Tarzan Thursday: Tarzan and the Green Goddess (1938)

Introduction

In 2012 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. Previous posts in this and other series can be found here.

Tarzan and the Green Goddess (1938)

This is, not unlike many of these Tarzan films, is a composite serial. This is actually the first topic I wrote about on this blog, not a “blockbuster” topic to tackle but it was a buyer beware kind of tale. What happened was I got a serial I loved in a condensed version, which I didn’t want, but I also didn’t know such a thing existed.

Since then I’ve only gone into such ventures knowingly. This film is a shortened version of the 1935 serial The New Adventures of Tarzan. The opening voice over narration cuts through at least one chapter (15-20 minutes) of the serial story. This was apparent before the IMDb confirmed that this is composed of chapters 2-12. Cutting through the stasis straight into the thick of things makes identification and investment in these characters, and joining this world a chore.

This is a film, and its serial predecessor, was produced by Burroughs-Tarzan Enterprises. This was a Poverty Row outfit that was created to create a truer film version of Burroughs’ character.

There are some decisions to me that seem odd based on other versions, but it’s hard to tell how effective this would be in its serial form, which is an entirely different beast. This film with Herman Brix does feature a more literate and eloquent Tarzan than most, though perhaps not the most ever; it also features a far more in shape Tarzan than many of these films have at times. I could continue nitpicking things like the call, which is unmusical and amelodic here. What’s most curious is that the setting is cited as Guatemala and filmed near Tikal but the ecosystem, in zoological terms, is still quite African.

One of the more interesting techniques this film presents is that it employs sped-up film cleverly in a naturalistic fashion to aid the fight choreography. This and other composites lack the cliffhanger aspect that are the trademark of serials. This makes for fairly abominable pacing.

Ultimately, it’s hard to grade. The original serial exists and it may be interesting to visit.

3/10

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