A new Tarzan for a new generation. The Lord of the Apes returns to the jungle to save the heart of civilization from the forces of evil.
Produced by: Village Roadshow Productions [us] (co-producers) / Alta Vista / Grunwuld /Unterfohring / Dieter Geissler Filmproduktion
Genre/keyword: Action / Adventure
Sound Mix: Dolby Digital
Distributed by: Columbia Tristar Film GmbH [de] (Germany) / Live Entertainment / Warner Bros.
Effects by: HDO, High Definition Oberhausen, Germany
Also Known As:
Tarzan Jungle Warrior (1997) (working title)
Tarzan and Jane (1997) (working title)
Directed by Carl Schenkel
Cast (in alphabetical order)
Jane March .... Jane
Casper Van Dien .... Tarzan
Steven Waddington .... Nigel Ravens
Written by (in credits order)
Edgar Rice Burroughs (stories)
Bayard Johnson and J. Anderson Black
Cinematography by Paul Gilpin
Music by Christopher Franke
Production Design by Herbert Pinter
Costume Design by Jo Katsaras
Film Editing by Harry Hitner
Produced by Stanley S. Canter Greg Coote (executive) Dieter Geissler Michael Lake (I)
Lawrence Mortorff (executive) Kurt Silberschneider (executive) Peter Ziegler (executive)
Page Feldman .... second unit co-ordinator
Michael L. Games .... unit production manager
Ray Gillon .... re-recording mixer
Mike J. Regan .... special ape suit effects
Edgar Rothermich .... music producer music recordist
Fran Saidman .... production co-ordinator
Abi Schneider .... re-recording mixer
Rolf Schneider .... post-production supervisor
Lisa Skinstad .... liaison:
Gary Weddington .... financial controller
Roger Young (II) .... cast co-ordinator
TARZAN FEATURE: COOL SUMMER
TV - CALL OF THE WILD:
TARZAN SWINGS INTO CABLE WITH A 58-HOUR RETROSPECTIVE
He could have finished off Xena and Hercules; he loved as viscerally as anyone on Melrose Place--and his skirts were shorter than Heather Locklear's. He is Tarzan, ape-reared jungle king, the subject of more than 90 books, 40 movies and three TV series. Beginning on June 6 with a new documentary, Investigating Tarzan, amc will showcase 32 of the films for three nonstop days and nights. They range from the 1918 Tarzan of the Apes through the Johnny Weissmuller vehicles of the 1930s and '40s (see our loinclothed hero beat up Nazis!) to the James Bondian takes of the 1960s.
Tarzan's creator, novelist Edgar Rice Burroughs, felt that many of the films made a mockery of his books: Burroughs' hero speaks the King's English; the celluloid Tarzan grunts. But the campiness of the movies is, of course, what makes them so much fun. Unless you are Tarzan scholar George McWhorter, who believes Tarzan appeals because he "represents freedom of choice." For TV viewers, this summer at least, Tarzan represents freedom from reruns of Suddenly Susan.
ME TARZAN, HIM TOO
Eighteen screen actors have worn the loincloth, among them a Pittsburgh Steeler, a UCLA basketball star and a champion weight lifter
A former railroad engineer and star of D.W. Griffith's Intolerance, ELMO LINCOLN was the screen's first Tarzan, back in 1918
Discovered while working as a lifeguard at a Las Vegas hotel, GORDON SCOTT starred in six Tarzan movies during the 1950s
MIKE HENRY, a fitting ape-man for the swinging '60s, made you wonder how it was that he kept his hair so well gelled amid the born free
SEX, VINES AND TRIVIAL PURSUIT
Tarzan of the Apes (1918) was one of the first movies to gross more than $1 million at the box office
There have been 164 fan magazines devoted to Tarzan-creator Edgar Rice Burroughs, a onetime pencil-sharpener salesman
Burroughs' other literary offspring? John Carter, an ex-Confederate soldier who winds up on Mars
Since Tarzan and Jane weren't married, censors decreed they could not have sex and, thus, a baby. The result? 1939's Tarzan Finds a Son!
The plot will center on Tarzan's return to Africa to save his homeland. Didn't he do that already?
Q: Was the loincloth a problem?
A: Well, it's really long in the front.
Q: You weren't embarrassed?
A: I'm an exhibitionist. I'm an actor! I hadn't had a 29-in.
waist since I was probably, like, 12.
Q: Did anyone special appreciate your newfound physique?
A: I didn't have the time to do that.
Q: It's hard to wear less clothing in a movie than Jane March
[who plays Tarzan's fiance Jane].
A: She doesn't take her clothes off at all. I was hoping we'd
have one of those love scenes like in The Lover, but we
Q: That's a shame. How's your jungle call?
A: Bestial. I studied Jane Goodall and her tapes on the apes
and everything so that I learned ape movement
and ape sounds.
Q: Can we hear it?
A: Oh, I don't. I don't. I just, uhm... I just do an ape sound.
Q: Come on. You're not much of an exhibitionist.
A: I do [pauses for big breath] hoo-hah, hoo-hah, hoo-hah,
hoo-hah. Then I go into a big loud scream, which I
don't feel like because I've got my sister in the car
with me. She's looking at me, like, Dude.
Van Dien claims that if casting directors
had gone by personality, he should have ended up in George of the Jungle.
Indeed, Van Dien gets pretty fanatical about all his preparations. For the 1995 film, James Dean: Race With Destiny, he says he read 15 books about Dean and "skimmed 12 more;" watched all of the actor's movies, TV appearances and documentaries; visited the Dean family and talked to everyone from Dean's mechanics to his childhood friends. For Tarzan, Van Dien read all the Edgar Rice Burroughs' books, spoke with Burroughs' grandson, boned up on Zulu language and customs and studied Jane Goodall's work on apes.
Apparently, Van Dien inherited great discipline along with his name. Van Dien's father, Casper X, was a naval commander and fighter pilot who served in Vietnam and Korea. His father, Casper IX, was a Marine who fought in both World Wars. Casper XI started out on the same path, attending military school in his teens and studying to be a field surgeon at Florida State University. But soon, Van Dien yielded to the dream he'd had since falling in love with Natalie Wood in West Side Story as a crew-cut seven-year-old -- acting. He took some theater courses, then left for Los Angeles two years shy of graduation in 1988. Soon Van Dien snagged small parts in shows like Saved By the Bell, then regular roles on One Life to Live and Beverly Hills 90210.
It's ironic that Casper Van Dien is the new Lord of the Apes in "Tarzan And The Lost City," a straight-forward action adventure. A delightfully animated cut-up off screen, Van Dien would seem to be better suited to last year's comic take-off on the Tarzan myth, "George Of The Jungle." But instead that role went to Brendan Fraser, who is in fact quite a serious and sober fellow.
Of course, Van Dien was a relative unknown when "George Of The Jungle" was cast, before he rocketed into the big leagues as one of the intergalactic bug fighters in "Starship Troopers." Now "Tarzan And The Lost City" is just one of several films he will be starring in this year. Clearly it is the most revealing, at least physically.
Van Dien was initially reluctant to become the 20th actor to play Tarzan on film, but decided to give it a go because the script for "Tarzan And The Lost City" is relatively faithful to the writings of Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs and because his own father was a big Tarzan fan.
"Burroughs wrote that if Tarzan was big, strong and dumb that he would die in the jungle," notes Van Dien. "The reason that he was able to survive and become master of the beasts was because of his intellect." Of course, few people go to see a Tarzan movie looking for intelligence. Rather they have always expected to see a gorgeous male specimen on display, wearing just a flimsy loin cloth.
"I had no problem keeping my loin cloth up," laughs Van Dien. "We tested a leopard-skin loin cloth which we did use on the poster for the movie, but any time I moved, my butt was totally showing. So they decided not to use that one because we'd get a different rating.We went with a leather one tied on the side. Underneath I actually wore, oh God, a leather G-string, to try and keep me all in place, so that when I'm swinging I'm not flopping."
