how the cinematic tarzans relate
to the wold newton universe
Dennis E. Power
Part 3: the Barker, Scott and Ely years
After finishing school, Boy or as he was legally known, Richard Lansing, (if you have not read the background on him please click here) returned to
Africaand began living on the escarpment again. He assumed the identity of Tarzan, in honor of his adopted Father and because he realized that the name invoked respect, and he intended to do as much as he could to preserve African wildlife and native cultures while bringing Africainto the modern age. Besides he was as entitled to the name as had been his adopted father, he too had been adopted by mangani and named White Skin although his full name had been Tarzaneta. Little White Skin. had also become aware that his father was not the only person using that name. While visiting his cousin Oliver he had been told that two distant relatives of his family had used the name, John Clayton, Lord Greystoke and John Cloamby, Lord Grandrith. Lansing
At first he adopted the speech pattern and mannerisms of his adopted Father to give credence to idea that Tarzan had returned to his homeland. His first recorded adventure isTarzan's Magic Fountain which was the first of the Lex Barker Tarzan films. With the introduction of the new Tarzan we notice first of all that Tarzan is blond, has slightly better diction, is not as beefy and wears moccasins. The reason for the latter is simple, over the last few years of wearing street shoes the callous on Richard Lansing's feet had softened.
had also brought with him into the jungle a wife, a young woman that he had met at school. Her name was oddly enough, Jane the first real Jane to be portrayed in the films. Jane's full name was Jane Eugenia Smith-Jones of the renown Boston Smith-Jones. Although her father, Waldo Emerson Smith-Jones and her mother Nadara de la Valois Smith-Jones were respectively a Boston Brahmin and a aristocratic Russian heir, Jane took to the primitive life with relish. Lansing
Not much should be read into the fact that the Lex Barker and Gordon Scott Tarzan's had a different Jane each time one was presented in a film. It was just the
had a hard time capturing the essence of this particular Jane. Hollywood
Cheta finds cloth pouch containing a cigarette case and diary. It is the diary of Gloria James. Jane says that she remembers that Gloria James had attempted an around the world flight in 1929, "when she was a little girl", which proves that she was not the first movie Jane, since Janet Parker was a grown woman by 1929.
The pouch and certain landmarks seem to indicate that Lansing and his wife are living in the tree house on the Escarpment.
probably wanted to live in the house he was raised it and to keep tabs on his friends, the mangani and the elephants. Lansing
Jane insists that
turn the pouch and its contents over to the nearby authorities so that Gloria James family will at least know what happened to her. Reluctant at first, he agrees. When they arrive in the nearby town of Lansing , they learn that there is a reward for the whereabouts of Gloria James, since she could clear a man of murder that he might not have committed. A flier and a hunter agree to split the reward for informing her family of her fate. Randini
Hearing this Tarzan mutters cryptically "Tell them Gloria James maybe not dead." He and Jane return to the tree house and
begins gathering food and weapons for a two or three day excursion. He tells Jane he has to check something out, he will be back in a day or two. Lansing
Tarzan returns with a beautiful young woman. Jane asks her name, she claims to be Gloria James.
