Friday, July 1, 2016

Movie Review: Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan (1984)

Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984) directed by Hugh Hudson

This summer has lots of sequels and remakes coming out, so I'm reviewing the earlier works and seeing if they will inspire me to see the new films! 

This serious retelling of Tarzan's story begins with a longish sequence where his grandfather, the Earl of Greystoke, advises his son John Clayton not to take his wife on a trip to the tropics. Reassuring his father that "it will only be for a year," their ill-fated voyage shipwrecks on the African coast. John and his wife survive, making a home in the jungle. In ten months, their first son is born but the mother never quite recovers. One of the local ape families attacks the Clayton's make-shift home. The parents die and infant John Clayton is adopted by a female ape who has lost her baby. He grows up among the apes and learns to deal with the wild and unpredictable jungles of Africa. Around twenty years later, an expedition from the British Museum comes to the same area and is wiped out by the native humans. One man, Capitaine D'Arnot, barely survives. The ape-man John finds D'Arnot and nurses him back to health. D'Arnot teaches John to speak English, discovers John's true parents, and convinces him to return to England to find his family. But will the ape man be ready for the wild and unpredictable machinations of British society?

The movie is amazingly straight-faced throughout its running time. It is a serious, realistic take on Edgar Rice Burroughs' story of an infant orphaned in the African jungle who is raised by apes and becomes a force to be reckoned with. The attempt at realism robs the story of its charm and adventure. The movie occasionally nods to the vine swinging and John (who is never referred to as Tarzan in the movie) has a few brief fights with other animals, but this is hardly an action/adventure extravaganza. Christopher Lambert does a great job being ape-like both in the jungle and in English society. The ape costumes and performances are impressive (Rick Baker did the make-up and did his usual excellent job). The lovingly crafted ape society is the highlight of the film. The movie just doesn't have the fun that almost every other Tarzan film provides, making it a disappointing experiment in realistic film making.

This summer's Tarzan movie, simply called The Legend of Tarzan, looks like it has the same serious vibe to it, but with fun, over-the-top action too.

They had me at the cattle smashing through the human outpost! I am definitely interested in seeing this film.

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