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  • This is one of the funniest film's of Disney's live action library. Taking another spin on the tale of Tarzan, The World's Greatest Athlete is the story of how college coach Sam Archer, tired of losing, tries to get away from it all by taking a trip to Africa. While there, he encounters Nanu, a superhuman by any standards measured!!! Seeing a gold mine and wins with Nanu as his athlete on campus, Coach Archer lures him to their university, where Nanu indeed excels in sports, but also feels homesick. Good jokes and tasteful humor make this a must-see. Jon Amos and Tim Conway are great as the bumbling coaches, and Jan-Michael Vincent shows that he could act wonderfully within a comedic setting. Also, this is one of the movies that displays Vincent's prowess, and makes people wonder what could have been. While younger viewers may not know of Vincent, or wonder why anyone cares about a "second rate actor", there was a time when many movie fans felt that Vincent could have been a major box office draw. While Nanu ultimately proves that he is a champion, Vincent will always make people ponder if he could have been a real Hollywood contender.
  • rdfrd21 August 2005
    Silly? You bet - and don't we love silly. A fish out of water? Most certainly - and aren't we all, at one time or another, a fish out of water. Loads of fun? Most definitely. The story line comes from the fertile imagination of someone impacted by Tarzan, but Tarzan was never this much fun. From Africa to America, covering a whole bunch of different types of people, including a tiger and a near-sighted landlady, The World's Greatest Athlete provides humor and a wonderful chance to relax. It gives you a happy chance to laugh at yourself and everyone else. The whole family will enjoy it. Our family found it a favorite when it first came out - and now that I am retired I still enjoy having a laugh at it now and then.
  • I was lucky enough to be able to see part of "Athlete" being made at my college in Stockton, California in 1972.I also got to meet Jan-Michael Vincent, John Amos and Tim Conway.I also had a confrontation with the tiger. Those memories will be something I won't forget. To top it off, John Amos and Tim Conway also made a surprise visit to my parents, cousin, and Aunt's restaurant also located in Stockton, California. It was called "Al Funzo's.It was a great evening for me, and my family, and the Restaurant patrons that came in that night.As for the movie, The World's Greatest Athlete" was and still is excellent, and ranks high in my list of favorite movies.
  • When Coach John Amos and his assistant Tim Conway go looking for athletic talent for Merryvale College, they say they'll travel anywhere. And in The World's Greatest Athlete they go to East Africa in search of a legendary jungle boy raised in the wild whose athletic prowess is beyond belief.

    The subject of their search is Jan-Michael Vincent who plays the young Tarzan like man and he's every inch the athlete that former Tarzans like Johnny Weissmuller, Glenn Morris, and Buster Crabbe were. They have to use a little trickery to get him out of the jungle and away from his foster father, witch doctor Roscoe Lee Browne. Browne knows all the jungle remedies, but he's lived in the world outside the Kenyan veld and he's up to its challenges.

    But he's still got concern for his foster son who ain't used to civilization and all the things that entails. Among which include women in the person of shapely Dayle Haddon who covers him on the academic end of things at college. Talk about remedial education though, this is really stretching it.

    She's also got a jealous suitor in Danny Goldman. Goldman's a little ferret of a schemer, the would be Iago sends for Browne from Kenya to work his voodoo magic to get Vincent back to the woodland wilds and a clear path for Goldman back to Haddon. If that means him losing the big NCAA track meet where Vincent is going to represent Maryvale in all events like Jim Thorpe did years ago for Carlisle, so be it.

    Jan-Michael Vincent looks just fabulous in a loin cloth. I'm surprised he never was cast in a straight out Tarzan film. He actually did appear in one years later when he was much older and the bad guy in that one. Of course he just had to utter "Me Nanu.......You Jane" to Haddon whose character name of course was Jane.

    Vincent and Haddon get great support from the whole cast, especially Tim Conway who has to deal with being shrunk to three inches in height by Browne in a bar. Conway gets a nice fifteen minute sequence trying to deal with his unfamiliar surroundings. Nancy Walker has a fine bit as a Mrs. Magoo landlady who can't recognize a tiger that Vincent has brought from Africa as a pet. He must have gotten him from the zoo in Mombasa because as most kids know, tigers aren't native to Africa.