then tells Jane the entire story. Gloria James' plane had crashed as it flew over the escarpment. Her co-pilot was dead and she was nearly dead. To save her life, Tarzan carried her to the Lansing where people drink out of a glowing spring that not only has amazing curative powers but also maintains youth. The water has to be drank at least once a week or the aging process begins once more. Blue Valley
The flier and hunter are flabbergasted when the young Gloria James books passage to
Tarzan and Jane get a mail drop that informs them that Gloria James freed the man from prison and married him. They would be coming to
They meet Gloria at the base of the escarpment. The plane lands on the plain near the escarpment. When Gloria James returns she has aged at least ten years. She asks Tarzan to lead her and her husband back to the
. He refuses having taken a solemn vow not to take anyone there again. The flier and hunter are apparently stranded, a part has gone bust on the plane. They ask Tarzan if they can tag along. He states that he will take them over the escarpment but that is it. Blue Valley
Because of Tarzan's refusal to lead them Jane says she will do so. Her efforts show that while she was brave, resourceful and strong willed, she was totally unfamiliar with this jungle. She certainly had not been living there for twenty years. Keeping out of sight,
follows closely, amused at their antics. Lansing
One night while everyone slept,
awoke Gloria James and her husband and lead them out of the camp. He took them to the Lansing . The flier and hunter forced Jane at gun point to track Tarzan. Blue Valley
Gloria James and her Husband are welcomed to the
, however no one else is to be permitted in or out. Their spring is shown glowing water arcing up from a hidden source. If Kor is also located in this vast monolithic, cavern strewn mountain, then it is possible that the Blue Valley 's spring and Kor's Fire of Life have the same source. Kor's Fire of Life appears to be a volcanic vent, probably radioactive in nature. The Spring in the Blue Valley could possibly pass through part of the cooler section of the volcanic vent. Blue Valley
Jane and her two escorts arrive at the narrow mountain pass leading to the stone bridge connecting one peak to another. The guards of the
fire on them, shooting large flaming balustrade bolts. A flaming bolt transfixes both of the men and set the surrounding foliage on fire. Blue Valley jumps across the chasm and saves Jane. Lansing
Tarzan and the Slave Girl is the next recorded adventure of the
. Jane now carries a bow, knows some of the native languages and can read a trail. Tarzan has discarded the moccasins and carries a bow as well. Girls are being abducted from native villages by strangely dressed men. They are from a city called Mionia. Their culture seems to be a strange blend of Hittite, Babylonian and Egyptian. These men are also infected with a disease. Tarzan stops one abduction from taking place but has to hurry to Randini to get a doctor and his nurse to stop the strange disease from affecting more than one village. Lansings
The doctor comes to the native village accompanied by Lola, his nurse, who is an educated native girl. The natives are once again depicted as pseudo- polynesian but there are smatterings of Black Africans as bearers. In reality they were all Black Africans except fo the Mionians.
Jane and Lola stay at the tree house while Tarzan and the Doctor go among the native tribes distributing the serum. The Mionians find Jane and Lola and abduct them. After the natives have been cured, the Doctor and Tarzan decide to track the mysterious abductors to their homeland, to rescue the abducted girls and to cure the population of the abductors.
The Mionians live in a valley deep inside a mountain range. The entrance to the valley is through a dense jungle guardian by fierce tribe known as the Waddies. They are a Black African tribe that are friends to the Mionians. The Waddies dress like shrubbery and use blowguns with poison darts. Once Tarzan and his party manage to get past the Waddies they must cross a chasm bridged by a fallen tree and then down rocky crags, scrub and finally dense jungle land again.
Jane and Lola hold off the advances of the abductors and the advances of the Prince of Mionia. They attempt escape and for that crime are sentenced to be sealed alive in the tomb of the recently deceased King of Mionia. Tarzan rescues them. The Mionians have been abducting women because of the toll the disease has taken on their populous. They are, I believe, a genuinely lost city, one of the forgotten Atlantean outposts. Their culture was the primary one from which was derived Babylonian, Egyptian and Hittite cultures.
In payment for their curing the Mionians of the disease, especially the Prince's son, The Mionians agree not to make any more raids for slave girls.
Next up is Tarzan's Peril. The background story is one of crime and intrigue. There are two native tribes, which are surprisingly depicted as Black Africans. One tribe, the Ashuba, ruled by Queen Melmendi wishes to be a part of the colonial system and obeys the rules of the King as determined by her Commissioner. One of them is no guns.
Another group wishes to use modern technology but not be ruled by
or any other foreign power. The King of this tribe wishes to make Queen Melmendi his wife but she refuses. England
A group of criminal types lead by Radichek carries a load of weapons to sell to King Bulan. Radichek is not a common criminal he is apparently an agent at large for the
Soviet Union, using whatever means at his disposal to destabilize the country.
Radichek and his band encounter the Commissioners, the retiring one and his replacement. Radichek shoots them down in cold blood. He sells the guns to King Bulan and then makes himself scarce. He kills his accomplice. King Bulan's men use the guns to capture the Ashuba village and take Queen Melmendi prisoner. Tarzan is recovering from a concussion when he is captured as well. When King Bulan's men had drunk themselves in a stupor, Tarzan and Melmendi free the other prisoners and take the guns themselves, turning the tables on their captives.
