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'A Worse Killer Than His Enemy':
The Death Struggle Within The Valley Of Gold
Even more than with ADVENTURE, GOLD upsets many of the conventions of the Tarzan film and thereby ‘disturbing’ the viewer’s expectations; this yields an increased dramatic suspense hinged upon the possibility of the failure and un-masking of the archetypal superhero. This is consistent with our ‘pop’ Jungian approach; the manifestation of the primordial vision is ordinarily accompanied by anxiety.35 What marks out MATE, ADVENTURE, and GOLD from the rest of the film series in terms of their dramatic power—which corresponds exactly to the comparatively ‘adult’ nature of their themes while still operating as a ‘children’s film’—is that they all deliberately foreground the central primordial/primeval images of the cinematic Tarzan archetype: a symbolic ‘death-struggle’ over Tarzan’s status as animus. All three films share a common dramatic intensity (‘excitement’) because they are all self-consciously utilizing, in slightly different ways, the archetypal cinematic symbols as a re-staging of the primordial image that is the event that proves Tarzan’s true identity as The Ape-Man/animus. The plots of all three are fairly simple and share a common theme: Tarzan must stop, or‘ challenge’, a hyper-masculine villain who has ‘invaded’ the Jungle searching for wealth and power (ivory; diamonds; gold). At this point, however, a critical dramatic divergence occurs. Both MATE and ADVENTURE take place within Tarzan’s African Jungle; all of the characters, no matter how threatening, are in some sense ‘safely’ embedded within it. GOLD is the first of the talking Tarzan films to alter this comforting association by re-visiting one of the critical themes of the novels: Tarzan’s transversal between worlds. In terms of cinema, once Tarzan crosses space and ‘leaves’ the Jungle—in this case, having accepted an ominous request to perform a mysterious mission—The Ape-Man transverses film genres as well.
Consistent with Weintraub’s intentions, GOLD is narratively arresting because it is a rupture: constituting a kind of ‘cinematic invasion’, GOLD is the site of a number of unprecedented introductions of the ‘strange’ archetypal elements of the Gangster film and the secret-agent film into the Jungle-film. One of the most frequently cited of these, usually mentioned in even the most cursory discussion of the film, is Tarzan’s employment on two separate occasions of that key symbol of the Gangster film, the machine-gun. Unique to GOLD, therefore, is the sense that Tarzan’s ‘African-ness’ or ‘primitive-ness’ initially signals a relative disadvantage rather than the customary advantage. For the only time in the film series, Tarzan first appears within a city (the airport) and appears fully civilized—this is the first time we see him when he is not in his superhero ‘costume’, although, tellingly, he is carrying a James Bond style attaché case. One of the genuinely original innovations of the Weintraub films was to re-present Tarzan as a kind of ‘secret agent’ who is sent on ‘missions’ in order to put an end to criminal or terrorists threats that are emerging in jungles all over the world—India, Indonesia, South-East Asia — although whom exactly is sending him and how he is being contacted remain somewhat mysterious. (Philip Jose Farmer would have us believe that it is ‘The Nine’.) In GOLD, Tarzan is ‘far from his native Africa’ and is now in South America, the domain of the villain; later he will very self-consciously enter an ‘unknown’ Jungle as a ‘half-naked wild man’ in order to ‘challenge’ an army, a Jungle from which from which, given the obvious imbalances in strength, he will presumably not return.
The key dramatic element here is that Tarzan’s mysterious mission involves his leaving Africa, implying that neither protagonist ‘knows’ the other. It is only at a rather late scene in the film that Augustus Vinero is revealed to Tarzan as the ‘lord’ of his respective metaphorical ‘Jungle’. This is a dramatic turn wholly consistent with more general thesis as GOLD being the site of a cinematic invasion. A crucial limitation to the potency of Arlington and Slade as challengers is that they already ‘know’ Tarzan and are, therefore, already subordinately embedded within the cinematic archetype of the ‘Jungle’; the dialogue of ADVENTURE in particular make this expressly clear, with Slade as one of the few of Tarzan’s enemies who possess a ‘back story’. Vinero, however, as a denizen of a separate genre is wholly un-encumbered; early in the film he is shown as ‘observing’ or ‘studying’ Tarzan at long-range with binoculars. This element of a ‘first time’ encounter re-enforces the nature of the plot of GOLD as a symbolic challenge, or ‘test’. In GOLD, Leiber, in an original turn, has Vinero openly express doubt as to the ‘truth’ of Tarzan’s ‘primeval origins tale’, and several times pointedly refers to him as ‘the so-called Ape-Man’. As we have already seen, the sub-text of the comic book motif of the challenge is that it serves as a ‘test’ of the truth of the superhero’s identity as animus. It is precisely this kind of dramatic suspense that GOLD manages to sustain throughout; Vinero’s unusually powerful position and advantages create the unconscious expectations that it will be Tarzan, the ‘so-called’ Ape-Man, who will ‘fail’ the test and that it will be the international criminal/Gangster who will ‘pass’ it, proving the Gangster-Boss’ true identity as animus.
It is therefore important that the ‘unknown’ city that Tarzan travels to in the first part of the ‘unexplained’ mission — Acapulco — is one that is invested with erotic significance in popular culture. As the title and opening of the film show, accompanied by an un-characteristically ‘un-African’ soundtrack, the ‘domain’ of the rival ‘Jungle Lord’ is an erotic playground. Yet, in a noticeable inversion of the conventions of the Jungle film, Tarzan is explicitly depicted as being without a woman; as in ADVENTURE, The Ape-Man starts the film mate-less, creating the potential for a powerful erotic drama. This works to create unconscious doubt in the viewer, as Tarzan’s cinematic ‘mating’ with Jane is the primary erotic image to visually validate Tarzan’s animus in conformity with the heterosexual audience’s desire for narcissistic identification. The disparate erotic sub-texts and symbols of Gangster and Jungle film intermesh in a very subtle and precise manner, and I will explain their importance in greater detail later in my essay. For now, it is sufficient to recall the parallels already established between the death-struggle between Tarzan/Terkoz and Tarzan/Vinero. As the ‘primeval fight’/ ‘primordial image’ between Terkoz and Tarzan over the prostrate Jane symbolized, the establishment of the erotic supremacy of the animus ultimately depends upon the exclusive possession of a supremely desirable female, an equivalent anima. Accordingly, as the criminal ‘alpha-male’ of an eroticised ‘crime-Jungle’, the female to be actually ‘selected’ by Vinero from an entire city of obviously beautiful and available women to serve as his ‘companion’ will be one whose superior erotic power will reflect the exceptional phallic ‘strength’ of the villain as would-be animus. In GOLD, Leiber makes this point explicitly, describing how Vinero luridly selects his ‘women’ from the ranks of the hopeful starlets of the Italian film-industry, suggesting the polygamous ‘harem’ of the alpha-male primate. (I believe that it is wholly appropriate to assume the presence of an ‘unconscious primatology’ at work here given the erotic sub-text of the film.) By the very fact of having been so singled out, Vinero’s woman — Sophia Renault, the Moll, whose presence as an iconic stereotype is demanded by the genre of the Gangster film — will be symbolically invested with an even greater degree of sexual power. She will constitute one more weapon in Vinero’s ‘serious’ challenge to the so-called Ape-Man and figure centrally in GOLD’s erotic sub-text.
The point of this apparent digression is that while only Tarzan appears on-screen, the primary dramatic tension of GOLD is the objective and imminent threat of the destruction and loss of the respective animae of both superhero and super-heroine. The (erotic) sub-textual narrative of GOLD is that as the direct result of the ‘conquest’ of the Valley of Gold, The Ape-Man/Tarzan is to be symbolically ‘replaced’ by Vinero while the Jungle-Girl/Jane is to be symbolically ‘replaced’ by Vinero’s mistress Sophia Renault. At the dramatic heart of the film is a double challenge or test, dramatically re-presented as a ‘death-struggle’ between contending cinematic archetypes; an explicit one between Tarzan/Vinero and an implicit one between Jane/Sophia Renault. As each of these ‘death-struggles’, or ‘matchings’, operate differently I will discuss them in turn.
‘His fingers are like knives!’:
The dramatically powerful movie poster for GOLD is a minor masterpiece of both poster and comic book art. Loudly proclaiming, ‘See Tarzan as you have never seen him before challenging the world’s most modern weapons!’ the poster masterly conforms to the obligatory superhero/comic–book tradition of displaying on the front-cover a graphic and outlandish depiction of the ‘death-trap’, or the ‘impossible situation’, of the superhero. The purpose of the movie poster, like the comic book cover, is to provide a visually erotic validation of The Ape-Man's clear identity as phallic symbol, albeit one that, for purposes of creating dramatic suspense, is under threat. The imminent and unavoidable death of The Ape-Man—who is highly erotically stylised in the poster36 — is signalled by the machine-gunners who are flying high above him in the helicopter and who, like Vinero, clearly have Tarzan ‘in their sights’. The symbolic and latent erotic ‘tension’ of Tarzan’s ‘challenge’ to Vinero’s ‘modern weapons’ is only heightened through the graphic depiction of the sheer physical intensity of a clearly desperate effort to use an improvised and primitive weapon — the highly suggestive but presumably ‘ineffectual’ bolo (with outlandishly attached hand-grenades) — in an ‘only-one-chance’ attempt to destroy the lethal chopper.
As archetypal cinematic characters, both Vinero/Crime-Boss and Tarzan/Ape-Man represent a series of symbolically meaningful dichotomies: City/Jungle; Civilized/Primitive; Europe/Africa; and, most importantly, Machine/Nature. One of the most striking contrasts between the two archetypes is that while Tarzan is surrounded by sexual symbols — the loincloth, the hunting-knife, the rope, the Jungle vine, the bull-ape cry, the lion, the leopard, and his ‘strength and command of nature’ in general — Vinero is surrounded by phallic props — weapons, the tank, the half-track, trucks, and the helicopter, all of which symbolize a hidden impotence, or, at least, the lack of a natural erotic potency. (After being shown the villain’s photograph, Tarzan comments that Vinero ‘looks harmless enough.’) Ordinarily, this should enable us to confidently Vinero as the fake and Tarzan as the ‘real’ Jungle Lord. However, in yet another one of GOLD’s dramatic and suspenseful reversal, it is precisely one of Vinero’s presumed props, one that abnormally or ‘freakishly’ combines Nature (physical strength) with the ‘Machine’ (professional training and enhancement) that proves to be the special ‘anti-Tarzan weapon’ that will cause The Ape-Man’s challenge/mission to end in failure.