Another required element in any Tarzan movie is wildlife. And because today's movie goers demand more realism than ever, Van Dien has quite a few war stories to tell about his close encounters with the animals on location in Africa. He watched snakes swim by and crocodiles cavort in the water 100 feet from where they were filming. He was continually bitten by little crayfish during his river rescue scenes. Shooting on dry land wasn't much better.
"We got tick bite fever going through the camp," Van Dien recalls. "There was one tick spray you could put on that would keep the bugs off you, but you had to put it on clothes - and I don't wear any clothes! Seventeen people ended up in the hospital, but I didn't get bit."
Van Dien was bitten by a chimpanzee, however. After a quick tetanus shot, they hurriedly shot a fight scene to take advantage of the real blood on his face. "I also got charged by an elephant," he adds. "I learned after the fact that you never push a baby elephant's head. Especially if it's his first film. As soon as I touched its head, boom, it turns around, ears go out, backs up and charges me. The tusk hit me in the stomach. I grabbed onto that and the other one. It pushed me up four feet in the air and back four feet. Then it put me down, backed up again, ears went out again, and I jumped up on a boulder. They got it away from me and said, `It's a good thing you grabbed on, man, 'cause it would've run right over you.'
"I was seeing the headline: One Ton Baby Elephant Runs Over Actor, Flattened LikePancake."
Since filming "Tarzan And The Lost City," Van Dien, a divorced father of two young children, has been busy making several other movies. They include roles as a poet in the romantic comedy Romantic Moritz," a bank guard in the crime thriller "On The Border," a Navy SEAL in "Meltdown," and a very sick guy in a film he describes as "a dark vampire comedy."
It was the high-profile "Starship Troopers" that provided the big break in Van Dien's career and set him up to be cast in all these films. He remains loyal to the picture, even though it is widely perceived as one of last year's most surprising box office stiffs.
"I still think it's a great movie," he says. "They probably should have gone PG-13 with it and had a summer release (it was rated R and released in the fall). But it's a really fun film with a lot of excitement. I really liked it, although I wouldn't show it to my four and a half year old son."
His son, Bo, did see "Tarzan And The Lost City," however. "He loves it," the proud papa reports. "But he hadn't seen me with another woman since my ex-wife. So when he sees me with Jane March, he didn't like me kissing Jane. He told me that he's not going to have a Jane. That will change."
Looks like the Lucky Ogre was... umm "luh.. luh... luuuuh.. ke.. keey..." to see TARZAN AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD. And he just... oooooooooooooved it, uh huh, yup suuuuuuuuuuuure he did. Uh huh! R-'EYE'-Tuh!!! Well given the previous reviews and words were... unkind, I can say be cautious, beware. There is still a great Tarzan adaptation to be made. I love the Johnny Weismuller TARZANs. In fact when I was but a wee little child I was babysat by the man himself shortly before he passed away.
His films had a beautiful innocence and splendor that is lost in this modern age of ours, but they are not very faithful to Burroughs, that doesn't mean, they didn't work. It just means there is room. Unfortunately between this and the Disney animated TARZAN (which I'm dying to see more of) seemed to have destroyed the George Cosmatos helmed project before it got off the ground. Sigh... Maybe... one day, a new Elmo Lincoln will stun us all!
Hey Harry, today I was uhm "Lucky" enough to attend a test screening in Thousand Oaks California of Tarzan and The Lost City of Gold. It should stay lost.
As soon as the WB logo came up (You know, that 75th anniversary one that reminds you of all the great movies of the past, and how Warner's is slowly going down the crapper, except for 187 and LA Confidential of course.) The movie starts out with some corny narration about Tarzan and the Lost City of Opar, and it just goes down from there. Some nasty white guys led by a BAD rchaologist named Ravens (oooh scary name) pillage an African tribal funeral and burn the village. Luckily, it's witnessed by a lion who mentally beams the message to Tarzan (Played with an english accent worse than Costner's by Casper Van Dien of Starship Troopers). Where is Tarzan? He's in England at his bachelor party! He's marrying Jane (Played by Jane March who wasn't bad but whom I'll never forgive for being in that movie where Bruce Willis went the full monty. Argg my innocence is ruined because of Color of Night), so in the style befitting John Clayton the Earl of Greystoke they go hang out in a pub so small and rustic it looks like something out of "How Green Was my Valley". Tarzan looks in to the fireplace, and sees what the lion sees, (They might as well have had Comissioner Gordon send out the Tarzan-Signal...It could be shaped like a loincloth). Tarzan has to go back to the jungle to stop this, but when he tells her (In a scene where the camera WON'T stop rotating around the characters) she gets mad because it'll screw up their wedding plans. But he says "I love you Jane" and leaves. He ends up on a riverboat going down what looks like the cheap river from Anaconda (Which is much better than this). We're treated to some crappy stock footage (I guess it wouldn't be a Tarzan movie without) and Tarzan gets off in a small town, introduces himself to Ravens and warns him that if he messes with his tribal friends he'll have to put the smack down.Ravens explains how if he can just find that lost city of Opar, they can both be wildly rich. He ignores Tarzan's warning and he and his men go out and shoot an ape, we hear that Tarzan yell, The camera moves incoherently through the treetops, and...some more apes drop down on the bad guys. Tarzan's having damned dirty apes doing the work for him! After half the guys are dispatched, Tarzan finally shows up in CUTOFF KHAKI'S!! The ape that got shot dies, and in a total ripoff scene from "Greystoke", Tarzan and the other apes start hooting and poking at the dead ape. He then gets really pissed and yells his Tarzan yell right in to the Camera (the audience giggled).
Meanwhile Jane shows up in Africa because
Darnit! She loves that big lug of an ape man! Ravens gets real friendly
with Jane while she's waiting to surprise old Tarzan. During Ravens' dinner
with Jane, Tarzan comes back in to the little town and Trashes all of Ravens'
Gear to delay his journey to Opar. Tarzan and Jane escape to the Jungle
and his Treehouse, he introduces her to "My family"
as he puts them. These ape suits are BAD They look like they were Rejected from "2001" At least there's one live Chimp, who's name is not Cheetah by the way. The movie becomes a series of jungle chases as Tarzan and Jane try to stop Ravens from reaching the lost city. When they finally get to the entrance there's a big fight between Tarzan's tribal friends and Ravens' men. The bad guys win it, and take the kidnapped Jane inside the Temple... Tarzan on their trail (He's finally wearing a loincloth because he got it magically put on...no joke). The inside is supposed to be some sort of impressive Indiana Jones type thing, but reminds you more of "Goonies". They fight some more, and Tarzan and Jane chase Ravens out of the Temple to a hidden valley with a giant pyramid... IT's OPAR FINALLY!!!!... and it's not impressive. No leopard women or anything. Some REALLY DUMB STUFF HAPPENS, I'M NOT GOING TO SPOIL IT BECAUSE IF I HAD TO PUT UP WITH THIS MOVIE TO FIND OUT YOU SHOULD TOO. The movie ends with Tarzan and Jane Swinging towards the screen and freeezing there. It was so corny I'll be picking out of my teeth for weeks.
I long for Johnny Weismuller to come
kick this guy's ass. In an interview, Casper Van Dien (who I saw after
the movie) said he was "gonna kick Christopher Lambert's Highlander ass"
in the Tarzan department. This movie is NO GREYSTOKE, It's not even up
to par with the Bo Derek version.. Hell! It's Not even George of the Jungle!!
The only tolerable thing about the movie was the Monkey (Who's barely in
it). It's being marketed as a family film, but I doubt kids would like
it that much. When I was about 5, I used to run around the backyard climbing
on things in my underwear playing Tarzan....The cool Tarzan, the savage
lord of the jungle I read when I was 12, the Tarzan my father watched as
a boy when he got to actually meet Johnny Weismuller...THIS WAS NOT THAT
Harry Jay Knowles
What: "Tarzan and the Lost City," another
attempt to capture the magic of Johnny Weissmuller's vine-clinging days.
