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Korak in Pal-ul-don

TARZAN: THE EPIC VIEWING

Steve Allsup


A review of Tarzan: The Epic Adventures, starring Joe Lara, as reported on ERB-LIST, April 2008

Presented in date format. Replies to these reports are not included—some continuity errors may appear. Comments by others which are included are in italics.

4/11/2008

Thanks to a good buddy of mine on here that has sent me a complete set of the Joe Lara DVDs (bootleg I assume), I have been enjoying watching this entire series at long last.

I had some familiarity with Tarzan: The Epic Adventures because I had bought and read the Ballantine novelization by Sabatori, and also because I had had a chance to view an old video cassette of the pilot episode once long ago, also thanks to another friend on here. But now finally I can really get into all the juicy details.

Here are some thoughts on the first three stories (the pilot is a double length.) First, Joe Lara as Tarzan. I am much more impressed this time around than previously. Joe is built like a tiger-- a very tall guy with perfectly proportioned, massive rolling muscles. He looks the part about as well as any of them I have seen. Joe has the tall, rangy look of the comic book Tarzan, a familiar feel. In fact, this entire series reminds me of reading an old Gold Key Tarzan comic. More on that in a minute. But the only problem I have with Lara visually is that he wears Indian mocassins, and has the longest, stringiest hair of any Tarzan ever.

Burroughs tells us in Jungle Tales that Tarzan cut his hair off, for one reason, because of an enemy grabbing him by it, and already in this TV series, Tarzan has been grabbed twice by the hair by an enemy, and both times by a woman, and once almost got his throat cut as a result, so ERB spoke wisely I think. I can personally vouch for the other reason-- the tropical heat. I have a very hard time going for a daily run when my hair is too long, because it is a nuisance indeed.

However, beyond that relatively superficial aspect, I find Lara's persona very intriguing. Friends had told me that he was too conflicted and insecure, but I have not seen this so far. He has an almost Clint Eastwood macho interpretation of Tarzan, which I find very close to my own reading of ERB. It is obvious that Lara, who produced these, has actually read the books. He plays a fearless Tarzan who is a very savage fighter, and like in ERB, it takes overwhelming numbers or sheer luck to bring him down. Lara is not as handsome as an actor like Mike Henry, but he looks good enough in the part to be a believable Tarzan. He stalks by using scent, he moves fast and sure, he can climb excellently, he wears a bow and arrows in addition to his knife (and uses the bow too), and he has an intelligent attitude. Obviously this series came in the wake of the Kevin Sorbo Hercules craze, but I really think that the "modern hero" bit works better for Tarzan than for Hercules, because of the simple fact that Tarzan happens to be a modern hero (plus the fact that Lara has read the books.) Lara is just a bit on the animal-hugger side, a corny TV convention not like the book Tarzan, for when he escapes from a monster snake he goes back to make sure that the stake he used to prop open its mouth it removed (presumably so it can eat someone else.) But I can believe this guy is capable of the superhuman feats of the books. Often he exhibits that talent.

Now, on the adaptation aspects. The pilot episode is adapted loosely from Return of Tarzan, the first half set in Paris and North Africa. Lydie Dernier of Wolf Larson fame plays the Countess DeCoude (said day-coo-day), whose part is expanded from the book- she becomes the woman later kidnapped in the desert. In this version Rokoff is not her brother but a spurned lover, and the Count is her father. It still seems very similar to the book. Rokoff and Paulvitch carry her off to Africa and Tarzan sets off in pursuit.

There is a noted distinction in the continuity between the pilot story and the regular series. In the pilot, he uses the classic MGM Tarzan yell, and his sidekick is a black man, called Mugambi, but in this version a slightly foppish,  civilized college kid returning to his tribe. So far in the regular series his sidekick is a black kid, almost identical to Mugambi, named Tibo, who is also a college kid returned to become chief of his tribe on the death of his father. These two characters form a comic element because they play a civilized black guy trying to deal with a savage white man.

The second half of the pilot is suggested loosely by Earth's Core. Now, let me state here that so far, except for the first part based on ROT, the adaptations are not closely adapted from the books. The thing is, though, that they give the viewer a chance to really explore and get into the Weird Worlds of ERB at long last. But the thing about their Pellucidar is that the Mahars can change into incredibly sexy women in thongs. This creates a situation where Rokoff can have a liason with the queen. In their fight mode they change into regular Mahars.

One thing they add to the ERB concept is the element of the supernatural. But this is borderline, almost like ERB's own sci-fantasy elements, so it doesn't get into the way too much. After all, ERB has mind readers, and so forth.

