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  Tarzan, the Ape Man Bungle Fever
Year: 1959
Director: Joseph M. Newman
Stars: Denny Miller, Cesare Danova, Joanna Barnes, Robert Douglas
Genre: Trash, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: Africa. They call it the Dark Continent for its violence, where one tribe will kill another, and that tribe will kill a different one, and so on although all are afraid of the Watusi; it is an endless cycle of bloodshed and explorer Colonel James Parker (Robert Douglas) is right in the middle of it, alongside his right hand man Harry Holt (Cesare Danova). He is awaiting the arrival of his daughter Jane (Joanna Barnes) who is sailing down the river to meet him through dangerous territory, and when they meet her journey has become even more perilous as the boat was holding a selection of the wounded of a recent attack - and a warrior member of the Watusi who causes great consternation among the locals...

Wait a minute, isn't this supposed to be a Tarzan movie? Where is he? You would have to bide your time for a while during this, the Tarzan effort generally regarded as the worst ever until Bo Derek spoiled it by whipping off her togs in her ape man flick over twenty years later, leaving this as so bad it could not even get to the bottom of the list of terrible Tarzans. If indeed it was a Tarzan: nowhere is the character, played by basketball star Denny Miller, called that by name, and as was the wont of producer Al Zimbalist most of it was culled from other films, such was his addiction to stock footage. Therefore what you were watching was a few scenes with the tiny cast beefed up with clips of 1950's King Solomon's Mines.

The difference being the jazz music of big band trumpeter Shorty Rogers played over it, but that endless recycling was not all that was egregious about this one. Yes, there was the fact that Tarzan was only in about half the movie, if that, but the three other characters didn't come off too well either. For a start, there was actually another character, the towering Watusi warrior, who was to lead the others to the Elephants' Graveyard where Holt is practically salivating at the thought of all that ivory. It was indicative of how much the film cared about him that he was purely present as a prompt for adventure, and when it became clear he served no other purpose he was ignominiously sent over a cliff.

Before we got to that stage we had to have Tarzan and Jane meet. Jane has been represented as a woman waking up to the possibilities of life without the corset of polite society, and indeed an actual corset, by the unflattering comparison between her and an elephant scratching its huge arse on a tree stump, which should give you some idea of how clueless the production was. Another idea was a lot less amusing, unless your tolerance for bad taste went that far, as when she meets the Lord of the Jungle she quite plainly believes he wants to rape her, and he does very little to dissuade her of that notion even if he does simply want to hug and cuddle her like Lenny did Curly's Wife in Of Mice and Men, although presumably with less tragic consequences. No matter that they do make friends, he still plays very rough with Jane, ducking her under the water of the river about ten times in succession.

As with any Tarzan movie, his power over the animal kingdom had to be shown, so he does call up a few stampedes, though bearing that in mind there are far too many creatures killed throughout the running time for this to be termed animal-friendly. One of them was a leopard which is looking for its cub, and takes a gander at Jane's tent, waking her up with a scream: for this, Tarzan wrestles the big cat to the ground and stabs it to death, presumably causing the death of the abandoned infant too, although we could take solace that it was blatantly a life-sized stuffed toy Miller was grappling with, complete with closeups of its cartoonish face. Talking of cartoonish faces, our star too often found himself as the stand-in for none other than Johnny Weissmuller, whose footage from his thirties Tarzan series was dropped in at random, tinted green to fit the colour photography and including at least one clear shot of Johnny as he fought an alligator. When you were aware that Zimbalist also produced Cat Women of the Moon and Robot Monster, the shoddiness fell into place, and the finale that saw kids from the local high school play pygmies and the death of the narrator (not postmodern, just a shambles) was the perfect way to cap a dreadful, at times hilarious, fiasco.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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