Tarzan the Ape Man (1981)
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But it has a few things going for it. Bo looks great, the production values (sets, costumes, etc.) are quite good, and this greatly enhances its camp value. In a strange way it is actually quite funny, simply because it tries to be serious and fails so badly.
After a memorable turn in Blake Edward's "10" Bo Derek settled into a brief career of movies directed by her husband John Derek as a chance to showcase his wife's boobs. "Tarzan the Ape Man" was the first of these, with Bo getting top billing as Jane, Richard Harris as Jane's father getting second, Cheetah the orangutan getting third and Miles as the title character getting fourth. Not much happens in the movie, there's mostly a lot of walking through the jungle until Bo announces "I THINK I'LL TAKE A BATH NOW". She continuously holds her index finger up to her lips for reasons not really comprehendable. Her husband's direction, according to Miles, was "Honey, get your breasts up." Richard Harris yells every line he has, Miles O'Keefe says it was because he was bored. Tarzan finally shows up halfway through, but he has no dialogue. All action scenes are done in slow motion so it ruins the effect and makes them way too long.
Despite 38 full breast exposures "Tarzan the Ape Man" is truly one of those movies that is so bad it's bad. Even people who love bad movies don't like this movie. There is no rating in this review because there is no way on IMDb to give a movie zero stars.
The story focuses more on Jane (the talentless Bo Derek), who arrives in Africa to reunite with her tyrannical, boozy, abusive father (Richard Harris). During a jungle expedition, she goes missing and is rescued by ape man Tarzan (Miles O'Keefe), only to fall in love with him.
O'Keefe is unquestionably the worst Tarzan ever, and Derek is probably the worst Jane. Richard Harris's performance is energetic and entertaining, but why he bothered to put in such a lively performance is anybody's guess. It's certainly a wasted effort.
The backdrop is nicely photographed, but then again anyone can design a nice postcard. The characters moving around in front of the scenery are so banal and idiotic that the film fails on every level. The worst moment of all is the dreary slow-motion snake wrestling sequence. Bo Derek strips off regularly, but after seeing her tits five or six times, you start to get fed up even with that.
Miss this movie at all costs. Unless you want to compile a list of the worst films ever.... if that's your aim, then this is a must!
Lead actress/producer Bo Derek is rather ridiculous playing the schoolgirl-ish sexual innocent (witness the inept banana scene) and, as was to be expected, she is made to get her clothes off a few times but, as welcome as these scenes were, she came off as far more sensual in 10 than she does here; Richard Harris, then, chews the scenery incessantly as Jane’s obsessed explorer father, but John Philip Law barely registers as his aide who meekly shows some initial interest in Jane herself; newcomer Miles O’Keeffe has the title role and he only makes his entrance 45 minutes into the movie, is completely silent throughout except for his famous yodel (which is probably lifted from Johnny Weissmuller anyway!) and, furthermore, is as inexpressive as one of the trees he dangles from at regular intervals throughout the film’s second half!; for the record, he later starred in two ATOR movies (or would-be CONAN imitators) for Joe D’Amato and the King Arthur-era set, SWORD OF THE VALIANT (1984).
When still an actor, director John Derek (who also serves as his own cinematographer here) had worked with some good film-makers (Cecil B. De Mille, William Dieterle and Robert Rossen) and a few great ones (Otto Preminger, Nicholas Ray and Don Siegel) but he clearly learned zilch from them as his direction of this one is a major liability: appallingly pretentious at times (witness the perfectly horrid python attack sequence) with a senseless overuse of the slow motion technique and cheesy transitions; this was Derek’s seventh film as a director (and his second of four with wife Bo) and, eventually, he would only get to make two more.