Directed by Carl Schenkel ("The Mighty Quinn"). Rating: PG-13.
The plot: Tarzan has lost his loincloth and is settled happily in England with fiance Jane. They are about to marry when the Lord of the Apes must return to Africa to save the jungle from mercenaries.
The cast: He, Tarzan; you, Jane (the cast): Casper Van Dien ("Starship Troopers") and Jane March ("The Lover").
Buyer, beware: Warner Bros. apparently doesn't
know whether it has jungle rot or jungle fever on its hands. "Tarzan and
the Lost City" wasn't pre-screened for critics, which generally means the
movie doesn't swing like its creators hoped it would.
Tarzan and the Lost City
Satisfying Update of the Old Formula
By LAWRENCE VAN GELDER (NY TIMES)
A throwback to the days of Saturday afternoon adventures in exotic locales that were usually Hollywood back lots, "Tarzan and the Lost City" swung into theaters on Friday, carrying Edgar Rice Burroughs' durable ape-man closer to another millennium. Of course, much has changed since 1918, when the 200-pound Elmo Lincoln (1899-1952), whose real name was Otto Elmo Linkenhelter, became the first screen Tarzan. But some things remain the same: actors in gorilla suits, hammy chimpanzees pandering for laughs and, thank goodness, John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, better known as Tarzan. So once again it's off into the wild, with the intrepid Tarzan, his native allies, his animal friends and the fetching Jane pitted against the materialistic, nature-despoiling rotters who would destroy Africa for the sake of gold and gems. Although "Tarzan and the Lost City" serves up lessons of peace, freedom and conservation, it is still kid stuff and little more; but the old formula still works.
The latest episode in what amounts to a long-running series picks up the tale in 1913. With Lord Greystoke (Casper Van Dien) now living in England and attending a bachelor party in celebration of his impending marriage to Jane Porter (Jane March), human swine led by the nasty scholar and explorer Nigel Ravens (Steven Waddington) are pillaging native villages, plundering treasure, looting corpses, poaching ivory and trapping wildlife. What Ravens is really after is the lost city of Opar, cradle of civilization, and better yet, the repository of a legendary treasure. Thanks to the powers of an old shaman friend in those pre-CNN days, Greystoke receives a vision of the troubles in his former homeland. And soon, leaving behind a furious Jane, he is traveling downriver in Africa, aboard the Emerald Isle, a sort of sister tub to the African Queen, to set matters right. Despite a warning from Tarzan, Ravens refuses to back off. And to complicate the plot, Jane soon arrives aboard the Emerald Isle, catching the covetous eye of Ravens and, at convenient times, providing the bait to lure Tarzan toward doom. Jane, though, is no patsy. She adores the wild and is a crack shot and, she proudly asserts, a woman who is no stranger to the attractions of Scotch whisky and cigars. Ms. March, who will be remembered from "The Lovers," proves delightful company and looks as if she is having a good time. Van Dien, of "Starship Troopers," seems fit and appears at home in the cinematic wild (South Africa).
And once Carl Schenkel, the director, overcomes
an early tendency to use the camera like a carousel, "Tarzan and the Lost
City" zips along, past the ritual lions, elephants and cobras to the city
of Opar and its temple of illusions, tunnels and traps, and right to the
'TARZAN AND THE LOST CITY'
Directed by Carl Schenkel; written by Bayard Johnson and J. Anderson Black, based on the "Tarzan" stories created by Edgar Rice Burroughs;
Director of photography, Paul Gilpin; Edited by Harry Hitner;
Music by Christopher Franke; Production designer, Herbert Pinter;
Produced by Stanley Canter, Dieter Geissler and Michael Lake;
Released by Warner Bros.
With: Casper Van Dien (Tarzan), Jane March (Jane) and Steven Waddington (Nigel Ravens).
Running time: 105 minutes.
"Tarzan and the Lost City" is rated PG (parents strongly cautioned).
It includes bodies and combat with machine guns, rifles, pistols, arrows and spears.
Copyright 1998 The New York Times
On the eve of the wedding to his beautiful fiancee, Jane (Jane March), Tarzan (Casper Van Dien) is confronted by a vision of the destruction of his childhood home. Torn between staying in England with Jane and returning at once to Africa, Tarzan, Lord Greystoke, returns to his adopted home, where he squares off against European soldiers of fortune, led by the Oxford-educated Nigel Ravens (Steven Waddington), bent on discovering and looting the legendary and mythic city of Opar.
About The Production
With the production of Warner Bros.' successful Casper Van Dien as Tarzan and Jane March as Jane 1984 film, "Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes," filmmaker Stanley Canter, who produced the film with Hugh Hudson, had realized a long-held dream.The road to the completion of the motion picture took 12 years for Canter to travel, and almost as soon as the film had made it to the big screen, the producer immediately began to envision a sequel. (Canter acquired the sequel rights in 1991and worked on the evolution of the story for the next six years.) Casper Van Dien as Tarzan Since "Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes" had seen Tarzan's return to civilization and England, Canter's challenge was to conceive an idea that would see the now Lord Greystoke return to the jungles of Africa. Canter notes, "I structured the story on the action serials of the past, as I wanted to make a high adventure film with a really interesting love story. Even though the story takes place in 1913, our Tarzan is more forward-looking and he is matched with a thoroughly modern Jane, breaking with previous Janes. Ours is no wilting wallflower."
Canter presented the script (from Bayard
Johnson and J. Anderson Black) to German producer Dieter Geissler, who
had formed his own production company in 1967 and had recently opened a
state-of-the-art special effects house in Germany. With Geissler's green
light and Village Roadshow's Watch Out For That Tree! participation, "Tarzan
and the Lost City" moved into active production.
Even before casting began, Canter had visited South Africa and had realized with its cinematic locales and indigenous wildlife, it would make a perfect location for the project. Producer Michael Lake traveled to the country to begin pre-production in early 1997 and European director Carl Schenkel was signed to helm the picture.
Directed by: Carl Schenkel
Produced by: Stanley S. Canter, Dieter Geissler, Michael Lake
Screenplay by: Edgar Rice Burroughs (book), J. Anderson Black, Bayard Johnson
Cast: Casper Van Dien as Tarzan, Jane March as Jane, Steven Waddington as Nigel Ravens
Tarzan And The Lost City opens April 24, 1998 in North America -- Running time of 102 minutes.
Producer Lake remembers, "When I saw Paul Verhoeven's `Starship Troopers,' I was struck by Casper Van Dien's performance and his physical appearance. He had the brains, the brawn and the charm to be our Tarzan." Van Dien comments, "I think what excited me the most, outside of filming in Africa, was the fact that, as a child, I really did look up to Tarzan and his combination of strength among humans and gentleness with the animals. It was a great thrill to get to portray him at last."
Jane March came to the filmmakers' attention because of her spirited feistiness, a quality the actress shares with her on-screen persona-Jane, a modern heroine with a `90s sensibility. The producers and director also felt that March's delicate beauty balanced the intense physicality of Van Dien. Canter notes, "Jane March brought a lot of femininity to Jane without sacrificing great strength, an essential part of this woman who sets out into Africa alone to find her fiancé." Jane March enjoyed getting the chance to breathe life into Tarzan's Jane. She wanted to "be able to play a really fresh character and make an adventure film. This gave me the opportunity to do both at once."
For the part of the cold-blooded mercenary
and Tarzan's nemesis, Nigel Ravens, Canter looked to Britain. He says,
"I had seen Steven Waddington's work and was impressed by his physicality,
a quality not every British actor shares. His brooding nature is suited
to the determination that drives Ravens." The production also sought a
"guide" who could transform the veritable babble of the multiple African
settings into a singular on-screen language. Noted Austrian production
designer Herbert Pinter was commissioned to oversee the production design
(Pinter's extensive work in Africa and experience with period pictures-most
recently with Bruce Bereford's "Mister Johnson," set in 1923 in Africa-proved
invaluable to realizing the filmmakers' vision.) Pinter was in agreement
with Canter, Geissler, Lake and Schenkel. He notes, "All of us wanted to
steer clear of the clichéd Hollywood interpretations of Africa.