One cool scene is where Tarzan is drinking from a stream and some apes come up, and they are from his old tribe and they have a great reunion, with Tarzan speaking in Greystoke unks. Now, that is a good point here-- this series is obstensibly a follow up to Greystoke, because in the intro it tells how Tarzan renounces his being the Earl of Greystoke, similar to the Lambert film. The difference between Lara's character and Lambert's is that Lara has read all the Tarzan books, and it shows. So this Tarzan is a young Tarzan, and the Sy Weintraub films with Scott and Henry, etc, were about the older mature Tarzan.

The second episode is inspired by Tarzan and the Leopard Men. We get some more lost cities, though, in the third episode, which is suggested by Lost Empire. Tarzan finds a lost valley of Romans (and the origin story behind them is even more interesting than the one ERB gives in his book.) The city is called Castrum Mare, but most of the characters are altered into what is essentially a new story. Basically this plays like a typical Tarzan comic book by Jesse Marsh or something like that. The important thing is that the "formula" is recognizably ERB, if not the details. Things happen like in a Tarzan book-- Tarzan is captured and thrown into a dungeon, he has to fight in the arena, etc.

Lara would really look twice as cool if he had skin-colored footsies and a Weissmuller hair trim, but he does very well. I am getting into these. Each episode is a big surprise about what they are going to use from the ERB books. Lots of very sexy women in scanty tropical attire. I have to say that the full thongs worn by Cory Everson, the famous bodybuilder, and her female cohorts were so hot that it may well be one reason that the series did not see wide exposure on the networks. But it doesn't phase Tarzan-- unlike Sorbo, Lara can stay in the ERB character at all times.

So I hope they can release this set on DVD someday so everyone can see it. I recommend it.

korak

4/13/2008

Well, I have watched a couple more episodes. Bridge- I have to admit that I noticed the boots, because I love the way that Tarzan's normal jungle attire represents total freedom from civilized bondage. What is the sign on the MacDonald's? NO SHIRT NO SHOES NO SERVICE. That is the true emblem of civilization right there. Tarzan represents a man who can go virtually naked in the world with complete confidence. So I see the boots as a stylistic liberty that Lara had stuck in his head probably, since he was producing these, no different from his Fabio hair obsession. That was his personal vision of Tarzan. I am just glad, though, that so much of his vision is like ERB's and my own. For example, the flips you mention that he is able to perform are a great way to display the superhuman agility of Burroughs' hero.

Gridley, I would agree that the MGM films were more "intense," especially if that means showing canoes rowing/lions running in fast motion. But what does that have to do with ERB? I mean, you can't get any more intense than Jack Kirby's Ka-Zar, but it ain't ERB!

So anyway, neither of these two episodes were adapted from the books in the way that the Lost Empire story had been. Though very loose, they had made a story that roughly paralleled ERB's novel in that one. They simplified the story by having just one city, and conflating two evil Caesars into just one, but basically Tarzan's pal Tibo fills in for Eric Von Harben, and becomes the historian for Caesar, setting the stage for his use of several of Von Harben's actual lines from the book. And the story climaxes with a arena battle, among several other similarities. I noticed that there is a scene in Lost Empire almost just like the Phobeg scene in City of Gold, where Tarzan hurls a muscular skin-head into the loge.

Anyway, so the next episode is taken from elements of Jewels of Opar. It has Albert Werper, and this is a real live Werper indeed, with riding boots and pith helmet and very nasty morals. Instead of the jewels of Opar, however, Werper is after the hearts of a tribe of lost serpent-men, whose hearts turn into giant rubies when removed from their chests. Werper has a lover who is unaware he is a villain. She helps Tarzan and falls in love with him. One cool scene is where Werper is escaping in an old bi-plane (meaning this is still set back in the teens as establishd in the pilot) and Tarzan leaps on the wing just as he takes off. While the girl flies it, Werper comes out on the wing to fight Tarzan. This becomes a classic situation where Werper is going to fall to his death unless he drops the bag of rubies and grabs Tarzan's hand, and he can't do that so he falls.

The best thing about this episode ERB-wise is Tarzan's relationship with this girl. In one scene, he comes upon her naked in a pool bathing. She then tries to come on to him by stroking his leg, etc. Without any problem he blows it off and leaves. Later, in the final episode, she is still trying to get him to be her mate, and he just can't see his way clear. This is the true Tarzan from the books. She specifically asks him if their is another woman, and of course, for one thing, there is Jane, very mysteriously referred to obliquely in this series, but beyond that, you know, he's not interested in a female who has been sleeping with a guy like Werper.

