Cinedigm Bowing Two Restored ‘Tarzan’ Movies and 1935 Serial on Blu-ray Disc & DVD Aug. 23

Cinedigm Aug. 1 announced that The Film Detective, the home entertainment distributor’s classic film restoration and streaming company, will release The Tarzan Vault Collection, featuring Tarzan of the Apes (1918), The Adventures of Tarzan (1921), and The New Adventures of Tarzan II (the complete version of the 1935 film serial) on special-edition Blu-ray Disc and DVD Aug. 23.

Since the days of the silent screen, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes, with Elmo Lincoln in the title role, introduced the character to movie audiences and told the traditional tale of how the orphaned heir to the Greystoke fortune became lord of the jungle. Lincoln was so impressive in the role that he returned three years later in Adventures of Tarzan, this time to rescue his beloved Jane from the clutches of the evil Queen La.

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By 1935, the public was still fascinated by the nobleman who apes had raised, now played by 1928 shotput Olympic champion Herman Brix (a.k.a Bruce Bennet) in The New Adventures of Tarzan, Brix reportedly needed all of his muscle to portray Tarzan in this tale of missing jewels and explosives powerful enough to destroy the world.

Full-color booklet insert bonus features includes three original essays by authors Don Stradley and Jennifer Churchill; original featurette Drawn to the Jungle: The Early History of Tarzan in Comics, by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures; full-length commentary track for The Adventures of Tarzan and The New Adventures of Tarzan II by award-winning journalist/historian, Ed Hulse; original feature production, Swinging into Action: The Early Adventures of Tarzan on Film by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures; and Law of the Jungle: The Cinematic Adventures of Herman Brix, a preserved interview with the film star, aka Bruce Bennett.

The Tarzan Vault Collection will be available on Blu-ray ($38.95) and DVD ($24.95) August 23. Fans can reserve a copy now by pre-ordering at: https://www.thefilmdetective.com/tarzan.

The Film Detective (TFD) is Cinedigm’s one-stop shop for classic film and television, showcasing remastered prints and distributing to Turner Classics Movies, NBC, Epix, Pluto TV, Amazon, and PBS among others. Available as a branded app on the Web, Android, iOS, Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV, TFD’s 3,000+ hours of westerns, horror, film noirs, pre-codes and cult classics are also available live with a 24/7 linear channel through Sling TV, STIRR, Plex, Local Now, Rakuten TV and DistroTV.

Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Available via Warner Archive;
Warner;
Drama;
$21.99 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Gordon Scott, Sara Shane, Anthony Quayle, Sean Connery.

As the first of two unusually well-received Tarzan adventures released by Paramount Pictures in 1959 and 1960, Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure opens with an outrageous visual that some might momentarily think is from an unaired episode from Megyn Kelly’s defunct NBC morning show. At a time when 007 was still three years away from the big screen, we are treated to, of all things, Sean Connery in blackface, though not for any racist reasons on the part of the script. In fact, if for no other reason than that the cast is almost totally Caucasian, this isn’t another Tarzan movie where some white savior saves the black locals from scummy invaders. And having just re-seen Cornel Wilde’s The Naked Prey via Criterion’s new Blu-ray, I can opine that movie natives are capable of doing pretty well for themselves, thank you.

So as it turns out in this robustly spun yarn, Connery’s character and his equally nefarious colleagues are posing as black Africans to facilitate their nocturnal heist of dynamite, which ends up with the death of a doctor and radio operator in the process. As a result, their pursuit becomes a big-league affair that demands a pro, even one who lives in a tree with a chimpanzee. So in comes Tarzan (Gordon Scott) — or, if you prefer, Robert Mueller on a grapevine. And as it turns out, the ringmaster baddie (Anthony Quayle) has some history with the jungle man, and when the latter gets word of who his new adversary is, this becomes perhaps the first movie I can recall where our Tarzan has a look cross his face that might called “world-weary.”