No less than the Moll, the cinematic conventions of the Gangster genre require the presence of ‘The Hench-Man’ (alternatively known as ‘The Bodyguard’, ‘The Hired-Killer’, or ‘The Professional Assassin’) an exceptionally and unusually powerful servant of the villain who symbolizes, primarily in the form of a phallic prop, the alpha-male status of the Gangster-Boss; ordinarily, the Hero must dispose of The-Henchman in order to complete ‘win’. If Vinero ‘doubles’ as Goldfinger, then his requisite Hench-Man, Mr. Train doubles as Oddjob, Goldfinger’s bodyguard/assassin and whom is able to physically dominate James Bond, the archetypal Secret Agent, and Tarzan’s ‘double’ in GOLD. All of this is fairly obvious. What I would like to suggest is something new that moves us beyond simple cinematic comparisons. I have gone on at great lengths at two different places in my essay concerning the ‘challenge’ relationship between Tarzan/Vinero as the comic book test for animus. I have also shown why it is to be expected that Vinero will prove to be the ‘fake’ as phallic props and not phallic symbols signal him. What I would like to suggest now is that within the erotic sub-text of the Tarzan imaginary, it is Mr. Train who is the ‘real’ villain precisely because he is not a phallic prop but, potentially, a phallic symbol. He is, in fact, what makes Vinero ‘serious’; the Gangster-Boss does have at least one phallic symbol in his arsenal of phallic props.37 It is this presence a comic book super-villain in GOLD that allows for an even more erotically dramatic re-staging of the primeval/primordial scene than in ADVENTURE; Vinero, like Slade, is signalled by a phallic prop, but, unlike Slade, Vinero is also signalled by a phallic symbol. Mr. Train, in fact, is a symbolic re-production of another iconic Tarzan character, intensely symbolic, that directly evokes the central primordial image of the seminal narrative Tarzan of the Apes: Mr. Train is Terkoz the Killer-Ape.
Among his many other sly innovations, Leiber informs us that 'Mr. Tain' is an alias, which means that Mr. Train is the bearer of the secret or alternate identity common to both the superhero and super-villain of the comic book. [The sub-textual ‘doubling’ of Mr. Train and Oddjob underscores the inverted nature of the relationship between ‘movie’ logic and ‘real life’ logic. In the ‘real world’, the central menace of Vinero’s challenge is his ‘army’, which would easily manage to eliminate a sole opponent, no matter how versatile in jungle combat techniques. Regardless of how lethal Mr. Train is as a hand-to-hand combatant (signalled by the fact that he carries no weapons on him because he already is a weapon) is merely a single actor and can easily be killed using a fire=arm or long-range weapon of some kind; Mr. Train is only deadly at close range. Yet, in terms of ‘movie’ logic, the exact opposite holds true; precisely because Mr. Train is (unconsciously) identifiable as a super-villain, he poses the most serious threat to Tarzan. As a universally known jungle superhero, everyone ‘just knows’ that Tarzan will ultimately be able to ‘take out’ Vinero’s men, although there is some uncertainty as to what his means for doing so will actually be. By contrast, the moment that Mr. Train is ‘seen’, everyone ‘just knows’ that the film will end in a hand-to-hand combat between the superhero and the super-villain. Furthermore, Mr. Train is well suited for planting ‘doubt’ in the viewer’s cinematic unconscious, especially if the assumed inter-textual references with GOLDFINGER are being made. In the secret-agent film, Oddjob ultimately proves physically and martially stronger than James Bond, re-confirming our dread that the superhero cannot win; Bond only triumphs at the last second (literally) through employing a weapon matched with subterfuge.] In other words, ‘Mr. Train’ is an alias, the bearer of a secret or alternate identity common to both the superhero and super-villain of the comic book. In the comic book, the super-villain’s possession of an alter-ego of his or her own establishes an initial equality between hero and villain, making the latter a serious contender for the superhero’s status as animus. A giant of obscene strength, like Terkoz, Mr. Train is the only villain in the series who is explicitly presented as being clearly physically superior to The Ape-Man. In an early scene in GOLD, Mr. Train is shown as lethally protecting his ‘master’ by killing with brutal strength and skill several rebellious henchmen, directly foreshadowing the dramatically inevitable hand-to-hand combat with The Ape-Man; it is also suggestive of Tarzan’s unavoidable fate as being ‘merely’ the next in a long-line of victims. The fact that his name is actually a ‘title’ suggests that like Slade/Great-Hunter, Mr. Train has a ‘back story’ of his own and maintains a separate identity from Vinero. In both the film and novel versions of GOLD, when Tarzan is informed of Vinero’s identity by his contacts in the police force, he is expressly warned about the danger posed to him by Mr. Train; informed that the perverted Vinero sadistically enjoys killing his male enemies with explosive wrist-watches, Tarzan inquires, ‘What does he send to people whom he really doesn’t like?’; the answer he receives is ‘He has Mr. Train pay them a visit’, indicating that ‘running into’ Mr. Train is identical with Death. And as with Slade’s obsessively displayed fetishistic noose in ADVENTURE, the entire dramatic suspense of GOLD lies within the inevitable ‘build-up’ to Tarzan’s climactic death-struggle, or ‘show-down’, with the inhumanly strong super-villain, Terkoz/Killer-Ape reconstituted as professionally-trained Mafia Hit-Man/Killing Machine, which re-enforces the a-symmetry of the ‘contest’ between the criminal and the natural Jungles. (It also suggests an intentional pun; slang for a Mafia enforcer is ‘gorilla’.) Furthermore, precisely because he is a genuine super-villain, Mr. Train also ‘doubles’ as both machine and phallic prop for the Gangster-Boss. As we should expect from a sexually anxious male who might actually be impotent, Vinero repeatedly ‘displays’ Mr. Train’s mutant strength to his mistress Sophia, making him out as Vinero’s personal ‘anti-Tarzan’ gadget.38
In the central chapter of Gold, ‘Rock, Paper. Scissor’, Vinero’s declamations of Mr. Train’s ‘stature’ reaches the stage of obsession, and he instructs him to provide Sophia with a ‘demonstration’; Mr. Train obliges by employing a karate blow to smash into pieces a small native stone statuette that is lying on Vinero’s desk, causing Sophia to gasp. (This incident is enacted as a much briefer scene in the film, in which Mr. Train, in a more gorilla-like manner actually crushes the stone statuette to powder with his bare-hands. In GOLDFINGER, Oddjob performs the same inhuman trick with a golf-ball.) This leads Vinero to go on at extended length about Mr. Train’s world-class virtuosity as a martial-arts combatant; we learn, among other useful things, that Mr. Train’s fingers ‘are like knives’, that they can be driven into a man’s nasal cavity fatally piercing the brain, and that with his bare-hands he can pierce his opponent’s rib-cage, permitting him to pluck out the still beating heart.
What is noteworthy in this passage — enacted as a much briefer scene in the film, in which Mr. Train actually crushes the stone statuette to powder with his bare-hands — is not only that it shows that the strength and combat skills of Mr.Train/Terkoz are ‘super-human’, but that they are so pretentiously ‘displayed’ to Sophia in such an ostensibly auto-erotic manner. Vinero exhibits Mr. Train to the Moll/erotic-object in such a manner precisely in order to convince her the challenge/test of the ‘weaker’ so-called Ape-Man will end in ‘failure and his final ‘un-masking’ by the true animus Vinero/Mr. Train. (In GOLD, it also serves to sadistically crush the Moll’s desperate hope that The Ape-Man will be able to save her from what is an increasingly likely death at the hands of Vinero.)
The dialogue of both the film and the novel contain repeated and highly self-conscious references to strength and power; this serves to continuously underline the nature of the plot as challenge/test.39GOLD deliberately revisits an innovation pioneered in ADVENTURE, which is to foreground depictions of Tarzan in a state of overt vulnerability.40 Tarzan’s numerous failures until literally the last second are all moments of unconscious doubts over omnipotence, as Morton would have it, creating more general unconscious doubts concerning Tarzan’s status and signalling the imminent ‘extinction’ of the inferior and primitive Ape-Man. Throughout the film, the Jungle superhero is threatened with ‘un-masking’ and exposure as a ‘fake’: his arriving too late to pre-empt the slaughter at the animal sanctuary; the killing of the fierce leopard Bianco (itself a symbolic substitute killing of the quasi-feral Ape-Man); his forced reliance upon the ‘un-Tarzan’ machine-gun (which jam) when ‘fighting’ Vinero’s helicopter; his inability to organize the expected native resistance; the ease of his entrapment by the King; and, despite some impressive individual successes (killing the assassins sent by Vinero, tacking and rescuing the boy Ramel, the destruction of the attack helicopter, the temporary blocking of the tunnel), his ultimate failure in preventing Vinero’s army from actually reaching the ‘lost’ city of Tucame.41 Even when Tarzan manages to meet and overcome one of Vinero’s ‘challenges’ by killing small and isolated groups of Vinero’s men, he only does so after considerable expenditure of strength, as is shown in the movie poster. Uncharacteristically for the Jungle film, The Ape-Man, given the unusual power of the rival/archetypal Vinero, is shown to having to clearly exert himself; once again, this enlarges upon a precedent established in ADVENTURE.42
The most graphic incident of this occurs in a suspenseful combat sequence in the underground caves that serve as the entrance to the Valley of Gold. Tarzan ambushes Vinero’s ‘point man’ and seizes his machine-gun (again), which he uses to start an avalanche of gigantic stalactites that kill a fair number of Vinero’s men and manage to block the main passage through the tunnel. Although Tarzan does not issue his Jungle-cry in GOLD, the publicity stills show that this was the moment in the original screenplay that he did so. Cinematically this is the perfect moment for The Ape-Man to directly announce himself to Vinero as ‘Tarzan the Terrible who, pleased with the scent of death, placed his foot on his kill in a head-tossing, chest-pounding frenzy, culminating in the ape-call of triumph.’ Distinctly unperturbed, however, Vinero, in another instance of the challenge motif, dispatches Mr. Train, who ‘neutralizes’ Tarzan by lifting and ‘disposing of’ the massive debris with his bare hands. Not only does this unexpected and stunning reversal constitute yet another partial failure and strongly imply the ‘weakness’ of Tarzan in comparison to Mr. Train, but it dramatically foreshadows the dramatically inevitable climax, which will end in the final un-masking/death of the ‘so-called’ or fake Ape-Man at the bare-hands of the inhumanly strong Mr. Train/Terkoz.
Another interesting deviation from Jungle film convention is that at no point in GOLD does Tarzan ever confront Vinero face-to-face; their death-struggle is always fought out through proxies or mechanical devices, Vinero’s weapons and explosive ‘space-age gadgets’. The symbolic meaning is obvious: confronting or approaching Vinero directly equals Death.43 The final climactic scenes of GOLD, set in the lost city of Tucame, all operate to unconsciously suggest this. Through externalised action, the protective cordon afforded Vinero by the ‘world’s most modern weapons’ and by Mr. Train in particular represents this; as befitting the Crime-Boss and his henchman/bodyguard the two are always together. Since the deadly array of props, supported by one lethal symbol, have rendered The Ape-Man ‘powerless’ to stop /block Vinero, Tarzan is uncharacteristically forced to rely upon subterfuge; in fact a transparently clumsy move whose entire chance of success relies upon the highly improbable separation of Vinero from Mr. Train. The entire tone of these final scenes is the desperation and suspense of the comic book superhero ‘the impossible situation’.44 The stereotypical ‘only-one-chance’ possibility open to Tarzan is yet another ‘weak’ reliance upon another of Vinero’s weapons, the tank; after seizing control of it, he turns the gun against the remnants of Vinero’s men and fires at them while they are engrossed in loading their trucks with the pillaged gold. They are all killed, except, predictably, Mr. Train. The fact that Mr. Train survives a massive point-blank explosion that clearly would have killed any ‘normal’ man—literally surviving Tarzan’s ‘best shot’— underlines the very point that Mr. Train is not ‘normal’ but feral. This final dramatic reversal is completed when Mr. Train takes off in pursuit of The Ape-Man, running towards him, completing the stock image of ‘the hunter becoming the hunted.’ This movement in fact opens the door to an even wider reversal. Tarzan has managed to trick Vinero into entering a rather clumsy but dramatically stunning death trap, a sealed room that is slowly filling with an avalanche of gold dust that will eventually smother the Gangster-Boss. This ‘set up’ is both a dramatic visual example of the principle of poetic justice and a sign of Tarzan’s will-to-justice as an expression of a savage revenge; the death trap resembles nothing so much as a death-chamber of execution. Yet, a death trap is usually reserved for the comic book hero, and Vinero becomes an almost feminine object, an inverted ‘a-damsel-in-distress’, screaming in fear and calling for rescue by his ‘protector’, Mr. Train; this exposes him as a weak ‘fake’, whose death/un-masking is imminent. However, consistent with the dramatic logic of GOLD, the apparent moment of triumph when Tarzan finally proves his mastery over Vinero is the exact same moment that Tarzan ‘runs into’ Mr. Train/Death/Terkoz. Ambushing Tarzan in the enclosed antechamber, Mr. Train fatally inverts the death trap that Tarzan has prepared for Vinero by turning it into a death trap for The Ape-Man. In a deadly symbolic act, Mr, Train emits an ogrish roar in challenge Tarzan’s bull-ape cry; the climactic resolution of GOLD is over whether it is the villain that will be saved.