    This was the final feature film appearance of Billy DeWolfe who plays the dean of the college and Goldman's uncle. I suspect he would have had more of a role had health permitted it.

    The World's Greatest Athlete is one of Disney's better screen comedies for the Seventies. And as we learn in the end, Jan-Michael Vincent might not just be The World's Greatest Athlete.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "The World's Greatest Athlete" stars John Amos ("Good Times), Tim Conway ("The Carol Burnett Show"), and Jan-Michael Vincent ("Airwolf"). The plot follows Amos' college sports coach who is down on his luck. His leadership has not produced a winning team for his school; he is under threat of being fired if he doesn't find a way to turn the sports program around. On a vacation to Africa, he and Conway discover Nanu—an orphaned Caucasian boy who was the son of missionaries, he was adopted by local villagers. He is a superb athlete, being able to outrun a gazelle. The coach sees his fortunes right in front of him—but Nanu is uninterested in the Western world. So the coach concocts a scheme to trick Nanu into following him to America, where he promptly is enrolled as a student and made a star of the track and field program. Will the coach's deception be revealed? Will Nanu find that he likes America and wants to stay? The under-rated character actor Roscoe Lee Browne plays a witchdoctor in a supporting role. Of curious interest is how the racial subtexts in the film were cleverly handled. By the early 70's, Disney studios was not known for casting African-Americans in prominent roles—the most obvious exception would be the still-controversial Song of the South. Here, Amos is the ostensible lead, with Conway as the sidekick, instead of vice-versa. In another decade, the Nordic athlete Nanu might have been portrayed as being worshipped as a god by the villagers—fortunately the filmmakers bypass outdated notions of the "white jungle king" and portray Nanu as a young man satisfied with tribal life.
  • If you are a fan of Jan Michael Vincent and would like to see him with very little threads on, this is the film for you! Yes, there's also a cute plot about a black football/baseball/basketball coach (John Amos) who travels to Africa on safari with his hopelessly stupid assistant (Tim Conway). While in Africa, they discover Nanu (Jan Michael Vincent)a young white African boy who possesses amazing athletic abilities. Nanu travels to the USA with the coach to excel in sports. Of course his witch-doctor adoptive father disapproves, and all sorts of goofy 70's effects ensue. JMV wouldn't be remembered for his acting in this movie, but his physique certainly got attention! He's slim and muscular, with long blond hair, and he looks perfect in the skimpy Tarzan outfits. But really, the star of this film is the TIGER! You never see this in movies today - a real, live, full-size tiger wrestling with the leading actor! With his teeth around JMV's neck, no less!! Can you imagine? One false move, and CRUNCH! Dead actor! Wow. I was amazed. JMV cuddles and rolls around with this Tiger throughout the movie. It's awesome. Move on over Russell Crowe - Jan Michael Vincent takes on real tigers, not CGI ones!!!
  • FrankBooth-124 April 2002
    This is a fish out of water story in which coach John Amos and sidekick Tim Conway find a young jungle man and figure he'd be a great athlete if he were taken to civilization to compete in athletic competitions. So they give it a try. Like many Disney films from the early 1970s, it's loaded with silly humor and contrived sentiment, yet there is a certain charm that may endear it to the younger members of its audience.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    One in a long series of formulaic, "teenager with a difference" Disney comedies, this movie is of interest mainly for its cast and its occasional bits of amusement accidentally tossed in amongst the tedium. Amos plays a college athletics coach, who leaves on a sojourn to Africa with his assistant Conway in tow, after suffering yet another humiliatingly bad season. While there to forget his troubles, he is introduced to Vincent, a spectacularly talented young man who is the orphaned child of missionaries and who has been raised in the wild. He can outrun a cheetah, out-jump a monkey and basically outdo anyone or anything in the realm of sports. In an extended sequence, Amos coerces him to return to his school (with his pet tiger along for the adventure!) and play for his track & field team. Since Vincent has been in the jungle his entire life, he needs a tutor to help him with his college subjects (!) and so Amos enlists pretty Haddon to help him. This leads the jealous and devious Goldman to retrieve Vincent's witch doctor mentor Browne from the continent and have him taken back, out of the way. Browne uses voodoo to foul up Amos's dreams of glory for Vincent and to keep Conway from alerting Amos to his presence. Naturally, it all ends well, this being a Disney movie. Amos (who made something of a historic footnote by playing the first black lead in a Disney film in decades) is animated and enthusiastic in his role, though a bit one note. It's hard to imagine that the man here, straining to make a lot of tired jokes funny and overplaying a lot of them, is the same one who stormed off of "Good Times" because of the scripts and who later made such an impact in "Roots." Conway's improvisational style sort of butts up uncomfortably against the carefully structured formula comedy found here and his timing seems off as a result, though he does have an amusing extended sequence in which he is shrunken to the size of a doll and knocked around inside a purse and around a bar area. Vincent, who, naturally, is in peak shape here, is hilariously bad in his acting, but impressive in the action sequences. It's also quite stunning to see him (and Amos, Conway and Walker!) cavorting with a real tiger in the film! Haddon, not coincidentally playing a girl named Jane, has a rather sensuous moment with Vincent as she's tutoring him, but otherwise isn't given much to do. (She would famously appear in Playboy right after filming this, confounding the Disney executives!) Browne is clearly enjoying his sly, magical role and has a lot of fun disrupting things and yanking the chains of those around him. Walker tries to inject some humor into her preposterous role of a nearly blind landlady who keeps mistaking the tiger for an inebriated tenant. Some real life sportscasters appear to lend an air of authenticity to the patently unreal proceedings, chiefly Gifford, McKay and Cosell, who has trouble playing himself, though he does tick off an amusing line or two along the way. It's not a bad movie, it's just a very routine one with humor that had to be a tad stale even at the time of release.
  • I had not heard of/seen The World's Greatest Athlete, before watching the film recently. I thought the movie was hilarious and was significantly better than most Disney live action movies from the era. I was disappointed to see so many bad reviews by viewers. I think the combination of John Amos and Tim Conway, was fantastic and provided a lot of humor you don't typically find in the 60s/70s Disney films. I am surprised that I had never heard of the film before this..I was missing out! I recommend the film for anyone looking for a funny sports movie.
  • Lejink13 March 2019
    Having noted the recent death of Jan Michael Vincent and never having seen a single episode of his most famous vehicle, the hit TV show "Airwolf", I remembered watching as a boy this Disney movie in which he starred and I which believe got him his start in pictures.