No Zulu shields for us." Instead, the designer stayed with earthy materials
indigenous to the country and augmented with exotic props from the northern
parts of the continent. Pinter, employing five construction crews, erected
17 separate sets to tell this Tarzan's story. These included the Mbiko
and Chiromo Village, the riverfront hotel, trading post and Tarzan's bamboo
treehouse, as well as the several sets and set pieces that represented
the mythic treasure city of Opar. The architecture employed for the sets
built by the natives has, according to Pinter, a "grand primitiveness of
an industrious civilization that is reflected in the large Aztec-like staircase
and the mammoth idols of Opar, as well as in the rough-hewn animal reliefs
on the traditional mud huts. The architecture depicts the purity of a tribe
isolated from any influence of Western intruders."
The Opar set, by far the most challenging of the sets, comprised an astonishing 180 tons of steel, with the completed structure standing more than 100 feet high, making it one of the largest sets ever built in South Africa. (Particularly daunting were the ever-present electrical storms that plague the open countryside where the steel-framed staircase was built. Pinter notes, "We had to halt construction several times because of the storms. It's not exactly safe climbing around on a huge metal frame in the middle of an electrical storm.") Indeed, the weather proved troublesome throughout the brisk two-month shoot. The heavy rains on the Wild Coast slowed construction on the forest and jungle sets, which had to be reinforced to withstand the heavy downpours and possible flooding. Additionally, the builders had to stay within the stringent confines set down by the National Parks Board, the custodian of the ecologically sensitive areas used in some of the filming; in order to preserve the wildlands, activities such as tree-trimming or hole-digging were prohibited, and the usage of heavy vehicles was curtailed. Concern for authenticity also dictated the costumes created for the denizens and looters of these sets by designer Jo Katsaras, who utilized a wide array of muted natural fibers and materials along with distressed leathers and some actual hides for the Mbiko warriors. Designs also had to reflect the gradual "Africanization" of Jane and the trannsformation of Tarzan from Lord Greystoke to Lord of the Apes. The mysterious Mugambi's outfits were adapted from the exotic tribal dress common to equatorial African natives and shifted as the shaman adopts different guises throughout the tale. Specially designed body paint and makeup worn by the warriors and their mystical leader were drawn from the elaborate body art of the Nuba tribesmen. The labor-intensive makeup process sometimes stretched into hours, particularly on the days where more than 200 extras were seen on camera. Research indicated that the tribesmen utilized ash as a body paint, but this process did not show up well on film. The solution came when a makeup assistant used river clay instead-it dried white on the skin, photographed well and was plentiful and inexpensive. Casper Van Dien's preparation for the film included extensive research into the history of the character, the continent of Africa and its wildlife. He also stepped up his already rigorous physical training to sculpt his body into a powerful feral appearance. Hair extensions were also incorporated to give his modern-day haircut the wild look of a man raised by apes. (Jane March did not escape the transformation process, either-her hair was lengthened by extensions to the waist-length appropriate to the period.)
Although the production had been prepared for the usual wet season that coincided with their filming schedule, the rains proved unseasonably heavy even to the local residents. The rains also brought forth large swarms of mosquitoes and other irritating creatures and turned the usual hard African ground into knee-deep mudpits. Adapting a little of his character's undaunted outlook, Van Dien allowed nothing to interfere with his portrayal of one of his childhood heroes while filming; he was even given the names Amandla (which means strength) and Sipho (a gift) by the South African extras. Van Dien also completed the majority of stunts himself, some unplanned. Casper remembers, "We were shooting in the bamboo grove when I approached a baby elephant, intending to scratch its head. The elephant charged me, lifting me about four feet up and throwing me back several feet to the ground. It shook me up, but I only got a couple of bruises." The actor's relationships with the other on-screen animals, including an African python, were less contentious.
Re-creating the classic vine-swinging mode of transportation proved a particular challenge to the actor. Van Dien practiced the intricate maneuver for months prior to filming. The actor recalls, "I'm lucky that I'm of average height and build. It's easier for me to accomplish this than, say, a taller or bulkier person. But let's get real here-I think that the chimps are the only ones that can do this without the benefit of a personal trainer." Warner Bros. Presents A Dieter Geissler/Alta Vista Production, In Association With Village Roadshow Pictures-Clipsal Film Partnership, of A Carl Schenkel Film: "Tarzan and the Lost City," starring Casper Van Dien, Jane March and Steven Waddington. The music is by Christopher Franke. The production designer is Herbert Pinter. The special effects are by CineMagic/HDO. The visual effects supervisor is Julian Parry; the editor is Harry Hitner; and the director of photography is Paul Gilpin. The executive producers are Greg Coote, Peter Ziegler, Kurt Silberschneider and Lawrence Mortorff. "Tarzan and the Lost City" is produced by Stanley Canter, Dieter Geissler and Michael Lake, and is based on the "Tarzan"reg. stories created by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The screenplay is by Bayard Johnson and J. Anderson Black. The film is directed by Carl Schenkel and distributed domestically and in select international territories by Warner Bros., A Time Warner Entertainment Company.
See the official website at: http://www.tarzan-lostcity.com/
Now, in 1998, we are given Tarzan and the
Lost City, staring Casper Van Dien (of Starship Troopers) as the man in
the title. It's much more like the 1932 film, although far worse in every
way. This is a profoundly boring cinematic experience. Not only is it boring--it's
a terrible film. It's poorly acted, terribly written, ornamented in sloppy
special effects, and a shameless Indiana Jones rip-off.
Even the sets and locations, which should be vast and exciting, are dull and perfunctory. I'm not a fan of Tarzan to begin with, but I can appreciate a good film about him. Tarzan and the Lost City had me looking at my watch every five minutes.
I've thought long and hard about how to synopsize
the story, but the "story" of this 83-minute feature is so thin that I
find it vastly difficult to do so. Van Dien, as I mentioned, plays Tarzan.
We are not introduced to him as a character--he simply appears in an early
scene, dressed in a tuxedo, apparently having already passed the humanizing
phase that I thought was present in all Tarzan films.
Jane is also given no real introduction; when we first see her, it's like we're already supposed to know who she is and what she's like. This is a major flaw: this film, since it's not an official sequel or continuation of any story, should start from scratch and introduce characters--especially the main characters--in a formal way. Since it doesn't, the characters are never explained or developed, and there's nothing to care about.
Well, they get to Africa, and Tarzan quickly takes off his clothes to be a jungle guy. It turns out that he's there to stop a mad fortune seeker named Nigel Ravens (Steven Waddington), who's butchering African tribes in his trek to find the Lost City described in the title. What's in the Lost City? Who knows. Why does he want to go there? Don't bother asking. Even the climactic scene provides nothing but a light show (and a poorly-animated one, at that), and never do we hear a singlecoherent explanation of what the freakin' heck this piece of twaddle is about. The film even uses magic in a few scenes to solve problems (Tarzan gets bitten by a poisonous snake, and is saved my magical bees), and where this magic comes from or what it is remains a mystery at the end of the film.
Did I mention the film is boring? The direction by Carl Schenkel is without even a hint of style to make it interesting, and a dry action film is never good. There's not a single clever shot in the entire film, and there's not a scene to be found that is interesting, exciting, funny, or charming. There are a lot of moments featuring tribesmen dancing, and none of this is new. When they finally reach the Lost City, it's just a big map painting of a pyramid. I was expecting to be enthralled in the visual presentation of this film (I didn't see any previews for it beforehand), but there's nothing here to elicit wonderment or awe.