For all of its suspense and dramatic intensity, there is something un-realistic about the death-struggle, but in a manner that is telling. As a professionally trained killer and a world-class martial arts expert who possesses feral strength—a kind of Frankenstein monster with a black belt—Mr. Train would be able to kill The Ape-Man fairly quickly with a karate strike;45 instead, the death-struggle assumes the form of extended and graphic wrestling combat. That Tarzan could win such a close-contact struggle with a martial arts expert of the calibre described by Leiber in GOLD is implausible, and, once again, we are reminded of the death-struggle with Terkoz; ‘and [Jane] saw the great proportions of the ape and the mighty muscles and the fierce fangs, her heart quailed. How could any vanquish such a mighty antagonist?’ Yet the death-struggle assumes an archetypal logic precisely because it is a subliminal re-staging of the duel fought between Tarzan/The Ape-Man and Terkoz/Killer-Ape. Mr. Train’s actions actually take on the stereotypical movements of the gorilla: Mr, Train repeatedly lunges at Tarzan, he hurls Tarzan across the antechamber, he brutally wrenches Tarzan’s weapons (symbols) from his hands,46 and throughout the fight strains to overpower The Ape-Man in a primate-style death-grip; in several places, the film is ‘speeded-up’ to suggest a specifically animal-like ferocity and feral quickness of reflex. The deliberate framing of the climactic death-struggle as the re-staging of the archetypal primordial image provides Tarzan with the means to ‘match’ Mr. Train’s inhuman strength; Mr. Train is a symbolically re-constituted killer-ape, a denizen of Tarzan’s archetypal ‘Jungle’. This ‘sliding’ subliminal connection between the ‘natural’ and the ‘criminal’ Jungle is ultimately what permits Tarzan to triumph at the very last moment before the bodyguard can save Vinero from The Ape-Man’s vengeance, proving his identity as the ‘true’ Lord of the Jungle.47
This is underscored by the means by which Tarzan, in another of several ‘only-one-chance’ moments, is finally able to kill Mr. Train. In the single most graphically violent scene in GOLD, Tarzan manages to lock the ‘mountainous’48 bodyguard in a countering death-grip of his own, a full-Nelson. This is Tarzan’s signature last-chance death-grip that he employs against the erotic animal symbols of the archetypal Jungle. In the first novel, the full-Nelson is used on two separate occasions that are erotically and symbolically identical. The first is when Tarzan establishes his true identity as The Ape-Man/animus in his death-struggle with Terkoz.Tarzan formed a cunning plan. He would work his way to [Terkoz’s] back and, clinging there with tooth and nail, drive his knife home until Terkoz was no more…But when, finally, [Terkoz] realized that his antagonist was fastened to him where his teeth and fists were useless against [Tarzan], Terkoz hurled himself about upon the ground so violently that Tarzan could but cling desperately to the leaping, turning, twisting body, and ere he had struck a blow the knife was hurled from his hand by a heavy impact against the earth, and Tarzan found himself defenceless. During the rollings and squirmings of the next few minutes, Tarzan’s hold was loostened a dozen times until finally an accidental circumstance of those swift and everchanging evolutions gave him a new hold with his right hand, which he realized was absolutely unassailable. His arm was passed beneath Terkoz’s arm from behind and his hand and forearm encircled the back of Terkoz’s It was the half-Nelson of modern wrestling…It was the difference to him between life and death. And so he struggled to encompass a similar hold with the left hand, and in a few moments Terkoz’s bull neck was cracking beneath a full-Nelson. There was no more lunging now…Slowly the bullet head of the ape was being forced lower and lower upon his chest…In an instant the neck would break.49The ‘death-struggle’ scene in GOLD is a symbolic cinematic re-staging of this primordial image. The graphic and suspenseful depiction of Tarzan/animus taking his strength to the breaking point highlights the successful maintenance until literally the last second of the dramatic tension of the imminence of Tarzan’s un-masking as a ‘fake’ by the quasi-mutant/killer-ape. Tarzan’s application of the full Nelson, ferociously met by Mr. Train’s expert counter-move to break it, constitute the dramatic apex of the film; just like Tarzan’s exhilarating ‘last-gasp’ reversal of Slade’s noose in ADVENTURE, it is the exact moment that the ‘true’ identity of the protagonists is determined. In a final striking image, Tarzan is clearly shown as being utterly exhausted by the supreme effort needed to ‘un-mask’ Mr. Train, who, in a noticeably extended close-up, is shown lying on the ground in a bulky posture that clearly evokes the slain Terkoz — ‘and the great carcass rolled lifeless upon the ground’. Such extreme expenditure of strength is only spent on Tarzan’s feral challengers not his ‘normal’ human opponents, symbolically underlining Mr. Train’s status as both abnormal and quasi-feral; the extended post-struggle scene intentionally identifies The Hench-Man as Tarzan’s deadliest challenger (so far) for ‘true’ animus.50
The subliminal linkage between Mr. Train and Terkoz also creates the first of several subliminal and implicit identifications between Jane and Sophia Renault—after Tarzan slays the killer-ape, ‘it was a primeval woman who sprang forward toward the primeval man who had fought for her and won her.’ The second time the full-Nelson is employed is the same moment that Tarzan/animus first directly ‘announces’ himself to Jane/anima in one of the most primeval of scenes in Tarzan of the Apes, the rescue of Jane from the lioness Sabor.With the quickness of a striking rattler he launched himself full upon Sabor’s back, his strong young arms seeking and gaining a full-Nelson upon the beast, as he had learned it that other day during his bloody, wrestling victory over Terkoz…Pawing and tearing at earth and air, Sabor rolled and threw herself this way and that in an effort to dislodge this strange antagonist; but ever tighter and tighter drew the iron bands that were forcing her head lower and lower upon her tawny breast…the immense muscles of Tarzan’s shoulders and biceps [leapt] into corded knots beneath the silver moonlight. There was a long sustained and supreme effort on the ape-man’s part—and the vertebrae of Sabor’s neck parted with a sharp snap.51This will form the core of the final part of my analysis. Both Sophia and Jane as erotic objects are dramatically and thematically linked through being saved from a monstrosity that will kill them if The Ape-Man’s last-chance eroticised grip is broken; as the Jungle superhero, the failure/death of Tarzan will result in the death of the Jungle feminine/erotic object.52 Tarzan, as animus, ‘makes’ the woman his ‘own’ only by taking himself to the ‘breaking point’, ‘a long sustained and supreme effort on the ape-man’s part’—the most dramatically powerful announcement possible of his true status as animus. The plot of the erotic sub-text of GOLD is that Tarzan fights a death-struggle with Vinero/Mr. Train in order to win Sophia Renault.
'See a beautiful woman become a human bomb!':
Jane Porter and the 'Stunning Woman'
'To give Tarzan new sex appeal his loincloth shrunk to a mini-cloth; and Jane remained on the cutting room floor, gathering dust.'53
The language used by Essoe to describe the central strategy of Weintraub to revive the Tarzan film series is suggestive of the brutal discarding of a formerly alluring but now faded object of desire. Important to note is the express linkage that Essoe draws between the ‘re-eroticisation’ (= ‘de-domestication’) of Tarzan and the resultant elimination of Jane.
The basis of the inherent pathos of erotic love is loss. Erotic loss is created in one of two ways: the first is through the passage of Time, with the aging or ‘fading’ of sexual beauty; the second is through boredom, monotonous sameness and repetition accumulatively weakening sexual passion. The Tarzan novels are an exemplary instance of the dramatic tension that can be created through the placement of erotic pathos within a narrative sub-text. In fact, the conclusion of the first biography is a very competent expression of the latent sadness of the erotic.Could she love Clayton?…That she had been carried off her feet by the strength of the young giant when his great arms were around her in the distant African forest…seemed only attributable to a temporary mental reversion to type on her part—to the psychological appeal of the primeval man to the primeval woman in her nature.54 If he should never touch her again, she reasoned, she would never feel attracted toward him. She had not loved him, then. It had been nothing more than a passing hallucination, super-induced by excitement and personal contact. Excitement would not always mark their future relations, should she marry him, and the power of personal contact would be dulled by familiarity.55
The threatened ‘loss’, or ‘death’ of Jane is a recurrent source of dramatic tension within the novels; having entered the ‘Jungle’ Jane is always at implicit risk, precisely because in both literal and symbolic terms it is a Jungle that she is in. This, of course, allows for the possibility of renewal of the erotic vitality of ‘personal contact’ that has not yet been destroyed by ‘the dull ache of familiarity’ through the varied repetition of the archetypal sequence: initial discovery; threatened loss; restorative re-discovery. However, there is some internal evidence in the canon to suggest that Jane in fact has died. In Tarzan the Untamed Burroughs clearly has her killed, which forms the basis of the action of the book: Tarzan is savagely avenging her death. The extremity of the violence that Tarzan indulges in — ‘[N]ever could she be entirely avenged. Life was too short and there were too many Germans’56 — is itself proof of the reality of Jane’s death; the objective, as opposed to the merely symbolic, loss of the truly ideal erotic object can only be adequately compensated by a commensurate infliction of revenge. Strikingly, in this same novel, Tarzan encounters an unknown woman, Bertha whom he rescues from a killer-ape — exactly as he had done earlier with Jane. (Which proves that the archetypal logic of Tarzan demanded the re-enactment, in some variant form, of the central primordial image.) Both women are also affiliated with ‘treasure’. In literature, ‘treasure’ is both a symbol of and a metaphor for Sex; the depictions of the respective ‘treasures’ of the two films serves as one of the most striking of the visual links between MATE and GOLD. In both films, when Tarzan finally finds the treasure being sought for by the villain, he noticeably does so in the immediate company of ‘his woman’. The contents of the two treasures visually symbolize the archetypal sexuality of the two women; the ivory tusks the primitive sexuality of Jane and the golden artefacts the glamorous sexuality of Sophia Renault (the gold also reflects Sophia’s hair and general appearance.) The golden artefacts are haphazardly piled together, unconsciously evoking the ‘pre-historic’ jumble of the ivory tusks of the Elephant’s graveyard. Within the cinematic canon, as is well known, the original version of Tarzan Finds A Son ends with the death of Jane.57 The dramatic dilemma that results is this: although Jane is ‘dead’ Tarzan lives, Jane’s ‘death’ creating the possibility of either a literal and/or symbolic replacement of her as exclusive erotic object. Conversely, the threat created by the appearance of an ‘unknown’ woman/seductress who attempts to seduce Tarzan — a fairly frequent occurrence — threatens Jane with symbolic death as discarded erotic object.
