first woman the Ape Man has ever seen, and he is impressed. Alas, James wants nothing more than to kill him, stuff him and hang in him on the wall of his club back in England - the hint of jealousy he feels for any man looking at Jane is indeed subtly portrayed. But Tarz won't take no for an answer, and kidnaps Jane, meaning we are offered not only a slow motion fight between him and a big snake which appears to go on for about ten minutes, but a lengthy getting to know you sequence where the simpering Bo and the mute, unemotional Miles make eyes at each other as Jane wonders about giving up her virginity to him. One of the great screen couples they aren't - it's a sort of anti-chemistry. However, a local tribe have designs on Miss Parker too, and she is kidnapped again to be brutally washed and painted ("They're painting me!" she whines) as Tarzan rides on the back of an elephant to the rescue. On this waterlogged evidence (not a scene goes by without a pool, a lake, a river or that unlikely sea) John Derek would have been better off publishing a glossy coffee table book instead. Music by Perry Botkin Jr.