Category Archives: Tarzan

DVD Review: Jungle Jim (1948).

Directed by William Berke
Produced by Sam Katzman
Story & Screen Play by Carroll Young
Based on the newspaper feature Jungle Jim
Director Of Photography: Lester White, ASC
Art Director: Paul Palmentola
Film Editor: Aaron Stell

Cast: Johnny Weissmuller (Jungle Jim Bradley), Virginia Grey (Dr. Hilary Parker), George Reeves (Bruce Edwards), Lita Baron (Zia), Rick Vallin (Kolu – Chief of the Masai), Holmes Herbert (Commissioner Geoffrey Marsden), Tex Mooney (Chief Devil Doctor)


After 16 years and 12 movies (six for MGM, six for RKO), Johnny Weissmuller’s days are Tarzan came to an end with Tarzan And The Mermaids (1948). (It was a troubled production, shot in Mexico, well worth reading up on sometime.)

That same year, Sam Katzman came along to offer Weissmuller the part of Jungle Jim, a big game hunter featured in Alex Raymond’s comic strip. It was perfect for the former Olympic swimmer, now middle aged — a chance to trade his loin cloth for khakis. Jungle Jim had already hit the screen as a 1937 serial from Universal (there was a radio show, too). Katzman had in mind a series of short, characteristically cheap features for Columbia. He’d recently added features to his duties at the studio; he’d been in charge of their serials since ’45. 

In this first picture, called simply Jungle Jim (1948), Weissmuller is hired to help Dr. Hilary Parker (Virginia Grey), a medical researcher, find the source of a rare poison that might point the way to a cure for polio. Bruce Edwards (George Reeves) comes along as a photographer. Jim brings along Kolu (Rick Vallin) and his sister Zia (Lita Baron). As they make their way through the jungle to the temple of Zimbalu and its “devil doctors,” they tackle a crocodile, elephants, a lion and more — including the “devil doctors.” And it turns out George Reeves would rather take the treasures of Zimbalu than take pictures of them. 

Virginia Grey had been in Tarzan’s New York Adventure (1942) with Weissmuller. George Reeves was still a few years way from playing Superman. And Lita Baron was Mrs. Rory Calhoun at the time. Of course, Weissmuller gets plenty of chances to swim, and he’s still incredible in the water.

Director William Berke started out writing silent Westerns. He became a prolific B director, cranking out tons of movies and TV shows before having a heart attack on the set of his last film, The Lost Missile (1958). He was only 54. Berke directed several of the Jungle Jim movies, along with Robin Hood Of The Range (1943), Dick Tracy (1945) and Cop Hater (1958).

Carroll Young had written some of the later Tarzan pictures and hopped right into the Jungle Jim series. He also wrote a couple of the better Regalscope pictures, She Devil and Apache Warrior (both 1957).

Jungle Jim was successful enough to spawn 15 more films (1948-1955) and a single-season TV show. Weissmuller would retire after the last one, Devil Goddess (1955), and the series.

The movies are as fun as they are dumb. I love them, even though Weissmuller can’t act and you see the same elephant, monkey and crocodile footage over and over and over. This first one is available in Volume 1 of the three-volume set from Umbrella out of Australia. It looks nice. If you know these films, I don’t need to recommend them — you know what you’re getting into. 

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Filed under Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Johnny Weissmuller, Jungle Jim, Sam Katzman, Tarzan

Blu-Ray News #394: The Tarzan Vault Collection (1918-1935).

In August, The Film Detective is dragging three early Tarzan pictures out of the deep, dark video jungle and giving them new life on Blu-Ray.

Tarzan Of The Apes (1918)
Directed by Scott Sidney
Starring Elmo Lincoln, Enid Markey, George B. French, Gordon Griffith, Eugene Pallette

The first Tarzan film ever made. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novel of the same name was published in 1912, and this is still held up as the most faithful film version of the character. The swamps of Louisiana doubled for the jungles of Africa. The film was a hit, and Elmo Lincoln would continue as Tarzan.

Adventures Of Tarzan (1921)
Directed by Robert F. Hill & Scott Sidney
Starring Elmo Lincoln, Louise Lorraine, Scott Pembroke, Frank Whitson, Lillian Worth

This 15-chapter serial was Elmo Lincoln’s third, and final, time as the Lord Of The Jungle, though he’d have small parts in a couple of the 40s Tarzan pictures.

The New Adventures Of Tarzan (1935)
Directed by Edward Kull & Wilbur F. McGaugh
Starring Herman Brix, Ula Holt, Ashton Dearholt, Frank Baker, Lewis Sargent

This 12-chapter serial was filmed on location in Guatemala, which brought with it a ton of problems, from financial and romantic woes to disease and impassible roads — and interference from MGM, which by this time was in the middle of their Johnny Weissmuller series. (Read up on this one sometime — it’s got quite a production history.)

Herman Brix made a name for himself at the 1928 Olympics, and they say he was considered by MGM before they cast Weissmuller in 1932’s Tarzan The Ape Man. Brix would later go by the name Bruce Bennett and he had a long, successful film career.

You can count on The Film Detective to make things things look as good as possible — and to load ’em up with extras. There are commentaries, documentaries and more. This is gonna be a good one, folks!

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Filed under Bruce Bennett, DVD/Blu-ray News, Johnny Weissmuller, MGM, Serial, Tarzan, The Film Detective

Blu-Ray Review: Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure (1959).

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.

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Filed under 1959, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Gordon Scott, Sean Connery, Tarzan, Warner Archive