The film’s utter failure only needs to be gauged by the fact that the Tarzan legend was tackled once more on film – in GREYSTOKE: THE LEGEND OF TARZAN, LORD OF THE APES (which, surprisingly enough, I haven’t watched myself yet) – a mere three years later!! Nominated for six Razzie Awards (including John Derek, Richard Harris and Miles O’Keeffe) and winning one for Bo Derek herself, TARZAN, THE APE MAN was co-written by Gary Goddard, the future director of another highly anticipated but ultimately disappointing transposition to the silver screen of a (this time animated) heroic figure, MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE (1987) which I will be revisiting presently as well (yay)! Despite a charming closing credit sequence showing Tarzan and Jane playing with around with an orang-utan and a music score that is not half bad actually and quite rousing on occasion, any belated good intentions are defeated by an extremely silly climax involving natives painting Bo completely white and, fatally, John Derek’s clear disinterest in the character of Tarzan himself which makes him come off as an unimportant supporting character in his own self-titled movie!!
Bo Derek is the most beautiful Jane, but the worst actress of those who have played the role.
Richard Harris hams it up as usual.
The film was based around Jane and the nudity. Did you expect anything else from John & Bo Derek? BUT: Miles O'Keeffe made a spectacular Tarzan, probably second or third of all the actors; Johnny Weissmuller and possibly Gordon Scott were better. Bo is gorgeous. The jungle scenery was some of the best ever for a Tarzan picture, including the escarpment! The story up to when Jane encounters Tarzan rang true (mostly) with the books. The cinematography is excellent.
The film is a valid result of what you would get if the sexual aspects of the story were over-emphasized. Taken in that regard, it's pretty well done.
But, you see, the problem is that Bo Derek had already been showcased in Blake Edwards' "10", which did the job perfectly - it required her to be gorgeous, scantily (or less) dressed, and vacuous, all three of which she managed perfectly.
Then husband John Derek picked up that particular ball and ran with it, and the first place he ran to (others followed) was Tarzan, The Ape Man.
Miles O'Keefe is a perfectly serviceable Tarzan in this, his only Tarzan film. He certainly looks the part, and he runs, swings, swims, and looks mystified in all the places where he is required to do so.
The problem is that this isn't actually a Tarzan film. It isn't even a Jane film. It's a Bo Derek film.
There is some beautiful scenery and a rather perfunctory performance by Richard Harris in a slow and boring 30 to 40 minutes. And then Bo starts to get naked, a state in which she spends most of the remainder of the film both before and after Tarzan arrives on the scene.
Now I have no great objection to Bo Derek naked. Bo Derek naked is, in my shallow and superficial view, a Good Thing. The problem, though, is twofold. One, the poor girl is woefully exposed as having no acting ability whatsoever, apparently being under the impression that gently nibbling an immaculately manicured fingernail amounts to emoting (to her credit, she has made films later in her acting career in which she shows that she has worked and made progress in this area). And, two, someone forgot that a movie like this actually needs a story. There is some tosh about natives painting her white, but this is hardly a story.
So you might get some mileage out of scenery, and boobage, and poor old Miles O'Keefe's big break being a bit of a non-starter, but you can forget anything else.
It would be ridiculous to argue that movies shouldn't employ the sexual tease as ONE of many tools to draw in viewers. Some really great film moments incorporate it. But this move is at the opposite end of the spectrum - the tease is the only thing going on here; at the time of its release and now. You sit through awful, dumb scenes that offer no interest, and miles of footage of bad acting to drool over the next peek at either of two bodies. Yes... Bo Derek and Miles O'Keeffe are beautiful (um, congratulations on having a working libido.) but if that's your excuse for giving this schlock a good rating you really should visit a porn store and stock up. There's only a hairs-breadth difference between the two formats and (I'm just guessing here) a horny viewer would probably really enjoy the latter. The question is whether a mainstream movie is the best venue in the marketplace for viewers to seek out products that satisfy lust alone.
