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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Tarzan The Ape Man (1932) Back on DVD

The Warner Archive is bringing Tarzan The Ape Man back to DVD. The MGM production may not have been the first silver screen incarnation (nor the last), of the famed jungle hero, but it is the best. With the then recent Olympic swimming champion, Johnny Weissmuller in the title role and the lovely Maureen O'Sullivan as Jane, it was a done deal that this first film in a series of blockbusters would be a smash hit. Even though the film persona of Tarzan is nothing like that found in the books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, it is all for the best.

The legendary "wonder kid" Irving Thalberg produced the film, W.S. Van Dyke (Oscar nominee for The Thin Man) directed, Cedric Gibbons (Gone With The Wind) was the Art Director, and Cinematograper Harold Rosson (The Wizard of Oz, Singin' In The Rain) all contributed to the success of the unique classic film, Tarzan the Ape Man. The story is a simple one about a trader (the wonderful C. Aubrey Smith) and his daughter (O'Sullivan) who set off in search of the fabled graveyard of the elephants in deepest Africa, only to encounter a wild man raised by apes. During the course of the story, Tarzan saves Jane from the jungle, and in turn, she saves him from civilization.

Weissmuller smolders, yet maintains a charming innocence in the soon to be franchise. The pre-Code installments include suggestive frolics that would be lost in the later post-code era that pushed an agenda of domestic bliss. Although he lacks sophistication or eloquence, his pure sincerity about the protection of the flora and fauna of his beloved world wins over O'Sullivan. And she shines as a young English lady who is more than eager to allow the conventional morals of civilization to slip away while in a distant land, far beyond the chastising eyes of society. The result is an engaging combination.

"Me Tarzan, you Jane" has become an instantly recognizable phrase known all around the world. And the name Cheeta will always be associated with a friendly chimpanzee. This is quit impressive given the fact that the film was made more than 85 years ago. As the father of all jungle adventures, Tarzan the Ape Man remains the greatest jungle thriller of all time. And deserves a place in your classic film DVD collection. It will be in mine.

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