25 March 2013

Tarzan and the Valley of Gold, Part 1: The Movie

Tarzan and the Valley of Gold (1966)
Directed by Robert Day. Starring Mike Henry, David Opatoshu, Nancy Kovack, Don Megowan.

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

Tarzan and the Valley of Gold wastes no time telling viewers of the mid-1960s that this was not going to be their grandfather’s Tarzan. Or their father’s either. With swinging ‘60s big band jazz backed with bongos playing over a Warholian montage of pop art colors projecting scenes from the movie, it’s impossible not to think JAMES BOND! JAMES BOND! from the moment the opening titles start.

No doubt that was producer Sy Weintraub’s intention with this 1966 outing for Tarzan, the first of a trio starring Mike Henry. The credits sequence is a dead-on imitation of the style of Maurice Binder for Dr. No. After the director’s credit fades, the film hops into a Goldfinger-inspired sweep over a tropical resort city, concluding on a helicopter taking off from a luxury yacht in the harbor. Then, in another scene swiped from Dr. No, assassins shoot a limo driver outside the airport, and an imposter chauffeur awaits the arrival of our handsome hero in his impeccable suit and tie. Cue city montage with more swinging’ Latin big band rhythms! Smash into an action scene where a sunglass-wearing sniper tries to pick off our sharply dressed hero in an empty bullring. The crafty Ape Man turns the tables on the gunman and kills him by dropping a giant Coke Bottle advertising prop onto him. Ah, good times.

18 March 2013

Weird Western-on-Demand: The White Buffalo (1977)

The White Buffalo (1977)
Directed by J. Lee Thompson. Starring Charles Bronson, Jack Warden, Will Sampson, Clint Walker, Slim Pickens, Stuart Whitman, Kim Novak.

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

Warner Archive has so far received all the attention in my recent veer into the world of the manufacture-on-demand DVD, a dazzling universe where the big studios serve the niche movie lovers with titles that would otherwise only surface in North America on bootlegs swiped off Japanese laserdiscs. (Yeah, you own a couple of those.) Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure, The Bermuda Depths, and The Last Dinosaur all come from Warner Brothers’ MOD division. But two other studios have their own extensive MOD programs: MGM Limited Edition Collection and Universal Vault. It’s through MGM that we get the strange 1977 combo of Western and monster movie called The White Buffalo.

My first experience with The White Buffalo, aside from seeing ads on local television stations when it ran during “Charles Bronson Tough Guy Week”, was on an awful first-generation VHS tape I watched during college as part of an independent study of the 1970s Western. The movie was drab and a cruel disappointment considering how exciting the plot description sounded: “Wild Bill Hickok and Crazy Horse team up to hunt down a giant, possibly supernatural, rampaging white buffalo.” How could such a crunchy high-concept result in such a bland film?

11 March 2013

On the One Year Anniversary of John Carter, Let’s Look Forward to a New Tarzan Movie

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

[Update: Damn, appears this isn’t happening. Warner Bros. is pulling the plug.]

Speaking of Tarzan movies, did you know that a new live-action film is gearing up? Perhaps not, since it has been “bubbling under” in entertainment news and only in the last few months started to reach a boil people might notice, but yeah—it’s a thing. Thinking over the progress toward another adventure of the Lord of the Jungle—who is 101 years old this October—helps me cope with another anniversary, this one only a year old. It’s a bittersweet memory, but let me go over it a moment before returning to Tarzan.

Over the weekend, Disney released a new take on a fantasy franchise more than a century old: Oz, The Great and Powerful, director Sam Raimi’s prequel to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (as well as its somewhat famous 1939 film adaptation). Although Oz boasts a huge price tag of $215 million, the opening weekend take of $80 million in the U.S. is strong sign of success.

06 March 2013

Tarzan-on-Demand: Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure on DVD

Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure (1959)
Directed by John Guillerman. Starring Gordon Scott, Anthony Quayle, Sara Shane, Niall McGinnis, Sean Connery, Scialla Gabel, Al Mulock.

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

I’ve discovered a way to merge my recent posts about the manufacture-on-demand DVDs of The Bermuda Depths and The Last Dinosaur with my long-running Edgar Rice Burroughs posts. Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure, the 1959 live-action film now available from Warner Archive, also gives me a reason to go back to talking about Tarzan for the first time since I reviewed Tarzan and “The Foreign Legion” back in ‘09.

Johnny Weissmuller played Tarzan in twelve movies from 1932 to 1948. But Weissmuller’s departure from the role didn’t bring halt to the series. It soldiered on, switching around studios and distributors (it had already flipped from MGM to RKO during Weissmuller’s tenure) for two more decades. Lex Barker, Gordon Scott, Jock Mahoney, and Mike Henry all played the Lord of the Jungle for at least two films each, and then the movies segued into the television series starring Ron Ely, who would later play another famous pulp hero in George Pal’s unfortunate Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze in 1975.