The acting just isn't good, but there aren't any characters, so it barely matters. Waddington overacts in a rare way, but it's still not fun like most overacting usually is. March has almost no lines, and therefore doesn't have much of chance to prove anything. Van Dien's wooden (but not terrible) acting is appropriate for Starship Troopers, but here he needs to carry the whole show. He looks right for the role, but he begins the film with a hint of some unknown accent, and slowly loses it as the film progresses. This isn't that big of a deal, really, because the screenplay (written by *two* people with apparently no judgment whatsoever) provides almost no dialogue through the second half of the film.
Tarzan and the Lost City is not a good Tarzan
film. It's not a good film by any comparison, or by any definition of a
"good" film. It is not entertaining. It is not well-crafted. It's a boring
chore, an exercise in inadequacy and ineptitude. I don't recommend it,
even if you like bad films, even if you love Tarzan films. I didn't care
about Tarzan films before this, and I'll approach them with skepticism
from now on.
* out of ****
Unfortunately, it's not bad in the way great, colossal misfires like "Heaven's Gate" (1980) or "Ishtar" (1987) were bad. Instead, it literally drips off the screen like a movie nobody wanted to be associated with, which begs the question of why it was made in the first place. With all the good scripts lying around Hollywood un-produced, how does needless drek like this make its way to the big screen?
Of course, Tarzan is one of the most filmed characters in all of motion picture history — he has appeared in over forty films, which have ranged from the very good (1984's "Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes") down to the really bad (1981's "Tarzan, the Ape Man" with Bo Derek). Most of these films were just cheapie B-movies made in the thirties and forties, starring ex-Olympic athletes and a lot of cutsie chimps.
Therefore, if another Tarzan movie is to
be made, one might assume that it would have something new to offer — a
different angle, an original storyline, anything to set it apart from all
the others. "Greystoke" added a never-before-seen level of realism to the
pulpy tale, and even "Tarzan, the Ape Man" at least had the mis-guided
audacity to sexualize the story as a vehicle for Bo Derek's bare
"Tarzan and the Lost City," on the other hand, has absolutely nothing to offer but a bunch of recycled storylines and bad dialogue. The script, by Bayard Johnson and J. Anderson Black is about as formulaic and generic as they come. Comic books have better plots than this. The movie is so bad, in fact, that it retains that ridiculous Tarzan call that was so tirelessly mocked in last summer's comedy "George of the Jungle." Didn't the producers think to leave that back in the old Weissmuller pictures where it belongs?
The story starts with the legend of Tarzan already firmly established: a quick opening narration tells of Tarzan (Casper Van Dien) being found in the jungle after having been raised by apes, and his return to England where he assumes his Greystoke heritage. When the movie starts in 1913, he is a civilized English gentleman (without an English accent), and he is to marry Jane (Jane March) in less than a week.
However, when a wicked archeologist/grave-robber named Nigel Ravens (Steve Waddington) begins hunting for the fabled lost City of Opar, one of Africa's last great secrets, the witch doctor of an ancient African tribe summons Tarzan back to the jungle. At first, Jane refuses to go, pouting about how it will interfere with their wedding; but after Tarzan leaves she changes her mind and tracks him down, therefore assuring lots of lame smooch scenes between her and her ape-man.
Once the film gets going (in its own sluggish way), it delves into a series of jungle adventures, as Tarzan, Jane, and the natives attempt the thwart Ravens and his crew from discovering the city. Most of the so-called adventures are cheesy, predictable, and unexciting, with no pace, tension, or action to speak of. There are sequences stolen from innumerable recent adventure movies, ranging from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981) to "The Goonies" (1985). When the movie is running short on action, it includes a few Greenpeace-friendly scenes of Tarzan freeing caged animals, releasing a baby elephant from a trap, and throwing ivory tusks into the river.
The movie is also lacking even a remote hint of reality. For instance, when Tarzan — who was raised in the jungle — is bit by a cobra, he doesn't even attempt to suck the venom out like any semi-experienced weekend backpacker would do. Instead, he ties a tourniquet around his arm and stumbles off into the jungle with no plan for survival.
Of course, one can't help but notice how
fundamentally misleading the title is. Not to ruin the ending or anything,
but there is no lost city. There is, however, a lost pyramid, which I suppose
is all the resource-strapped FX department could come up with (the special
effects are not worthy of a made-for-TV movie). Which also brings up the
question of why the treasure hunters had to slog through numerous underground
caverns to get to the lost pyramid, when it's sitting right out in the
middle of an open field?
Strictly speaking, "Tarzan and the Lost City" isn't even bad enough to have camp quality, although Casper Van Dien's laughably stiff performance comes real close. This movie proves what "Starship Troopers" only hinted at: he cannot act, but he sure looks well-groomed, even in the deepest heart of the African jungle. Van Dien is much too much of a pretty-boy to be an effective Tarzan; he's a Calvin Klein model in a loin cloth. I also wondered what the make-up department was thinking when it outfitted him with that awful circa-1983 Steve Perry haircut.
Waddington makes a decent villain, although
he's like a charmless version of Belloq from "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
As Jane, the ex-model Jane March has little to do but smile and look pretty
next to Tarzan. She does fire off a gun at the evil treasure hunters a
time or two, but whenever a snake comes into the picture, she is reduced
to a hysterical mess. However, amidst all this complaining, I do have one
piece of good news. "Tarzan and the Lost City" is so lacking in ideas both
new and old, that it is unable to fill even an hour and a half of celluloid.
So, we can say this much for it: at least it had the decency to be short.
Tarzan and the Lost City is jungle rot
April 30, 1998 Paul Tatara -- Reviewer
(CNN) -- Paul see Tarzan movie. Tarzan movie bad. Paul not like Tarzan movie.
I should probably just leave it at that, but I'm obliged to write a more detailed review of "Tarzan and the Lost City," an exercise in incompetence that seems to have been constructed in a state of delirium by director Carl Schenkel. Either this guy doesn't have a clue or he got his hands on a glass of bad jungle water, but, regardless of the reason, you have to get down and work to come up with something this readfully awkward.
Seems like he could have saved himself a lot of time and energy by holding a few of the shots for more than seven seconds, but what do I know? Those native drums can work you into a frenzy.
The title character is played by a chest, a set of abdominal muscles, and a loin that's covered, in true Tarzan fashion, by a cloth. The head that's resting on this configuration is billed as Casper Van Dien. Twelve-year-olds may remember that Van Dien was the lead block of granite in last year's "Starship Troopers." His condition here would suggest that he didn't spend that paycheck on Mars bars, but acting lessons also must have been way down on the shopping list. I'll bet there's a fancy car parked out there somewhere, though. Van Dien's British accent consists of speaking exactly like an L.A. gym freak, except that he says "'tis" every now and then. It's far less convincing than his abdomen.
So what you end up with is "Tarzan 90210." At the beginning of the movie, our monkey-raised hero is in England where he's about to marry Jane (played by Jane March, hubba-hubba cutie with no discernible talent, female division) and ascend to the mansion as Lord Greystoke. But wait! A jungle priest has sent him a telepathic message! Greedy white men are pillaging their way through Africa, and the elephants, needless to say, are getting their tusks yanked. Tarzan's presence is required elsewhere, so he sheds his fancy clothes and steamships down to the old neighborhood ... with Jane secretly following close behind. That way her clothes can get all wet and clingy when she falls off a vine into the water.
Once he hits the bushes and re-makes friends with the tribesman, Tarzan has to torment the group of pillagers by rising out of the water as they get drunk, and tossing their hard-captured ivory into the river. He also climbs around in the trees while they're out being bad guys, sometimes setting those Tarzan traps that wrap around legs and fling people into the air, and sometimes just yelling and jumping on them like a near-naked frat guy on a panty raid.
Schenkel's inability to film an action sequence shines during these confrontations. Everything is shot in such tight close-ups that you can't tell what the hell's going on, or even where the participants are standing in relation to each other, for that matter. It's just a bunch of pumping elbows and people going "AAAAHHHH." That would not include the people in the theater, who were mostly laughing. I couldn't see their elbows.
