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TARZAN OF THE APES (director: Scott Sidney; screenwriters: from the novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs/Fred Miller/Lois Weber; cinematographer: Enrique Juan Vallejo; editor: Isidore Bernstein; cast: Elmo Lincoln (Tarzan), Enid Markey (Jane Porter), True Boardman (John Clayton, Lord Greystoke), Kathleen Kirkham (Alice Clayton, Lady Greystoke), Gordon Griffith (Young Tarzan), George B. French (Binns, a sailor), Thomas Jefferson (Professor Porter); Runtime: 55; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William Parsons; Madacy Entertainment; 1918-Silent)
“The first Tarzan put to film though creaky, is an amazing curio.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The first Tarzan put to film though creaky, is an amazing curio. It’s reflective of the stodgy racist attitudes of the time but also the most faithful of all the Tarzan films to follow the pulp books of Edgar Rice Burroughs. The first Tarzan story was published in a magazine in 1912 and proved to be popular, as was the film. Under the direction of Scott Sidney (“Kidding Katie”/”Reckless Romance”/”The Son of Sheik”) the story telling though muddled, is still reasonably well-crafted. It has the British Lord and Lady Greystoke heading to British Africa to put a halt to the Arab slave-trading, but they get caught on a ship that mutineers take over and their life is spared only through the efforts of a sailor named Binns (George B. French). They are left in darkest Africa (filmed in Brazil), where Binns is captured by Arab slave-traders and can’t protect the elites. Lady Alice gives birth to a son and dies a year later. Lord John can’t care for the child and he’s raised by friendly apes. The now 10-year-old Tarzan (Gordon Griffith) learns from the apes the ways of the jungle, as the ape Kala becomes the only mom he knows. As a grown man, he’s played effectively by the first Tarzan, Elmo Lincoln. Though a bit beefy and not the most nimble of cats climbing the trees, he does convey a savage nature and handles himself fiercely with the hundreds of hostile natives operating on his jungle turf. A group headed by Professor Porter and his daughter Jane (Enid Markey) come to Africa to see if what Binns, who finally reached England, told them is true about a white man living in the jungle. The rest is movie history, with at least 80 such films cranked out telling of Tarzan’s jungle deeds. Swimming champ turned movie actor Johnny Weissmuller’s series of Tarzan film throughout the 1930s and 1940s proved to be the most popular.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”