Tuesday, January 30, 2024


Tarzan (Jock Mahoney) parachutes out of a plane over a field in an Asian country. He's there in response to a call for help from Tarim, the leader of his people who is on his deathbed and is preparing the way for his successor, the pre-teen Prince Kashi—the country is not named, and although the film was shot in Thailand, the rules of succession seem more Tibetan. Tarim fears that his ruthless brother Khan (Woody Strode) will harm Kashi and install his own son as the heir. On his way to the leader's monastery, Tarzan's entourage is attacked on the river with loss of life, though Tarzan escapes. Accompanied by his guide Hani (who, unbeknownst to Tarzan is actually a spy for Khan), Tarzan arrives at the monastery where he must undergo three challenges testing skill, strength and wisdom to prove himself worthy of the mission. One is an archery test, one is a Zen word problem to solve. The most grueling challenge is when Tarzan is tied between two posts and the ropes are attached to two buffalos who pull in opposite directions (pictued at right). He endures and is accepted by Tarim. Accompanied by Hani, a monk, and a nursemaid, Tarzan sets out to bring Kashi to the monastery, a trip that Kahn's men are trying to sabotage. But Tarzan is up to the task, and when he brings Kashi back, after the death of Tarim, there are more challenges to face, including a climactic one-on-one fight with Khan on netting stretched over barrels of boiling oil that will have to be a fight to the death.

Mahoney only played Tarzan twice (the first time being in TARZAN GOES TO INDIA) but he looms fairly large in Tarzan trivia. He played a villain in the earlier TARZAN THE MAGNIFICENT, he was the oldest actor to be cast as a new Tarzan (he was 44 in INDIA), and he became deathly ill during the making of this movie, getting dysentery from swimming in a polluted river, even after his co-star Woody Strode warned him not to. Many viewers report how ill and weak he looks in the latter scenes of this film which was mostly shot in chronological order—it supposedly took him over a year to fully recuperate—but he was always more lithe than muscular, and I didn't think he looked much different by the end than he did at the beginning, though maybe I couldn't see beyond the oil and sweat that he's frequently covered in. I think it's a little ironic that the one of the best Tarzan torture scenes in the whole canon is here where he's not being worked over by bad guys, but by good guys. The stretching scene, the oil barrel fight, and an earlier scene of a major jungle fire are three of the best action sequences in any Tarzan movie, so for those alone, I'd rate this fairly high in Tarzan movie rankings. As I noted in my review of INDIA, Mahoney is a literate and laid-back Tarzan and part of me is sorry Mahoney didn't continue in the role (though if you squint, I think you can see a bit of Mahoney in Ron Ely's TV Tarzan), but then again, because he didn't return, we got the hottest Tarzan of all, Mike Henry. But that's another review. Woody Strode deserves mention for embodying one of the most threatening bad guys in the Tarzan films, and he also plays, briefly, a second role as the dying brother. Ricky Der (Kashi), who couldn't have been more than 9 or 10, is notable for his ability to look profoundly serious all the time. More pluses: almost no comic relief, almost no cute animal antics (though Kashi does bond with a baby elephant that they call Hungry). Definitely among the 4-star Tarzan movies. Best line: "Pride is the evil shadow of greatness." [DVD]

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