In the novel GOLD, although Leiber ‘reassures’ us as to the continued existence of Jane, he does something wholly unprecedented; he strongly implies that she is aging.
LEIBER: Jane reference; Jane as ‘beauteous’>>>just beginning to ‘fade’; beauty is never greater than at the very point that it is to be lost.
Furthermore, while Leiber clearly states that Jane is just beginning to age, albeit very slowly, it is equally clear that Tarzan is not aging at all. Jane Clayton is reported as living in semi-reclusion at the Greystoke estate in England, where she ‘shuns the bright lights’, giving rise to ‘whispers’ about a visible aging process underway. Yet elsewhere in the novel a police contact of Tarzan’s pointedly refers to his wife as ‘beauteous’—this word, as we have already seen, carries with it a very specific erotic connotation. Beauty is never greater than at the exact moment of its disappearance. Reading between the lines, I believe that Leiber is subliminally conveying to us a very precise erotic image of a clearly ‘beauteous’ Jane Clayton who is just beginning to fade, albeit very slowly. The reason for this, I think, is important. Tarzan cannot serve as the primary symbolization of the first-stage animus if he is aged because this would constitute parody. While none of the four stages of the animus have precise names,58 von Franz, with unerring instinct, cites Tarzan as ‘iconic’ candidate. The first-stage anima, however, does have a name; Eve, not Jane. Although coeval, Tarzan and Jane are not equivalent, pointing to a fundamental difference in their respective origins as archetypes. Tarzan, through the primeval myth, is identical to the animus at both; he is the iconic re-presentation of the first-stage. Jane, by contrast, has to deliberately enter the Jungle in order to self-consciously transform into The Jungle-Girl/Eve; this is the archetypal basis of the highly cinematic erotic fantasy of MATE. If what I have said is true, or, better, ‘meaningful’, then we are faced with a fissure in the mythos; Tarzan as the original first-stage can out live Jane as the individual incarnation of Eve, but as the first-stage, he still continues to orbit within the archetypal logic of matching/mating animus to anima. This awareness, which is a largely unconscious one, is itself the source of considerable erotic fantasy within the entirety of the canon.
I argue that the on-screen absence of cinematic Jane sub-textually signals the latent erotic pathos of the English ‘Rose’ quite literally, a striking but fragile beauty who blossoms, fades, and dies. An unacknowledged source of much of Jane’s erotic lure is this delicate combination of sexual strength and vulnerability. (In the novels, Jane’s absences operate slightly differently; unlike with a cinematic character who has to be seen to be ‘real’, the absent literary Jane continues to serve as an Ideal; she is like Penelope at stages three and four, the archetypal anima that keeps Tarzan/Odysseus on a steady course through his various travels.59) Within cinematic terms, the absence of Jane opens the dramatic and highly erotic opportunity to engage in the comic book ‘testing’ of the super-heroine. The erotic ‘paradox’ of Tarzan and Jane as a ‘pairing’ is that their defining eroticism is expressed narratively (as opposed to visually) through a strict monogamy; in this sense, Tarzan is the exact opposite of his ‘swinging sixties’ double, James Bond, a fact that both Weintraub and Huffaker were well aware of when making GOLD. From the perspective of visual cinema, a vitally potent dose of meaningful erotic drama, or ‘suspense’, can be secured precisely through Jane’s off-screen absence by using it as a subliminal test of the sexual ‘strength’ of the ‘exhibitionist’ Jungle-Girl in retaining her status as the exclusive erotic object for Tarzan/Ape-Man even while off-screen. (A source of dramatic tension here is the very name of Tarzan’s superhero identity, ‘The Ape-Man’, which suggests the latent capacity for multiple ‘captures’ of women.)
At this point, we can witness a revealing convergence between the novels and the films. In the Tarzan novels, a noticeably — and, therefore, suspiciously — recurrent erotic theme is Tarzan’s regular exposure to other extremely beautiful women. Thus, a recurrent erotic/dramatic spectacle that is played out within the exclusively sub-textual arena of the novels is that Jane’s ‘erotic allure’, her archetypal essence as The Jungle-Girl, is constantly being tested/challenged. Additional tension is generated precisely through the un-conscious awareness on the part of the reader that Jane’s archetypal transformation is a wholly ‘ritualistic’ one, which increases the danger of her ‘identity’ being exposed as a ‘fake’ or un-masked as a ‘prop’. This is a startling thought, especially as the explicit depictions of Tarzan relationship with women squarely place him within the contours of the ‘late Edwardian romance’. Yet if the sub-text is read correctly, then it appears likely that it is actually the first-stage sexual power emanating from Jane’s narcissistic exhibitionism that serves as the actual means by which she maintains her status as sole object of The Ape-Man’s erotic gaze; as Arlington quite pointedly remarks to Jane in MATE, ‘woman’s greatest weapon is man’s imagination’. In the novels, Tarzan’s continuous gazing at the absent Jane, even when in the presence of clearly ‘strong’ challengers such as the High-Priestess La, is signalled in the form of the decisive and explicit repudiation of the ‘unknown’ woman.60 (The narrative necessity for Tarzan to repudiate La is precisely that La symbolizes only the first-stage anima. Although, in terms of direct voyeuristic comparison, she clearly matches, and perhaps even exceeds Jane, she is limited to that level of individuation only; Jane has the dramatic advantage of (potentially) representing all four stages and can, therefore, serve as the basis for a signature concern of Burroughs: idealised-but-erotically-grounded-monogamy. In this way, the ‘marriage’ motif works in the novels in a way that it cannot work in the films; it is very difficult, if not impossible, for film as an externalised/visual medium to unambiguously convey internal states of subjective transformation and meaning.) The dramatic tension generated may be re-conceptualised as the perils, or ‘tensions’, of the migration of the animus from the first to the later stages, with the correspondent shifts in the progressive movement of the anima. Yet, the Tarzan that is specific to cinema is a visualised first-stage, albeit altered (‘civilised’, ‘literate’) through the transformative mating with the correspondent Jane/anima; therefore, the direct reliance upon the visually erotic can never be truly abandoned. Consistent with the archetypal logic of the comic book, I would argue that Jane’s ‘absence’, which marks the dis-continuation of Tarzan’s gaze, creates a dramatic space within which The Jungle-Girl is sub-textually threatened ‘symbolic’ death, or erotic defeat.
Thus, Jane’s ‘entrance’ into the Jungle in order to ‘remove her clothes’ –the playfully perverse ‘immodesty’ of the hyper-eroticised English Rose — and to narcissistically display her anima/primitive sexuality is, like Tarzan’s decision to enter the Jungle in GOLD, a potentially fatal move. Jane’s narcissistic stripping in MATE is a demonstration of sexual passion and power that is voyeuristically re-enforced by The Ape-Man (and Arlington) ‘gazing’ at her. But precisely because the nature of Jane’s ‘lightly’ perverted display is overtly exhibitionist, it assumes the form of an implicit challenge. As with the sexually powerful but always vulnerable superhero—in Jane’s case, ‘The Jungle-Girl’ — the danger of changing into costume is the constant threat of failing an over-powering challenge that results in an ‘un-masking’ and exposure as a ‘fake’. In GOLD, for the very first time in the film series, Jane’s dangerous erotic challenge is explicitly met in absolutely the most cinematically lethal manner imaginable, a Woman/anima who comes from a very different but equally archetypal kind of Jungle: Sophia Renault.
Given that Clair Huffaker was the screenwriter for GOLD, I do not believe that it is a coincidence that the one Tarzan novel and the one Tarzan film that contain a female character who is explicitly presented as posing a potentially fatal erotic threat to Jane both have the word ‘Gold’ in their respective titles. In the novel Tarzan and the City of Gold, Queen Nemone, even more than the other great seductress La, is the only other woman besides Jane who is symbolically expressed as anima in so direct and complete fashion. Burroughs spends much time in describing Nemone as a clear erotic ‘match’ for Jane—at the very least.A girdle about her hips was of gold mesh. It supported another ivory triangle the slender apex of which curved slightly inward between her legs and also her scant skirt of black monkey hair that fell barely to her knees, conforming perfectly to the contour of her body…Her movements seemed to Tarzan a combination of the seductive languor of the sensualist and the sinuous grace and savage alertness of the tigress.61As rival anima/archetype, Nemone is also the only woman besides Jane who elicits an overtly sexual response from Tarzan.Tarzan’s eyes were fixed upon Nemone…He only knew that few women…had ever so wholly aroused his interest and his curiosity…She fascinated him; she seemed to exercise a subtle influence, mysterious; hypnotic…He could feel the warmth of her body close to his; the aura of some exotic scent was in his nostrils; her fingers closed upon his arm with a fierceness that hurt.62What Tarzan sees, we, as voyeuristic and narcissistic identifiers with The Ape-Man, also see. As Burroughs’ extensive portrayal illustrates, Nemone’s manner of dress is critical to proving her identity as anima as symbolized by her power to erotically control The Ape-Man’s gaze.A narrow diadem set with red stones encircled her brow…Covering her ears, a large golden disc descended from the diadem; while from its rear rose a slender filament of gold that curved forward, supporting a large red stone above the centre of her head. About her throat was a simple golden band that held a brooch and pendant of ivory in the soft hollow of her neck. Upon her upper arms were similar golden bands supporting triangular, curved ornaments of ivory. A broad band of gold mesh supported her breasts, the band being embellished with horizontal bands of red stones, while from its upper edge depended five narrow triangles of ivory.63The ‘seriousness’ of Nemone’s challenge for anima status is indicated most directly by the fact that Tarzan’s erotic arousal is conveyed in terms identical with the ‘initial discovery’ of Jane in the first novel, the act of symbolic recognition that validates the identity of Jane as Eve/anima.64 The passage ‘He only knew that few women…had ever so wholly aroused his interest and his curiosity’ is the give-away that Nemone is a rival first-stage anima65 who poses an effective ‘challenge’ to Jane.66 I will argue that Sophia Renault is the cinematic ‘double’ for Nemone, and is to be understood in terms of the erotic sub-text of the film as acting as an erotic challenger to cinematic Jane. Precisely because Jane is visually absent from GOLD, I will need to spend more time in developing this portion of my analysis as it will hinge on my ability to make a convincing argument entirely on the basis of indirect and implied processes within the cinematic ‘collective unconscious’: when watching GOLD the viewer, who is narcissistically identifying with Tarzan, will be consciously gazing at Sophia but unconsciously gazing at Jane. Simply put: Sophia Renault stands to Jane/anima in the same manner that Mr. Train stands in relation to Tarzan/animus; the dramatic suspense of the erotic sub-text of GOLD is that when ‘face-to-face’ against their respective archetypal rivals, both The Ape-Man and The Jungle-Girl will ‘finally meet their match’.67 The deliberately highlighted and completely unprecedented appearance of the cinematically archetypal hyper-erotic Gangster Moll within the Jungle film can only signify a lethal symbolic counter-challenge to the ‘strength’ of Jane’s erotic Jungle exhibitionism. (If we were to continue with a rather simplistic Feminist reading, we could also argue that any female viewer who narcissistically identifies with the symbolic erotic liberation and omnipotence of Jane would begin to feel ‘anxious’ at this point). This directly parallels Mr. Train’s counter-challenge to Tarzan’s physical strength/sexual power; when the Ape-Man ‘accepts’ the mission/challenge/quest to put an end to Vinero and enters the ‘unknown’ Jungle he exposes himself to ‘un-masking’ and to Death. Within the terms of the sub-textual erotic logic of the superhero, the outlandish (‘comic book’?) dramatic power of Sophia’s introduction to Tarzan signals that Sophia has been dramatically introduced precisely in order to erotically ‘dispose of’/sexually ‘over-power’ Jane, symbolically constituting the replacement of the Jungle-Girl by the Moll/Seductress as the new erotic object of The Ape-Man’s, and the movie-goer’s, gaze. This forms a central component of the erotic sub-text of GOLD; Sophia is not just a beautiful woman, she is a beautiful woman of a cinematically specific type. Her glamour is ostentatiously highlighted and presented as stereotype, deliberately and self-consciously signalling her status as a film symbol. (In this regard, Sophia is very different from Angie in ADVENTURE who, while a glamorous blonde, is also presented in a much more ‘realistic’ manner of dress and general appearance; Sophia remains immaculate in every scene that she is in.) As this is a Jungle film we are ‘seeing’, and the audience will have a common film vocabulary to draw upon, our expectation will be to see the archetypal Jungle-Girl; as Sophia has visually ‘re-placed’ Jane in the audience’s (and Tarzan’s) immediate gaze, we will unconsciously be ‘comparing’ them; to recall von Franz’s words, ‘the most frequent manifestation of the anima takes the form of erotic fantasy.’ Therefore, the details of the visual appearance of Jane in MATE and Sophia in GOLD have been deliberately selected to visually convey a precise sets of erotic cinematic symbols.