Tarzan tracks down Radichek. Radichek Radichek runs out of ammunition and is killed by Tarzan in hand to hand combat.
In the next film, Tarzan's Savage Fury we learn quite a bit about the
family. A man claiming to be Oliver Greystoke accompanied by a guide makes his way to the Escarpment. However, the audience had been shown that the true Oliver Greystoke had been killed by the guide, Rokoff and another Englishman, named Edwards, assumed the role. Lansing
He claims to be
cousin, whom Lansings had never met, he always being away when Lansing had visited his relatives. They have in their possession a diary written by Richard Lansing during the years 1922-23 (whom they incorrectly call Lord Greystoke in the film). Lansing was an anthropologist. In 1922 he was studying a tribe which the film calls the Waziri. This might have come from the screenwriters attempt to use Burroughsian phrases in the films such as when Gordon Scott is made to say, "I was raised by Kerchak the great ape" Or they may have been an offshoot of this great tribe or more than likely from a tribe with a similar name. Lansing
In the diary Richard Lansing sr. writes of his family and of his newly born son. He also says that they Waziri use huge uncut diamonds in their religious ceremonies.
sr. returned with his family to Lansing and obviously intended to return to studying the Waziri for they left quite a bit of material in the cabin. However on the return trip, while flying over the escarpment, their plane crashed and all but Richard Lansing jr. was killed. England
Oliver Greystoke tells
that to help Lansing and England keep their technological superiority in the world they should see if they can convince these Waziri to trade the diamonds, to be used in industrial applications not for the pursuit of wealth. America
was much more aware of world events than his adoptive father had been and realized what they said had the ring of truth to it. Lansing
The film has Tarzan leading Jane, Rokoff and Greystoke to the Waziri village from memory. However
pinpointed the area from directional clues and a map enclosed in the diary. They are seen crossing a large mountain range and then a desert area before emerging into another jungle. They must flee from a cannibal tribe before finding the Waziri village. Lansing
Once in the Waziri village they are marked as evil omens by a local witch doctors. Perhaps the "Waziri" had not had very good relations with Caucasians after Richard Lansing sr.and his family departed.
An older man who had been taught English by
sr. interprets for them. The Chief has trouble believing that this young man is indeed the son of their friend Richard Lansing, furthermore he does not believe that he had grown into the legendary figure of Tarzan. He must travel to the Lansing 's cabin to get proof. The Lansing 's had lived a day's travel from the Waziri village, Lansing had wanted this much of a buffer zone between his family and the unknown element of the tribe. Lansing
When Tarzan and the older man leave, the others are left in a guarded cabin. Cheta finds Oliver Greystoke's passport and passes it to Jane, which may indicate that Cheta and the other mangani, although unable to write could read to some extent. The passport proves Oliver Greystoke an impostor. Rokoff is then revealed as a Russian agent.
should have encountered two Russian agents in such a short time does seem a bit incredulous but we must remember that the time period. The cold war was just beginning and Lansing saw Russia Africaand other third world nations as areas where colonial exploitation could be turned into anti-capitalist pro-communist rebellions. As it turns out this plan had a limited success, some African groups accepted the funding and supplies from the Soviet Unionand its agents but paid lip service to its sentiments. When the Africans took power, they generally followed their own agendas.
Rokoff, may have been related to the villain in Return of Tarzan or this may be another Burroughsian reference thrown into the script. He uses slight of hand to wow the Waziri populous and walks into the great temple to loot the temple of its diamonds. The Witch doctor finds him there and is paralyzed with fear when Rokoff uses sleight of hand to appear to being taking items from out of th Witch Doctor's body. Taking advantage of this, Rokoff stabs the Witch Doctor to death.
Edwards and Rokoff flee with a chest of diamonds and a ham radio. Using the radio Rokoff calls for a plane to land with a crew that will liberate the rest of the diamonds.
