It has been nearly a year since Jane Parker (Maureen O'Sullivan) left civilisation to live in the African jungle with the wild man Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller). Back at a trading post, her old boyfriend Harry Holt (Neil Hamilton) still pines for her and hopes that when he returns to the Elephants' Graveyard with his companion Martin Arlington (Paul Cavanagh) he will have the opportunity to meet Jane again and persuade her to return with him. Meanwhile, it seems that Holt has a couple of rivals to the ivory prize so must set out with his bearers as quickly as possible. But he had better be careful - it's a jungle out there...
You know that Far Side cartoon where Tarzan is swinging through the trees on a vine and his keys, wallet and small change fall out of his pocket? Well that doesn't happen here. The previous film, Tarzan the Ape Man, had been a worldwide success so a sequel was the obvious way to progress and seeing as how Tarzan and His Mate was made just as censorship was beginning to bite they were able to get away with a lot more than the subsequent films in this series. In fact, the most famous thing about this was not Tarzan, but Jane's costume.
This is because O'Sullivan was wearing the equivalent of Tarzan's loincloth with a small halter top, both of which left little to the imagination. The Hays Office complained, but they must have had a fit when they saw Jane's nude underwater swim with Tarzan (not actually performed by O'Sullivan) which underlined the mood of sexual freedom that Jane has found living her back to basics life. We're in no doubt what the couple get up to when they're alone in their African paradise: Arlington even makes a joke about it, and it's this aspect that the Englishmen are jealous of.
Arlington especially is a bad sort, as we see from the off when he says goodbye to a young French wife he has had his wicked way with on the river boat. This is treated in a light hearted fashion, but soon when they are on safari and the bearers are growing nervous at being in cannibal country, Arlington guns down one of them to frighten the others into continuing with the expedition. Actually, the natives get a pretty raw deal out of this film as they continually end up at the wrong end of a spear, or in a few cases knocked off a cliff by rock-throwing gorillas.
Yet Tarzan comes to the rescue after over twenty minutes of casual brutality (including closeups of the unlucky rivals with gored through the head). Never allowing a chance to use his yell to pass by (Jane gets a special yodel too), our hero makes it plain that Jane is effectively married to him, no matter how often Holt and Arlington try to tempt her away with the trappings of civilisation, which seem to be ballgowns and silk stockings in the main. The plot about the Elephants' Graveyard is almost forgotten about for half an hour when the golden couple frolic among the leaves and Tarzan saves Jane from various animals. There's even a five minute sequence with no dialogue but chimps chattering when Tarzan has to be rescued after a murder attempt: he is a force of nature and nature looks after him in return. Often thought of as the best of the Weissmuller Tarzans, it is highly amusing, even unintentionally hilarious in spots, and for adventure it was one of the finest of its era.