As a showman, John Derek successfully capitalized on the sexual mystique developed over wife Bo in the movie "10"; and created a media event out of a shallow project whose only merit was the hotness of the two leads. The movie itself was beside the point. He was about 20 years ahead of his time in thinking audiences would applaud him for making an insipid, shallow movie that was only about showcasing superficiality.
As a director, John Derek appears to require only that Mrs. Derek look pleasant, empty and hump-able in every scene. It's hideously shot. The camera placement is annoying. In terms of editing, the entire 'wipe' catalog is exhausted. The credit sequence is garish. And it's a toss-up as to who commits the worse screen offense; Bo Derek who's such a bimbo that she can't even figure out how to play a bimbo, or Richard Harris who shouts every line (as he likes to do) until you want to shoot him. At least with Bo you can imagine her blaming some horny writer for shortchanging her.
The opening MGM emblem tips off that the film shouldn't be taken too seriously: instead of the lion's roar we get Tarzan's famous jungle yell. The movie is generally serious, but in a comic-book sort of way. There's a nice sense of awe as the party traverses through the wilderness (it was shot in Sri Lanka and the island of Seychelles, 1500 miles SW of Sri Lanka), particularly when they discover the great escarpment and, then, the fictitious inland sea.
The animals are great as well, particularly the magnificent lion, the friendly elephant who scoops up Tarzan's body and the playful chimps & orangutan. By the way, the Asian elephant and orangutan present an obvious plot hole since they're not native to Africa. Not to mention James' native babe, Africa (Akushula Selayah), since she's clearly of East Indian stock (although he might've picked her up on a different expedition). Also, the muscular dude who plays the "Ivory King" (Steve Strong) is obviously a white dude painted black. Speaking of the Ivory King, Steve Strong really hams it up with bad acting befitting of a gym rat and why does it take so long to simply wake him up?
The second act is kind of boring. It consists mostly of Jane and Tarzan getting to know each other in the jungle. There's a beauty and innocence to the scenes, even a sense of awe, but they're probably too long for the average viewer. Still, the film celebrates this aspect of the human experience much as the Song of Songs in the Bible celebrates the consummation of a man & woman with overtly erotic language (read it and see for yourself).
"Tarzan the Ape Man" is reminiscent of 1976's "King Kong" in tone. Remember the sense of awe of that film coupled with the comic booky material? Remember when Kong bathed Dwan via the waterfall and gazes on in wonder? Remember the stretched-out dramatics? This is what you get with "Tarzan the Ape Man". It's an adventure film with a lot of drama and little conventional action. When the action comes -- Tarzan vs. a huge snake and Tarzan vs. the Ivory King -- it's presented in slow-motion, which is strange and hardly thrilling. And, yet, it sets the film apart. "Tarzan the Ape Man" takes its time in telling its story; by contrast, 1998's "Tarzan and the Lost City" hurriedly jumps from one sequence to the next with hardly any room to breath. They're both Tarzan films but from two completely different approaches. I just viewed them both back-to-back and it's an interesting comparison.
Of course, "Tarzan the Ape Man" is a showcase for Bo Derek. She's a beautiful woman both inside and out, but she's not a perfect "10" in my opinion. Her physicality is indeed statuesque, but her butt is too flat and her thighs too skinny (sorry if that sounds crude; I'm just being honest).
Miles O'Keeffe LOOKS great as Tarzan, but that's it. He has zero dialog beyond Tarzan's patented yell and, worse, zero depth as a character, except that he's benign and heroic. This is disappointing because Burroughs' books presented him as highly intelligent and even a type of Yahweh (the LORD), as in "the Lord of the jungle". But the film focuses on Tarzan when he is first discovered by Europeans (when he knew how to read via kid's books, but not yet how to speak English), so this can be forgiven.
One aspect of the film is outstanding and that's Tarzan's kinship with the various animals. An excellent example is the innocent playfulness of Tarzan, Jane and the orangutan in the closing scene.