I don't think stock footage was used to create the illusion that the actors are lounging around in front of hippos and zebras, but it would have been nice if some of those actors had actually been in the same frame with the animals when the second-unit camera crew was out harassing them. Instead, you get cuts between the beasts and the actors, like that scene in "Cannonball Run II" where Frank Sinatra isn't actually in the same room with Burt Reynolds.
And the fake apes! Holy cow, these are the worst monkey suits I've seen since my senior prom back in 1981, except that these are hairy and brown, rather than smooth and powder blue. The audience would just hoot every time they showed up. They're the most ridiculous, and therefore best, thing in the movie, just a little more mind-boggling than Van Dien's mugging as he "speaks animal" to a caged lion. Van Dien "ooohhs," "eeekkks," and "cahooey-hooey-hooeys" while the lion looks peeved to have to be playing the scene with him.
"Tarzan and the Lost City" contains some
cartoon violence, and no profanity. Lots of monkey screams, though. It's
suitable for children or unbelievably stupid adults. Unbelievably stupid
children have found their "Citizen Kane." Rated PG. 83 minutes.
Here's a word of advice for the next auteur who decides to re-re-re-make Tarzan in about five years: don't do it. This go 'round is bad enough. Sure, Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers) is mighty fine as the square-jawed, loin-clothed jungle-hunk, and no-one will deny that he looks swell riding around atop an elephant or two, but that's about all the film has to recommend it.
Here Van Dien is the domesticated, blank-eyed John Clayton/Tarzan; he returns to his beloved jungle to help a tribal chieftain, whose spiritual prowess is such that he can miraculously astral project a "vision" of himself thousands of miles away into Clayton's London fireplace. He can't, however, figure out how to save his populous tribe from a small band of idiotic but well-armed mercenaries, and so recruits his old friend Tarzan. The impromptu journey upsets Clayton's well-dressed fiancée, Jane (The Lover’s Jane March, embarrassingly wasted), who clearly thought she was a day or two away from holy matrimonial bliss, but instead learns that her beloved is planning to honeymoon in a loincloth, several continents away, without her.
So for reasons never fully explained, Jane sets off after him, trading her gowns and parasols for breeches and revolvers, and her fine manners for resourcefulness. Of course, she soon ends up a pawn in a nasty scheme engineered by the greedy Ravens (Steve Waddington), who, with his soldiers of fortune, plans to steal everything worth stealing in Africa beginning with the ancient treasure of a lost, sacred, forbidden "go there at your own peril" city. Several snakes, apes, leeches,gunfights, spears, and drum-fests later, the good guys have triumphed, the bad guys have lost, and the chimp's about to be the best man.
It's certainly understandable how Edgar Rice Burroughs's stories would have resonated with the generations raised between the two world wars as perfect (if patronizing) escapist fare. They were filled with exotic adventure, derring-do, majestic animals, and sex-tinged romance (remember, the first two Johnny Weismuller/Maureen O'Sullivan installments were filmed before the advent of the Hayes Code, and are racier than you might expect). Today the whole thing—from the noble, helpless natives, and the "liberated," shrieking woman, to the bland hunk running around in nothing much more than his musculature—seems condescending and unnecessary.
Plus, as directed by German Carl Schenkel,
the film looks cheap, feels stifled, and boasts no worthwhile effects,
visuals, or action. The script, written by Bayard Johnson (The Second Jungle
Book: Mowgli & Baloo) and J. Anderson Black, is pretty humorless, too.
There have been nineteen cinematic Tarzans since 1918, when Gordon Griffith
and Elmo Lincoln each swung across the screen in competing films. But,
except for the quintessential Johnny Weismuller, and perhaps the Euro-trashy
Christopher Lambert incarnations, most of the others (from Gene Pollar
to Miles O'Keeffe) have mercifully faded into obscurity. This new Tarzan
seems headed in the same direction.
TARZAN AND THE LOST CITY -- Review by Ty Burr Entertainment Weekly
TARZAN AND THE LOST CITY (Warner
Bros., PG) On the heels of President Clinton's
tour of the New Africa comes this grade-Z reminder that the old ooga-booga
movie cliches refuse to die. Jane March (The Lover) makes a fetching picture-book
Jane and Steven Waddington (The Last of the Mohicans) actually bothers
to act as an evil explorer searching for the city of Opar. But as Tarzan,
poor Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers) gets stuck with a Ziggy Stardust
fright wig, and his high, boyish voice is about as commanding as Pee-wee
Herman's. Throw in guys in mangy gorilla suits, a zombified script, and
a retro-imperialist view of African politics (where would those nice, childlike
tribes be without a white guy like Tarzan to help them out?), and you've
got a lousy movie and a cultural embarrassment. F --Ty Burr
Silly and Inept
Producer Stanley Canter -- who worked with director Hugh Hudson to bring Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes to the screen in 1984 -- is the link to this far inferior sequel, which tries but fails to bridge Hudson's highbrow fable to the cliches of Saturday matinee Tarzan movies of the past. Despite decent sets, acceptable scenery, and a good supporting cast, the film is rushed along as though director Carl Schenkel feels he has to hide production glitches with quick thinking.
Despite the fact that Hudson's film concluded with Lord Greystoke (the birthright title of Tarzan, a Brit who was raised by apes after his parents were killed) returning to Africa, Tarzan and the Lost City begins as if Greystoke (Casper Van Dien) had actually stayed in England to marry Jane (Jane March). On the eve of their wedding, the groom gets a vision of European plunderers destroying villages and stealing everything they can get their hands on. Greystoke feels the call of the wild again, and returns to the jungle only to be followed by Jane, who is determined to be with him.
The locals, for the most part, are appreciative that Tarzan has returned home to take on the bad guys, particularly an Oxford-educated explorer named Nigel Ravens (Steven Waddington). Ravens is bent on finding and looting a mythic city called Opar, but he and his band of gun-toting idiots get a fight from Tarzan and his simian pals.
Besides the sheer difficulty in watching a movie so badly made, it's hard to know who it's supposed to be for. Canter and Schenkel return to the old image of Tarzan as a muscular hunk, and he does everything Hudson and company tried to eliminate in the previous film: swinging through vines, yelping like Johnny Weissmuller did in the '30s and '40s, etc. He's even got a cute chimp pal who likes to put on Jane's clothes and mimic the way the two human lovers dance.
But the detailed production design by Herbert
Pinter (The Year of Living Dangerously, Gallipoli) and the whole narrative
sub-theme about Tarzan's divided identity would seem to be the basis for
a more thoughtful, satisfying experience of Tarzan and the Lost City for
viewers. Unable to reconcile the conflicting strains, Schenkel tries to
cut a path down the middle and makes a silly movie on top of an inept one.
Perilously low on adventure and thrills, Edgar Rice Burroughs' most cherished creation has not been done justice in this dispirited, innocuous slab of inept juvenilia. Several Burroughs stories have been mashed together with bland, talky exposition and standard jungle dangers to create an unsatisfactory narrative mishmash. Lacking imagination and energy, director Carl Schenkel fails to locate the essential pulp style and affectionate viewpoint to make the silly hokum come to life.
Lord John Clayton of Greystoke, otherwise known as Tarzan of the Apes (woodenly played by a physically right Casper van Dien of "Starship Troopers"), returns to Africa from England because the natives have been invaded by a cruel white hunter (Steven Waddington, trying his best with a trite part) and his party searching for the sacred jewels of Opar. When Tarzan's aggravated fiancee, Jane Porter (a stilted Jane March), joins him to help stop the greedy intruders from finding the treasure, the ensuing journey has less suspense and excitement than the Disneyland jungle boat ride.The moments of exotic romanticism, such as when Tarzan and Jane renew their love in the jungle, have a certain innocent charm that the rest of the movie can't live up to. Even Paul Gilpin's handsome Panavision photography of South African locales does not have enough colorful wonder and beauty to keep the film visually active. Between the ludicrous ape makeups and cheesy special effects, the resulting cardboard fakery cancels out much of the dumb fun.