Unlike any other woman in the film oeuvre besides Jane herself, Sophia, is unambiguously presented as being on display. ‘Traditionally, the woman displayed has functioned on two levels, as erotic object for characters within the screen story and as erotic object for the spectator within the auditorium.’68 This is evident in Sophia’s first appearance in the film where Vinero’s henchmen are openly ogling her; this is, presumably, precisely the Crime-Boss’s intent as the Gangster’s ostentatious display of his ‘sex-trophy’ is a stereotypical motif of the Gangster film (and a resultant ‘fight’ over the Moll a stock erotic plot). In an even more erotically suggestive moment, Vinero, when explaining to the resisting Sophia why he is forcing her to accompany him into the Jungle, declares that ‘A man should always have his woman with him’. This implies that Sophia that is meant to be present entirely for the purpose of display; it also highlights the viewer’s unconscious awareness of the absence of Jane, making Tarzan even more noticeably ‘alone’ and, therefore, un-encumbered when, as the viewer unconsciously knows, he will inevitably ‘gaze’ at Sophia’s display and be seduced by her ‘glamour’. With the narrative re-presentation of Sophia as the ‘glamorous’ (seductive) Gangster’s mistress, like Vinero/Train an importation from a rival cinematic genre, the exhibitionist Jane, for the first time in the film series, is being compared to another anima/archetype.
Like Jane herself, Sophia’s character is constituted by several cinematic and cultural stereotypes that hang together in an irregular manner, investing her character with a pronounced element of dramatic ‘tension’. However, as she is clearly an imported ‘stock’ character from a different film genre, the Gangster film, her stereotypical qualities mark her as a cinema archetype; because of the essentially erotic nature of these forms, she, like Jane, constitute a cinematic first-stage anima. The three Gangster/archetypal forms that make up the composite ‘Sophia’ are69:(i) Moll: a bad woman who is a villain’s mistress, either implicitly or explicitly aiding and abetting in criminal acts.As I have already discussed above, Sophia, in her identity underworld Moll, or ‘sex-trophy’, indicates her having been chosen as the winner’ of an erotic ‘selection process’; the unconscious knowledge of the sexually anxious Vinero having specially ‘singled out’ Sophia from among other beautiful women to be the mistress that only serves to increase even more her already formidable implied sexual strength. This is the basis for a two-fold matching with Jane as a cinematic archetypal symbol of the first-stage anima, but in a more negative or ‘destructive’ aspect. Sophia as the Moll is a woman whose cinematic purpose is to symbolize the presence of sexual activity; she is to (symbolically) ‘provide’ sex. Her name is significant in this regard; Sophia Renault is an amalgamation of Sophia Loren and Bridgette Bardot, two the leading international erotic icons of the 1960s, and would have formed a basic part of the film-goer’s cinematic imaginary at the time that GOLD was released; her highlighted platinum coiffure also evokes the appearance of Marilyn Monroe, another universally recognised iconic figure. In a more subtle manner, however, Sophia is also supposed to ‘stand in’ as a symbolic (crime-) ‘Jungle girl’ in her own right; in order for this erotic imagery to work, the connection between the ‘Underworld’ and the ‘Jungle’ which I have already touched upon must be upheld. However, as I believe that we must interpret GOLD as a 1960s grounded form of cinematic invasion and a subversive crossing of cinematic boundaries, I believe that my interpretation is a valid one.
(ii) Seductress: a provocative woman who leads men astray by enticing/persuading them through sexual allure.
(iii) Heroine: a Good Girl who employs all of the same feminine wiles/powers to dominate the men as the Bad Girl.
Therefore if we compare the details of the visual depictions of the two matching Jungle-girls, which were both highly conscious ones by the makers of the respective films, we can note, as with Tarzan/Vinero, a series of very precise dichotomies, all of which are cinematically significant: platinum blonde/brunette; glamorous/exotic; cosmetic/natural; street-smart/aristocratic; American/English; voluptuous/lithe; supine/athletic; sophisticated/primitive; sensualist/ingénue. In terms of direct and immediate erotic imagery, however, the most outstanding dichotomy is the manner of the women’s dress: safari outfit/loin-cloth. It is not merely the fact that Sophia is a Moll who happens to be in the Jungle; her clothing represents an attempt to eroticise utilitarian Jungle dress by combining it with the sexual lushness of the Moll’s evening dress or party skirt. In her final scene with Vinero, Sophia is shown in Vinero’s tent wearing an expensive but scant negligee. The entire manner of appearance and dress signals, like Jane, an erotic enhancement as a result of entering the archetypal Jungle, but expressed in a symbolically precise form that is a hybrid of both the Jungle and the Gangster film. The nature of Sophia’s attire is therefore of some importance precisely because issues of clothing and nakedness are central to Jane as erotic symbol; her iconic Jungle attire in MATE, centred on her ‘matching’ feminine version of Tarzan’s loincloth, symbolizes perfectly the primitive sexuality of the first-stage anima. It is through the medium of dress/un-dress that the two animae actually contest with each other, a glamorous sophisticated sexuality ‘testing’ the power of a wholly primitive sexuality to maintain possession of both Tarzan’s and the viewer’s gaze. That Sophia-as-Moll is able to achieve a lethal erotic allure precisely while remaining fully clothed in a skin-tight safari outfit—her glamorous ‘costume’—threatens to erotically ‘neutralize’ The Jungle-Girl’s presentation as anima that is symbolically manifested through Jane’s ostentatious act of disrobing. In contrast to Jane, Sophia does not need to ‘strip’ in order to ‘seduce’ Tarzan/viewer’s gaze; the ostensive eroticism of Sophia’s form-hugging outfit unconsciously creates ‘doubt’ that Jane’s loincloth is a merely a narcissistic sexual prop. As GOLD is a self-conscious instance of cinematic invasion within the Jungle film, the highlighted appearance of the Moll dressed in a manner that is both intensely erotic and suggestive of a specifically Jungle environment, visually announces Sophia’s (sub-textual) bid for erotic domination within the new hybrid crime-Jungle.
Far beyond anything that Huffaker provides on-screen in GOLD, but completely consistent with the logic of the character, Leiber expands at great length on Vinero’s plans to inaugurate a ritualistic ‘death-cult’ after his crowning conquest of the Valley of Gold. Leiber makes graphically explicit what Huffaker leaves implicit: Vinero’s pathological sexual perversion. In GOLD it is explained that Vinero uses a luridly erotic death-fetish, an exploding necklace, when ritualistically ‘disposing of’ his numerous former mistresses. This necklace, a central and complex symbol in GOLD, is both primitive fetish and modern weapon/gadget; it symbolizes the ‘seriousness’ of Vinero’s erotic challenge, while it serves as a ‘darker’ version of the presence of the light/playful perversion of Jane in MATE. The conjunction of erotically charged symbols subliminally takes us back to the suggestive movie poster; as the poster proclaims, one of the voyeuristic erotic ‘thrills’ of GOLD is seeing ‘a beautiful woman become a human bomb’. Sophia’s deliberately highlighted glamorous sexual beauty, when co-joined with the phallic prop of the death-fetish, constitutes yet another ‘impossible situation’ that The Ape-Man must ‘challenge’: an eroticised death-trap in the form of an ‘explosive’ femme fatale.
Like Jane, Sophia is a ‘tense’ cinema/archetypal combination of two forms: heroine/‘damsel in distress’ and seductress/femme fatale. In both identities, but mainly in her primary one as Moll, Sophia’s formidable erotic potency flows directly from being ‘deadly’. The complex cinematic set of allusions at work here (Sophia = human bomb/living bomb/sex-bomb/blonde bombshell) together form a powerfully visual erotic pun that shouts out in equal measure erotic lure and certain death, an arresting image that simultaneously threatens Tarzan (explicitly) and Jane (implicitly). Given her suggestively supine stance and the wildly exaggerated elements of ‘damsel-in-distress’ nature of her presentation/display, Sophia-with-necklace doubles as a counter-display to Jane70 ; one of the most striking parallels between them is that they are both presented as ‘supine’ and leaning against a tree as The Ape-Man rescues them. In fact, Burroughs’ description of Jane during Tarzan’s death-struggle with Terkoz is virtually identical with the position and actions of Sophia, once again strongly indicating an inter-textual influence: ‘Jane — her lithe, young form flattened against the trunk of the great tree, her hands pressed against her rising and falling bosom, and her eyes wide with mingled horror, fascination, fear, and admiration — watched the primordial ape battle for possession of a woman—her.’ A dramatically powerful and suspenseful double meaning is at play here in this startling scene. One the one hand, Sophia is ‘Vinero’s ‘sex-trophy’ and, therefore, a sign of his lust/greed; the ability of the Ape-Man to successfully rescue/take her also constitutes one more of Vinero’s phallic challenge to Tarzan, one that he passes but, as is by now to be expected, only with considerable difficulty. The prominent and suggestive displaying of the death-fetish on Sophia’s bosom is the ‘mark’ of proprietary ownership and possession; the symbolized announcement that anyone who ‘approaches’ Vinero’s woman will die. As mentioned previously, Leiber takes this theme to truly dizzying heights, revealing Vinero as an outlandish psychotic and necrophiliac megalomaniac, a veritable embodiment of ‘the death-instinct’ counter-posed to Tarzan’s life-affirming erotic symbolism.
