Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Why Couldn't They Just Have Made A Kaanga Movie? by Dave Goode

Comic art by Vance Capley
See how it was done on youtube. 

Something that's fascinated me for years is the love/hate affair Tarzan fans have with Johnny Weissmuller. To most fans he's either their favorite or second favorite movie Tarzan. But at the same time more than a few fans despise his interpretation of the "Lord of the Jungle" for not being more like the Tarzan of author E.R.Burroughs. As for myself I can live with either one. But I do prefer Weissmuller's "noble savage" to Burroughs' jungle ubermensch. And remember Johnny was working with the scripts that other people were writing. Also Weissmuller's Tarzan was hugely popular and provided the blueprint for most of the "kings of the jungle" that appeared in comic books and comic strips around the world for decades. No other fictional character has been imitated more in the pages of comic books than Tarzan. The Lone Ranger might be a distant second. But the majority of the ersatz Tarzans have more to do with Weissmuller than Burroughs.

I know in the past when movie studios bought the rights from the Burroughs
estate to make a Tarzan movie they were paying for the character's name recognition. Tarzan sells. But when the character has so little in common with the literary Tarzan I sometimes wonder why they even bother. Especially since they could've gotten the rights to do a Ki-Gor or Kaanga movie for a lot less.

Lex Barker could have been the greatest screen Tarzan of them all. Except for his blond hair he matched Burroughs' physical description of Tarzan almost perfectly. And he was an actor who was capable of more than just grunting. But whenever I watch one of his Tarzan movies where the writers and directors have him "aping" Weissmuller it's not hard for me to imagine that I'm watching a Kaanga movie.
Especially in the case of Tarzan and the Slave Girl (1950) with a screenplay by Hans Jacoby and Arnold Belgard and directed by Lee Sholem. Co-starring Vanessa Brown and Denise Darcel this was a story from a Fiction House jungle comic book come to life.


  1. Tarzan clones come and go...even the Tarzans who bare the name Tarzan, but are a far cry from being Lord of the Jungle. Let's hope the new movie is really good. Also, I think Lex Barker would've been a great Doc Savage!

    1. It's funny there are a lot of Tarzan actors who might have been good playing the Man of Bronze.Herman Brix,Buster Crabbe,Jock Mahoney.And of course Ron Ely who portrayed Tarzan on TV did play Doc in a movie.