Last year the character of Tarzan celebrated his 100th year in print. A serialized version of the story first appeared in 1912. A hardcover collection of Tarzan of the Apes first appeared in 1914. Being in the middle of the Tarzan centennial period it’s an opportune time to (re)visit many of the screen renditions of the character.
Tarzan and the Leopard Woman (1946)
If there’s one thing you can’t really knock the Tarzan movies for is that they most definitely did introduce enough tropes, setpieces and motifs such that it did give the writers the flexibility to try and break certain molds from time to time. The issues usually stemmed from trying to juggle too much and being too inconsistent in the results as it pertained to these disparate elements.
A few things change here in Tarzan and the Leopard Woman. For one we open on the other interest in this film instead of opening on Tarzan and Jane or Boy. In fact, for a few consecutive titles the opening shots were nearly identical (Boy riding an elephant). So here we learn of the Leopard people. Everyone assumes it’s a Leopard attack but we and Tarzan knows better.
There is also introduced a native doctor whose now “civilized” who plays an antagonist role and a foil to Tarzan. However, there is also the character of Kimba, who is a far more active antagonist and more two-faced as he has most of the characters fooled throughout. The last time there was an additional young character was Bomba, but he ended up being fairly superfluous. Kimba is a fairly significant character and well-portrayed by Tommy Cook.
The biggest boon to the film is that there is a different feel to it than other Tarzans without giving away too much of what happens in the latter stages of it. There’s a more insidious, subdued plotting by those who threaten Tarzan. The things that hold it back are similar to other films but those that set it apart are quite unique. It does hold some surprises and tension in the latter third that many of the titles that fall short do not. It earns a mark of distinction, if not quality, due to Jane tailspinning, time-wasting and the like.
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