Also, Richard Harris is worthy of note because he gives the role all his heart and is convincing. Despite his constant (and loud) blathering he does have some interesting insights -- like the importance of living life to its fullest and the humility to turn to God when he's totally spent (and it works!). In other words, the film isn't just mindless adventure; it features some gems to chew on.
"Tarzan the Ape Man" was a modest hit in 1981 but, surprisingly, there was no sequel. It would've been interesting to see O'Keeffe's Tarzan develop as a character and his relationship with Jane. But maybe John and Bo accomplished everything they intended to with this film and found the idea of a sequel superfluous.
BOTTOM LINE: "Tarzan the Ape Man" is a unique Tarzan film and worth it for the sense of awe -- the marvels of nature, the amazement of animals, the beauty of the (fit) human form and the wonder of (true) sexuality.
The film runs 107 minutes.
Now why one might ask would an audience do that for such an unimpressive movie? It's because Bo Derek and Miles O'Keeffe were engaged in passionate lovemaking, stark naked on the beach as a background to the whole of the credits. Most faces were at least slightly red as the lights came on and everyone could be seen as having watched the whole time.
I had to wait till everyone else had left the cinema, as my girlfriend had been wearing a sky blue cotton, skin tight shift that day. The squeal of embarrassment she let out after standing and discovering that a large patch of it had turned dark blue where it had been inconveniently moistened by her arousal, followed by her rapidly diving back into her seat, is to this day one of my favourite memories.
A one star movie is for me a movie that I walk out of. I did not walk out of this one, so that makes it at least a two star. The above however raises it's score to a three star.
I a have seen this movie twice.
The first time was on a US public channel : all what makes the film interesting had been cut because of nudity. Not sexuality or suggestive nudity, no : just partial and natural nudity (exept for the last scene) of the beautiful Bo Derek. It made a boring movie that deserve a 1.5. I did actually not see it to the end.
The second time was the full version, and kept my interest to the end. Of course the scenario is known ant not deep, the actors have not much to express, the goal of the movie is elsewhere. The movie is full of poetry, beautiful scenes, is (very) gently erotic, full of natural good feelings. I would compare it with The Blue Lagoon (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080453/).
boring films are just, well, boring - if you don't leave quickly enough, you fall asleep.
tasteless films actually have their defenders; but the fact remains that they are masturbatory aids for very sick people.
only the cheap bad films are really funny, because the filmmakers wanted to make their films so desperately, they way-over-reached beyond their abilities and available resources.
Bo Derek is just naturally boring and tasteless; fortunately, fate and a lack of funds and skill redeem her by making her seem cheap as well. this film is hilarious and it may well be the last really funny-bad film ever made.
i first saw this in a theater, may god forgive me; i was laughing so hard i was rolling off my seat, and so too with most of the rest of the audience.
it's clear that Derek and her husband-promoter, conceived of this film as, partly, a satire; unfortunately, the dereks clearly lacked any of the necessary resources to pull that off; consequently, the 'satirical' element comes off as some school-girl's impression of some gay young man's impression of frank gorshin's impression of the riddler in batman trying to pretend he's robin - it doesn't fly over our heads, it has no clue where any human head might be.
on the other hand, there are some supposedly serious moments in this film - it is supposed to be an action film, remember - that are so astoundingly cheesy, one wonders if someone squirted spoiled milk in one's eye.
as for Derek's infamous tendency to reveal her breasts - i can't imagine a less erotic nudity photographic display, she is so weird looking with those broad shoulders, i can't imagine what any one ever saw in her.
as for the plot - such as it is - well, it isn't; Derek chases around Africa, and god alone knows why. then her father - Harris - pretends to act in some maniacal puppet-show, and then of course there's the hunk'o'Tarzan that seems to have wondered in from advertisement without knowing that the subject's changed - probably because he hasn't seen a script - apparently no one has.
negligible camera work, shoddy editing - if it weren't for the 3-way with the chimp, the film would be unbearable -
as it is, it's a real hoot.
