Tarzan comic book cover I posted yesterday, several people expressed little familiarity with the many Tarzan films made over the years, which surprised me. When I was growing up, even here, in the wilds of rural Maine, with only three television stations, Tarzan flicks (and the Ron Ely teleseries) were a staple of local broadcasting.
Admittedly, they're not shown much these days, and except for the Johnny Weismuller flix from MGM and RKO, most of the ape man's cinematic efforts are unavailable on DVD. (There are a few of the cheaper, independent Tarzan movies – ones that have fallen into the Public Domain – on disc, but they're not among the better ones, unfortunately. Oh yeah, the Bo Derek one is on DVD, too...)
Me, while I adore the Weismuller Tarzans (and Tarzan And His Mate is among the best – maybe the best – jungle adventures ever filmed) I'm also a huge fan of the later films from the Sixties.
Beginning with 59's Tarzan's Greatest Adventure (a bold title, but it lives up to it) with Gordon Scott and continuing through the two Jock Mahoney films and three Mike Henry vehicles, the last seven Jungle King movies from producer Sy Weintraub, are pretty much my favorite film interpretations of Edgar Rice Burroughs' signature character. Though updated to then-contemporary times, they actually portray the character much closer to the Burroughs novels than the any of the earlier films.
Tarzan is portrayed as literate and articulate, he travels the world, and can adapt quickly to any dangerous situation or environment. These films dropped the cinematic baggage that had built up over the years (Jane, Boy, etc.) and were pretty much balls-out adventure films with a badass in a loincloth. The best, IMO, are Tarzan's Greatest Adventure (1959), Tarzan The Magnificent (1960) – both starring Scott and surprisingly adult in nature – and Tarzan And The Valley of Gold (1966). Tarzan's Three Challenges (1963), is very good, too, though I find it uncomfortable to watch; star Jock Mahoney was ill during filming, and he literally wastes away as the movie goes on. Fine Tarzan adventure, though.
If you're interested in the history of the cinematic ape man, the best online resource I've found is the late Matt Winan's Tarzan Movie Guide website. He passed away in 2008, but the site is maintained by friends, and it's incredibly comprehensive.
Now... if Warners would just get around to releasing the Lex Barker Tarzan films on DVD...