In this town near the Zambesi, the area's Commissioner (Dennis Hoey) is having an unofficial meeting with one of the doctors there, Ameer Lazar (Edgar Barrier), mainly discussing his health problems over a glass of whisky until Cheeta the chimp blasts the Commissioner with soda water. He realises Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller) must be in town, and sure enough he is nearby, wrestling with a professional fighter to prove his strength as his partner Jane (Brenda Joyce) and adopted son Boy (Johnny Sheffield) look on. But there is trouble when news arrives of a party being attacked by leopards...
Weissmuller was looking pretty beefy for his role by the time he reached his encounter with the Leopard Woman, but even with his advancing years he had two more instalments to come. That villainess of the title, yet another statuesque warrior woman for the Apeman to consider, was played by forties pin-up Acquanetta, here mainly decked out in leopardskin making her look not so much exotic as kitsch, though for her fans these days that was suiting her down to the ground, leaving this with its occasional fetish scenes as one of her most popular films outside of her Captive Wild Woman series, another B-movie franchise which tapped into nature red in tooth and claw for its modest excitements.
That's because while Tarzan had begun as an A-picture hero, headlining double bills around the world in the thirties, by the time the rights to the Edgar Rice Burroughs character had been allowed to go to RKO, they were strictly supporting features, cheaply produced for matinees mainly to keep Tarzan's kid following happy. Which meant he was not perhaps taken as seriously as he had been in the previous decade, and now the Second World War was over he wasn't being used as a propaganda tool, so where did this leave the King of the Jungle? Lording it over some decidedly low budget skirmishes, that's where, though the filmmakers still had enough faith in him to retain the "Tarzan knows best" theme.
So it is here when our hero examines the body of the short-lived survivor who gasps out the words "Leopards... leopards...!" before expiring and decides this was no animal attack - could it be a tribe of troublemakers were involved in attacking the trade route? Everyone thinks Tarzan is talking nonsense, more so when he accompanies the Commissioner (you may recall Hoey as Inspector Lestrade in the Sherlock Holmes movies) and they are set upon by actual big cats (or at least someone offscreen is throwing the beasts at the cast), so was Tarzan wrong? Of course not! Lazar is actually the Leopard Woman's right hand man, and they have contrived to put the officials off the scent and everyone else out of their territory with fear.
Now, there's a problem here which is alluded to more and more as the years go by: the film could have gotten away with claiming this film was set in North Africa - Jane is the only blonde around - but to say it was set near the Zambesi is pretty hard to take, since it's pretty obvious there's not a black African in sight. If you can ignore that and put it down to budgetary restrictions, then there were a few not bad scenes, though the villainess was offscreen for too long until she becomes central to the plot in the last fifteen minutes, and as it was always fun to see Acquanetta acting up in such a way that wasn't good enough. One character keeps this ticking over, and that's the teen who tries to inviegle his way into the affections of domestic goddess Jane, a kid called Kimba (Tommy Cook) who Boy sees straight through but keeps getting into situations where he can fulfil his alarming scheme to tear out her heart to foil her jungle husband. Other than that, there was always Cheeta doing a passable Kenny G impersonation. Music by Paul Sawtell.
German director who came to Hollywood in the early-talkie era and soon established himself as a competent, economic film-maker. Moved from studio to studio directing in a variety of genres, but it was his love of sci-fi that led to his best films - The Fly, Kronos and Rocketship X-M.