This is basically another adaptation of the classic Tarzan stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs. This time, however, the story is overly-sexualized with Derek doing almost nothing except posing so the camera will get a proper shot of her body, regardless of how many clothes she has on, doing some really terrible acting and speaking most of the film's worst dialogue, and eventually just ends up staying with Tarzan at the end where she will remain half-naked and getting laid by him for the rest of her life (I assure you, that's NOT every young woman's dream, especially when it comes to Tarzan).
Derek is Jane Parker, who is joining her father, played by Richard Harris, in a way where I can't tell whether he really tried but failed, was drunk, or just phoned it in, on an expedition to find an inland sea and an elephant graveyard. Along the way, she meets the king of the jungle himself and she becomes attracted to him, not because he is a man who doesn't speak and lives in the jungle peacefully with wild animals, but because she thinks he looks good. Tarzan ultimately has to prove his love to her by fighting off a bunch of native tribesmen and their chieftain, who is getting ready to make babies with Jane after she and her father are forcefully captured by his men.
I know I gave away the ending, but trust me: you'll be glad I told you before deciding to watch it. Where do I possibly begin? Well, I'll start by saying that even though the movie takes place in Africa, you constantly see Asian elephants and orangutans all over the place; that's because this movie was shot mostly in Sri Lanka, a small island off the subcontinent of India. Also, if Derek and her director husband, John, were trying to be subtle about Jane wanting to be sexually aroused by someone like Tarzan, they failed so miserably. In one scene where she's talking with Tarzan about being a virgin, she's peeling a banana. Really, Jane? You had to be that obvious? Additionally, I'd like to say that it's obvious why people criticize excessive nudity in films; it can distract people from the story (especially if the story is bad).
The direction is just some of the worst I've seen yet in a movie. In one scene where Tarzan is saving Jane from a python, the film suddenly goes slow-motion and the film goes all over the place, so much so that I can't tell what's happening with Tarzan, Jane, or the python. In fact, a good deal of the action is in slow-motion and it gets tedious and extremely boring. Did John Derek think that it would be a good way to keep tension up? It takes more effort than that. Additionally, Tarzan, played blandly by Miles O' Keefe, makes no sound throughout the movie except for the famous Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan calls, which are used over and over and over again to the point where you get sick of it. The music ranges from o.k. to mediocre, to bad, to just plain cheesy.
The dialogue is trashy too, and the acting makes it even more cringe- worthy. It can be contradictory too; at one point, Harris's James Parker remarks how strong a girl Jane is when he and his group are looking for her. Sorry, James, but your daughter is quite the weakling: she's been kidnapped by the king of the jungle, can't even pet a dog without falling into the water, and later she gets stripped naked and gets scrubbed down, and later painted white in a ceremony (I guess) where the chieftain will make babies with her. The situations surrounding the dialogue don't make sense either. When Jane asks him to tell her a story as she's being painted, he starts reciting Humpty Dumpty. No comment on that.
I could go on and on about everything wrong with this movie, but that would take more than a thousand words, so I'll end with this: Tarzan the Ape Man with Bo Derek is trash; trash that even fans of Bo Derek's sex appeal should skip. Let me reach out to those fans: seeing ten minutes of Bo Derek nude and wearing revealing outfits every other time does not mean you are watching a good movie.
This is bad. The writing is clunky and slow as heck. There is limited action in most of the movie and it is almost always done poorly. It is so bad that there is no tension anywhere. Bo Derek is a voluptuous sex statue but she's a bad actress. The problem is that this depends on her to do some actual dramatic acting. She is a great prop, but she can't shoulder a whole movie herself. Richard Harris has his presence but he can't save this. There are some select animals from the local zoo. The lion actually made a charge at the lead actors which is probably the movie's biggest shocking moment. This is a very thin boring weakly-written soft-core porn version of Tarzan.