Yet, the phallic power of the (Super-) Hero frequently results in the seduction of the seductress. This form of cinematic ‘insider knowledge’ allows us to detect the second, and even more powerful, dramatic plane. As a rival cinematic archetype — the Moll as the sexually dominant female or ‘queen’ of the criminal ‘Jungle’ — the ‘danger’ of Sophia Renault is that she objectively ‘out-displays’ Jane, the natural/primitive Jungle-Girl, as the exclusive erotic object for the gaze of both The Ape-Man and the audience. Tarzan’s ‘de-activating’ of the Stunning-Woman-as-Human-Bomb is identical to the replacement of Jane by Sophia Renault as exclusive erotic object, who, like Nemone almost does, symbolically becomes the ‘new’ Jungle Heroine/anima.
The signs of the Sophia/Jane substitution are present within the ‘de-activation’ scene itself. Dialogue is instructive. When Tarzan first approaches Sophia, she aggressively and repeatedly orders him to ‘Go away!’, on the grounds that ‘There is no reason for anyone else to be hurt.’ Her response demonstrates compassion and courage, typical traits of the cinematic Heroine and vital ‘bonding’ elements in Tarzan’s idealised monogamy with Jane. Most impressively, we learn slightly later that it was actually Sophia who earlier ‘freed’ the boy Ramel, saving him from certain death at the hands of Vinero, and clearly risking her own life in the process (as the present predicament indicates); this is an impressive demonstration of idealized nurturing, or ‘motherly’ concern, another trademark feature of Jane as Heroine. It is significant that in The City of Gold, the exclusivity of Jane’s erotic object status is precariously upheld only at the very last moment by Nemone’s clear demonstration of her lack of such qualities: Tarzan declares that ‘I am…shocked that one so beautiful may at the same time be so heartless. Were you a little more human, Nemone, you would be irresistible’71 ; presumably, even more so than Jane. (This dialogue is actually quite ‘dangerous’ for Jane as it implicitly threatens her with replacement—if Nemone is able to advance to the third or fourth level of symbolic/anima femininity, the stages already attained by the literary Jane, then she would be truly able to ‘match’ Jane—a symbolic act of replacement—as The Ape-Man’s coeval archetypal ‘mate’. Tarzan himself clearly recognizes this; after an erotically charged encounter with Nemone ends, Burroughs writes: ‘Tarzan shook himself as he might a lion72 ; he drew a palm across his eyes as one whose vision has been clouded by a mist; then he drew a deep sigh…but whether it was a sigh of relief or a sigh of regret, who may say?’) In the most erotically symbolic primordial image in the film—Tarzan has Sophia wrapped in his arms73 while delicately attempting to remove the necklace from behind—Sophia gasps out the highly suggestive line: ‘I know who you are!’ This implicitly signals Sophia’s identification of Tarzan as a superhero known to her—‘The Ape-Man’—and suggests that Sophia has been desperately hoping for the appearance of Tarzan as the only one who can save her and ‘put an end’ to Vinero. Immediately after Tarzan’s ‘freeing’ of Sophia from Vinero/Train, she is frightened by the appearance of Tarzan’s lion, the most dangerous of the phallic symbols of The Ape-Man; yet later in the film she is treating the savage beast as a pet, a display of intimate familiarity, or ‘taming’, and an action that would normally only be performed by Jane.
On the world website !WOm!Wam!, a webpage that focuses on erotic presentations of women in the science fiction and super-agent films of the 1960s—an extremely relevant site for the purposes of discussing GOLD—authors of the site offer a tentative identification of an archetypal cinema anima specific to the action/adventure genre: ‘The Stunning Woman’. The question posed is, ‘And what, exactly, makes [the Stunning Woman] “mind-boggling”? …[The Woman] stuns a man because when he contemplates her beauty his inner being (whatever the life force is that makes him what he is 74) becomes utterly aligned with his physical body, and at that moment he is essentially ready…to die for the Stunning Woman.’75 It is important to note that the language used here is ordinarily appropriate to describe the archetypal relationship between Tarzan and Jane. What invests the erotic sub-text of GOLD with dramatic power is that precisely because it is Sophia who is displayed/re-presented as the Stunning-Woman, she comes to be invested with the heightened erotic allure that is ordinarily ‘reserved’ for Jane which equates with Sophia demonstrating her ‘matching’ status as cinematic first-stage anima; it is through the narrative/cinematic frame of the ‘Stunning Woman’ that Sophia is rendered fully capable of meeting Jane’s erotic challenge. Jane ‘finally meeting her match’ is constituted by the cinematic archetypal Jungle-girl being ‘disposed of’ by the even more sexually powerful cinematic archetype of the Moll/Seductress. Furthermore, the erotic ‘discarding’ of Jane furthers the sex/death link for Tarzan; precisely because Sophia is the ‘true’ Stunning Woman, the Ape-Man is fully prepared to risk death in order to hunt/save/capture her. (As the website !WOm!Wam! helpfully reminds us, ‘Sex and Death are inextricably linked…[the visual depiction of the ‘Stunning Woman’ is] a symbolic depiction of the male orgasm as death experience occurring immediately upon beholding the Stunning Woman.’75 ) Although a brutal assertion, it accords well with the sub-textual social Darwinism of the literary canon; Tarzan in his narrower identity as first-stage animus will naturally be attracted to the erotically dominant female, particularly if we are correct in our earlier assumption that the erotic sub-text of Tarzan/Jane is that sexual power is the primary means by which Jane is able to maintain her status as anima/mate. As the encounter with Nemone clearly reveals, Tarzan will be attracted to any serious challenger for anima status, creating a highly intense—and prolonged—form of erotic ‘suspense’. This also ‘doubles’ as a final win for Vinero, although a posthumous one. The superiority of the allure of his sex-trophy over any possible ‘mate’ that the ‘so-called’ Ape-Man might possess, demonstrated by Sophia’s success in ‘attracting’ Tarzan and luring him into the erotic death-trap,76 testifies to the ‘seriousness’ of Vinero’s challenge.77
The Missing Five Minutes
Tarzan became a well-mannered, soft-spoken gentleman ape who was at home in a Parisian nightclub as in the treetops. He was hip to the modern world, could do the Watusi at the better discotheques, and got the girl at the end, because he was, in summary, a ‘new embodiment of culture.’78
Essoe’s account of the Weintraub ‘approach’ to the Tarzan movie is subversive in that he seems to be suggesting is that it is permissible, or even necessary, to depict Tarzan, like his ‘double’ James Bond, ‘the new embodiment of culture’, as being sexually promiscuous. This would provide the most ‘brutal’ explanation for the on-screen elimination of Jane; the idealised but erotically tension-laden monogamy that is so central to Burroughs’ work is to be ‘disposed of’. Yet cinematically, especially for Tarzan ‘fandom’, this is impossible; once again the problem here is that the successful establishment of Tarzan in mainstream popular culture means that ‘everyone knows that Jane exists’. It is also unsatisfactory in symbolic terms as well; the archetypal narrative of Tarzan/animus requires union/mating with Jane/anima is precisely what Tarzan is unconsciously ‘all about’. The un-explained absence of the archetypal Jungle-Girl demands an ‘explanation’. The novel GOLD solves this problem by having Tarzan announce his return to Jane and ‘the children’ (presumably Korak and Miriam) to whom he will relate the happenings of his latest adventure which is the book that we have just read. As GOLD is to be read as part of the literary canon, Jane’s absence is Leiber’s re-working of Burroughs’ signature theme of ‘suspenseful’ idealised monogamy. The film GOLD is much more tantalizingly suggestive in its approach.
There are five minutes missing from the AMC-run version of GOLD; these involve especially charged scenes with Mr. Train79 and Sophia; the unavoidable implications of Death and Sex in these scenes were presumably deleted as being ‘too intense for young viewers’, ordinarily the primary audience for Tarzan films. Tarzan, having narrowly but triumphantly completed his impossible mission to kill Vinero, has taken as a trophy the source of the sadist’s perverted death-fetishes, a highly suggestive black space-age briefcase.80 Tarzan uses the deadly explosives contained inside — the same ones that Vinero had attempted to use on Tarzan and Sophia in his erotic death trap — to permanently seal the underground entrance to the Valley of Gold. This serves as the immediate context for an overtly erotic exchange between Tarzan and Sophia.
Tarzan: 'Would you like a necklace?”
Sophia: 'Only if you promise to always be there to take it off.'
This is the most erotically suggestive dialogue of GOLD, which is presumably the reason why it was cut. Tarzan’s un-characteristically promiscuous ‘offer’ to re-assert Sophia’s peril of the death-fetish ‘playfully’ re-enacts the threat of Death; Sophia, consistent with archetype status as both Moll and Stunning Woman, counters with Sex as an equivalent exchange; it also doubles as a startling offer to ‘mate’ which wholly supplants the archetypal role of Jane. By symbolically replacing Jane with Sophia, Tarzan completes the phallic destruction of the ‘fake’ Vinero by ‘taking’ his woman, an enacting of one of the very darkest themes of the Gangster film.81
In cinematic terms, GOLD ends with transformation of Sophia-as-Moll/Stunning Woman into Sophia-as-Good Girl/Stunning Woman via the archetypal transformative potency of The Ape-Man/animus. Consistent with Producer Weintraub’s intent to ‘modernize’ The Ape-Man, however, this is narratively identical with the cinematic/symbolic replacement of the Jungle-Girl with the Good Girl/Stunning Woman who is the new erotic object commensurate with Tarzan’s newly validated and deadly lordship over the hybrid ‘crime-nature Jungle’.82 (There is also a possible twist ‘Feminist’ reading to this, setting up another reversal. As cinematic anima, Sophia’s primary identity will be the Moll, a lethal/glamorous woman with a penchant for dangerous and powerful men. If so, then Tarzan’s ability to maintain his status as the sole erotic object of the gaze of the anima will depend upon his repeated success in maintaining his status as first-stage animus.) When Tarzan and Sophia Renault re-enter the ‘double’ archetypal Jungle to begin their ‘long journey back to civilization’ they clearly do so as a ‘couple’; or even more subversively, as a family. The numerous scenes in GOLD of Tarzan standing with both Sophia and Manuel—the boy whom both Sophia and Tarzan have rescued on separate occasions at the risk of their own life, and whom Sophia treats with overtly maternal care—are directly reminiscent of the family images of Tarzan-Jane-Boy of the later Weissmuller films. (Significantly, it is the erotic lion Major that has taken the place reserved for juvenile the chimpanzee Cheetah in most of the scenes in GOLD in which Tarzan and Sophia are together.)