That's the great thing about Tarzan- he doesn't just casually sleep around with women like Ka-zar does. When Tarzan picks a mate he throws his whole heart and soul into it and it's the real thing.

The next episode is an original story about a jungle plague, similar to a Tarzan comic book tale. It is a sad story, because Tarzan is able to save his friend Tibo from death, but not the girl in the story, who is a real honey. This story introduces an old black woman who is some kind of shaman, and who helps him find the "black tulip" or whatever kind of flower it is that heals the plague.

I can't wait to find out what tonight's episode will be about!

korak

4/15/2008

The boots Lara wore had nothing to do with his personal vision of Tarzan whatsoever.

When asked about that in an interview he answered that that he had to wear them for protection in the African Veldt, where the series was shot(much to my dislike I may add, nowhwere it looks like ERB's Africa)

Rob

Well, I didn't mean just the fact that he wore foot protection.. I meant that the type of foot protection, the tall soft Native American style lace-up knee boots,  reflected his stylistic tastes. I think you are right that there is not much jungle in this show, mostly plains and light woods. Of course, that makes it easier for him to get to run instead of swing, which eliminates a lot of acrobatic stunts. Still, I am surprised to hear that it is in Africa at all, and in a sense that does lend it an extra star for authenticity.

Two more eps: in the first, a river critical to a local tribe dries up, and Tarzan goes off to the mountains to find that a tribe higher up has damned the river. This ep has the most supernatural so far, and almost is like a fairy tale, which was a popular trend back in the eighties and nineties. He goes to a spectacular volcano that is about to erupt at any moment, and is captured by a race who enslave prisoners to work in their quarries. Tarzan has to do slave labor, and the use of a witch doctor's spell against him, that causes his personality to split in half, half weak man and half savage ape, causes him to become helpless.

The next episode is perhaps the most important episode in this series, being adapted from the second half of Return of Tarzan. In all these eps, his friend Tibo acts kind of the part of Artemus Gordon to Tarzan's Jim West.

Tarzan is celebrating with a tribe of blacks, dancing wildly around the fires like in a dum-dum. He finds that a young warrior has brought back a bucket of solid gold trinkets and baubles, that he got from off a beast-man he came across. Among the gold trinkets Tarzan finds Jane's locket that he gave her before they parted. Tarzan tracks the spoor of the beastmen to the lost city of Opar (and BTW, I think they did a pretty sweet job of giving it a proper appearance.)

Tarzan enters the strange ruined city, and is soon captured by overwhelming odds of beast-men... little degenerate inbred cavemen. La, High Priestess of the Flaming God, appears on the scene, and at first decides to treat Tarzan hospitably, much against the wishes of Cadj, the high priest. The actress they chose is a good fit, not the only way she could be cast, but well cast. Very sexy, very imperious, and yet likable. She explains the whole story about lost Atlantis, etc. But when Tarzan refuses to be her mate, she decides to sacrifice him on the altar.

La also has a female white woman in the dungeon, and it appears to be Jane. This gives La jealous motivations, because she knows that it is the woman Tarzan is seeking, and also maybe even the reason he turned her down.

Right during the sacrifice ceremony, the upstart Cadj starts giving La  trouble by being insubordinant and overbearing, and at that moment Tarzan breaks his bonds and in the ensuing chaos Tarzan and La escape into the dungeons. She bolts the door to the chamber of the dead, and then moves Tarzan into a dungeon cell from there. As in the book, Tarzan finds a section of loose stone and escapes.

Meanwhile, Cadj demands a sacrifice, so La thinks to use the white woman. Just about when she is going to kill her on the altar, Tarzan reappears and rescues her. But it is not Jane-- it is a friend of Jane's who came to Africa seeking adventure.

The priests pursue them into the dungeons again, and La shows then a secret tunnel from the city. Arty ( I mean Tibo) and the white girl escape while Tarzan stays to defend La from Cadj. Tarzan and Cadj get into a mortal duel, and Cadj bites him on the shoulder. Enraged, Tarzan chases him through the temples and out onto a ledge of a gigantic waterfall. In their tussling they fall off and Cadj is killed. When Tarzan shows the other priests the body of Cadj, they surrender to La. Final words:

Tarzan: Goodbye, my friend!

La: Goodbye, MY LOVE!

You can see a powerful gleam in Tarzan's eye before he turns away.

It will be interesting to see if they revisit Opar again in this short series.

