Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Sunday, July 15, 2012

King Of The Jungle

The best thing about my birthday this Summer was that between the generosity of my wife and my mother-in-law (hey, Cathy!), I was able to finally get all of the Lex Barker and Gordon Scott Tarzan films for my collection. Since these particular titles were issued by Warner Archive as manufactured-on-demand product, the prices were somewhat steeper than your average DVD. There also weren't many options out there for buying them used (one way I manage to keep building my video library is by buying things second-hand and as cheap as possible, when possible). This meant that I hadn't been able to pick them up before. But now I have them!

Unlike the Barker films, most of which were new to me whole or in part, I'm more familiar with most of the Scott Ape Man movies. I taped many of them off of AMC back in the 90s, when that was still a "classic movie" channel. My favorites are the last two films that Scott starred in (and the first two produced by Sy Weintraub), 1959's Tarzan's Greatest Adventure (with Anthony Quayle & Sean Connery among the villains) and 1960's Tarzan The Magnificent (with Jock Mahoney and John Carradine as the bad guys). Unlike most of the Tarzan movies up to that point (specifically excluding MGM's first two films with Weismuller in the role), these last two Gordon Scott vehicles were written for adults and were shot, in large part, on location in Africa. Scott plays the Lord Of The Jungle role with intelligence and a no-nonsense, moral conviction/ badass attitude that works astoundingly well, and Cheetah is all but absent from both of these installments, so there's none of the usual pandering chimpanzee antics.

They're terrific, grown-up adventure films, and I'm grateful to have widescreen copies in my DVD collection at last. My only disappointment is that the bean counters at Warners didn't authorize digital restorations of the movies; they all looked pretty beat-up. I wish these short-sighted, short-term profit-motivated corporations realized the inherent artistic and historical value of these films (and genre movies, in general) and invested in prolonging the existence of these pop culture artifacts. The restorations would pay for themselves over time.

Anyway, I'm pretty much where I want to be now, as far as my Tarzan DVD collection goes. I still have a few titles to get (the last two Mike Henry films and a couple of the early silents, for example), but I'll pick them up eventually....


jim said...

"Tarzan's Greatest Adventure" & "Tarzan the Magnificent" certainly are two of the best Tarzan's ever. And Gordon Scott made an excellent Lord of the Jungle. (Although, I missed seeing more of Cheetah. I do admit to having a weak spot for his "antics".)

Very nice cover design for the Scott box set by WAC.

Christopher Mills said...

I don't mind Cheetah in small doses, but too often, writers used him as a storytelling crutch by having the chimp untying Tarzan when he was captured, stealing items that later become crucial to the plot, dropping coconuts on bad guys' heads, etc.