16 August 2003 | cariart
Tarzan Takes Manhattan!
As MGM knew Maureen O'Sullivan was departing the 'Tarzan' series, and budget and talent constraints were forcing the long-running series out of the studio (RKO would soon be Tarzan's new home), they decided to end things with a bang, clothing Johnny Weissmuller in a double-breasted suit, and setting him loose in New York's concrete jungle. The gamble worked, magnificently!
The premise is simple; Boy, thinking Tarzan and Jane are dead, after falling into a raging fire during a tribal attack, is whisked away by an evil circus big game hunter (Charles Bickford) in a chartered plane. (How so many planes land safely in the middle of the jungle in these films is never explained...)
Rescued by Cheetah, Tarzan and Jane hike across Africa, dress in more modern attire (a VERY funny scene!), and fly across the Atlantic to try and retrieve their son.
The fun begins when the pair reach New York. Tarzan's bemused reaction to a black taxi driver, his takes on radio, indoor plumbing, and nightclubs, are priceless (and were recreated years later in Paul Hogan's wonderful 'Crocodile Dundee'). There are a few slightly offensive racial stereotypes displayed, but considering the period of the film, these are really quite tame.
A few nagging questions about the series are addressed in this film...'What happens if Boy gets sick?' and 'How is he being educated?', although the biggest question is never addressed...How does a boy with a British 'mother' and an Ape Man 'father' end up with an American accent?
When the courts fail to return Boy (the jungle couple can't prove legal custody), Tarzan takes matters into his own hands, breaking out of the courthouse, and performing an extraordinary series of rooftop swings, leaps and acrobatics to get to the New Jersey home of the circus, climaxing with a breathtaking 100-foot dive off the Brooklyn Bridge. The sequence is still fabulous, over 50 years after the film was released!
The film concludes with the almost stereotyped rescue scene, as elephants rescue Tarzan and Boy, yet again! Evil is vanquished, the family is reunited by the court, and the judge is going to catch some really BIG fish when he comes to visit!
If you're looking for gritty realism, you won't be popping a Tarzan flick into the VCR, anyway, but if you want thrills, laughs, and wonderful escapism, look no further!