This episode should have been part two of the pilot film instead of At the Earth's Core. I think if I am not mistaken it is closer to the book than Elmo's Adventures of Tarzan, which is, in itself, historically significant in Tarzan films (that was the only other time that the movies have adapted Return of Tarzan.) I can say one thing for sure-- this version of Opar visually was greatly superior to the subterranean cave used for Opar in the Elmo (Lincoln) version.

Well, Lost City with Casper Van Dien was kinda sorta adapted from ROT, but it did not feature La and the beastmen, so this is much closer to the book.

Comments? Questions?

korak

4/16/2008

I'm back with two more eps to talk about!

First, thank you, Bill, for the offer to submit, and I will do that very thing. Let me finish the series and then I will submit a piece on this, though if they already have done an episode guide I won't need to do all that of course.

BTW, I have noticed that for the past few weeks I have not been receiving Tavia's posts-- I realized this when two or three times I have read replies to her posts that I never got. Who knows who else I am not getting? So if I don't reply to some post somebody makes, it may be that the computer is screwed up and I am not getting them at all.

Ron, your vacation trip sounds fabulous! One idea for your day off would be to hit the great book and comic stores around LA town. I would.

Gridley, you are right that the production values of the MGMs were great. I think that is a reflection of the difference between a TV production and a feature film. Compare, for instance, the Gordon Scott TV material with his feature films. TV shows have a hard time matching the production level of a movie. So that is just the price to pay for a TV series, which offers, though, many more hours of enjoyment than movies do.

Having said that, I have enjoyed the production values on this series. They use almost all outdoor sets, big sets like Opar, etc, and have spectacular stunts, like flying leaps from cliffs and waterfalls, fast action fight scenes almost like Walker Texas Ranger, and I just think that Lara, with his very comic book physique is fun to watch move.

In the next episode, Queen La makes another appearance. The story is some stuff about a local tribe that has become possessed by evil spirits and are trying to conquer the area. Way too much super-unnatcheral is being used in this show. For several episodes in a row it has become ridiculous. Anyway, Tarzan runs into Queen La, who is still after him, trying to put the make on him. Tarzan heroically resists her advances, but he does make a trip to Opar when he runs into some troubles with the supernatural. She shows him into her most inner sanctum for the first time ever, and displays her extensive collection of priestly and wizardly parephenalia. After giving him a concoction to use against the evil witch doctor, she then offers him a drink that she claims will give him courage, but in fact is a love potion. It has such a strong effect on him that he expends several passionate kisses upon her before regaining his senses.

The handling of the Tarzan/La soap opera relationship is excellent in this show, I think. I hope there are more eps with La.

The next episode is interesting in terms of ERB continuity. It is about how the brother of Kulonga comes to get revenge on Tarzan for killing his brother. What happened was that after Tarzan stalked and killed kulonga for killing Kala, Kulonga's brother came to confront Tarzan and Tarzan whipped his butt, sending him fleeing into the jungle where a lion bit off his right hand. The man (Mutingwa or Wazimbu or something like that) is then rescued from death by an Amazon tribe of sorceresses. As they heal him, they adopt him and teach him all their magic, so he becomes a super-villain with supernatural powers. In addition he has a mechanical left arm that is very dangerous.

His magical feats prove too much for Tarzan, so the man then decides to punish Tarzan by stalking him the way he did Kulonga. This would be a great premise for a Tarzan ep, but all the magic stuff kind of damages the Tarzan genre. In the end, though, Tarzan is able to overcome him, because the Amazons remove their power from him in disgust, but just as Tarzan is angrily about to deliver the death blow, he changes his mind and decides to forgive and forget once and for all. The moral of the story is that revenge creates unending feuds, as a strange medicine man explains to him.

This is yet another new witch doctor friend, a black guy who lives in a cave and has two horns like a devil or a goat.

BTW, in this series Tarzan has set up his house in a cliff cave, very much like the cave used in Tarzan and his Mate, accessible only by climbing trees, etc. In the original pilot, he used the great old MGM Tarzan cry, but in the series proper, he has adopted a kind of Greystoke roar instead.

One cool scene is where Tarzan falls into a quicksand pit, and he has to call to a gorilla he knows nearby, who comes and throws him a vine.

4/18/2008

Two more Joe Lara episodes and no much to talk about this time around. Both these were non-adaptations that had a ton of the most ridiculous kind of fantasy magic. It is hard to imagine that Lara, who produced these, could have okayed scripts such as this, considering how much he must have spent on the special effects and stunts required for the supernatural gimmicks, as opposed to lower costs for actually having a legitimate jungle story in the Ron Ely or Wolf Larson mode. Anyway,  I found three scenes worth mentioning in these last two eps.

