Friday, 29 May 2015


d. Lee Sholem (1949) 

One of my great heroes is Johnny Weissmuller, so I'm not predisposed to like Lex Barker, the man who replaced him as Tarzan after 16 glorious years. I'm not an unreasonable person, however, so I thought I'd give Barker the benefit of the doubt and see how the interloping twat does at filling Johnny's loin cloth (although I'm assuming Barker got a new loin cloth when he started. I certainly hope so).

These days, Tarzan's Magic Fountain would be described as a franchise reboot: new lead actor, some new sets, some new matte paintings - and a return to some of the gruesome violence that the series was originally notable for but became less prevalent as the films became popular with children. This is counter balanced by an awful lot of comic relief, mostly Cheeta related. There is still a reliance on (often badly matched) stock footage, much of which has already appeared in Tarzan films many, many times over.

The story meanders around a long lost aviatrix (40s horror favourite, Evelyn Ankers) and the idea of a hidden jungle city that has the secret of eternal youth. It's not particularly interesting, and there is an 'of its time' sub-plot where Jane takes charge of an expedition in order to demonstrate all that she has learned from many years of living in the jungle. It's a total disaster, and it's not long before she's lost, covered in killer ants and caught in a flash flood, flapping her arms around and shouting for Tarzan. That will teach the woman to try and do stuff.

So, what does Barker bring to the role? Well, he's fifteen years younger than Johnny Weissmuller, and, understandably, in better shape (Johnny filled out a bit when he hit 40). His biggest contribution, however, is smugness: his Tarzan is extremely pleased with himself, and forever smirking at some private joke or other. It's not an admirable quality, nor is the fact that he wears espadrilles all the time

As ever, the film ends on some Cheeta related tomfoolery. This time, Cheeta drinks from the magic fountain of youth and turns into a baby Howler Monkey. A baby Howler Monkey. They must think we are fucking idiots. 

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