Tarzan and the Lost Safari (1957)
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***** Tarzan and the Lost Safari (4/12/57) Bruce Humberstone ~ Gordon Scott, Betta St. John, Robert Beatty, Yolande Donlan
The plot's great and the movie features many positives. For one, Scott's one of the best actors to play Tarzan and went on to star in a couple of the best Tarzan films, 1959's "Tarzan's Greatest Adventure" and 1960's "Tarzan the Magnificent." The African locations are meshed well with the studio work and the studio sets look great, considering the time period. It's sometimes hard to distinguish between authentic Africa and studio "Africa." There's quite a bit of action, numerous shots of animals and I enjoy the scenes where Tarzan interacts with the wildlife, like the lion (which isn't faked).
Unfortunately, there are some bad elements. For instance, the eye-rolling way a vine is always conveniently nearby for Tarzan to easily swing/climb to where he needs to go. Why sure! Then there's this kiddie vibe that's hard to explain, like the producers were trying to appeal to five year-olds, which is strange because there are quite a few adult-oriented elements. What could've been a quality Tarzan flick is sunk for these two reasons.
While Scott's interpretation of the ape man is good the writers have him speaking limited English in the manner of Weissmuller, which is in contrast to Burroughs' book version where Tarzan can speak several languages fluently. I can live with this, however, as it's a movie interpretation of the character. This changed with Scott's two last films as the ape man, noted above, where his portrayal was more faithful to Burroughs.
The film runs 86 minutes and was shot in the Congo, Africa, as well as Iverson Ranch, CA, and studio sets in England; plus stock African footage.
"Tarzan and the Lost Safari" contains noisy action , sensational adventures , many angry natives , nasty white hunters , hungry Crocs and wonderful outdoors , though mostly shot in Africa and Elstree studios . Well starred by Gordon Scott , here Tarzan/Scott rescues five occupants , and Gordon brings wit and style to the classic character . Gordon starred 5 Tarzan movies : ¨Tarzan's fights for life¨ by H. Bruce Humberstone , ¨Tarzan and the trappers¨ by Sandy Howard and Charles Haas , ¨Tarzan's greatest adventure¨ produced by Sy Weintraub , directed by John Guillermin and ¨Tarzan the magnificent¨ by Robert Day . Although Gordon Scott also played all kinds of genres as Spaghetti : ¨Tramplers¨, Euro-spy : ¨Death ray¨ , Pirate movie : ¨Marauder¨ , and especially Peplum : ¨Hércules and the princess of Troy¨, ¨Coriolanus¨, ¨Conquest of Mycene¨, ¨Gladiator of Rome¨, ¨Hero of Rome¨, ¨Samson and the 7 miracles of the world¨.
Support cast is acceptable , such as Betta St John as a beautiful girl who creates a rift between his boyfriend/Peter Arne and Tarzan who falls for her . And the ordinary secondaries as Wilfrid Hyde-White , George Coulouris and the nasty Robert Beatty give nice interpretations . And of course , special mention for the likable Chimpanzee Cheeta that steals the show , giving some humorous moments with his antics , frolics and mayhem . As usual , sets and production design are visually appealing , though there are the obvious uses of stock footage and shot on location in Democratic Republic Of Congo , Tanzania , Kilimanjaro , Kenia . Including a brilliant cinematography by Pennington-Richards , being the first Tarzan film to be filmed in color . The motion picture was well produced by Sol Lesser and decently directed by H. Bruce Humberstone
First Tarzan/Johhny Weissmuller was ¨Tarzan , the ape man¨ (1932) by W.S. Van Dyke , this one being the definitive Tarzan movie , the original of the long series . Followed by ¨Tarzan and his mate¨ (1934) by Jack Conway . Richard Thorpe continued the following sequels : ¨Tarzan escapes¨(1936) , ¨Tarzan finds a son¨ (1939) with the addition of the five-year-old Johnny Sheffield as Boy , ¨Tarzan's secret Treasure¨ (1941) , and ¨Tarzan's New York adventure¨ (1942) where Boy is abducted by an evil circus owner , then Tarzan goes to rescue him and he meets N.Y. big city , being Maureen O'Sullivan's final appearance and in which Elmo Lincoln's , the screen's first Tarzan, had a cameo . These stories were lavishly produced by M.G.M. and R.K.O. Subsequently , to be appeared other Tarzans produced by independent producers as Sol Lesser ; the latter being replaced by Sy Weintraub , these movies were interpreted by Lex Barker and Gordon Scott : ¨Tarzan the Magnificent¨ and ¨The greatest adventure¨ directed by John Guillermin . Furthermore , Mike Henry starred as Tarzan in ¨Tarzan and the jungle boy ¨ , ¨ Tarzan and the great river¨ , and ¨Tarzan 66¨ directed by Robert Day . Besides , two performed by Jock Mahoney : ¨Three challenges¨ and ¨Tarzan goes to India¨ directed by John Guillermin , among others . Plus , other TV Tarzan as Ron Ely , Wolf Larsen , Joe Lara
PRODUCED BY THE combined forces of America's Sol Lesser and Britain's Solar Productions, this was filmed mostly in the United Kingdom, with some great deal of footage being filmed in Africa. The making of movies was becoming less a regular thing for Mr. Lesser, who would turn over his screen rights to the character to producer, Sy Weintraub.
AFTER TAKING OVER the Tarzan series from MGM, Mr. Lesser first used the reigning apeman, Olympic swimmer, Johnny Weismueller, who in turn gave way to Lex Barker and then to Gordon Scott. The pictures were his productions, but they were released by RKO Radio Pictures. Their association lasted up to the first Scott feature and then various other distributors were employed.
