Tarzan Movies

Tarzan Movies: The German-Hollywood Connection

Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950) published his first serialized Tarzan story in 1912, Tarzan of the Apes. The book version came out in 1914. By 1947 he had published over 20 books in the Tarzan series. Only four years after the first Tarzan novel, the first cinematic version of that book, with the same title and starring Elmo Lincoln, was playing in movie theaters.

Bookplate

A bookplate showing Tarzan holding the planet Mars, surrounded by other characters from Burroughs’ stories and symbols relating to the author’s interests. PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

Burroughs was both a prolific writer and a born promoter. At a time when it was not considered wise to do so, the writer exploited a variety of media in an effort to milk Tarzan for all he was worth: books, a syndicated Tarzan comic strip, movies, and merchandise. Although he also wrote Westerns, science-fiction (Barsoom/Mars, John Carter), and works in many genres, Burroughs became best known for Tarzan. And Tarzan was quite a sensation from the very beginning.

From Tarzan the Ape Man in 1932 until Tarzan and the Mermaids in 1948, the Tarzan film franchise was dominated by former Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller in the title role. But the twelve Weissmuller films and their immediate successors portrayed the ape man as an uneducated savage speaking broken English, as opposed to the cultured aristocrat in Burroughs’ novels. In fact none of the Tarzan movies featuring Weissmuller were actually based on any of Burroughs’ Tarzan books.

Below is an overview of most of the Tarzan motion pictures released between 1918 and now. This list also includes some non-Tarzan pictures in which Weissmuller appeared. 2016 will feature yet another Tarzan film: The Legend of Tarzan. (Release date: July 1, 2016; see more below.)

VIDEO: Trailer: The Legend of Tarzan (July 2016)

Jump to | Weissmuller 1930s films | Weissmuller 1940s films | 1910s | 1920s | 1930s | 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s

With Germanic connections in bold


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The 1918 silent film.

Tarzan of the Apes (1918, silent, 55 min.)
Elmo Lincoln stars as Tarzan. Enid Markey plays Jane. The very first Tarzan movie was filmed in the “jungles” of Louisiana. This silent film follows the Burroughs original more closely than most of the films that followed.
DVD: Tarzan of the Apes (1918) from Amazon.com

The Romance of Tarzan (1918, silent, 70 min.)
Elmo Lincoln as Tarzan, Enid Markey as Jane. Tarzan and Jane are set to sail for England when they are attacked by natives, and Tarzan is believed to have been killed. The Greystoke relatives return to England.


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The Revenge of Tarzan (1920, silent)
Gene Pollar, Karla Schramm. Burroughs’ comment on the performance of fireman-turned-actor Pollar: “As an actor, Gene was a great fireman.” Pollar was a one-time-only Tarzan.

The Son of Tarzan (1920, silent)
Feature version of the serial of the same name. P. Dempsey Tabler, Karla Schramm, Kamuela Searle.

The Adventures of Tarzan (1921, silent)
15 chapter serial. Elmo Lincoln, Louise Lorraine.
DVD: The Adventures of Tarzan (feature version, 1928) from Amazon.com

Tarzan and the Golden Lion (1927, silent, 57 min.)
James Hubert Pierce, Dorothy Dunbar. Pierce was Edgar Rice Burroughs’ son-in-law.

Tarzan the Mighty (1928, silent)
15 chapter serial. Frank Merrill, Natalie Kingston.

Tarzan the Tiger (1929, silent)
15 chapter serial. Frank Merrill, Natalie Kingston. The last of the silent Tarzan films.
DVD: Tarzan the Tiger from Amazon.com


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Tarzan, the Ape Man (1932, 99 min.)
Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O’Sullivan. The first Weissmuller Tarzan movie also features Maureen O’Sullivan as a sexy, intelligent Jane. A trader and his daughter set off in search of the fabled graveyard of the elephants in deepest Africa, only to encounter a wild man raised by apes.
DVD: TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Tarzan – Volume One (this and three other Weissmuller Tarzan films)

Tarzan the Fearless (1933, 85 min.)
Feature version of the serial of the same name. Buster Crabbe, Jacquelene Wells. Doesn’t match up to the Weissmuller versions of 1932 and 1934. Crabbe (1907-1983), also an Olympian and film star, would die less than a year before Weissmuller.