Edwards had been wounded earlier and is sick with fever. Rokoff disposes of his liability by tossing him off a cliff into a lion's den.
Tarzan and the older man arrive just in time to hear Edwards' cries.
Rokoff tells Tarzan that his cousin had stumbled and fallen off the cliff. Tarzan climbs down a vine to rescue Edwards. Rokoff cuts the vine and leaves him to the lions. (Although in the film, Rokoff shoots at Tarzan cutting the vine and Tarzan becomes buried under a landslide to be rescued by a young boy that accompanied them.)
Tarzan manages to escape the lions and scale the cliff as Rokoff is giving final instructions on how to land the plane. He shoots his revolver until it is empty and then tosses it at Tarzan. Lansing and Rokoff resort ot fists. Tarzan knocks Rokoff out and throws him down to the lions.
Cheta has meanwhile taken to operating the radio, she had some experience with radios from the incident with the Nazi's. In the static her mangani chatter sounds like directions which causes the plane to smash into the side of a mountain.
Tarzan carries the chest of stolen diamonds back to the Waziri village and rescues Jane from an execution. The older man shows the chief the book that proves
jr's identity. Although the film portrays it as a bible, it was more than likely a photo album with pictures of Lansing 's family along with pictures of the tribesmen. Although in the film the older man had said to Tarzan upon their arrival at the cabin, "This is where you lived before your Father and Mother were killed and you went to live among the apes" This is a fictional phrase which confuses Burroughs Tarzan with Lansing . The older man probably told Lansing this was where he had lived with his parents before they all went away. Lansing
The film has a character which is mostly a
Hollywoodcreation. Tarzan acquires an orphaned Caucasian boy who has run away from a mission school from a group of our old friends the Gaboni. They had hired Joey Martin to act as crocodile bait. He swims out into the river on a rope and attract the attention of a crocodile and swims back. The Gaboni then spear the crocodile. objects to them using boys as bait and tells them to stop. In the film Joey Martin then stays with Tarzan and Jane and becomes their adopted son. In reality, Lansing returned the boy to the mission school. Lansing
The next vehicle based on the exploits Richard Lansing, Tarzan was Tarzan and the She Devil. To summarize the rather convoluted plot, Ivory poachers working in concert with a slaver who is a Caucasian woman named Lyra raid a native village at night and enslave all of the men. The women of the Li-koko tribe journey to see Tarzan and ask him to free their men. He travels to Dagar and frees the men but is seen doing so. Lyra accompanies her men as they go to round up the escaped slaves. She comes up with a plan to first bribe Tarzan but when that fails, they are to capture Jane and raid the Li-koko village simultaneously. She wants to force Tarzan to call the elephants for her.
Tarzan suspects they will raid the Li-Koko village again and travels there, just as the raid begins. The movie has him hearing the raid and rushing off, but if he was still living on the escarpment as I suspect this would be next to impossible.
The group that is supposed to capture Jane sets the tree house on fire. They believe that Jane perished in the fire. She however had jumped to safety and sustained a head injury, she laid concussed and delirious for days.
Even with Tarzan's help the Li-koko were overpowered by the raiders' firepower and ruthlessness. Although the film does not show it, I suspect the raiders threatened to kill the villager's children unless the men surrendered. Tarzan surrendered but only to bide his time. However the group that was supposed to capture Jane returned and informed Lyra and Tarzan of her death. He broke free and raced to the escarpment, upon discovering the burnt house and no sign of Jane,
became careless and was knocked unconscious. Lansing
The film showed him as being lethargic and complacent, even when Lyra's thuggish henchman whips him repeatedly with a sjambok. The film attributes this to his grief but I suspect drugs were used to keep him in a dazed and confused state. He however refuses to call the elephants into a giant stockade to be slaughtered.
An elephant, (probably directed by Cheta, although her doing so is not shown in the film) carries Jane to the Li-koko village where the women and old men care for her.
When Jane goes to Dagar to see if she can find Tarzan Lyra takes her captive. She takes Jane to the hunters camp and tells Tarzan that if will not call the elephants, she will be killed. He agrees. He calls the elephants and has the Li-koko men shut the gates to stockade just before the elephants get there, diverting the elephants to stampede the hunters camp. Lyra and her henchman are killed and Tarzan rescues Jane at the last moment.
