Being a modern film viewer it’s at times difficult to realize that everything that’s old is new again, and that’s understandable. Especially in an Internet age we are now as film fans not only diving into the minutiae of new releases but also future releases such that patterns that developed in the past may be lost through the vast landscape of film history.
What prompts me to bring this up is that going through these Tarzan releases now in some semblance of order, as going through any series will, has brought to the forefront certain patterns. Of course, as you traverse a series you will invariably find the specific formula therein, but here there also seems to be a design that’s fairly modern. The first three films of the MGM Tarzan series for a sort of trilogy wherein the union of Tarzan and Jane is formed, then tested and finally solidified.
Now, this is going purely on narrative and not based on the studio’s intent. I’m sure that MGM always wanted to propagate the series so long as it was profitable. It’s just the master plan was not necessarily there before the release of the first. However, that hardly matters since this is the way the first three films did play out. They did end up forming a trilogy where Tarzan and Jane constantly have to battle external forces to be and stay together.
However, as the films remained popular and MGM still wanted to make them after three films they recognized the need to move on storywise, which is why in part four is where you find the introduction of Boy. As the MGM legacy progressed to amass twelve films the series would invariably become increasingly about outside forces threatening the escarpment, Tarzan’s domain and him by extension, to the extent that they nearly become proto-environmentalist tales in many cases. The series would also eventually, naturally have Tarzan leave, if only for a time, and even engage in propaganda battling Nazis, which I believe is the last of the four in this run I’ve not seen.
This installment is also perfect proof of why I didn’t want to write this series up in typical review format, because sure enough here Iatched on to a thread that illustrated the design of the franchise as opposed to how well this particular installment functioned within and without it. Having said that, it is an enjoyable albeit somewhat more predictable rendition of prior versions. There are some small wrinkles and twists that keep it fresh enough to be entertaining. However, it does become far more interesting when you see how it works in the grand design of the character’s trajectory with MGM.