Tarzan and his Mate (1934, 104 min.)
Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O’Sullivan. Considered by most Tarzan buffs to be the best of the early Tarzan movies. (Some claim it’s the best of ALL the Tarzan films.) O’Sullivan’s outfit is daring, even by today’s standards, and the nude “ballet” swimming scene (with her double) has returned from the censor’s cutting room floor. In each succeeding film Jane would wear more and more clothing – in response to puritanical pressure.
DVD: TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Tarzan – Volume One (this and three other Weissmuller Tarzan films)

The New Adventures of Tarzan (1935, 75 min.)
Feature version of the serial of the same name. Herman Brix, Ula Holt. Tarzan the gentleman. The lean Herman Brix, Burroughs’ personal choice to play Tarzan, was more like the Tarzan of the novels, but that wasn’t enough to make this into a real movie.

Tarzan Escapes (1936, 95 min.)
Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O’Sullivan. An expedition seeking to bring Jane back to civilization, and Tarzan into captivity, gets more than it’s bargained for. The first appearance of the infamous treehouse where Tarzan and Jane lived in sin.
DVD: TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Tarzan – Volume One (this and three other Weissmuller Tarzan films)

Tarzan’s Revenge (1937, 70 min.)
Glenn Morris, Eleanor Holm. One of the worst Tarzan movies, despite music by the Austrian-American composer/music director, Hugo Riesenfeld (1879-1939). Morris, in his sole Tarzan appearance, is rarely seen. His real fame goes back to the 1936 Berlin Olympics when he won a decathlon medal and swept Hitler’s favorite director, Leni Riefenstahl off her feet. She mentions the bizarre blouse-ripping incident with Morris in her memoirs.

Tarzan and the Green Goddess (1938, 72 min.)
A second feature from the 1935 serial – with Herman Brix, Ula Holt.

Tarzan Finds a Son (1939, 90 min.)
Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O’Sullivan, Johnny Sheffield (as “Boy”). Tarzan and Jane have to find a son (from a plane crash). Sex is out of the question.
DVD: TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Tarzan – Volume One (this and three other Weissmuller Tarzan films)


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This 3-disc DVD collection features six Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films.
Get The Tarzan Collection, Vol. 2 from Amazon.com

Tarzan’s Secret Treasure (1941, 81 min.)
Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O’Sullivan, Johnny Sheffield.
DVD: TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Tarzan – Volume 2 (this and three other Weissmuller Tarzan films)

Tarzan’s New York Adventure (1942, 71 min.)
Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O’Sullivan, Johnny Sheffield. Tarzan dresses up for civilization. The last Tarzan for MGM and the last for O’Sullivan as Jane.
DVD: TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Tarzan – Volume 2 (this and three other Weissmuller Tarzan films)

Tarzan Triumphs (1943, 78 min.)
Johnny Weissmuller, Frances Gifford, Johnny Sheffield. Directed by Austrian-born William (Wilhelm) Thiele. “Now, Tarzan make war!” Tough times for the Nazis, but no Jane! The first RKO Tarzan feature.
DVD: Tarzan Triumphs is included in The Tarzan Collection, Vol. 2 (six Weissmuller Tarzan films) from Amazon.com

Tarzan’s Desert Mystery (1943, 70 min.)
Johnny Weissmuller, Nancy Kelly, Johnny Sheffield. Directed by Austrian-born William (Wilhelm) Thiele. Another anti-Nazi jungle epic.
DVD: Desert Mystery is included in The Tarzan Collection, Vol. 2 (six Weissmuller Tarzan films) from Amazon.com

Stage Door Canteen (1943, directed by Frank Borzage)
Johnny Weissmuller is one of 50 Hollywood stars featured in this wartime “salute to American patriotism,” in which Johnny gets to take off his shirt and display his Tarzan chest. During the war years Johnny often visited the famous Hollywood Canteen in Los Angeles, visiting with the enlisted men and washing dishes.