    The studio I seem to recall was putting out a lot of real-action family entertainment features at this time of which this is one and watching it again, obviously myself now much older, I still enjoyed the gentle, innocent fun put on the screen. Vincent plays Nanu the running, jumping jungle boy who is tricked by an on-holiday failed U.S. sports coach played by the very Cosby-esque John Amos and his hapless sidekick Milo played by Tim Conway, into coming to America to represent Merrivale college at the national track and field event where he is entered in every possible discipline as their sole participant. Along for the ride too is his pet tiger Harry, which certainly earns its stripes with an excellent supporting actor performance. I understand thankfully that no humans were injured during the making of this movie in their scenes with the tiger.

    With his limber physique and mop of blonde hair, Vincent makes for a handsome lead even if most of the time he only requires to speak in sub-Tarzan style mono-syllables in between all of his running and jumping exploits. His only stops along the way are for a little romance with his pretty female tutor and contending with his geeky rival for her affections, the latter of whom is aided in his nefarious plan to scupper Nanu's shot at glory by flying in the boy's African witchdoctor to dispense some voodoo magic against him.

    Of course it all ends happily in an entertaining conclusion where Nanu wins every event, literally on the run, even finding time to sportingly help up a fellow competitor who's fallen during their race. Unsurprisingly, he wins the girl too! Some today might carp at the depiction of third world stereotypes plus I found the slapstick antics centring on Conway a bit wearing after a time, but with reasonable special effects and some nice touches of humour, especially at the witch-doctor's introduction to the college hierarchy, this was a pleasantly amusing if slightly dated film I was pleased to re-watch after so long.