In the first of the two, Tarzan gets a letter from Jane warning him that she is considering marrying William Cecil Clayton if he does not return. Tarzan writes back saying that perhaps she would be better off with Clayton, since Tarzan has no plans to return from his jungle home. He falls asleep and has a nightmare that he is at their wedding and runs up to Jane to try to stop it.

In the next episode there is a great scene of Tarzan poking for bugs in a giant African ant-hill, with a stick, and then to my amazement Lara actually licks the bugs off the stick with a look of relish and eats them. Great depiction.

Finally, a crazy, blind old witch doctor challenges Tarzan to climb a mountain to find his spiritual destiny or some kind of rigormarol. At the top, Tarzan meets himself as an old man. This is all very hokey, but in a sudden chilling moment, the old Tarzan describes the changes to his world, and for an instant we see a sweeping panorama of the jungle wilderness as it might be in several decades-- factories and smog throughout the valley, trucks and Exxon stations, Walmarts and MacDonalds, etc. I found it to be a very shocking revelation-- what if Africa catches up to the rest of the world and ends up looking like modern developed America?  That one moment was almost worth the whole absurd odyssey.

Halfway,

korak

4/20/2008

Well, a couple of above average episodes this time around.

Ghak, yes the name of that other episode was "The White Pebble."

As I have mentioned, Epic Adventures never seemed to come to Arkansas at all. I do remember watching the similar Conan TV show, with Ralf Moeller as Conan, occasionally, and it had the odd scheduling aspect to it too. I was scanning the TV guide for Tarzan, because not only had they released the extensive action figure line in the toy stores, but also Ballantine had really pushed this series, by not only publishing a movie novelization, but also by reprinting most of ERB's Tarzan books with the TV show logo (Ballantine's final uniform mass market edition of Tarzan to date.) No wonder Ballantine did no attempt to cash in on the Disney phenomenon with the ERB books-- they had just been burned on the Epic Adventures tie-ins.

I tell you the truth, why the ultimate, definitive nature-boy is not hitting today's audiences is more a bad reflection on their mindless materialism than it is on Tarzan's timeless appeal.

However, I did manage to catch most of the Wolf Larson episodes locally, and at much more reasonable times, such as weekend afternoons, etc. Perhaps the thirty minute format was more convenient as a syndicated show. I remember even carrying my protable TV to work with me to the dinner theater, so I would not miss episodes of Wolf Larson and Ben Cross' Dark Shadows.  My boss Ginger, who owned the place, thought Tarzan was neat.

So in this next episodes we find some real ERB tie-ins. In the first ep, Tarzan is celebrating with the Waziri. The African tribal festivities in this series are especially authentic. Just then some pirates attack with rifles and steal the tribe's golden totem moon god relic. It turns out that the she-devil pirate queen happens to be Black Michael's daughter (though for some weird reason they change his name.) Black Michael had chiseled a treasure map on the back side of the golden relic, and this suggests in someway with the pirate treasure in Tarzan of the Apes.

The treasure cave turns out to be booby-trapped, and even features a monstrous guardian out of a Conan story. I have to remark at this point, yet again, that the greatest flaw in this series in my own view is the overuse of fantasy magic. It doesn't feel natural or comfortable in a Tarzan story, because in neither the ERB books OR in the long series of movies and TV shows has the supernatural even been a prominent feature. It is almost like having an episode of Gunsmoke with the supernatural in it. The only time I can recall Burroughs having any witch doctor magic in the book series, off the top of my head, was when Tarzan was given the longevity treatment.

The second episode was an adaptation of Tarzan and the Forbidden City. It was about as faithful to the book as, let's say, a Roger Moore Bond film. It was a very loose adaptation. As in Lost Empire, they eliminated one city, leaving Ashair only. They used a lot of characters from the book, though. Both Brian Gregory and his sister are featured as main characters, and well cast. Unfortunately the show does not bring back D'Arnot from the pilot episode, to fulfill his place as Helen Gregory's lover, thus missing most of the romantic drama from the book. As usual, Timba fills in, but without any love connection with Helen.

The show does not expend great costs-- there are no dinosaurs or sea monsters. They do have the scuba divers with their weird helmets, though. The vast setting of the crater of Tuen-Baka is not used. Ashair is reduced to an mere underground cavern city beneath a lake. However, in the book one of the prominent settings is the subterranean dungeon of Ashair, and so the episode recalls this to mind by making it the principle set used for the city. Tarzan and the others are put into the cages, and Tarzan manages to break out of the bars with his hands, all bringing to mind the story from the novel. The Ashairians have bald, shaven heads like in the book. There is some nice business involving the air-lock chamber used to go into the lake, in which the bad guy is finally drowned. It is a striking scene, when they find him drowned with the empty chest of the supposed Father of Diamonds.