Although the Indiana Jones trilogy was partly inspired by Burroughs' tales, that's no excuse to crib the supernatural climax from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" here, placing the final kiss of death on a woefully misguided enterprise. -Dale Winogura
Goofy, retro hijinks featuring an articulate
ape-man and a feisty Jane. The year is 1913, and Tarzan (Casper Van Dien)
is living the life of an English gentleman and preparing to marry the lovely
Jane Porter (Jane March). But a vision of his childhood home being destroyed
sends him racing back to Africa, where he finds adventurer Nigel Ravens
(Steven Waddington) preparing an expedition to the lost city of Opar. Because
the ancient city is sacred to his friends, the Nuba tribesmen, the lord
of the apes allies himself with them against the plundering Europeans.
The movie's pretensions to being "a new Tarzan for a new generation" are
pretty much summed up in the scene in which the dastardly Ravens bellows,
"Welcome to the 20th century!" as he prepares to slaughter a native sentry
at the gates of Opar (which, by the way, looks an awful lot like
an exotic discotheque). Of course, the man promptly turns into a giant
cobra and scares the bejabbers out of Ravens' mercenaries, so an impartial
observer might be forgiven for thinking this was the same old Tarzan, swinging
his way thorough an exotic Africa of friendly elephants, mischievous chimps
(like the one who steals Jane's dress, forcing her to tackle the jungle
in her chemise) and mysterious medicine men with spooky powers. Van Dien
nicely fills out his loincloth -- what there is of it -- and Jane March
does her best to make Jane a scotch-drinking, cigar-smoking, pistol-packing
feminist before her time. There's no sex and not much violence, just lots
of scowling and threatening, so it's suitable for children. But they'd
probably rather see GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE, whose silliness is at least deliberate.
With nothing to do for the seventy-five minute running time of this pathetic excuse for a movie, I spent most of it contemplating the debate between evolutionist and creationist theories. If nothing else, "Tarzan" lends credence to the former. If Jane March isn't evidence that at least some humans are descended from chimps, who is?
There's proof too that movies as bad as this one are bad for society. Because of the brutal boredom and cruelty, normally decent human beings like myself are also forced to contemplate questions of "sudden" social significance like: why couldn't Jane March have larger breasts so all that pointless running around in the jungle might have had more immediate entertainment value?
For those the least bit interested or slightly brain-damaged, the story pits a bad Indiana Jones-type character, Nigel Ravens (Steven Waddington) against the civilized Tarzan (Casper Van Dien), who returns to the jungle to help out the black natives prevent Nigel from finding the lost city of Opar.
This whole Edgar Rice Burroughs thing is just a bit outdated (blacks have been in Africa for millennia and one white guy shows up and suddenly he's king of the jungle?). In its updated form it becomes utterly pointless since the natives have a guy who's basically a wizard and seems fairly capable of handling the problem himself. In fact, Tarzan does very little, other than stop to hold the periodic GQ pose in between riding elephants and chasing after Jane.
It has been 14 years since Edgar Rice Burroughs'famed literary hero, Tarzan of the Apes, swung his way into the movies. We last saw John Clayton, Lord Greystoke in theaters in Hugh Hudson's near-classic Greystoke: The Legend Of Tarzan (1984) starring Christopher Lambert. In a film that opened last week, Tarzan leaps on vines again in Carl Schenkel's Tarzan and the Lost City starring Caspar Van Dien and Jane March.
But did you know that Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek's legendary creator, once wrote a Tarzan script hoping to make his own stamp in the Apeman's jungle? That's right. In 1968, after relinquishing his Star Trek duties to Fred Freiberger, to producing the series' third season, Roddenberry signed a two-picture contract with National General, a production company.
The feature script that Roddenberry wrote was never produced, primarily because the script was deemed too expensive for the company and budget cuts brought it down to a movie-of-the-week level. This was not in line with Roddenberry's vision, as he wanted to get out of television at the time. A secondary reason why the script remained unused was that Roddenberry had allegedly written many sexually oriented moments in his characterization of our intrepid hero, not something for television.
Roddenberry got as far as location scouting in Mexico for the film and writing a full 169-page script, but very quickly, the project was quashedeven before casting had been considered. This means we don't know who might have become Gene Roddenberry's Tarzan!
After carefully reviewing the books and all the previous films that had come before, Roddenberry arrived at the following creative decisions . In a long letter dated June 7, 1968 to long-time Tarzan film producer Sy Weintraub, Roddenberry outlined how he would have filmed Tarzan.
Roddenberry recognized the many incarnations of Tarzan, from a character who had extreme difficulty with the English language and spoke only in "monosyllabic" terms to an "intelligent" and well-spoken man. He understood different filmmakers' attempts to find different "spins" in filming the character such as Tarzan Goes to India (1962).
However, said Roddenberry, Tarzan was best presented in the late 1800s in the "dark continent" mystique of Africa because contemporary Africa in the late 1960s was very different and does not have the deep jungles as imaged by Burroughs. Placing the film in this period also exuded a more "romantic" flavor than a Tarzan of contemporary times. Roddenberry admired the dichotomy of a savage man-beast who swung through the jungles that also learned to become comfortable in civilized society with the title of a English lord. He much preferred an "intelligent" man than Johnny Weissmuller's popular "Me Tarzan! You Jane!" dialogue, an interpretation that Burroughs himself hated!
Regarding Jane Porter, Roddenberry decided to unburden our hero to go and have adventures. He also felt that nudity and sex were elements that, if handled tastefully, were important to the mythos.
What ruined the character in previous films, observed Roddenberry, was the general unbelievability of the character's abilities and the way in which writing was executed in selected scenes and trivial items. For example, in various films, it's not very believable that Tarzan could swim faster than he could run on land to prevent a crocodile attack. It also isn't very believable for a man who has lived a lifetime among the predatory jungle to allow himself to be ambushed by white hunters just to have an exciting moment of fisticuffs. Films would also show Tarzan being repulsed at the sight of snakes or of animals preying upon each other. Roddenberry simply blames writers' ignorance of the true challenges of a character operating in a hostile jungle environment. He asserted that extra care was needed in this area for best consistency.
Gene Roddenberry's script is essentially a blending of the action jungle adventure and science fiction genre. Known only to a few close friends, Lord Greystoke has a secret identity as the shadowy jungle man raised by apes known as Tarzan. The story begins in 1890, with the introduction of an evil Arab named El Kal and his companion Selah who possesses a strange cylindrical metallic object capable of producing fiery heat, and El Kal uses it to kill members of Tarzan's faithful Wazuri tribe. He is also the man responsible for the death of Tarzan's mate, Jane.
When Tarzan discovers his tribal friends killed by El Kal, he's gripped with a terrible anger. His old foe, previously believed dead, is alive and baiting him.
In the Crown Colony City, we see a party in full swing in a crowded Governor's Mansion Ballroom and are introduced to Governor and Lady Pickering. We also meet French Navy Captain D'Arnot, Tarzan's oldest and closest friend, and Lady Helena Vichay, a beautiful woman. Also in the crowd is Doctor McIvers, a Scotsman. Publicly, Lord Greystoke is theCommissioner of the Interior of this region.
The evil Arab El Kal is obsessed with obtaining a secret map that Helena possess so that he can locate the source of more heat weapons and a diamond mine.
Even after ransacking Helena's bedroom, and personally threatening her, El Kal fails to locate the map. We find out later that it is Helena's valuable necklace medallion that serves as a map.
To vanquish his foe, Greystoke (who casually reveals his true identity to Helena) as Tarzan with his Wazuri tribesmen set an elaborate ambush against El Kal. But they fail, and later, El Kal captures the apeman and tortures him with a bullwhip. But Tarzan escapes with Helena and is forced to spend several weeks recovering from wounds at a nearby lake before travelling to the location indicated in the medallion.
