Tarzan, the Ape Man (1932)

TARZAN, THE APE MAN (1932)
Article #413 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 5-2-2002
Posting date: 9-25-2002

Explorers search for the elephants’ graveyard in Africa, and encounter an ape man by the name of Tarzan.

There were Tarzan movies before this one, but this was the first one with Johnny Weissmuller in the role, and he does a fantastic job with a character who is equally savage, fun-loving, and slightly befuddled (he’s excellent trying to figure out what Jane is talking about). This movie sets some of the scenarios that would become fairly frequent in the immediate sequels, but they’re still pretty entertaining. This is the movie where an elephant carries Tarzan around with his head in his mouth; certainly one of the most jaw-dropping scenes I’ve ever seen in a movie. The ending is truly nightmarish and spectacular, and this is indeed one of the Tarzan movies that really does belong in the category of fantastic movies. Eventually, Tarzan (and the whole series) would become domesticated and lose steam, but here it’s in its prime. Truly worth catching.

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Tarzan Escapes (1936)

TARZAN ESCAPES (1936)
Article #412 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 5-1-2002
Posting date: 9-24-2002

A hunter agrees to join a safari to find Tarzan because he hopes to capture him and put him on display.

The follow-up to TARZAN AND HIS MATE was made after the Hays office came into effect, and the changes are noticeable; Maureen O’Sullivan’s costume is much more modest this time around, and the brutal violence is toned down considerably from the previous outing. Still, I suspect there was a real chemistry between O’Sullivan and Johnny Weissmueller; their scenes together are as playful as ever, and they do look like they’re having a lot of fun. There is still some savagery, but a lot of it has been replaced by cuteness; the treehouse is one example, the mugging of comic relief Herbert Mundin is another. It’s still quite entertaining, though, with some particularly nice scenes involving Tarzan’s escape from a metal cage with the help of Cheetah and a pair of elephants, and a trek through a sulfurous cave that brings the movie a little closer to the horror genre than other movies of the series. There’s also a good performance from Darby Jones, who would later become known for playing Carre-Four in I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE.

Incidentally, this is the Tarzan movie that turned the word “Oongawa” into the all-purpose Tarzan word.

Tarzan and His Mate (1934)

TARZAN AND HIS MATE (1934)
Article #411 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 4-30-2002
Posting date: 9-23-2002

Ivory hunters try to find the elephants’ graveyard so they can make a fortune off of the tusks, but run into resistance from Tarzan, despite the fact that one of them is an old boyfriend of Jane’s.

If you’ve ever wondered why the Hays office came into being, this movie provides one of the examples of just how much sex and violence Hollywood was putting into their product at the time. This, like the first Tarzan movie, has quite a bit of savage violence, and it’s pretty hard at times to watch the scenes involving wounded and hurt animals; I hope they were just well-trained actors, but this was long before the days when animals were given any protection in the making of movies. Also, Maureen O’Sullivan flashes an amazing amount of skin here; though her nude swim was performed by a double, her regular costume leaves very little to the imagination. I actually wonder how she survives in the jungle; it seems like she gets attacked by a wild animal every ten minutes or so; for that matter, Cheetah has a couple of scenes where he’s at risk, too, not to mention losing his mother in a somewhat shocking scene.

Of course, there’s still the question as to whether the Tarzan movies belong to this series, but since the book I’m using as a source includes them, so will I; it’s certainly more genre than NIGHT UNTO NIGHT, for example. Yes, they’re less fantasies than exotic adventure stories, but I’ve heard it said that Africa bears little real resemblance to the one seen in these movies, so fantasy may be an appropriate category; at any rate, there’s so many Tarzan movies out there that it’s bound to add several more entries to the Musings.

The Student of Prague (1913)

THE STUDENT OF PRAGUE (1913)
Article #410 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 4-29-2002
Posting date: 9-22-2002

A poor student sells his reflection to a strange man in order to have enough money to win the woman he loves. He then finds himself haunted by his own reflection.

Sometimes persistence pays off; the first time I watched this early German horror film, I was left scratching my head, as the title cards were all in German and my few years of high school language classes were of little help. However, on a second viewing, I was able to sort out the story much better. This is one of the very few horror movies made about a doppelganger, and it’s a fascinating little story; I wouldn’t mind a remake (there’s at least one out there), as it’s one of those concepts that is relatively unexplored in horror cinema, and I’m sure there are interesting things to do with the idea. Some great acting by Paul Wegener adds to the fun.

Spooks Run Wild (1941)

SPOOKS RUN WILD (1941)
Article #409 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 4-28-2002
Posting date: 9-21-2002

The East Side Kids take refuge in a haunted house, where they match wits with a man they believe to be a killer.

This was the Bowery Boys back when they were the East Side Kids and young enough to still be thought of as kids. The movie is designed around them; the story is inconsequential, the character development is time-filler, and Bela Lugosi and Angelo Rossitto are just scary window-dressing. Ultimately, how much you like this movie depends on how much you like the East Side Kids, and a little goes a long way with them. Still, compare them to some of the other comedy acts that Bela worked with over the years, and they look pretty good. Unfortunately, you can only handle so many gags about being scared, and the movie wears out its welcome long before it’s over. I do prefer it to their other collaboration with Bela, GHOSTS ON THE LOOSE.

She (1911)

SHE (1911)
Article #408 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 4-27-2002
Posting date: 9-20-2002

This is a short adaptation of H. Rider Haggard’s novel about She-who-must-be-obeyed, an apparently immortal woman who rules a hidden kingdom and her love for a man she killed many years ago.

James Cruze also appeared in a short version of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, which was somewhat more successful than this one is. Fully half the running time of my print of this movie (which runs about twenty minutes) is backstory, leaving only about ten minutes to cover the main story, and there’s really not much of the story left. What is there seems arbitrary, and

SPOILER

I have to admit at this point that I have never quite understood why the fire makes the woman old the last time she uses it; I suspected it might have been better explained in the novel, but apparently it’s just as vague about the reason for this phenomenon as any of the movies. Oh, well.

The Rogues’ Tavern (1936)

THE ROGUES’ TAVERN (1936)
Article #407 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 4-26-2002
Posting date: 9-19-2002

A detective and his ex-detective girlfriend go to an out-of-the-way inn to meet a justice of the peace who will marry them. There they run into a mysterious group of people who are being murdered by what is believed to be a wild dog.

This is essentially an old dark house movie, but it’s the most brightly lit old dark house movie I’ve seen. There are some interesting characters and some novel ideas, but it’s badly written; it’s loaded with bad jokes and cliches, with one character actually saying “It’s getting dark!” as he dies. The editing is also pretty bad, with pointless cutting back and forth on certain scenes, and way too many shots of people looking suspiciously at each other without a real purpose or point. Still, it does leave you guessing as to the identity of the real culprit, and if you make it through, you will be treated to one of the most maniacal speeches you’ve ever encountered in the cinema. There are some really fun moments here, but it’s a mixed bag, to be sure. Wallace Ford plays the detective.