One of the best features of this episode is the use of apes and monkeys. Tarzan actually communicates with Manu in this one, just like Nkima in the books, and it is a real monkey, unlike the apes used, which are men in gorilla suits. But as in the book, apes feature prominently in the plot. In this show Tarzan has a gorilla companion named Bolgani, in place of Akut. The ape has a larger role in this story than in previous episodes.

Anyway, for what it's worth, amazingly, there is a film adaptation of Tarzan and the Forbidden City. Who knew?

korak

4/22/2008

I liked Bridge's drabble, but I was thinking in terms of an episode of Gunsmoke in which Marshall Dillon had to face off against an Indian medicine man who could shoot fire-bombs from his hands, disappear at will, and cause Matt to go into convulsions using a small Navajo doll, etc. I hope that Bridge, if he can, will write a drabble about Horhay the Barvarian to include with the Horhay stuff. That would make my day.

Last night I watched a great episode of Epic Adventures. Joe Lara has come a long way since his rudimentary Weissmuller imitation in MANHATTAN. I respect and admire his skilled effort to portray the Tarzan from the books, and he has done such a good job that I would not recognize him as the same actor from the old TV movie. From Weissmuller to Clint Eastwood.

The story was not an adaptation but had a lot of tie-ins with ERB. Somehow Timba, Tarzan's black friend, comes across a copy of Lord Greystoke's old King James Bible, and he finds that it has an inscription to his son written just before his death. Timba eagerly shows this to Tarzan, but for several reasons, Tarzan has no interest in it and rejects it, giving it to Timba as a souvenir, without even reading the inscription.

Then, from a previous episode, a "were-woman" returns, actually a leopard woman. She was the daughter of white missionaries who fell under a native curse. As the years went by, her mother died, and her father, still looking for her, turned to drink to drown his sorrows. Tarzan helps him to capture her and rid her of the demon.

In one scene, they finally show Tarzan's tree house, set up similar to the cabin in Greystoke, etc, his father's survival hut. This is the first time they have shown this setting-- previously Tarzan had inhabited a cliff cave (which he presumably still retains, because the treehouse gives him too many bad associations.)

This has to mean they are not far from the ocean, and yet so far the ocean is never seen in the series. Anyway, Timba is carrying the Bible around in his jacket, and so when the time comes to free his daughter, the old missionary is able to restore his faith in the Good Book and accomplish the purpose. He and his daughter are reunited and he turns from his alcoholism, a completely happy resolution, naturally.

Afterward, Tarzan finally accepts the Bible from Timba, and takes it to his treehouse to examine. He reads the inscription that his father left for him. His father suggests Psalms 121, so Tarzan turns to that and reads it aloud. It is a very moving scene, with Tarzan on the verge of tears, having finally broken through some long standing mental blocks.

It is easy to forget that this entire series is about a very young Tarzan, and this is sort of the movie equivalent of The God of Tarzan. But this entire series, adaptations and all, are taking place during the Return of Tarzan period, before Tarzan marries Jane (which is finally depicted in Tarzan and the Lost City.)

korak

4/23/2008

Yes, that whole leopard issue is confusing to me-- Sheeta sounds like Cheetah, Cheetah sounds like a chimp. The woman was called Sheeta (her human name was Callie.)

In the next episode, Tarzan, Bolgani, and Timba suffer a disaster while exploring an old mine for dinosaur eggs. This is a retrospective episode. While they are trying to dig out from the rubble of the collapsed tunnels, they flash back to all the fun they had in previous episodes with each other. Bolgani's finest moments, Timba's moments of endearing humanity, etc.

We learn a new fact about Tarzan, not known before. Tarzan has no fear of anything on earth EXCEPT for claustrophobia. He has to learn to deal with his intense claustrophobia as he is buried under rocks and dirt. This attribute then explains why Tarzan cannot stand being in bondage-- he doesn't like being in dungeons, prisons, jails, etc. His love of freedom also manifests itself as a loathing of bondage. So he gets the shakes but manages to overcome even that in the end.

4/24/2008

Last night I watched a truly outstanding episode of Epic Adventures, one that took the show back to its roots, a return to Pellucidar.

In the pilot episode, Rokoff had been stranded in Pellucidar. What happened next was that he stole the Iron Mole from Abner Perry and David Innes, and escaped back to the surface, emerging inside a volcano in Africa. However, vengeful Mahars followed through the tunnel made by the mole because he took their magic jewel (possibly the same one from the pilot episode.)