Although on the surface this sounds implausible—a wildly ‘over-deterministic’ reading—it is not only perfectly consistent with but the logical culmination of the erotic sub-text of the Weintraub films. Near the end of ADVENTURE, in so many ways the cinematic model for GOLD, Tarzan offers Angie an implicit but clear offer of union, or ‘mating’. (Earlier in the film, there is an intense, and clearly pre-figuring, ‘kissing scene’ between Tarzan and Angie; this startling intrusion has been edited out in some versions of the film. When this scene is ‘known’ and is then juxtaposed to the final scene of Tarzan and Angie together where the ‘offer to mate’ is made, it is clear from the demeanour and appearance of the both Hero and Heroine that they have just made love. This inference is strengthened, somewhat crudely, by Angie’s distracted ‘handling’ of Tarzan’s hunting-knife. If Jane ‘existed’, then this would be adultery.) Significantly, Angie, exactly like Sophia, is a ‘kept’ woman, the former ‘companion’ of a wealthy and powerful man with ‘shadowy’ connections. Significantly, however, Angie’s re-presentation as Moll is severely curtailed, especially when weighed against the exaggerated stereotypical image of Sophia; simply put, Angie is not fully archetypal and, therefore, cannot cinematically ‘match’ Jane. If I am correct in one of my central assumptions that GOLD is a deliberate expansion of the sub-textual erotic themes of ADVENTURE, then the logic of Tarzan’s symbolic replacement of Jane with Sophia makes complete sense dramatically. Furthermore, the ‘marriage proposal’ scene in ADVENTURE is the closest that any of the Weintraub films coming in offering an ‘explanation’ for the absence of Jane. When Tarzan is preparing to set off for his duel/death-struggle with Slade, his protective lover Angie declares that it is not necessary for Tarzan to eliminate Slade from this Jungle as there are ‘other places [to live]’; Tarzan’s response is ‘Not for me. This is where I belong.’ This is exactly right, both literally and symbolically. Tarzan’s archetypal identification with ‘the Jungle’ necessitates a degree of solitariness, a theme often touched upon in the novels. Conversely, Angie, unable to ‘live’ in ‘the Jungle’, refuses the offer to mate and, with clearly conflicted emotions, separates from Tarzan by piloting the riverboat back to Civilization, presumably leaving the ‘Jungle’ forever. This intensely suggestive and startling scene is directly evocative of the ending of the first novel Tarzan of the Apes, where Jane, like Angie, is thoroughly aroused but wholly divided; she ultimately rejects Tarzan’s offer, committing herself in marriage to another. I take it that this scene in ADVENTURE is an implied re-staging of an earlier ‘off-screen’ scene of separation enacted between Tarzan and Jane, which serves as the beginning of the ‘life story’ of Tarzan as depicted in the Weintraub films. The first two stages of the archetypal plot, the ‘initial discovery’ and ‘threatened loss’, are assumed as true, but not the third ‘restorative re-discovery’. The secret reason for this is that, without consciously realizing it, the film that we are currently watching is merely one episodic instalment of the same third sequence that encompasses all of the films in the series. (Expressed as a formula, the archetypal narrative sequence of the Weintraub films would be: sub-text/restorative-rediscovery = text/initial discovery + text/threatened loss.) Jane is real but absent, exerting the force of The Ideal; Tarzan is civilized, but he is alone in the Jungle un-coupled from the anima; the earlier off-screen ‘initial discovery’ of Tarzan and Jane is the primordial image; the archetypal imaginary can now be re-played endlessly; cinematic erotic ‘suspense’ is generated through multiple re-staging that provide the recurrent sub-textual juxtaposition between the Ideal (Jane) and the Real (Angie; Sophia). It is this encounter, the ‘initial discovery’ dramatically imperilled by ‘threatened loss’, the carefully staged ‘death-struggle’, that forms the Text of each film; it is the re-staging of the dis-placed ‘restorative re-discovery’ that is the unifying theme of the erotic Sub-Text of the entire film series; Tarzan will always be ‘re-mating’ with Jane.
It should be noted that the head-lined wording for the next Weintraub film, Tarzan and Great River (1967) promises us, among other spectacular thrills,83 the sight of ‘TARZAN…risking his life to save his woman’. This would appear to repeat the earlier mis-identification made in ADVENTURE unless, of course, the ‘mis-take’ is operating on only one level and that the ‘new’ sexually glamorous woman is in fact symbolically the ‘same one’ as before. Both in this poster and also for the following film, Tarzan and the Jungle Boy (1968), the women who are prominently displayed are clearly not the archetypal Jungle-Woman; they are both shown as wearing revealing skin-tight safari outfits, constituting either the re-appearance of Sophia Renault or, in the more likely alternative, the subliminal identification with Tarzan’s cinematically ‘new’ symbolic ‘mate’, the Stunning Woman. Within this cinematic logic, ‘Jane’, as a singular symbolic manifestation of Eve, only exists within the contours of the staging of the archetypal narrative sequence and core set of primordial images. (Significantly, none of the Weintraub films nor the later television series make any explicit reference to the nature of Tarzan’s origins; that is because to do so would force the re-introduction of Jane. This further proves a point that I made earlier; everyone ‘knows’ that Jane exists and that she was the reason why Tarzan came out of the Jungle. Farmer is absolutely correct to identify Jane as the first ‘seductress’ of the mythos; as the one who ‘seduced’ the Ape-Man into leaving the Jungle, it is perfectly reasonable for her to undergo a symbolic cinematic re-incarnation as Angie and Sophia Renault.) She is ‘screened out’, and erotically matched with the next symbolic manifestation of Eve, one that is looped into the strict sub-textual logic of the primary narrative/imaginary. In this way, the valuable cinematic meaning of the archetypal union of animus with anima can never be lost.84
On the level of the cinematic unconscious the ‘true’ symbolic victim of GOLD is the archetypal Jungle-Girl. Jane has ‘met her match’ in the ‘challenge’ of Sophia Renault and has been symbolically ‘disposed of’; throughout the Weintraub era, ‘Jane remained on the cutting room floor, gathering dust.’ However, precisely because ‘Jane’ is a singular archetypal embodiment of Eve, she is fully capable of undergoing endless symbolic re-constitutions through dramatic re-configurations of the on-screen ‘initial discovery’ and ‘threatened loss’ endlessly replicating the defining archetypal narrative event of MATE which is ‘restorative re-discovery’.85 This eternal cinematic recurrence of the vitally erotic third narrative sequence of ‘restorative re-discovery’ is the stuff that primordial images are made on.
35. Franz, ‘The Process of Individuation’, passim.
36. In all of the numerous examples of Tarzan poster art, GOLD is the one that comes closest to literally matching Burrough’s description of The Ape-Man: ‘ His straight and perfect figure, muscled as the best of the best of the ancient Roman gladiators must have been muscled, and yet with the soft and sinuous curves of a Greek god, told at a glance the wondrous combination of enormous strength with suppleness and speed.’ At this point it is important to consider the recurrence of the problem of homoeroticism in the Tarzan imaginary; Morton reminds us that ‘when the male body is the object of the erotic look in cinema it is often “feminised”, to avoid the problem mainstream cinema’s “masculine gaze” typically has in coming to terms with homosexuality … Tarzan, though eroticised, is not feminised, and his hyperbolically male actions (i.e. wrestling gorillas) prevent any considerations of homosexuality.’ Morton, ‘Tracking the Sign of Tarzan’, 119. The poster for GOLD is the perfect confirmation of Morton’s argument.
37. The outstanding features of Mr. Train’s physical appearance—gigantic stature and total baldness—provide the additional and brutally direct symbolic connotations.
38. In GOLD, Sophia inquiries as to why Vinero did not put and end to Tarzan’s challenge’ before it has even begun by having Mr. Train intercept The Ape-Man at the airport rather than the two ‘ordinary’ professional hit-men that Vinero actually did send. As though anticipating the implications of this, Leiber has Vinero provide a fairly ‘weak’ excuse for not having done so. In strict accordance to the narrative logic of this sub-text, if Mr. Train had been sent ‘to pay Tarzan a visit’, then Tarzan would have been killed prior to his symbolic transformation into The Ape-Man.
39. From GOLD: Vinero to Sophia: ‘It is a pity, Sophia, that you are not as strong as I am.’ Sophia: ‘It isn’t a question of strength! It is more a question of sanity!’ Vinero: ‘That is a harsh word!’
40. In ADVENTURE, this is achieved through having Tarzan slowly dying from the mortal wounds her has received when in combat with Slade’s gang, whom, like the later Vinero, are using explosive weapons against him (dynamite). This is, I believe, the most graphic depictions in Film of Tarzan’s mortality. It also results in one of the more noticeable dis-placements of Jane; assuming a role ordinarily reserved for The Jungle-Girl, it is Angie who exerts the protective/nurturing role and risks her life to save Tarzan.
41. One of the repeated images in GOLD is a close-up of the trads of Vinero’s tank chewing up the Jungle vegetation; a symbol of unstoppable mechanical power.
42. This observation should not be pushed too far, however; in some respects Tarzan’s Jungle animus, clearly interferes with Vinero’s crime Jungle. Tarzan is able to avoid Vinero’s first assassination attempt because he has been alerted to danger through his detection of the scent of blood in the car that he is in being taken for his ‘last ride’; he also locates Sophia’s presence in the Jungle by following her ‘woman scent’. Most impressively, he is able to exert command over the surviving animals at the wildlife sanctuary and use them in successfully following the ‘un-detectable’ trail left by Vinero’s killers.
43. Leiber faces the implications of this squarely in GOLD, and has Tarzan, along with Sophia, captured by Vinero after the Gangster-Boss has conquered the Valley of Gold; in other words, they are rendered ‘powerless’ and can be put to death at any time by Vinero.
44. As if offering an ironically commentary of this newest ‘impossible situation, Leiber actually has Vinero capture Tarzan at this point.
45. In GOLD, when Vinero is sadistically contemplating the ‘final’ meeting between Mr. Train and The Ape-Man, he expects the contest to last for ‘several minutes’. In fact, when the two protagonists ‘duel’ Mr. Train does employ karate; Tarzan ultimately wins the staged contest through agility and deception, emphasizing that in some sense it is impossible for Tarzan to defeat Mr. Train in a direct ‘test’ of strength. What happens afterwards is a surprising but logical plot twist; after Tarzan has ‘disposed of’ Mr, Train, Vinero offers Tarzan a criminal partnership, the co-joining of the crime-Jungle lord with the nature-Jungle lord, with Tarzan to serve as Vinero’s new ‘symbol’. As Tarzan ruminates upon receiving Vinero’s offer, ‘So the beast was lonely!’
46. In one of the most startling but fleeting moments of the death-struggle, Tarzan, who is clearly being over-powered by Mr. Train, desperately tries to defend himself against by grabbing hold of an ancient club, which Mr. Train immediately knocks out of his hands, as an adult disarming a child; the almost subliminal scene suggests the possibility that Tarzan’s weapons/symbols are ‘really’ props. Vinero’s auto-erotic delight in sadistically informing Sophia that Mr. Train’s ‘fingers are like knives’ subliminally creates the threatening perception that one of Tarzan’s key phallic symbols, the hunting knife, might really be a phallic prop. The comparison further highlights Mr. Train’s symbolic identification with Tarkoz; ‘knife-like fingers’ that form part of The Hench-Man’s body are analogous to the lethal teeth and fangs of the Killer-Ape.
