Quantcast

Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure (Blu-ray Review)

When we talk about character longevity, are there any greater than Tarzan? The Blu-ray I’m about to review is for a 1959 film that is the 26th (I believe) either film or serial based on the character. That’s a lot. Surprisingly its one of the best received of the bunch too. What makes this one stand out? After Lex Barker carried the mantle clear of Weissmuller’s long shadow, Gordon Scott was free to claim the crown of King of the Jungle. His Tarzan was keen, intelligent, and literate – much as Tarzan’s creator, Edgar Rice Burroughs, had envisioned – and in the aptly named Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure, Scott’s run as the jungle lord reached a peak in what is widely regarded as one of the best entries in the prodigious series of action adventure classics. Warner Archive Collection has released it on Blu-ray (November 13th), which you can order from the Amazon link following the review.

Film 

Tarzan is on a deadly trail, determined to find the diamond hunters who brought terror and death to a peaceful village. But as much as Tarzan is a tracker and avenger, he’s also a protector. An irresponsible gadfly from the so-called civilized world intrudes on his quest and Tarzan knows he cannot leave her to fend for herself.

Right out the gate (But yet, never again in the film) Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure has a plot device that would start up a “hasn’t aged well” or is easy bait for the an outrage thinkpiece on how gross the film is. I’m talking about the scene early on when our film’s villains (Take note, I said VILLAINS) don black face (Or full body) in order to rob a village of its dynamite stock in the middle of the night. Right or wrong (I’m going to reiterate, the film’s VILLAINS do this), this actually serves the plot as they were doing so to be mistaken for African tribesman so there would be no one on their tail when going to an old mine to find diamonds. The film doesn’t glorify it, merely uses it as a means of disguise for our…ahem VILLAIN characters. But, if that bothers you not seeing the context, then you’ve every right to look away and miss out on what is a pretty terrific adventure film.

See, in this film, Tarzan isn’t fooled by the bad guys’ bullshit. The film is about him tracking and hunting these guys one by one for what they’ve done. This isn’t Tarzan versus villagers or anything, its Tarzan against these white dudes. Its a terrific jungle adventure film with some pretty good and intense action sequences for 1959. The film also incorporates some rad blood and gore effects in what I’m sure was considered a family adventure film. There’s a lot of buildup and leads to the cavernous mountain battle between Tarzan and the ultimate baddie that does not disappoint. You get fist fights, foot chases, arrow kills, long falls, animals attacking, plane crashes and much more in this little 80 minute jaunt.

One of the key trivia aspects on the film is that one of the henchman is played by Sean Connery. He’s a pretty ruthless, unhinged kinda guy. His looks are clearly here and his performance is all right, but he doesn’t really light up the screen as much as he would just a few years following this movie. Gordon Scott is a pretty good Tarzan and is able to convincingly take on the more physically demanding aspects of the role. He shares some good chemistry with Sarah Shane who is our female lead in the film. She doesn’t play Jane, but Angie. Shane is pretty terrific and capable here of all the demands, and having her pilot characters as something different helps to make the film feel a little more fresh.

Admittedly, I’ve only seen a handful of the classic Tarzan films and seeing this one is the first I’ve seen one (Sitting down and watching through at least) in probably over 15 years or so. When the film began and the white guys dressed in black body paint thing happened I was like “Ohhhhhh no”, but letting the film play out, I realized it wasn’t bad in the context of the movie. And once the film finishes Act I, it becomes a fine adventure film and one that feels would be at least a piece of inspiration for later big budget adventure films in the coming decades.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-25

Clarity/Detail: Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure debuts with a magnificent 1080p HD transfer of the film. Sure there are no K’s boasting the transfer, but you’ll never know. Details are pretty clear and crisp. The look is very cinematic and looks fresh as the first struck film print probably did in 1959. The villain’s boat looks extremely detailed won to the touch and the texture of the soft, wet mud is pretty wondrous. What we have here are Criterion levels of restoration, which we have been starting to come to expect from Warner Archive Collection. Fantastic work!

Depth:  Depth is solid, with a good separation of character and backdrop. Movements look cinematic and carry minimal distortions with rapid camera pans and character action.

Black Levels: Blacks are plenty rich and really help to define and provide good shadow and nighttime shade. No crushing witnessed on this viewing.

Color Reproduction: Colors are held pretty natural and weren’t expected to pop even then. The saturation makes the jungle look quite life like with its different browns, yellows and greens.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish. This might be the most important aspect of the image as it gives a real feel for the environment. Sweat, dried dirt, stubble, wrinkles, shiny facial grease, lip texture and more come through clear as day.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: The 2.0 mono track of Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure is a wonderful compliment to the imagine. While this isn’t some revolutionary experience, it feels right and perfect for the age of the film. Its very clean, while holding on to an aesthetic that feels genuine. There is a good balance on the strong ambiance/effects to go with the vocals and score in the film. Its also a pretty loud and involving experience.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are good, clear and plenty audible. They do carry a bit of an analog ambiance with some hissing S’s and peaks inherent in the source.

Extras 

Trailer (HD, 2:09)

Summary 

Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure is quite enjoyable if you’re a fan and able to watch a film under the lens and understanding of when it was made. Its a traditional jungle adventure, well done, that would inspire later adventure films. Warner Archive Collection has done a fantastic job in restoring it to Blu-ray and one can only hope that more is on the way (They have a LONG way to go, haha). This is Warner Archive Collection’s first classic Tarzan release on Blu-ray in 5 years and the previous one was the 1984 film Greystroke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes…which…doesn’t really qualify for the true classic period. Fans should freely pick this one up as its decently priced.

Share

Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

  1. No Comments