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TARZAN’S REVENGE (director: D Ross Lederman; screenwriters: story by Edgar Rice Burroughs/Robert Lee Johnson/Jay Vann; cinematographer: George Meehan; editor: Eugene Milford; music: Hugo Riesenfeld; cast: Glenn Morris (Tarzan), Eleanor Holm (Eleanor Reed), George Barbier (Roger Reed), Hedda Hopper (Penny Reed), C. Henry Gordon (Ben Alleu Bey), George Meeker (Nevin Potter), Joseph Sawyer (Olaf), Corbet Morris (Jigger), John Lester Johnson (Koki); Runtime: 70; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sol Lesser; Twentieth Century Fox; 1938)

“A goofy but entertaining escapist Tarzan flick.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Indie producer Sol Lesser gave Edgar Rice Burroughs a better deal than MGM and got the rights to do the Tarzan film. But the popular Tarzan in the first three film installments of the series, Johnny Weissmuller, former Olympic swimming champ, couldn’t be brought along. Thereby Lesser got the 1936 decathlon champ Glenn Morris to play Tarzan and had him co-star with former swimming champ Eleanor Holm to play his romantic interest. Morris could do the physical things required of Tarzan (looked good to me swinging on the vines), but the public couldn’t accept anyone else but Weissmuller as Tarzan. This was the first and last time Morris played the Apeman. Veteran B film director D. Ross Lederman (“The Racket Man”/”Pride of the Marines”/”Strange Alibi”)bases it on the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ story and on the imperfect script from Robert Lee Johnson and Jay Vann.The result is a goofy but entertaining escapist Tarzan flick, one that might not be as well-made as the ones at MGM but is nevertheless watchable.

The wealthy ‘ugly American’ Reed family from Illinois trek to the African jungle to go on a safari to bring back animals for their local zoo, in particular they are searching for a rare white crocodile. The Reed patriarch (George Barbier) is having himself a blast in the Congo; his wife (Hedda Hopper, the future famous gossip columnist) seems to be allergic to the jungle, having constant sneezing fits; their perky daughter Eleanor (Eleanor Holm) is not too thrilled her party is packing high-powered rifles when they’re supposed to be collectors and not big-game hunters and her obnoxious trigger-happy fiancé Nevin Potter (George Meeker) is trying to kill all the animals he can.

When the evil Arab chieftain, Sheik Ben Alleu Bey (C. Henry Gordon), an Oxford-educated playboy with a harem of hundreds of wives, gets the hots for Eleanor on a steamboat and she refuses his gift of a ruby, he decides to make an arrangement with the corrupt safari guide Olaf (Joseph Sawyer) to have the natives kidnap Eleanor and bring her to his palace in the middle of jungle so she can be added to his harem. What the villains didn’t count on was that Tarzan would come to Eleanor’s rescue.

Tarzan keeps an eye on Eleanor when her party begins their safari. He gets a chance to rescue Eleanor when a leopard is about to pounce on her, when she gets stuck in a mudhole, when a lion enters her tent after she took mom’s two cubs for the zoo, from being attacked by a crocodile and finally from the clutches of the evil chieftain and the goon-like tribesmen he controls. Tarzan will also at one point free all the caged animals captured, including the cubs. In the end this leads to Eleanor giving Tarzan some serious swim time in the jungle, as her parents and wimpy boyfriend return home none the wiser for their African experience.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”