The natives, including the Li-koko are once more portrayed as psuedo-polynesian but since they do not represent any type of lost civilization, they were quite likely Black Africans. Lyra and her main henchmen were however ex-patriate Europeans, probably wanted criminals. The guards and soldiers where probably a blend of Arab and Europeans.
I suspect that after the tree house on the escarpment was destroyed, Lansing and Jane moved off the escarpment and down to the the tree house next to the river that Tarzan-2 had built years before. Tarzan's next three adventures are without Jane. While it is possible that they split up, it also possible that she returned to the
for further education. The U.S. had realized that to better help the animals and peoples of Lansings Africathey would do better as accredited professionals. Jane went first.
Tarzan and the Lost Safari is a Gordon Scott vehicle but I believe that this and the later films portray the Lansing Tarzan as he was undergoing a transition and slowly changing the image of Tarzan the inarticulate ape-man to one that was closer to his own personality.
Tarzan and the Lost Safari involves five people on a private plane that crashes because the amateur pilot flew into a flock of birds. Tarzan is nearby and rescues them from the downed aircraft. He also agrees to lead them to a more modernized area. They have landed in an area controlled by a tribe which film calls Opar. This is once again a Burroughsian reference tossed into the script by the screenwriters.
Nearby is a white hunter named Hawkins who finds the plane crash survivors at the same time. He makes a deal with the Oparians to lead the Caucasians into Opar for sacrifices, in return he will get gold and ivory.
Pretending to guide them to the coast, Hawkins leads the party into the clutches of the Oparians. Tarzans rescues them and makes it appear as though Hawkins had double-crossed the Oparians. While the Oparians are dealing with Hawkins, Tarzan and the others make their escape. After they are safe, Tarzan inquires from why the party had given more credence to Hawkins words than to his. It was because Hawkins did not appear to be an ignorant savage.
determines to end his portrayal of the grunting ape-man Tarzan. In his next solo venture,Tarzan's Greatest Adventure he speaks proper English. A group of men raid a settlement at night, killing several men. Although they appear Black, this is found to be a ruse, they had darkened their faces with berry juice. The radio operator whom they had killed mouthed the word Slade. This was a former hunter who had known Tarzan. Slade and his companions goal is to travel down river and work a diamond mine which the Slade knew about. Hearing of the raid, Tarzan felt responsible for the Slade's involvement and tracks them. He is hindered in his efforts by a female adventureress. She had been flying a small plane, had shown off in front of Tarzan and ended cracking up. Lansing
There are several engagements between Tarzan and the boatload of criminals. The first crook to perish, however is killed by one of his cohorts. Tarzan is seriously injured by thrown dynamite in one of the battles, although he manages to account for one of the crooks. As he heals up, nursed by the woman Angie, the remaining members of the party make their way to the mine entrance.
While Slade is laying traps for Tarzan, the other remaining crook, a myopic Dutch geologist tries to rape Slade's girlfriend. She runs screaming from camp and winds up impaled on one of Slade's traps.
The geologist claimed she saw a snake.
Slade and Kruger enter the mine and try to double cross each other. Kruger ends up thrown down an old mine shaft. Tarzan gives Angie the criminals' boat and sends her on way.
Slade and Tarzan fight it out. First with bow against rifle, then hand to hand as Slade tries to garrote Tarzan with a wire snare. After Slade's defeat Tarzan uses his victory cry for the first and only time in this film.
In Tarzan the Magnificent he also speaks perfect English. The Bantons, a family of criminals wanted in several African countries free Coy Banton from jail, killing several policemen as they do. A police friend of Tarzan's tracks the Banton's. At night he sneaks into their camp and makes off with Coy Banton. However the wily Banton's track him and manage to lay an ambush. He is killed paddled down the river in a canoe. Tarzan arrives too late to save his friend and manages to kill one of the Banton's and make the other flee. He recaptures Coy Banton and takes him to the nearest village but the villagers will not help him for fear of reprisals from the Banton's.