Tarzan tracks down Rokoff and Paulvitch in a nearby African settlement, and after an initial conflict, they form an uneasy truce to get rid of the Mahars from Africa. In this version, the Mahars can turn into beautiful women. They have some success against the handful of Mahars, but in vengeance the Mahars kidnap Tarzan's friend Timba and escape back down the volcano tunnel to Pellucidar. Tarzan and Rokoff use the Iron Mole to follow them (Rokoff wants revenge against the Mahars also.)

Once back in Pellucidar, the land of endless horizons, Tarzan and Rokoff are captured by Sagoths and taken to the Mahar Temple. They trick the Mahars and make it back to the Mole and escape. A Mahar follows them through the shaft, however, and in a moment of suicidal heroism, Rokoff sacrifices himself to enable the Iron Mole to make it to the surface. Tarzan then sets the machine for self-destruct and blows up the tunnel, sealing it off.  Tarzan and Timba are surprised and impressed that Rokoff has changed for the better.

Paulvitch is still the same, though!

korak

4/25/2008

Also I enjoyed the page that Von Horst posted a link for. I read that with interest. You mentioned that the queen of the Mahars was a different actress. In the show, Rokoff mentions why. He had murdered Cory Everson (remember they had been lovers), among other reasons, to steal her magic jewel. So the Mahar queen in this sequel is the new one that took over. I noticed she did not wear the full thong bathing suit like Cory either!  But that is another reason why the Mahars were chasing him.

Last night's episode was not such a big deal. Tarzan faces two challenges-- a circus hunter who steals Bolgani, and a relative who tries to murder Tarzan for the inheritance. This would be a good standard episode except that, as usual, it is pumped full of ridiculous fantasy magic. One interesting aspect, though, was that Tarzan has a near-death, out of body experience. It is also interesting to consider that Burroughs really never clues us in on Tarzan other Greystoke relatives. In this, it is the treacherous wife of his cousin (his other cousin Wilhelm, not William.) Unfortunately we don't get to meet Wilhelm in this. His wife has to go to prison at the end, but apparently Wilhelm was not inplicated because she also tried to murder him.

Since they episode did not provide much fodder for an ERB fan, this might be a good opportunity to remark upon another consistent aspect of the show-- Lara's physicality. In this series, Lara really sort of sets the standard for Tarzan's definiitive physicality, a factor that I do not under-rate. Lara appears, at least, to do any number of his own stunts, because of his sheer athletic prowess. For instance, he is able to climb well, almost giving the illusion of the ease of the real apeman. He takes long leaps and somersaults from off cliffs and temples and waterfalls (even though it is hard to tell him from a stuntman sometimes because of his long hair obscuring his face.) The most striking thing is when he runs. He runs a lot in this, more than he swings on vines. But when he runs, he runs full speed, very gracefully and naturally, making it appear as if the human body was created just for the purpose of running. And there is no stunt man for these for sure, it is Joe exhibiting his physical perfection.

Is man the running ape? I don't know, but I do know that Lara such can make you believe it. He is fast and very convincing in his movements. It is always a beautiful scene when they show him running through the jungle, every muscle in his body rippling with power. So in a real sense, he is type cast. He is physically the Tarzan type, no doubt about it. He is totally superior athletically to the average man. That, added to his well developed Tarzan of the Books persona, and you have a very great Tarzan, whether the scripts on these episodes are always that hot or not. For all amateur athletes, whether high school jocks or middle aged marathoners, etc, this is a very inspiring TV show indeed. As good as a bowl of wheaties!

I am looking forward to tonight's, since the preview shows an actor cast as Carson Napier!

korak

4/26/2008

Fascinating episode that I watched last night featured Amtor and Carson Napier. Perhaps because of both budgetary reasons and marketing reasons, Venus has been altered. This Amtor is probably not even Venus, but some intergalactic planet like Poloda. It is a "Mad Max" styled sterile, desert world of acid rain and sexual impotence.

The main characters are the same-- Carson is in love with Duare, the daughter of Mintep the Jong, who is Carson's enemy (the Amtorians have blue skin). Carson is desperately trying to complete research on how to save Amtor from environmental destruction.

To propagate their race, they have created a star gate on earth through which they kidnap earth women for breeding (no, no space ships, unfortunately!). The gate happens to be in the Waziri village well!  Carson uses his telepathy to send Tarzan a message so that he will pursue the women through the gate and come help him save Amtor.