Tarzan and the Amazons (1945, 76 min.)
Johnny Weissmuller, Brenda Joyce, Johnny Sheffield. Directed by German-born Kurt Neumann, who was also the associate producer. Jane is back, but she’s not O’Sullivan.
DVD: TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Tarzan – Volume 2 (this and three other Weissmuller Tarzan films)

Tarzan and the Leopard Woman (1946, 72 min.)
Johnny Weissmuller, Brenda Joyce, Johnny Sheffield. Directed by German-born Kurt Neumann, who was also the associate producer.
DVD: TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Tarzan – Volume 2 (this and three other Weissmuller Tarzan films)

Swamp Fire (1946)
Johnny Weissmuller and Buster Crabbe co-star in this non-Tarzan picture, with Crabbe playing the villain. Johnny himself referred to this melodrama, set in the swamps of Louisiana, as a “turkey.”

Tarzan and the Huntress (1947, 72 min.)
Johnny Weissmuller, Brenda Joyce, Johnny Sheffield. Boy’s (Sheffield’s) last appearance.
DVD: Tarzan and the Huntress is included in The Tarzan Collection, Vol. 2 (six Weissmuller Tarzan films) from Amazon.com

Mermaids poster

Tarzan and the Mermaids (1948, 68 min.)
Johnny Weissmuller, Brenda Joyce, Linda Christian. Directed by Robert Florey. This was Weissmuller’s 12th and final Tarzan movie. Producer Sol Lesser provided a million-dollar-plus budget and shot Mermaids in Mexico, but despite above-average cinematography, this black-and-white picture is a mess. Johnny later starred in 16 “Jungle Jim” films. Christian, who played a native girl rescued by Tarzan in this film, was the only Weissmuller co-star to attend his funeral in 1984, held near the shooting location of this movie. (At one time Linda Christian was married to Tyrone Power.) See Tarzan in Acapulco for more about this film.
DVD: Mermaids is included in The Tarzan Collection, Vol. 2 (six Weissmuller Tarzan films) from Amazon.com

VIDEO: Tarzan and the Mermaids (1948) – Trailer, 0:49


Tarzan’s Magic Fountain (1949, 73 min.)
Lex Barker, Brenda Joyce. “Tarzan” meets “Lost Horizon” with Barker as the new Tarzan. Screenplay by German-born Curt Siodmak. Elmo Lincoln, the first Tarzan, has a brief cameo.

See Matt Winans’ Tarzan Page for more about the Tarzan movies, including some unauthorized Spanish and other versions.

For Weissmuller’s “Jungle Jim” films, see Matt Winans’ Jungle Jim Movie Guide.


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Tarzan and the Slave Girl (1950, 74 min.)
Lex Barker, Vanessa Brown. The Lionians are a tribe dying of a mysterious disease. Their chief decides to kidnap Jane and Lola.

Tarzan’s Peril (1951, 79 min.)
Lex Barker, Virginia Houston. Escaped convicts are selling weapons to a warlike native tribe. The very first Tarzan film actually shot on location in Africa. All the previous ones were either shot on a back lot, in Florida or in Mexico.

Tarzan’s Savage Fury (1952, 80 min.)
Lex Barker, Dorothy Hart. Tarzan acts as a guide for two British government agents recently arrived in Africa to secure a great cache of diamonds for the English military. However, the agents are not what they seem.

Tarzan and the She-Devil (1953, 76 min.)
Lex Barker, Joyce Mackenzie. Directed by German-born Kurt Neumann. Pretty lame story for Barker’s fifth and last Tarzan appearance. (He went on to become a popular film star in Europe, particularly in Germany.) The film’s only high point is Raymond Burr’s (aka Perry Mason) heavy.

Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle (1955, 73 min.)
Gordon Scott, Vera Miles. Hunters trespass into Sukulu country, where animals are sacred, posing as photographers. Scott gets off to a weak start as Tarzan. German-American actor Peter van Eyck plays Dr. Celliers.

Tarzan and the Lost Safari (1957, color, 84 min.)
Gordon Scott, Betta St. John. Tarzan leads five passengers from a downed airplane out of the jungle. The first color Tarzan film (in Eastmancolor) was a British production.

Tarzan’s Fight for Life (1958, color, 86 min.)
Gordon Scott, Eve Brent. Dr. Sturdy is trying to establish a modern hospital in the jungle. His efforts are strongly opposed by Futa, the witch doctor, and Ramo, a native warrior. Not among the best.

Tarzan and the Trappers (1958, 74 min.)
Gordon Scott, Eve Brent. Low-budget black-and-white effort, originally filmed for an aborted television series, slapped together from three episodes. Don’t bother with this one.

Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure (1959, color, 88 min.)
Gordon Scott, Sara Shane, Anthony Quayle. A British production filmed on location in Africa. Scott plays an intelligent Tarzan. A young Sean Connery is cast as a villain.

Tarzan, the Ape Man (1959, color, 82 min.)
Denny Miller, Joanna Barnes. Notorious for the use of color tinted scenes from earlier black-and-white Weissmuller movies. Some critics rank it as the worst Tarzan movie. Miller’s only Tarzan film.


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Tarzan the Magnificent (1960, color, 88 min.)
Gordon Scott, Betta St. John. Scott returns. Jock Mahoney, the next Tarzan, plays the villain.

Tarzan Goes to India (1962, color, 86 min.)
Jock Mahoney. Summoned by an Indian princess, Tarzan travels to India where hundreds of wild elephants are in danger. A colorful setting, but where’s Jane when you really need her? A British production.

Tarzan’s Three Challenges (1963, color, 92 min.)
Jock Mahoney. Mahoney became ill while filming this, his last, Tarzan movie.

Tarzan and the Valley of Gold (1965, color, 90 min.)
Mike Henry, Nancy Kovak. The international criminal Vinaro enjoys sending explosive wristwatches to his enemies.
DVD: Tarzan and the Valley of Gold from Amazon.com

Tarzan and the Great River (1967, color, 88 min.)
Mike Henry, Diana Millay. Tarzan is summoned to Brazil by an old friend to stop an evil tribal cult from destroying native villages and enslaving the survivors.

Tarzan’s Jungle Rebellion (1967, color, 92 min.)
Ron Ely, Ulla Stromstedt. Also adapted from Ely’s television series.

Tarzan and the Jungle Boy (1968, color, 99 min.)
Mike Henry, Rafer Johnson, Aliza Gur. A reporter and her fiance are conducting a search in the jungle for a wild boy, the lost son of a downed geologist.


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Tarzan’s Deadly Silence (1970, color, 88 min.)
Ron Ely. Jock Mahoney and Woody Strode play villains in this feature adapted from Ely’s television series.

The Great Masquerade (1974)
Kaye Stevens, Gay Perkins. In order to infiltrate a gang of drug smugglers, a cop is sent undercover to participate in a drag-queen beauty contest aboard a cruise ship. Johnny Weissmuller plays a minor role as Sepy Debronvi.

That’s Entertainment, Part II (1976, color, 135 min.)
This MGM retrospective, hosted by Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, featured mostly past musical films, but also included archive footage of Johnny Weissmuller in Tarzan, the Ape Man (1932).

Weissmuller’s Cameos
In the 1970s Weissmuller made cameo appearances in these two cinematic duds:

The Phynx (1970)
Weissmuller joined other faded stars such as Guy Lombardo and Ruby Keeler in this supposed satire of a rock group.

Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976)
Apparently having learned nothing from his earlier cameo flop, Weissmuller joins yet another group of film veterans in an even worse movie. Not even stars Bruce Dern, Madeline Kahn, and Teri Garr can save this dog.


