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  Tarzan and the Amazons Civilisation Sucks
Year: 1945
Director: Kurt Neumann
Stars: Johnny Weissmuller, Brenda Joyce, Johnny Sheffield, Henry Stephenson, Maria Ouspenskaya, Barton MacLane, Donald Douglas, Steve Geray, J.M. Kerrigan, Shirley O'Hara
Genre: AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller) has been building a raft to take him, Boy (Johnny Sheffield) and Cheeta down the river towards civilisation to meet with Jane (Brenda Joyce) who has been away from the jungle for a long while, but is now returning. Once they have coaxed the chimp away from his fishing rod, they embark on their journey, but along the way they hear a scream from the bank and Tarzan changes course to investigate, discovering an injured young woman (Shirley O'Hara) there who he immediately identifies as an Amazon. But what is she doing out here, far from her all-female tribe?

She providing the excuse for the adventure, that's what, as Tarzan became involved with the precursor to all those nineteen-fifties science fiction efforts where a bunch of strapping astronauts land on a planet completely populated with nubile women. Here, as was getting to be the case with this series now they'd moved to RKO, the feminine interest angle was emphasised, so from the previous one to the last of the Weissmullers it was always a woman who Tarzan would be mixed up with, or in this case more than one, this in spite of getting Jane back for the first time since Maureen O'Sullivan had left the series three years before.

Brenda Joyce was that Jane, offering wholesome and unthreatening companionship to the macho man hero and a maternal influence for Boy, but here supplying two reasons for keeping the plot going. First, to be saved to make Tarzan look good and noble, and second, to provide the theme which was that her partner's Luddite ways were far more sensible than her attempts to educate and modernise the jungle. When Tarzan and Boy meet her, she has been travelling with a party of explorers, who this time are not Nazis as with the former two adventures, but rather more vaguely defined bad guys, one of whom, Sir Guy (Henry Stephenson), is actually a very decent sort.

Sir Guy only wants to investigate and add to the world's sum of knowledge by learning about the tribes of Africa, but as you'll have guessed it's the Amazons who catch the attention of his men when Cheeta offers the bracelet he took from the girl they found on their journey, and Tarzan returned to her hidden city not knowing Boy was following out of curiosity. So in a roundabout way, and for such a short film there was a lot of pussyfooting about until we reached the nub of the plot, the explorers find their way to the Amazons' city, with Sir Guy horrified that he has led these greed-fuelled mercenary types to what was formerly an unspoilt paradise, though it does look rather foreboding.

Actually the tribe of ladies did not feature too heavily until the last twenty minutes, and with Tarzan's initial meeting with them, though it's stated they are old friends, makes this look like the shortest of his tales to date. The Amazons are all about the same age, of course, all twentysomething white girls painted brown to make them appear more exotic, which at least was a change from the usual RKO tribes of frankly pasty-looking Caucasians, and in addition there were actual black extras in this too, not that they got any lines apart from a shriek when faced with the mountains where the lady warriors live, but it was good to see them nevertheless, harking back to the thirties originals. Maria Ouspenskaya was apparently the only Amazon to have aged any, the walnut-faced denizen of Universal horror movies branching out here though remaining the wise woman as ever. Once again civilisation is shown as not all its cracked up to be, and Tarzan, sounding oddly like Charlie Chan in places, gets one over on a supposedly more sophisticated bunch.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Kurt Neumann  (1908 - 1958)

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.

 
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