They also use a gigantic Tharban as a foe for Carson and Tarzan, and it is a great scene where Tarzan leaps off a high cliff onto the monster's back, then stabs it to death with his knife in true Tarzan style. Some good special effects thrown in there for a few moments.

It is a complete one hour epic adventure on the scale of Dune. The ending almost brought tears to my eyes as that old ERB romantic love theme kicks in when Carson saves Duare (and his adopted world.)

One oddity is that Mintep is given a rubber alien mask head but the rest of the Amtorians are just humanoids painted blue! He looks like a different species. Of course, that might be explained because they have been cross pollinating with earthmen.

Anyway, like the other pseudo-adaptations in this show, I guess this counts as the Venus series finally getting a film version. It certainly was no worse conceptually to the movie version of John Norman's Gor or the Conan movie!

korak

4/28/2008

Sad to say, I watched the last of the Tarzan series last night. The last adventure was a good one, with no supernatural at all. Tarzan encounters a lady from civilization who is searching for a Loch Ness style dinosaur in a certain lake, and unfortunately her boyfriend is a ruthless typical hunter with a poaching mentality for money.

They come upon a caveman, who the white hunter shoots in the arm before he escapes. Tarzan tracks him down, and makes friends with him- -he speaks a language similar to ape language, but still difficult for Tarzan to master. The caveman has come from a lost land up the canyon from the lake, and brought his wife and baby, who hide in a nearby cave.

Meanwhile Jane is on her way to visit him by way of stage coach.

Tarzan almost gets the cave man and family set off in their canoe for a return to their own land, when the white hunter shows up and tries to hi-jack the situation. Then a giant sea monster rears up and kills him. Turns out it is the caveman's friend, so he paddles off with his woman and baby. Just then, Timba reminds Tarzan that Jane is due to arrive, and in a frenzy, Tarzan runs back to the small stagecoach station, just as Jane is driving off after waiting for many hours. Tarzan chases her down the road yelling, but the horses pick up speed and they do not hear.

It remains for the subsequent film Tarzan and the Lost City to finally resolve the Tarzan-Jane issues in all these Greystoke inspired adventures. Also in that movie is the return of Mugambi and Opar (though not queen La.)

Then there was a documentary on the last disc. It was very impressive, and explained how they had access to the amazing sets, such as Opar, and how they did the amazing stunts, such as somersaults from off cliffs, etc. One of the executives interviewed, I don't know whether he was a director or a producer, etc, gives extensive discussion on how he wanted to finally adapt the ERB books for the first time since the silents.

Joe Lara actually depicts Tarzan stalking game with his bow, and spearing fish with a spear, and even eating ants from an ant hill, as I previously mentioned. Tarzan is great with a bow in this, and can split arrows shot at his friends with his own arrow, or even catch an arrow aimed at him or his friends with his hand! The way they can depict that it by filming it  backwards and then showing the film in reverse, a cheap easy way to have a great special effect.

I really like this series, but I am thinking that nowadays, with the kind of special effects that are commonplace, that is, Computer generated, that they could really do accurate adaptations of the books not as limited by the TV show budgets. I mean, when Tarzan is in the Lost Empire, for example, with CGI they could show vast cities with incredible architecture, not just those available on some African resort city, and they could even show vast crowds in the audience of an arena gladiator fight, as we saw in the movie Gladiator. As much as I liked this series, I still think that just plain old straightforward adaptations of the books would be the best bet, not only to satify fans but also to depict the true greatness of ERB's concepts.

I like Epic Adventures a lot better than the similar Ralf Moeller Conan series, which was also produced by Keller, mainly because of the formulas used. In the Conan show, Conan was given three semi-goofy sidekicks, and in the books Conan is developed as mainly a loner. So that made the TV show seem hokey compared to the Howard stories. In Epic Adventures, though, Tarzan just has a handful of semi-regular adult friends, much more similar to ERB's own formulas in the books. There is no real counterpart for Timba in the books, but I think that if they had named him Mugambi, as they did in the pilot, and had him be a loinclothed warrior, that he would not have been very noticeable as different from the books. Unlike Conan, who is wanderer, Tarzan does have certain re-occuring characters, such as D'Arnot and Mugambi, and Jane and Korak, and these could be exploited in a TV concept. A Conan TV show might be able to arrange a concept such as having him sailing the seas with Belit, and so that would have a recurring cast each week, but in the Keller Conan TV show, the three misfits are alien to Howard and so I would prefer this Tarzan series over the Ralf Moeller Conan, in the same way that I prefer the Greystoke Tarzan to the Milius Conan.