THIS FEATURE MARKED the return of MGM to the Tarzan stories as the prestigious 'Tiffany Studio' was retained as the films' booker in the U.S.A. Reviving their interest in the Jungle epic, MGM would soon do its own production of TARZAN THE APEMAN (remake,1959) with Denny Miller in the loincloth this tome.
THE PHOTOGRAPHY, BOTH in studio and on location, was well integrated into what appeared to be seemless; kudos to the photography guys. All of the animals you'd suspect showed up and to the first time (at least to our recollection), they were all of the species Loxodonta africana or in our vernacular, African Bush Elephant. In just about every prior picture, the Pachyderms were of the Elephas maximus persuasion (Indian Elephant). Some sported "falsies" on screen; those being add-on larger false ears to render heir appearance to look African.
THIS PICTURE MARKED the first time that Tarzan was seen in color, a habit that he wouldn't shake for a long time. (Although at least one other movie, the patch quilt TARZAN AND THE TRAPPERS-a combination of 3 episodes from the failed and unsold Tarzan TV series, reverted to B & W. )
AS FOR THE story, we have nothing out of the ordinary; just another day at the (Jungle) office. Lost expedition from crashed airplane is saved from hostile natives who are being employed by evil White Hunter/Ivory poacher, Tusker Hawkins (Robert Beatty. Lovely ladies Yolanda Donlan and Betta St. John are present to make an absent Jane potentially jealous. The rest of the featured cast is rounded out by Wilfred Hyde-White, Peter Arne, Nigerian born Orlando Martins and former Orson Welles associate, George Coulouris. Veteran character actor, Don Beddoe, makes an uncredited appearance as a partner in the illicit Ivory trade.
WE FOUND THE picture to be a worthwhile Jungle tale and what was most important about a Tarzan movie, it was fun.
Betta's fiancé is such a stiff, he argues with her and then points out a herd of hippos while he flies everybody into a flock of flamingos causing the plane to ditch in the jungle. Enter Gordon Scott as 'Tarzan' with his cute little monkey companion 'Cheetah'. Native warriors, a cynical adventurist, and several boring passengers of the downed plane go through their paces between Tarzan's action scenes and the next time Betta gets wet.
Best line in the movie is when Betta tells off her airplane-obsessed fiancé: "Why don't you get a guided missile, then you could spend your weekends on the moon!".
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)
Besides Gordon Scott as Tarzan this party has another potential rescuer in white hunter Robert Beatty. But he's in league with a nasty savage tribe called the Oprahs, whoops Opars. They've got a fortune in ivory and for some white sacrifices they'll give it up, especially if one of them is the legendary Tarzan. Big medicine for the tribe there.
George Coulouris is strangely muted and not what you normally expect from a guy who plays some high powered villains on the screen. Especially when Donlon gives Tarzan the old come-on. Tarzan evinces not a whiff of an interest. Beatty has his eyes on Betta St. John in the best Snidely Whiplash tradition.
And as always that remarkable simian Cheta responding to some well placed instructions is invaluable in the rescue. And Tarzan's knowledge of native drum language also helps in the climax.
Too much silliness in this plot with a good cast making a really dumb script entertaining.
Anyway, some of the good things about this movie: 1) The location footage of African wildlife looks great in color and was probably a real treat for viewers back in the 50's before documentaries became so prevalent. 2) No Jane, so there is no Ozzie & Harriet in the jungle story-line. 3) The native dance scene at the end was awesome! The music sounded like recordings I've heard from Africa, and the costumes were great. 4) A superb ending that features mysterious caves, an isolated and evil village located on the top of an unreachable karst, native dances, white sacrificial victims, and Tarzan playing the bongos! The ending almost makes up for the first hour of the movie (which really wasn't that bad).
** 1/2 (out of 4)
If you start from the first MGM/Johnny Weissmuller film and follow the series through its transformation to RKO and with new actors (Lex Barker, Gordon Scott) then this here would be the nineteenth film and it certainly got a face lift. Not only did the producer's send the cast and crew to Africa for real footage but they also shot the film in color and in widescreen (although most prints are the flat version). This time out Tarzan (Scott) comes across five people whose plane has crashed in the jungle. Along with the help from a hunter, Tarzan tries to get the people to safety but it turns out the hunter has a connection to a deadly tribe who scarifies white people to their Gods. TARZAN AND THE LOST SAFARI has a lot of good things in it like the before mentioned new items but in the end it's still a Tarzan movie with many of the same trappings that hurt previous movies. Once again Scott is very good in the film as he certainly didn't have any trouble fitting into the role. He certainly has the physical look but I thought he also handled the dialogue good enough and had a certain charm that really worked. Betta St. John plays a married woman who Tarzan befriends and she too is quite good. The actors have such good chemistry one wishes that they had written her as being single so that the film could have gone in a different direction. There's no doubt that the authentic shooting in Africa really helps the film because it really adds to the atmosphere. I'm all for back lots at studios but at the same time there's no denying that nothing can top the real thing. With really being in Africa we also get some terrific footage of the wildlife, which is a lot better than the stock footage that took up previous films. The print I watched was the flat version so I can't comment on how well the 2.35:1 was handled but what I saw was impressive. With that said, there's no question that the film goes on for way too long and by this time there's no doubt who will live, who will die and I'm pretty sure we all know what will happen to Tarzan. This predictable side certainly hampers the film but there's no question that this is the best the series has offered since the Weissmuller days.