Tarzan plans to put Banton on the Riverboat which is due the next day and ride with him to a nearby large city so he can collect the reward money for Banton's capture and give it to the constable's family. However Banton's family shoot the riverboat captain, put ashore the passengers and set fire to the boat.
The passengers trek their way into the village. When Tarzan announces his intention to travel with Banton on foot, each of the passengers has compelling reasons to accompany him.
Tarzan, his prisoner and the passengers travel through the jungle pursued by the Banton's. Coy Banton is wily and smart and manages to get the others to leave clues that will keep his family on track. He eventually seduces the unhappy wife of a businessman to let him go.
They run off together but when she becomes tired and can no longer travel, he abandons her.
A pride of lions find and feast upon her. Tarzan tracks Banton and his family, which now consists of Coy and his wounded father. The Bantons climb to high ground on some rocks and attempt to catch Tarzan in a crossfire. Coy accidentally kills his father and then runs out of ammunition.
The fight between Banton and Tarzan is short and deadly. However, Tarzan refrains from killing him. He takes the remnants of the travelers to the border and drops Banton off.
This is the last filmed exploit of Richard Lansing, Tarzan. However he agreed to allow more of his adventures to be told in exchange for receiving funds for wildlife preservation and various other projects that would preserve much of
Africaas it struggled to take its place in the modern world.
The adventures were however to be highly fictionalized with only some truthful elements to lend the stories an authentic ring. One of his reasons was to make the Native African peoples and animals more sympthathetic to the average European or American person. To this end, they left out his wife, created a Boy substitute and made his back story a cipher. To his disappointment however they had made the jungle almost South American in its look and created a fantasy jungle population made up of Blacks and Native Americans.
He had evidently supplied the producers with story ideas from the period of his life from 1960 to 1965 which were turned into the Tarzan television show starrying Ron Ely. Several events occurred around 1965 which caused Lansing to retire as Tarzan or at least go on hiatus for a while.
The nations of Africa were becoming truly independent and in many cases were trying to rid themselves of all European influences, good or bad. Despite having been born in Africa and having lived there most of his life, Richard Lansing was looked upon as foreign intruder. His efforts to help preserve the native wildlife or help native Africans deal with modernization were viewed with suspicion and distrust.
There was also the added factor that he was fatigued. Sometime around 1961 the Escarpment experienced a series of strange events as some unknown force triggered several dormant dimensional rifts in the Mutia escarpments cavern system and peaks.
There appeared the cave cities of Bamo and Ondo where men had black and white plumes instead of hair. A traveler stumbled on to the city and returned with an army of criminals. For in it was a huge emerald called the Night of the Light. Lansing, with his visiting cousin Frederick Pembroke, defeated the Eurasian cutthroats that had invaded the escarpment and survive the war that the stealing of the Emerald precipitated.
A group of Belgian criminals, fleeing justice and turmoil in the Belgian Congo find their way onto the Escarpment. They discover a hitherto unknown portal on the Escarpment that leads to a land where Snake people live, they have the heads of humans and the bodies of Snakes like the legendary Nagas.
Their attempt to rob both of the tribes of their precious stores of radium spills over into the escarpment proper. Tarzan and Jane investigate. Jane is captured and held for hostage. Unless Tarzan returns with the criminals and the supply of radium, she will be put to death.
Tarzan becomes aware of stories from the mangani of another tribe of mangani who have suddenly started populating the snow capped peaks of the escarpment. Intrigued by this Tarzan, Jane, some of the great apes and a newspaper reporter who is an old school mate of the Lansings travel up the peaks to discover a race of Yeti's living on the peaks of the escarpment.
They also discover a lost city ruled by an Egyptian Queen. For her amusement, Tarzan and a Yeti are forced to fight in the arena.
Finally the answer for all of the strange events is revealed when natives on and around escarpment are found drained of blood. A group of time traveling mutants from the future had crash landed in the present on the escarpment. Somehow the energies around the escarpment had affected their time device. Their attempts to leave had triggered dormant dimensional portals. The mutants were related to the Morlocks from a timeline where they had become vampires as well as cannibals.