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Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981, color, 112 min.)
Bo Derek, Miles O’Keefe, Richard Harris. “The Lord of the Apes goes ape for Bo Derek.” The Tarzan story from Jane’s point of view. Tarzan is speechless and Jane (Derek) is stitchless in this mess directed by Derek’s husband, John Derek.
DVD or Amazon Instant Video: Tarzan, the Ape Man from Amazon.com

Greystoke, the Legend of Tarzan (1984, color, 129 min.)
Christopher Lambert, Andie McDowell. A shipping disaster in the 19th Century has stranded a man and woman in the wilds of Africa. The lady is pregnant. Closer to Burroughs’ original concept of Tarzan but somehow, despite some nice touches, it just doesn’t hold together.
DVD: Greystoke, the Legend of Tarzan from Amazon.com

Tarzan in Manhattan (1989, color, 100 min.)
Made-for-TV. Joe Lara, Kim Crosby. Lara becomes the 18th film Tarzan and it isn’t pretty. Lara later appeared in a Tarzan TV series (below).


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Tarzan: The Epic Adventures. Tarzan’s Return (1996, color, 100 minutes)
Made-for-TV. Joe Lara, Cory Everson. Later a syndicated series (1996-1997). See Matt Winan’s Tarzan on Television for more about the Joe Lara series and other Tarzan episodes on the tube.

Tarzan on German TV (RTL 2) > Tarzan: Die Rückkehr – The 1996-1997 series with Joe Lara auf Deutsch (dubbed in German).

Tarzan and the Lost City (1998, color, 83 min.)
“A New Tarzan for a New Generation.” Casper Van Dien and Jane March. Tarzan returns to his homeland of Africa to save his home from destruction. Directed by the Swiss-German Carl Schenkel. Music by the Berlin-born composer Christopher Franke (“Babylon 5”).

Tarzan of the Apes (1998, video, animated, color, 48 min.)
A spirited young man raised by the animals in the jungle makes his first contact with other humans when a young woman named Jane arrives in the jungle years later.

Tarzan (1999, animated, color, 88 min.)
A man raised by gorillas must decide where he really belongs when he discovers he is a human. With the voices of Rosie O’Donnell (as a monkey), Glenn Close, and other celebs. Disney’s animated version.
DVD: Tarzan – Special Edition (1999, animated) from Amazon.com


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Disney’s Legend of Tarzan (2001, animated, color)
Animated made-for-TV series, based on the 1999 animated feature film.

Disney’s Tarzan and Jane (2002, animated, color, 75 min.)
After being married an entire year, Jane thinks back on some of her and Tarzan’s adventures as she searches for something special to mark the occasion.

Disney’s Tarzan II (2005, video, animated, color, 72 min.)
With music by Phil Collins. The tale of Tarzan’s misadventures as a boy as he searches for his true identity and the meaning of family.


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Tarzan (2013, animated, color)
An animated feature (rated PG) from Lionsgate and Constantin Film (Europe).
DVD or Amazon Instant Video: Tarzan (2013, animated) from Amazon.com

The Legend of Tarzan (scheduled release: July 1, 2016, color)
Alexander Skarsgård, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson. Many years after leaving the jungles of Africa behind, the man once known as Tarzan (Skarsgård) departs London as John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke, with his beloved wife, Jane Porter (Robbie). He is returning to the Congo to serve as a trade emissary of Parliament, unaware that he is a pawn in an diabolical plan masterminded by the evil Belgian officer Leon Rom (Waltz). The Captain Rom character is based on the real-life Leon Rom (1859-1924), notorious for mistreating and killing many African natives in the Belgian Congo. Directed by David Yates (“Harry Potter”).

MORE: See Matt Winans’ Tarzan Page for more about the Tarzan movies, including some unauthorized Spanish and other versions. – For Weissmuller’s “Jungle Jim” films, see Matt Winans’ Jungle Jim Movie Guide.

More | Tarzan: Johnny Weissmuller

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