    R.I.P. Mr Vincent.
  • The World's Greatest Athlete is definitely not as good as I remembered it to be, but I still enjoy it, for the most part. The plot is absolutely ridiculous, but the cast at least seems to be on board with it all. I think that this movie largely came from someone at Disney saying, "Hey! We found a trained tiger! Can we use him in a film?"
  • After a few decades of knowing about this '70s Disney comedy, I finally took my borrowed DVD and watched The World's Greatest Athlete. In this one, Coach John Amos and his assistant Tim Conway have been on the losing end of various sports endeavors for so long that dean Billy De Wolfe (in a too-brief role)-who's accompanied by his son Danny Goldman-remind them of just one more year on their contract. Amos tears it up and goes to Africa with Conway to get away from it all. There they find Jan-Michael Vincent who outruns a tiger. The only way they can get him, though, is if he saves one of them...I'll stop there and just say that this is one of those silly family comedies that was the House of Mickey's bread-and-butter during the decade that the other major studios were making big box office and winning Oscars with more mature fare. With the Tarzan-inspired story and many well-established special effects, there are quite a few chuckles here-and even a big laugh concerning a wheelchair-bound old man who can "suddenly" walk-that I admit to doing while watching. And it's fun seeing Conway either putting his head where it sometimes doesn't belong or getting moved by a voodoo doll once owned by a witch doctor played by Roscoe Lee Browne. But the stuff involving Nancy Walker as a near-sighted landlady and Goldman as the dean's interloping son I could do without. And stunning Dayle Haddon as Vincent's girlfriend (called Jane, of course) is just window dressing. Still, this is harmless fare that should provide enough enjoyable distraction for 90 minutes especially as you watch such real-life announcers like Frank Gifford and Howard Cosell join in on the fun. P.S. I just found out, via the IMDb site, that Mr. Goldman was the voice of Brainy Smurf on the "Smurfs" TV cartoon show.
  • John Amos plays a luckless coach who bombs out at football, baseball, basketball--but during a trip to Africa he discovers a Tarzan-like athlete (Jan-Michael Vincent) and wisely turns his attention to the track and field. Inane family comedy from the folks at Disney--who apparently had no faith in their basic premise, thereby shoehorning in a dire voodoo subplot which allows for comedic special effects, such as over-sized props. Vincent, looking like a Tiger Beat pinup, is well-cast, and Amos tries hard, but Tim Conway (always an acquired taste) is both broad and boring in a gratuitous supporting role as a flunky. For aficionados of archaic matinée entries, not too terrible; however genuine inspiration is lacking, as is that old Disney snap. *1/2 from ****
  • shanakin14 May 2019
    Warning: Spoilers
    A few weeks back I came across this movie at a second hand store and was like to cool it was one Disney movie that I had not seen in a very long time. You see I grew up in the 70's and so many of these Disney movies were being rerun when I was a kid and they remind me of such simple times.

    Today was the date of May 14th 2019, and I remembered that I had purchased the movie and decided to watch it for a morning movie.

    Must admit it may not be the greatest Disney movie of the 70's but it certainly has some nice simplicity to it and charm. Tim Conway is as funny as ever with the material that he is given and John Amos is certainly adequate. Jan Michael Vincent was perfect for the role he was incredibly fit at this part of his life. And the lady who plays Jane was certainly lovely. And it was cool seeing all the real sports commentators of the time, especially Howard Cosell.

    I really enjoyed it even if some scenes seemed a little forced, I certainly got a kick of Conway being shrunk down to size. And seeing the guy who played Mr. Whipple from the old commercial of "Don't squeeze the charmin" ad during it was quite fun.

    Still an enjoyable movie and put a smile on my face, the reason I put the date I checked the cast list here on IMDB and clicked on Tim Conways name and was surprised that he passed away today a simple movie on the day of his death. Made me sad and happy that I was to enjoy one of his movies on such a day. Thank you Mr. Conway for making me laugh through all these years and leaving behind a nice simple movie that reminds me of growing up in the 1970's.
  • SnoopyStyle19 December 2018
    Coach Sam Archer (John Amos) and assistant Milo Jackson (Tim Conway) can't win anything no matter the sport. They're on an African safari when they encounter Tarzan-type Nanu (Jan-Michael Vincent). According to tribal law, the one who saves another must follow him. Sam sees an opportunity to trick Nanu into coming to America to play sports for him. Part of package is that he brings along his tiger friend Harry. Sam recruits Jane to be Nanu's tutor.

