Directed by John Guillerman
Produced by Sy Weintrab
Screenplay by Bern Giler & John Guillerman
From a story by Les Crutchfield
Cinematography: Ted Scaife
Gordon Scott (Tarzan), Anthony Quayle (Slade), Sara Shane (Angie), Niall MacGinnis (Kruger), Sean Connery (O’Bannion), Al Mulock (Dino), Scilla Gabel (Toni)
Right off the bat, I have to admit I’m not much of a Tarzan fan. But Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure (1959) is a solid attempt to do something a little different with Edgar Rice Burroughs’ character. Some say the idea was to take the ape man back to Burroughs’ original intent — for one thing, Gordon Scott gets to speak in complete sentences. Whatever they were trying to do, they ended up with a tight, tough action picture — with Tarzan driven to take out some really nasty bad guys.
The previous Tarzan’s had been Johnny Weissmuller and Lex Barker, and by this time, Gordon Scott was no stranger to the role and seems quite comfortable. He’d only don the loin cloth one more time, in Tarzan The Magnificent (1960), before starring in a series of peplum pictures. By the way, Cheetah makes an appearance, but there’s no Jane.
A gang of crooks, lead by the heinous Slade (Anthony Quayle), massacre a village to get a stash of explosives — which they will use to access a diamond mine. Tarzan heads after them to set things right. Along the way, he encounters a lovely pilot named Angie (Sara Shane) who follows him along the river to the final encounter with Slade and his cohorts.
The real selling point for Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure has become the chance to see a pre-Dr. No Sean Connery. He’s one of Slade’s slimy bunch, and he’s perfectly sweaty and sinister. But this picture’s more than a curiosity or the answer to a trivia question. There’s plenty to recommend it. Along with what I’ve already mentioned, it was shot on location in Kenya, which gives it a certain edge. And Quayle is really terrific — a formidable foe for the Lord Of The Apes.
The location work is one of the picture’s real strengths, and something highlighted in the new Blu-Ray from Warner Archive. The color’s quite good, the framing is dead-on, and while the sharpness fluctuates from shot to shot at times (location vs. studio, perhaps?), on the whole it looks terrific. As a Bond-crazy kid, I watched this on local TV in the mid-70s — the 16mm print had turned so red, it looked like Tarzan was on Mars (where he did eventually travel to, didn’t he?). This Blu-Ray was a great way to rediscover a solid adventure picture. Recommended.