Tarzan, the Ape Man (1932)

When traders Harry Holt and James Parker are in Africa about to embark on an expedition to find an infamous elephant graveyard, they’re surprised to find out they will be taking along a guest: James’ daughter Jane (Maureen O’Sullivan).  Jane decided to pay her father a visit when she became frustrated by modern life and wanted to spend some time away from civilization.  James knows the mission will be dangerous and has his doubts about Jane tagging along, but Harry thinks she’s pretty cute and wants her to come along.  James tries explaining to Jane the legend behind the elephant graveyard and how coming along could cost her her life, but she isn’t scared.

As they head out on their quest, it does indeed prove to be quite treacherous.  After passing a particularly dangerous part, the party begins hearing a mysterious yell that sounds more like a human than an animal.  But when their raft is being attacked by hippopotami, they get to meet the man behind the yell, Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller).  Tarzan helps the expedition party, but decides to take Jane back to his home in the trees.  Even though Jane is scared at first, she quickly realizes that he means her no harm.  Harry and James come to rescue her, but when they do, they shoot one of Tarzan’s ape friends under the mistaken impression that it was going to hurt her.  Of course, Tarzan isn’t happy and wants to get back at the explorers.  He manages to capture Jane again and the two of them fall very deeply in love.  But even though Jane loves Tarzan, she’s torn between him and her father.  She leaves Tarzan again to be with her father, but when she does, the expedition is kidnapped by a tribe of pygmies.  As they’re being taken away, Jane sees Tarzan’s closest chimp friend Cheeta and tells him to get Tarzan.  Sure enough, Tarzan comes to the rescue and saves everyone.  But as Jane, Tarzan, Harry, and James are riding away, Jane decides the only place she belongs is with Tarzan.

Adventure movies can be pretty hit-or-miss with me, but I did enjoy Tarzan, the Ape Man.  This was the first time I’d seen any of the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies and now I’m interested in seeing more of the series.  Maureen O’Sullivan was very likable as Jane, Johnny made the perfect Tarzan, and there are plenty of exciting moments to be had.  Never mind the very dated rear projection and special effect shots, it’s still a very entertaining movie.

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2 comments

  1. If you liked Tarzan the Ape Man, you’re going to love Tarzan and His Mate, the 1934 sequel. Just squeaked in before the Production Code tamed them down. It’s a ton of fun.

    1. Tarzan and His Mate has been pretty high on my “to see” list for a while now since I love pre-codes. I’m glad to see that TCM is starting to play the whole series on Saturday afternoons this month so I’ll finally get to see that one.

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