Friday, June 28, 2024


A suited-up Tarzan (Mike Henry) is dropped off by helicopter, gets on a plane, and lands in Mexico where a driver shows up to take him to see an old friend who has summoned him to help search for a kidnapped boy. But we've seen the real driver killed and a bad guy substitutes for him, taking Tarzan to an empty soccer stadium. The driver tries to kill him but Tarzan quickly gets the best of him. A sniper pops up in the upper reaches of the stadium and, in a scene that has to be one of the top 5 moments in any Tarzan movie, Tarzan kills him by using a gigantic Coca Cola bottle used as advertising in the stadium. By the twenty-minute mark, Tarzan finally jettisons the suit and puts his loincloth back on and enlists a leopard, a lion and a chimp to track down Ramel, the boy who has been taken by the evil Augustus Vinero (David Opatoshu), who actually isn't too far from a Goldfinger type of villain. The details remained a bit vague to me, but apparently Ramel got lost and wandered out of his hidden village, rumored to be an ancient Aztec city with a fortune in gold (hence the Valley of Gold of the title). Vinero kidnapped the boy to get him to lead the way to the valley to get the gold. Tarzan manages to get Ramel (and Vinero's mistress Sophia) and the film becomes a race between Tarzan and Vinero to get the valley. When they do, Tarzan is disappointed that the pacifist Aztecs won't fight back against Vinero, and in fact, they imprison Tarzan so he won't use violence either. But this is, after all, a Tarzan movie so eventually he comes out on top and Vinero faces an ironic defeat he brings on himself.

In the Tarzan movie canon (1930s to the late 60s), Johnny Weissmuller, with twelve films to his credit, is the most famous Tarzan. Jock Mahoney, Gordon Scott and Lex Barker, most having gone beyond Weissmuller's grunts in terms of dialogue, are fine, but for my money, Mike Henry is the platonic Tarzan thanks to his muscled body and his dark looks. Long before I saw any of his movies, photos of Henry in all his loinclothed glory fed my teenage fantasies for years. Luckily, his movies are among the better ones, certainly heads and shoulders above the later Weissmuller ones. Most reviewers note how this one begins like a 60s spy movie, and it does. But that element is fun and things eventually revert back to the classic tropes. There is no Jane figure here—Nancy Kovack, as Sophia, is along for the ride but there are no hints of romance between them. There is also no "Boy," though there is a young lad in peril, a plotline in several of the 60s Tarzan movies that I find tiresome. I suppose that element is there to give the young male audience members someone to identify with. There is also no Cheetah, and the animals that are present are mostly used well, not as comic relief. Opatoshu is a good villain who, as befitting the era, has a spy movie gimmick of giving people exploding jewelry; he tries to kill his mistress by locking explosives around her neck. I like that Tarzan uses a machine gun in a cave to shoot stalactites so they'll fall and kill some of the bad guys. The pacifist angle of the Aztecs makes for an interesting plot development. This is the best of the three Mike Henry Tarzan films, though the earlier Mahoney and Scott movies deserve to be seen. [DVD]

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