Written by / 12/11/2011 / No comments / , , , , ,

GREYSTOKE: THE LEGEND OF TARZAN, LORD OF THE APES

year: 1984 rating: **
While being a more faithful rendition of Tarzan, the ape lord created by Edgar Rice Burroughs turned into an endearing airhead in older films, the brooding saga, made by CHARIOTS OF FIRE director Hugh Hudson, ultimately misses the vine.

The prologue introduces us to the gorillas in their African jungle habitat during a volcanic eruption, seeming like a creation of sorts. The simians (created by Rick Baker) are esthetically pleasing but all their screams get annoying, and they never feel like characters to invest time in.

The humans in England are a bit more deserving our attention… Ralph Richardson, in his final screen role, plays the Earl of Greystoke: consisting of a giant mansion sprawled along a plush countryside. His son Jack, discontented with easy living, takes his wife to Africa where, after a shipwreck (that we unfortunately never witness) is stranding in the jungle and… Let’s cut to the chase: the parents die and their infant is raised by apes. The scenes with the young Tarzan (who’s never referred to as such) are wonderful looking, but the coming-of-ape montage cuts so sporadically we never feel he’s in any danger, nor is an effective kinship established with his new parental figures. He grows to be Christopher Lambert, with narrowed eyes and swiftly cunning agility, but he seems more posing the role than performing it.

Eventually Tarzan aka John Clayton is taken by Ian Holm, the surviving member of a massacred hunting party – after much too easy tutoring lessons to make him more human – to be with his grandfather in England. Here’s where a real story could have sunk in... but the scenes skip around so much it's like half a film – and a long one at that. As Lambert makes noises like lions, and leaps around bedrooms like an ape, it often feels more parody than serious; and Andie McDowell's dubbed voice (by Glenn Close) is preposterously distracting.

All in all, our titular hero’s never successfully established as the lord of the jungle or a man trying to find his place in England. Even Ian Holm tells Clayton to realize he’s human in order to fit into the jungle or civilization. Too bad for the audience he never really does.
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