Oregon Movies, A to Z

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Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure (1959)

November 12th, 2012 by Anne Richardson · No Comments · 1950's, Oregon actor, Oregon film, Oregon film new definition

Lord Greystoke was born in Africa, but Gordon Scott, the actor who plays the regal ape man in Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle, Tarzan and the Lost Safari, Tarzan and the Trappers, Tarzan’s Fight for Life, Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure, and Tarzan the Magnificent, came from the Rose City.

I have never seen Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure.

Richard Scheib has. He writes:

(Producer) Sy Weintraub made a concerted effort to take the Tarzan film back to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ original conception – that of a primal hero who speaks perfect English and can operate with equal agility in both civilized society and the world of the jungle.

Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure is directed by John Guillermin, who would later go onto to also direct Tarzan Goes to India and became best known in the 1970s for The Towering Inferno(1974) and the infamous Dino de Laurentiis King Kong (1976) debacle and its sequel King Kong Lives (1986), as well one further venture back into jungle adventures with Sheena(1984). It is immediately apparent that care and attention has been placed into Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure. John Guillermin gives the film a gritty realism that had been lacking in the Tarzan series since at least 1934. There are some exciting action sequences – Tarzan hunting through the jungle, firing down on his pursuers with arrows, an incredibly tense scene where a tarantula crawls up Gordon Scott’s leg, Tarzan trapping Slade’s boat with fallen trees and then throwing dynamite to try and kill him, Sara Shane’s suspenseful venture into the villain’s boat to get medicine for Tarzan, and especially the fabulous climactic clifftop fight between Slade and Tarzan. Gordon Scott’s Tarzan is given a toughness that you would never see in Johnny Weissmuller’s far cuter version of the role – at one point, he shoots a man at point blank range with an arrow. At the end of the film, we see Gordon Scott standing atop the cliff looking down as Sara Shane’s boat passes by on the river below – something that clearly emphasizes that Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure contains none of the warm fuzzy romantic fadeouts that the other Tarzan films do. Gordon Scott was rather wooden in the role in his initial entries but has grown comfortably into the part – without the pidgin English, his Tarzan comes with a grimly determined conviction. The villains are also depicted with an unusual degree of convincingly rough-hewn complexity – Slade is one of the few villains ever created in the films that was a worthy nemesis for Tarzan. One can also note one of the early screen appearances of Sean Connery – and in a rare villainous role for him – as one of Slade’s gang who gets killed off by Tarzan.

I hereby claim Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure as an Oregon film on the basis of the contribution made by Oregonian Gordon Scott.

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