Tarzan of the Apes (1918)

Article 4282 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-5-2013
Directed by Scott Sidney
Featuring Elmo Lincoln, Enid Markey, True Boardman
Country: USA
What it is: A Tarzan movie, what else?

A British Lord and Lady end up stranded in Africa, and the woman gives birth to a son. When they both die, the child is reared by apes. Years later, and expedition is undertaken to discover the fate of the couple and to find the boy.

Given how many Tarzan movies I’ve already covered for this series, it’s a little amazing that I only now am covering this one; it is, after all, the first one made, is fairly well known, and is extant. The reason for this is that the source from which I culled most of the other Tarzan titles gives this one an incorrect year; I think it meant to place it in 1917, but reversed the last two numbers so it says 1971. From what I gather, this is the version of Tarzan that is closest to how he was envisioned by Edgar Rice Burroughs. He’s wild and savage, but does have some command of the English language, and Elmo Lincoln gives a fine performance in the role, as does Gordon Griffith as a young Tarzan (his sequences take up nearly half of the movie). Yet, I do feel I have to reserve judgment on this one. The version I saw of it has no musical soundtrack, and though I’ve seen other silent movies under the same circumstances, this is one of those movies that cries for a musical accompaniment. Without one, it feels rushed and confusing, and it’s rather difficult to connect with the story. However, one thing I will comment on is that Hollywood would get a lot better with their gorilla suits over time; though there are a lot of people in ape suits, only one is supposed to be a gorilla per se, and if they hadn’t told me it was a gorilla, I wouldn’t have had a clue to what it was.

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