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Tarzan's Greatest Adventure (1959)



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Disappointed with the returns on the last several Tarzan films, producer Sol Lesser, in charge of the series since Tarzan Triumphs, decided to sell the franchise to Sy Weintraub and Harvey Hayutin (Weintraub later bought out Hayutin). For their first production, Tarzan's Greatest Adventure, they began to change Tarzan's image. The metamorphosis continued over the next several films, but the changes made for this one are the most welcome. First and foremost, they made Tarzan literate, endeavoring to restore some of the films' faithfulness to the original novels. What works so well is that Tarzan's literacy does not detract from the savage in him. Gordon Scott, in his fifth performance as the ape man, shifts seamlessly between a refined gentleman and a primitive jungle beast. (The victory yell at the main villain's demise is classic.)

Also revamped are the cheeseball safari plots, stiff acting, and badly interwoven jungle footage. Veteran action director John Guillermin was hired to direct, and the cast (including Anthony Quayle and a young Sean Connery) is a significant cut above the average Tarzan guest star.

The plot is about five villains who plunder native villages for supplies to make their way up river to a secret mine. Tarzan gives pursuit, and the elaborate cat and mouse game they play is sheer delight. The film, shot on location in the jungle, is tightly edited, completely absorbed in its characters, action, and suspense. Tarzan's Greatest Adventure, ironically enough, lives up to its name and saved the series (and Burrough's character) too.

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