    This is so stupid that it's funny. Tim Conway is hamming it up before his stardom on The Carol Burnett Show. He is stealing scenes left and right. In an ill-advised turn, he gets shrink for awhile. The physical comedy potential is not enough to offset the truly ridiculous. It's one stupidity too far. Jan-Michael Vincent is humor-deficient but he's fine as a clueless meathead. Amos is fine and plays well with Conway. This is a stupid Disney live-action comedy from the 70's and it has a few laughs for the simple kid in everyone. I do wonder about having a tiger on set. It seems exceedingly dangerous.
  • While not mentioned in the IMDb credit page, "locations" used in production, most (if not all) of the track and field filming was done at Cal State L.A., in the heat of the summer. I had the privilege of working in the film as an extra, and found the cast and crew to be friendly and professional. Tim Conway was funny on/off camera, and he had co-stars in tears during most of the shooting. The one question I asked one of the directors was how they chose a tiger for a young Tarzan-like character who came from Kenya? No tigers in Africa! This tiger (a huge female Bengal tiger) was well-trained,and most of us were allowed to pet her with her trainer's approval. No trained lion could be located in time for filming, according to my source. They should have had JMV come from India or south-east Asia. Nonetheless, the film was entertaining to watch, and a joy to be a small part of.
  • johnstonjames6 August 2011
    Warning: Spoilers
    cute, Innocent, and by far one of the silliest sports movies ever made, this is classic, slapstick Disney comedy nostalgia at it's most indicative. a sweet reminder of why so many of us were fond of Disney's humour while growing up. just like wholesomeness, cute charm, and imagination were Disney trademarks we came to expect, a quirky, off beat sense of humour was also something that embodied the Disney filmgoing experience of the Disney golden age. when the numerous children's audience flocked to the Saturday matinée to see a Disney film they usually expected it to be good for a few laughs. after all, the whole Disney enterprise's foundation in the beginning were cartoons.

    that's pretty much what Disney's 'Athlete' is, like most live action Disney comedies, it's a cartoon show with real actors. everything here from characterization to the visual approach is played very broadly. even the African continent in the George of the Jungle cartoons by Jay Ward seemed more serious than this over the top depiction. Jan Michael Vincent's jungle boy Nanu is taken less seriously and more satirically than the Tarzan films.

    the gags here are pretty funny and more memorable than the film is given credit for. many of the scenes with Vincent and his Tiger pet are appealing, cuddly, and endearing. especially the moment when JMV runs toward his love interest in clichéd slow mo', only to bypass her and throw himself in the arms of his little Tiger pal for a big screen kiss. very amusing and classic Disney. the scenes where Roscoe Lee brown enchants Tim Conway and miniaturizes him are very funny and pretty surreal. there is also a lot of funny stuff with voodoo dolls even though voodoo is not a African belief. more like Haiti.

    some people might be uncomfortable with Roscoe Lee Brown's witch doctor and perceive it as mildly racist. i think that's taking things to seriously since the witch doctor role is done so broadly and doesn't amount to much more than a lot of "walla walla bing bang". besides, Brown's witch doctor has some very funny lines, especially in the scene where he meets with the America Medical Assoc. and begins making snide remarks and jabs at the American medical community.

    all in all this isn't a great movie or a all time great comedy, but it is definitely a very cute movie a good Disney film. mostly that's what a Disney movie should boil down to, they should be ever so cute and feel like Disney above all. after all, Disney isn't 'South Park' and it shouldn't be. like all of Disney's classic baby boomer comedies, 'Athlete' manages to have humour with some edge, but it doesn't forsake family values or wholesomeness. definitely a must for anyone who likes Disney and cute Bengal kitties.
  • This "Tarzan" variation has losing coach John Amos (as Sam Archer) finding "The World's Greatest Athlete" in the form of loin-clothed Jan-Michael Vincent (as Nanu), while on safari in Africa, with sidekick Tim Conway (as Milo Jackson). Naturally, Mr. Amos brings Mr. Vincent home, to bone up his failing college team. Vincent's furry companion "Harry" (a tiger) also makes the trip. Vincent is puzzled by kissing, but finds a willing partner in Dayle Haddon (as Jane). Alas, voodoo godfather Roscoe Lee Browne (as Gazenga) wants Vincent returned to Africa...

    A well, dumb movie. All you really have are some 1970s TV favorites, sweetened with a young and beautiful Jan-Michael Vincent.

    **** The World's Greatest Athlete (2/4/73) Robert Scheerer ~ Jan-Michael Vincent, John Amos, Tim Conway