As the apeman and the girl arrive at an elaborate, sheer cliff location where they think Richard Templeton will be found, El Kal and his men secretly watch their activities.
After locating hidden doors and activating strange markers, Tarzan and Helena enter a vast alien chamber of silver metal and ride up a stone elevator leading them to the discovery of a lost society of Egyptian priests and soldiers. For centuries, these people have been guarding a giant metallic statue.
Inside the temple we see a giant crypt bearing the sarcophagus of Ba'al Ra, an eight-foot life-like metal statue, of one of the ancient gods who remained on Earth from centuries ago.
Roddenberry describes the ancient god as "Half-manlike, half some strange animal. Three claw hands and feet with talons, a fanged animal, 'alien' face. The statue wears a Pharaoh's waist garment and shows mixed fur and reptilian scales of a magnificent muscled body which dwarfs the physique of the apeman."
Having learned all about the lost civilization, Templeton is obsessed with reviving Ba' al Ra.
It's discovered that Helena's father was a priest from this place and for generations these people have been waiting for the genetically perfect woman to fit into the golden mold hidden in the walls so that Ba' al Ra could rise again from his sleep and take the woman as his new-found bride.
With the cylindrical weapon, Templeton blasts Tarzan into unconsciousness and whisks him to the dungeons. Waking up, Tarzan encounters 'pets,' 11 lovely and exotic ladies who wear golden collars with 12 feet of golden chain and tied to walls. He meets La, the high priestess from the lost city of Opar. Apparently she was supposed to enter the golden mold and awaken the ancient god, but Helena's appearance changed all that.
After freeing Helena and La from the golden chains, Tarzan has a climatic confrontation with Templeton. Events turn complicated when El Kal and his people arrive. Recognizing they have a common enemy in Tarzan, El Kal pledges his allegiance to Ba' al Ra as his new-found god.
A screaming Helena is placed in the golden mold and in an earth-shaking awakening, Ba' al Ra rises from his centuries-long sleep. When Templeton won't kneel to Ba' al Ra, a swift taloned hand swipes against him and he dies, thrown aside like a rag doll.
The newly awakened ancient god rampages into the jungle and surprisingly El Kal's heat weapon blasts don't manage to stop Ba' al Ra.
To defeat the rampaging centuries-old alien, Tarzan is forced to create in a hurry a series of spring loaded spear traps. In a lunging jump onto the creature's body, Tarzan twists and turns the spears into his guts managing to significantly weaken and enrage the alien.
The creature finally succumbs when he stumbles blindly back to the temple and takes a hand on one of the cylindrical objects at a storage cache. Accidentally triggering the firing stud, Ba' al Ra heat rays the other weapons and thus is enveloped in a flash and thunderous explosion.
In the far distance, Helena and Tarzan are rocked and shaken by the resulting flash and earthquake.
Epilogue: Tarzan returns to the Greystoke mansion to see his friends D'Arnot, McIvers and the Governor ... but with Helena and La accompanying him in the chariots. D'Arnot and McIvers are bewildered to see 10 very curious and sexually excited women enter the room. They rush toward and surround the two men who are flustered and nervous.
With a word, Tarzan commands La and she pulls out a bullwhip and snaps commands for the women to behave. These women are to be taken to their homes, says the apeman. In an exchange between La and Tarzan, we understand Helena is carrying Ba' al Ra's child...
The story as written is a fascinating read. Greystoke/Tarzan is rendered reasonably faithfully in dialogue and actions, unlike so many adaptations, particularly the ones that ERB himself detested. This Tarzan is clearly not a superman. He's wounded, ambushed, whiplashed and tortured.
We recognize the typical jungle scenes and the clever installment of a science fiction element with the invention of a heat ray weapon and the ancient gods, The Wanderers. It's an interesting blend of Roddenberry-esque aliens and a "lost civilization" that Burroughs so much explored in his books such as Tarzan and the Lost Empire.
Only thrice has D'Arnot been portrayed in celluloid so it's interesting that Roddenberry found a role as a framing device. The lost film, Revenge of Tarzan (1920), Greystoke the Legend of Tarzan (1984) and the recent series Tarzan: The Epic Adventures had actors playing D'Arnot.
A word on character names: It is fascinating and somewhat hilarious to note that El Kal is an anagram (and a thinly veiled one at that) of Superman's Kryptonian name, Kal-El! (If by sheer coincidence El Kal is a legitimate Arabian name, the coincidence is still there, nonetheless.) Roddenberry reused the character name Helena in his 1974 Questor Tapes TV pilot. It's faithful for Roddenberry to use La who was the high priestess in the forgotten city of Opar in the early Burroughs novel, Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar. This jungle landmark, of course, figures in the current feature now playing in theaters.
To see Roddenberry's take on Lord Greystoke/Tarzan as a secret identity from the outside world is astounding, albeit contrived. By merely stripping off his English clothing, and donning a loincloth with a knife, Greystoke reverts to his savage persona. It is a clever twist of various interpretations of the character as either "intelligent" or "dumb." In Roddenberry's view, he's both when it pleases him.
The claims that this script brings us a particularly sexual Tarzan is unfounded. There's only a few so-called semi-nude scenes for Helena and our jungle hero, and perhaps later in the end with the 11 chained women depending how they're clothed, but this story is by no means risqué or unfilmable by today's standards. It's only in one uncomfortable scene where the traitor Flemming dies as El Kal's men attempts a quick circumcision as a sacrifice.
If there's anything disappointing about this story, and many films share the same blame, it is that there is a disconnection between our lead hero and the tribes of gorilla apes that raised him. Too many films claim he is an "ape-man" but so consistently fail to demonstrate this in story terms. The best they do, most of the time, is throw in a chimpanzee. And here we have none. It's why Hugh Hudson's Greystoke film is so well regarded.
All elements considered, however, if properly cast, costumed, directed and budgeted, there's no reason why Gene Roddenberry's adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' most famed literary creation can't be respectfully filmed.
AND THE LOST CITY:
By Jeff Vice Deseret News movie critic
Not content with proving he's no Mark Hamill (in last year's sickeningly splattery sci-fi flick "Starship Troopers"), Casper Van Dien has given ample evidence with "Tarzan and the Lost City" that he's no Johnny Weissmuller or even a Christopher Lambert.Of course, it would be extremely unfair to lay all the blame for this laughable dud on Van Dien, especially when his co-stars are nearly as bad and when the scripting and direction are so terribly inept. In fact, if not for the horrid 1981 Bo Derek soft-core exploitation film "Tarzan the Ape Man," it could easily stake its claim as being the worst movie to have been inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs' legendary Lord of the Jungle character.
The storyline cobbles together bits from other Tarzan movies with plotting devices swiped directly from the Indiana Jones movies, In it, Lord Greystoke has retired to England and is getting ready to wed his longtime love Jane Porter (Jane March, from "The Color of Night") when he's "summoned" back to Africa by troubling images of burning villages. He quickly discovers that his homeland is being besieged by European soldiers of fortune led by Nigel Ravens (Steven Waddington), an adventurer who's bent on discovering and looting the treasures of the mythical city of Opar. Unfortunately, for veteran television director Carl Schenkel and a pair of untalented screenwriters, Tarzan's "titanic" struggle for control of the jungle isn't even slightly thrilling, it's just silly.
The cheesy dialogue doesn't help, nor do the unbelievably phony ape costumes. And the acting is truly awful, led by Van Dien and March's mannequin-like performances. Also, it's hard to avoid noticing Van Dien's visible appendectomy scar (evidently, Tarzan's chimp friend Cheetah has some surgical skills we hadn't heard about). "Tarzan and the Lost City" is rated PG for violent gunplay and fist fighting, partial male nudity and some mild profanities, as well as use of one vulgar phrase.
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