With our late-’50s emergence from the so-called Eisenhower years (which aren’t looking all bad these days), it was obvious even back then that “ungawa” was no longer going to cut it, either in Beat coffee shops or the Duluth car wash. So if Scott and whatever actor it was who played Cheetah aren’t exactly up in their tree reading Remembrance of Things Past, this Tarzan is on a comparably erudite side when compared with Johnny Weissmuller or Lex Barker. Or, at very least, he speaks in complete sentences, albeit ones with fewer clauses than, say, David Halberstam used to employ.

Quayle’s cruds need these explosives for blasting purposes in an as yet un-located mine that they hope and assume contains diamonds. Among the colleagues not played by Connery (who’s pretty nasty here, BTW) is a doughy mold-culture type with coke-bottle glasses — and, it is suggested, a former Nazi. There is also, obeying international law in movies like this, a babe girlfriend (Scilla Gabel) for Quayle. I grew up looking at old issues of Saga and Argosy in the barber shop — the ones whose jungle-motived covers featured buxom women in low-cut blouses, open midriffs, ammunition belts and a live python for the capper style touch. Gabel, though, is no such adventuress but just another looker who mostly sunbathes a lot on their boat. When she eventually meets her end in film spectacular fashion, you can almost hear her mother saying, “I told you that if you didn’t exhibit better taste in men, you’d end up in quicksand.”

What makes this Adventure a little different is the presence of an additional babe — the other one played by Sara Shane as something of what used to be called a “playgirl.” Cocky, traveling alone and seemingly self-sufficient, she nonetheless lands her Cessna in jungle muck the way Jim Backus, Mickey Rooney and Buddy Hackett might have in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. This means that she has to depend on Tarzan as the alternative to being stranded with crocodiles who haven’t flossed, though how she emerges unscathed from her honey of a crash is a mystery the movie doesn’t pursue.

Given that The 400 Blows, North by Northwest, Some Like It Hot, Rio Bravo and Anatomy of a Murder all came out in 1959 as well, this isn’t really a screen achievement to rate one of those aggressive old TV sales jobs of the Art Fern/Ginsu knife variety. But there isn’t any fat in the narrative, and even the mild suggestion of sexual attraction between the two principals seems natural enough and not a shoehorn job — though personally, I wouldn’t care to rub my hands through the hair of anyone who swims near the hippos. Eventually, in what must be a Tarzan-pic first, Shane is apprehended trying to steal some penicillin from the villains’ boat to cure the Big Guy, which suggests exciting new directions the series might have taken (think: Tarzan Gets a Dose). But no: The injury is suffered as part of everyday Tarzan labors — though, as we know, these can get mighty strenuous just by themselves.

John Guillerman directed, who mixed at least a couple movies I like among his bombs: Guns at Batasi and the “actor” portions of The Towering Inferno. He also did The Blue Max, of which I have no recent opinions, though I sure have rich memories of hearing the late radio evangelist Garner Ted Armstrong ranting on the airwaves about taking his young son to a movie about World War I planes and instead getting Ursula Andress with a towel slung over her nude upper torso (“Hey dad, maybe it’s God’s Plan”). Looking attractive enough on Blu-ray despite the muddy limitations of Eastman Color, Adventure was shot by Ted Scaife, who also worked with Jacques Tourneur, John Ford and Jack Cardiff (Young Cassidy), Robert Aldrich, Andre de Toth, John Huston and George Cukor.

But I couldn’t, by coincidence, watch this movie again the day after Nicolas Roeg’s death without being disproportionately struck by the fact that “Nick” (as billed) was one of the two camera operators here, which points up how long it can take to establish a career that additionally makes the leap from DP to director. As far as I know, Bernardo Bertolucci never worked on a Tarzan movie in any capacity — though, if he did, I’d really like to see it. Though given that monster arachnid in Tarzan’s Desert Mystery (a big one for me at a give-take kiddie matinee in 1953 or ’54), he might have done a bang-up job with a variation on The Spider’s Strategem.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure’ and ‘The Ice Harvest’