Tarzan Leads the Way
29 July 2018
TARZAN AND THE LOST SAFARI (Solar Film Productions, 1957), directed by Bruce Humberstone, returns Gordon Scott as the muscular jungle hero, Tarzan, to the screen since his debut performance for the Sol Lesser production unit of TARZAN'S HIDDEN JUNGLE (RKO, 1955). As with the previous installment, this second Gordon Scott/Tarzan adventure has him going solo, with the exception of his pet chimpanzee, Cheta, venturing without the presence of his mate, Jane. Unlike Scott's Tarzan debut, TARZAN AND THE LOST SAFARI not only has the distinction of being the first "Tarzan" adventure in the series to be photographed in color (compliments of Eastman Color), but was reportedly filmed on location Uganda, Kenya and in the Belgian Congo as opposed to indoor jungle sets or outdoor filming near the Hollywood studios. The supporting cast is basically English, naturally since it was produced by a British studio. Though sources label this the first Tarzan movie release through Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer since 1942, prints exclude the traditional MGM lion logo for its opening. Regardless, TARZAN AND THE LOST SAFARI ranks a more update improvement in the series, and though many fondly remember Johnny Weissmuller as the jungle warlord for many years, Scott holds his own as possibly the second best next to the Olympic champion Weissmuller, who enacted the role of Tarzan longer than any other actor.

Following opening credits superimposed over African jungle wildlife and huge waterfall background, an airplane flies over the jungle bound for Cairo consisting of Dick Penrod (Peter Arne), the pilot; his wife, Diana (Betta St. John); and passengers, Gamage Dean (Yolande Donain); Carl Kraski (George Coulouris); and society columnist, Doodles Fletcher (Wilfred Hyde-White). Dick and Diane are constantly bickering, with Diane finding that their marriage is on the verge of divorce. As Dick flies low so his guests can have a close look at animallife such as giraffes and zebras, a flock of flamingos cause the airplane to crash land on the cliff ledge. Tarzan (Gordon Scott) comes to their rescue moments before airplane plunges down the canyon. After Diana is abducted by Opal tribesmen, Tarzan fights them off while hunter, "Tusker" Hawkins (Robert Beatty) rescues Diana from becoming a sacrifice to the tribe. In order to get the safari safe to civilization, Tarzan leads them through the jungle, swamps and other dangerous surroundings. In the meantime, Tarzan shows strong dislike towards Hawkins, feeling he has other plans for his stranded guests that are not so honorable.

Also In the cast is Orlando Martins as Chief Ogonorro. Even Cheta the chimpanzee gets screen credit for her performance. For the rest of the cast, Yolande Donian makes one think about character actress, Iris Adrian, through her performance as the flirtatious blonde after Tarzan; and Betta St. John short haircut and features in a physical sense of a younger actress, Fay Wray, from the 1930s. While other actors in the cast may be unfamiliar faces and names, only George Coulouris may be familiar to American audience through his Hollywood movie roles in the 1940s.

Though TARZAN AND THE LOST SAFARI is leisurely paced, it's never dull through its 80 minutes. Naturally for a Tarzan adventure, there has to be a villain, along with some near death experiences including one where Diana's swimming is interrupted by an approaching crocodile followed by traditional extended Tarzan vs. crocodile segment as in the past. There's even a rare moment in the series where Tarzan talks about his jungle upbringing following the death of his parents, to as a boy surviving the jungle through manhood, yet, no mention about his companion, Jane. There's plenty of suspense involving the Tarzan and his safari involving poisoned spiders, and how they will survive the ordeal as they are observed from afar by the tribesmen to when they intend making their attack by throwing spears. And naturally Chetah gets laughs being both brat and helpful to Doodles by lighting his cigarette lighter for his cigarette.

Naturally color and location screening add to this screen adventure. Gordon Scott's broken English isn't as much as Johnny Weissmuller's interpretation from the past, yet, as the series progressed, Scott would soon be speaking in the manner of an educated man, the way its creator, Edgar Rice Burroughs, initially intended through his books

Never distributed on video cassette though available on DVD, this and many Tarzan adventures did enjoy frequent commercial television broadcasts dating back to the 1960s before shifting to cable television in later years, including American Movie Classics (1997-2000) and Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: September 10, 2011). Next in the series: Tarzan (Gordon Scott), Jane (Eve Brent) and Tarzan Jr., known as Tartu (Randy Sorensen) returning to formula format from the Weissmuller days for TARZAN FIGHT FOR LIFE (MGM, 1958) for the final time in the series. (**1/2)
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