ERBmania! Logo

Wolf Larson Tarzan TV Series

David Bruce Bozarth

Tarzan on TV in a series ... there's not that many if you look into the past. Ron Ely's outing was strongly scripted, well-photographed, and had only minor flaws, such as an obnoxious "boy" character. Then again, it was 1960's TV when family values still held sway over what went over the air waves.

Next up was Wolf Larson's tour, largely scripted from a European point of view with a bunch of ecology and touchie feely stuff (Larson never ate meat, for example).

Joe Lara gave us something closer to ERB's original ape-man, but even it was tarnished by a growing "climate concern" and an odd bending and blending of ERB's characters into different motifs.

Disney's cartoon series took the Tarzan character to even more confusing, yet hauntingly familiar, themes at the turn of the century. However, one can never forgive the creation of Terk, the epitome of a side-kick that is largely comparable to fingernails slowly drawn across a chalk board.

Wolf Larson (b. Wolfgang von Wyszecki). Reputed to be the only Tarzan actor with an MBA. In 1991 Wolf was 32 years old ... not the youngest Tarzan, but younger than many!

All that said, this article is in regards to the rarely viewed USA syndication of "Tarzán" (note the accent in spelling) starring Wolf Larson, a handsome blond actor born in West Germany (1959), raised Canadian, and educated in America—graduating from Queen's University at Kingston, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. All of which just means the fellow is a human being who has a wonderful and varied background. Also note: he's a pretty fair actor!

Wolf's female interest is Jane ... but this character is not the same Jane as the ERB Jane Porter of Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America. This Jane is a French environmentilist scientist well-portrayed by Lydie Denier—born in 1964 in Saint-Nazaire, France. Her early career was as a fashion model ... and very lovely she is! For the Jane character envisioned by the Larson "Tarzán" she is perfectly cast. She has also proved to be a friend of fandom over the years, which is a great plus!

See a list of episodes.

This article is an expansion of a post regarding Tarzan on TV which appeared on the ERB reply all list this October. My original comments:

I downloaded 75 eps of Wolf Tarzan from the web (back when it was easier to do so) but have only managed to watch the first 9 or 10. It's not bad, mind you, but it is a French-Canadian-Mexican production of an AMERICAN fantasy hero during the early years of a growing movement regarding climate and other stuff ... thus some of the interpretations are a bit "odd", and therefore unsatisfying for the "Tarzan Connoisseur".

The actors are personable, the scripting is "generic for the time period", and the production values aren't any worse than a Howard Hawkes "shot on location in Mexico" wild and woolly western—sans blood and gore since this is a "more gentle" ape-man fronting for a very feminist French female scientist—with a secondary side character in the cast: a very irritating child... at least for me!

That said, Lydie Denier has been gracious enough to appear at a number of ERB meets over the years (at least once in costume!) and that goes a long way to have some fond memories of Wolf's TZ. The big strike against the Larson TZ was episode length ... these were thirty minute (in the can total 24:30-25:30). Everything had a rushed feel, or lacking a complete development.

Lydie Denier (Born: April 15, 1964 in Saint-Nazaire, Loire-Atlantique, France). Started as a model at age 14. Has the distinction of having worked with 4 actors who have played Tarzan: Wolf Larson, Ron Ely, Joe Lara and Miles O'Keefe.

Three years after Larson came the Joe "Boots" Lara Epic adventures by a reconfiguration of the Keller Group which gave us Larson, the defect in time was corrected—44-46 minutes in the can episodes, ie: one hour. Only 22 episodes were produced. A generally higher quality scripting, production, and location values were a notch (just a notch!) higher, but in the reach to be "more" the failure of an actual budget eventually became obvious and without real explanation, the series tanked.

"Tarzan" was not back on TV until the Dizzy 30 minutes cartoon series hit the airwaves for 39 episodes in 2001. Scripts were generally very decent, though modified to the "younger set" since it was a extension of the 1999 DZ movie. I, again, downloaded all when it was possible and find a reason to watch them all ... every other year or so. The striking white haired La, so deliciously devious is, I believe, my most favored character ... and more so when Jane becomes that La! voiced by Olivia d'Abo who could EASILY have been OUR JANE PORTER for live action film despite her birth in London instead of Baltimore, brilliant, blond, beautiful and first cousin once removed of Bond girl Maryam d'Abo from Living Daylights. In real life the two girls own/share a mansion in Los Angeles.

DISCLAIMER: I am a Barsoom nut. I know next to nothing about Tarzan.

(hold a moment, need to grab a fire extinguisher since my pants are on fire!).

I do, however, enjoy watching Tarzan on the screen, be it silver, outdoors, a crt tube, LCD, sideview projection ... as Tarzan IN FILM is how I discovered ERB in the 1950s (drive in movies with the family) and then the comics and then ... THE BOOKS!

Wolf Larson was just a bit of all that.

The pertinent question is, in these days and culture wars times, can Tarzan make a comeback in film? Are we left with nothing more than the exciting new works coming from ERB, Inc?

Is Tarzan dead?

Tune in at Eleven for the report.

Keller Entertainment Group

The Wolf Larson "Tarzán" was an early TV production by a multinational independent film company helmed by Max Keller and Micheline Keller. During the late 1980s into the 1990s the Keller Entertainment Group produced the TV series "Tarzán", "Conan the Adventurer", "Acapulco H.E.A.T.", and "Tarzan: The Epic Adventures".

Their TV products generally ran on low budget Late Night or Overnight time slots which, sadly, reduced the audience penetration necessary to generate any kind of Neilson Ratings (tv show popularity used by advertisers to support a show). The main reason why these products showed up on the late night spots was due to mediocre and underfunded promotion by the KEG (Keller Entertainment Group) in the early days of each series.

On the other hand, KEG actually spent money where it needed be spent: Scripts, Locations, Actors, and Production.

Joe Lara appeared in a KEG TV movie: "Tarzan in Manhattan" (1989) with Kim Crosby and Tony Curtis. KEG apparently didn't learn much from that project, or how to sell it, when they brought out their other Tarzan projects. (Not going to say anything about their 1978 "Wes Craven's Scream of Fear")

KEG is an example of great potential and disasterous follow through.

"Tarzán", as a premise with quality actors and industry acceptable production values, never had a chance since the back side, promotion and marketing, was neglected to an alarming degree.

As noted above, I have not watched all 75 episodes of "Tarzán" but what I have seen is "as good" as the rest and should have had a better marketing campaign to give it a real shot. Reality is one can find it on sites like amazon.com and get the series for a song (if you sing) or dance (box step, anyone?).