Upon their arrival in Africa, Rita (Benita Hume) and Eric Parker (William
Henry), Jane's cousins, are met by Jiggs Rawlins (Herbert Mundin). He introduces
them to white hunter, Captain Fry (John Buckler), whom the hire to guide
their safari to the Mutia Escarpment. They hope to find Jane and persuade
her to return with them to England to claim an inheritance. Fry,
however, plans to capture Tarzan and exhibit him for profit. Near
the Escarpment, fearing juju (black magic), the natives refuse to go on,
and they camp. Rita plays with a lion cub, and Fry shoots the attacking
mother lion. The safari is attacked by the savage Gabonis but Tarzan’s
(Johnny Weissmuller) cry stops them in their tracks.
The party then goes on to climb to the top of the Escarpment. Tarzan
appears to free chimps from cages and takes Rita to see Jane (Maureen O'Sullivan)
who wants to meet the party. Tarzan breaks Fry's rifle and kills a wildebeest
which Jane prepares for dinner for the party. Jane eventually agrees to
return to England with her cousins and tells Tarzan that she must go away
for three months. Jane and Tarzan spend their last day in love play.
Fry sends Bomba (Darby Jones) to the Hymandis chief with a message
that he will take Tarzan away. Meanwhile, Tarzan saves a fawn by killing
a crocodile with his knife (a scene reprised from Tarzan and His
Mate), after which Jane says good-bye to Cheetah and leaves with
Fry's safari. Fry tells Tarzan that Jane is not coming back and traps the
apeman by tricking him into entering a specially built cage. The Hymandis
chief goes back on his word and confiscates the cage and seizes the party
for ritualistic sacrifice.
The cage rolls down a hill and is taken away by an elephant. A lion
chases Cheetah, but the chimp manages to get another elephant to break
open the cage to free Tarzan. Tarzan returns to the village to rescue Jane
and the safari who are tied to trees. He calls to the elephants for help
in chasing away the tribesmen. Rita, who has injured her leg, is carried
on a litter as the tribesmen pursue them. The Hymandis follow them to a
forbidden juju area that the natives are afraid to enter. Tarzan forces
Fry to move on ahead where he is killed.
Rita and Eric realize that Jane would be happier here than back in civilization
and they tell her she need not return with them if she signs a document.
Tarzan and Jane resume their idyllic life in their jungle paradise.
~ 1936 (01h:29m:17s)
Review of the MGM DVD Version
from the Digitally
Obsessed Site by Nate Myers
Perhaps if Tarzan Escapes
was the first Weissmuller-O'Sullivan escapade it would play a lot better,
but after the daring Tarzan and His Mate it plays like a mild Tarzan-esque
howl. The adventure doesn't offer us anything new, we just get the same
stuff that the previous movies gave us. Some of the footage from the earlier
installments (such as when Tarzan kills the giant crocodile) is again used
here, which just about sums up the whole outing. It's got the goods, but
none of the heart.
A new safari is under way
in the African jungle, but this time the quest isn't for the elephant graveyard.
Rita and Eric Parker (Berita Hume and William Henry, respectively) are
cousins to Jane and stand to inherit a fortune, but they have to get Jane
to sign a paper that will transfer the money from her to them. Luckily
for them, Jane is sure to give them the money (she has to be; after all,
why else would they venture on such a dangerous trip?). Rita and Eric hire
a famed hunter, Captain Fry (John Buckler), and his lackey, the befuddled
Rawlins (Herbert Mundin), to show them the way to Tarzan.
As usual, the local tribes
are still touchy about the sacred land in which Tarzan and Jane dwell.
(Here's a thought: Maybe Tarzan and Jane—who keep getting company, despite
being unable to communicate with the rest of the world—should move to a
less hostile region of the jungle.) Conveniently for the safari, Captain
Fry is actually planning on capturing Tarzan and bringing him back to England
as a circus act, which prompts him to strike a deal with the cannibal Hymandi
tribe. The Hymandi want Tarzan out of the area, and Fry agrees to take
him in exchange for safe passage. This deal is all hush-hush of course,
because Fry also intends to give Rita, Eric, and Jane to the Hymandi as
a gift. Perhaps he would change his mind about Jane, if she would slip
back into her bikini outfit from Tarzan and His Mate (evidently her moral
scruples have become more conservative, since she is now sporting a jungle
As you can guess, Tarzan
becomes wise to the plan, fights his way out of captivity with the help
of Cheeta and his animal friends, and the climax features an army of elephants
(would it be a Tarzan movie without the elephant army?). The problem with
this installment in the series isn't that it fails to entertain, but that
it is just becoming by-the-numbers. The sense of adventure is gone, which
might be partly Richard Thorpe's fault. Thorpe takes over the directing
helm of the series with Tarzan Escapes, but his vision seems to be content
with the accomplishments made by Van Dyke, Gibbons, and Conway.
Thorpe does bring some new
elements to the series. Comedic relief is used well with Rawlins and the
ape Cheeta, but it's not enough to make up for the script's lack of originality.
The emphasis, under Thorpe's direction, has shifted away from Tarzan and
Jane. Instead, the heart of the movie lies in the impressive sets designed
by Cedric Gibbons (though Tarzan and Jane's home is a bit too Swiss Family
Robinson, to be honest). Tarzan Escapes just goes to show that spectacle
alone cannot make a movie good.