47. In one of the most startling but fleeting moments of the death-struggle, Tarzan, who is clearly being over-powered by Mr. Train, desperately tries to defend himself against by grabbing hold of an ancient club, which Mr. Train immediately knocks out of his hands, as an adult disarming a child; the almost subliminal scene suggests the possibility that Tarzan’s weapons/symbols are ‘really’ props. Vinero’s auto-erotic delight in sadistically informing Sophia that Mr. Train’s ‘fingers are like knives’ subliminally creates the threatening perception that one of Tarzan’s key phallic symbols, the hunting knife, might really be a phallic prop. The comparison further highlights Mr. Train’s symbolic identification with Tarkoz; ‘knife-like fingers’ that form part of The Hench-Man’s body are analogous to the lethal teeth and fangs of the Killer-Ape.
48. Essoe, Tarzan of the Movies, 176.
49. Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes, 93-4. The emphasized passages indicate the moments of exact re-staging in the film. When Mr. Train’s neck is finally snapped, there is an audible cracking sound.
50. A rare false note in ADVENTURE is Tarzan’s improbably speedy recovery following the truly savage duel with Slade.
51. Burroughs, Tarzan, 120-1. Emphasis added.
52. Although Sophia, unlike Jane is not immediately present at the primordial/primeval scene, it is strongly implied that she will die in the Valley of Gold if Tarzan fails at the ‘moment of truth’; Vinero intends to massacre the entire native population after he has completed his Pissaro-style looting. In any event, without The Ape-Man to guide her back to Civilization, Sophia would almost certainly be lost in the Jungle.
53. Essoe, Tarzan of the Movies, 176.
54. Animus and anima.
55. Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes, 242-3.
56. Cited in Kasson, Houdini, Tarzan, and the Perfect Man, 222. In fact, the only reason why Burroughs rather clumsily ‘resurrected’ her was in response to the pleadings of his editor and, rather curiously, his wife. Ibid..
57. Which underlines perfectly the perverse effects of the Hayes Code. If allowed to operate in an untrammelled manner, instinct will lead to archetypal union leading to reproduction, or ‘completeness’. Therefore, most couplings will yield offspring; yet precisely because eros is the one thing that Tarzan and Jane cannot be allowed to symbolize, Jane has to die so that Tarzan can reproduce, or ‘find a son’.
58. The only other possible candidate for the ‘true name’ of the first-stage animus would be the generic ‘wild man’, who, however, is virtually identical with Tarzan of the Apes. Thanks to mass media and marketing, the cultural resonance of Tarzan as the erotically idealised ‘wild-man’ is virtually universal.
59. In his Tarzan and Tradition: Classical Myth in Popular Literature (London: Greenwood Press, 1981), Erling B. Holtsmark has made this point brilliantly; for the literary Jane as Penelope, see 137.
60. Holtsmark also detects a certain element of tension on this point. ‘Why does Tarzan reject La in [The Jewels of Opar]? It is partly because he is an “upright” hero who would not engage in an extramarital affair and partly because he has now been married a long time to Jane and is committed to her in his heart. Tarzan’s attitude must also be viewed as an adaptation of a cardinal feature of his Odyssean prototype. In the Odyssey, the hero Odysseus is very much an erotic hero, albeit at times reluctant, at the same time that he is committed to Penelope. The allure of the goddess Calypso…is similar to that which Law displayed before Tarzan when she asked him not to leave her…La cannot give Tarzan immortality, but she offers temptations much like those Odysseus is offered….Penelope is only mortal, and Calypso immortal and ageless, but his wife’s very morality and humanness makes her preferable. Tarzan, in rejecting all the promises that beautiful La dangles before him, is a rather obvious adaptation of the type Odysseus represents. As erotic hero, Tarzan is part of that tradition in which the hero resists the seduction in which the hero resists the seductress’s attempts to divert him from the “right” course.’ However, Holtsmark also notes that ‘Tarzan’s resolve is not always as forceful, for on at least one occasion [with Olga de Coude in The Return of Tarzan] he begins to yield to his passionate nature.’ Holtsmark, Tarzan and Tradition, 137-8.
61. Cited in Robert W. Fenton, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Tarzan: A Biography of the Author and His Creation (London: McFarland & Company: 2003), 129.
62. Ibid. Emphasis added.
63. Cited in Fenton, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Tarzan, 129.
64. An additional complication here is that because Nemone is also presented as a dominatrix, announcing the possibility of the ‘superiority’ of the first-stage anima over the first-stage animus. Jane, by contrast, is always strictly coeval with Tarzan, with only occasional dramatic lapses into feminine dependency; hence, her alluring ‘spunkiness’, displayed so prominently at the dramatic conclusion of MATE.
65. I believe that this tends to validate the Jungian interpretation of Jane’s immediate ‘seductive lure’ over the Freudian one. The Freudian interpretation is based on the erotic motif of locket/image/mother. The gentrified Jane, who has received additional eroticisation through having been ‘gazed at’ for the first time in the Jungle, can serve as an adequate ‘substitute’ for the aristocratic Lady Greystoke. However, the pronounced exoticism of Nemone’s appearance would make such an idealised transference implausible; the entire point of Nemone’s exoticism or ‘wild’ appearance is to provide a means of ‘anima identification’.
66. Another but very unpleasantly social Darwinist meaning is possible. In social terms, Tarzan is an aristocrat, Lord Greystoke, Nemone is a queen, La a High-Priestess, and Jane a member of the gentrified classes. As is well known, ‘true born’ aristocrats do not consider the vast majority of people worth bothering with, or ‘looking at’. The highly discriminating selectivity of the aristocratic gaze is exclusively reserved for social equals; it is therefore impossible for any member of the multitude of the socially inferior to constitute a ‘true’ object of erotic desire.
67. Maintaining with our Tarzan/James Bond correspondences, we would identify Sophia Renault with the fatally named Pussy Galore.
68. Morton, ‘Tracking the Sign of Tarzan’, 112.
69. SOURCE: www.!Wom!Wam!.com.
70. The ‘meaning’ of Sophia’s close-up facial expressions during the ‘rescue’ scene do not require elaboration.
71. Cited in Fenton, 129. Sophia’s response is also possibly indicative of an element of doubt concerning The Ape-Man’s true identity; in the stock dialogue of the comic book, Sophia is saying to Tarzan ‘You don’t know what you are doing.’ If Sophia is still within the phallic shadow of Vinero/Train—Vinero’s sadistic ‘demonstration’ of Train’s inhuman strength and matchless combat skills having taken place immediately prior to Sophia being ‘booby-trapped’ and rendered prostrate—then the element of erotic ‘challenge’ in Tarzan’s ‘freeing’ of ‘Vinero’s woman’ is heightened.
72. This is significant in itself; in both instances where Tarzan encounters the woman who can ‘match’ Jane, Nemone and Sophia Renault, a lion figures prominently.
73. This is a re-staging of Tarzan placing his ‘great arms’ around Jane in the first novel. Please see above.
74. To re-state the obvious: for Tarzan this is the animus.
75. SOURCE: www.!Wom!Wam!.com.
76. In one of Tarzan’s most feral moments in GOLD, his enhanced sense of smell permits him to detect Sophia’s ‘woman scent’ at a considerable distance.
77. It is interesting that while Leiber testifies to Jane’s existence in GOLD, he never has Vinero or Sophia, two characters who are related to Tarzan in a vitally erotic manner explicitly refer to her, even as a topic of speculation. Given Vinero’s acute castration anxiety incurred by the presence of The Ape-Man and inciting all types of grandiose counter-demonstrations, this omission seems rather odd. I believe that the reason for the omission is that such a scene would simply be too ‘risky’ even for the normally uninhibited Leiber; if Vinero auto-erotically displays Mr. Train in order to allay the castration induced by Tarzan then, following this logic, Vinero would also have to auto-erotically display Sophia in opposition to Jane. Consistent with the erotic sub-text that I believe that I have detected, then the imaginary—and intensely sadistic—Leiber-esque dialogue between Vinero and Sophia, which would centre on Jane’s imminent un-masking by Sophia, would probably go something like this: ‘What kind of woman do you think Tarzan has with him in the jungle, Sophia? What sort of over-aged adolescent would abandon civilization to live in the African forest with a ‘so-called’ Ape-Man? Some kind of pathetic exhibitionist, no doubt. Probably a former ‘local beauty queen’, neurotically self-infatuated, absurdly over-rated and now, after all these years spent play-acting in the jungle, well past her prime. A weak-minded idiot who thinks that displaying herself half-naked while mindlessly flaunting herself in animal skins makes her some kind of ‘exotic’ jungle-savage. Compared to you Sophia, this Jane would seem like some kind of washed-out dishrag.’
78. Essoe, Tarzan of the Movies, 176.
79. Revealingly, these scenes include Mr. Train’s barehanded crushing of the stone statuette and his lifting and removal of the fallen stalactites. The obvious reasons why these scenes were cut for ‘family viewing’ is precisely because they obviously create too much ‘doubt’ about whom is truly omnipotent.
80. If, as seems dramatically more likely for most of the film, GOLD had ended with Mr. Train killing/un-masking Tarzan, it is can only be speculated as to what sort of ‘trophy’ Mr. Train would have taken from Tarzan after saving his perverted master from The-Apeman’s failed quest for justice/vengeance. In GOLD, Leiber is clearly following a similar train of thought; in addition to seizing political control over South America, Vinero intends to use part of the pillaged treasure to erecting a massive Temple of Death, which will include a museum devoted to the small handful of ‘truly worthy opponents’ that Vinero has had killed.
81. It is also a reversal of what Arlington attempted to do against Tarzan in MATE.
82. At the risk of appearing as ‘grasping at straws’, I would ask the reader to consider the following. One of the ‘insurmountable’ obstacles preventing Sophia from acting as Tarzan’s new ‘mate’ has been overcome by one of the central dramatic innovations of the film; Tarzan’s ability to travel from the Jungle and to survive within the City. The other ‘insurmountable’ obstacle, of course, lies within the possibility of Jane’s physical existence within the Weintraub series; this creates a form of erotic ‘suspense’ all its own, re-enacting the erotic drama of erotically idealised monogamy highlighted in the novels.
83. These include seeing Tarzan ‘in barehanded combat with a wild jaguar…escaping vicious man-eating river piranhas…trapped by a blazing volcano…[and] braving the savage tribes.’ Essoe, Tarzan of the Movies, 177. With the exception of the last one, none of these events take place. However, Tarzan ‘in barehanded combat with a wild jaguar’ does take place but in a wholly symbolic form. Like Mr. Train, the new villain is both feral in nature and constitutive of a phallic symbol, Barcuna, The Jaguar-Man, the leader of a primitive death cult whose warriors dress in ceremonial jaguar costumes, suggestive of feral transformation. Set in South America like GOLD, the film begins with Tarzan accepting a mission to kill the villain, about whom we are informed the following: ‘Every day that Barcuna is in the Jungle, he becomes stronger.’ And, like GOLD, the climax of the film is a spectacular ‘barehanded combat’ between two rival Jungle-Lords.
84. The suspension of the Hayes Code means that it is possible to reverse the dis-placement and re-introduce Jane directly. However, we are still facing the same situation as before; the archetypal meaning of the open mating between animus and anima can only be maintained through dramatic and narrative devices possessing the required degree of erotic ‘seriousness’. Expressed in practical terms, Tarzan and Jane will only ‘work’ dramatically if their individual re-presentation exhibits both adequately ‘youthful’ Text and ‘adult’ Sub-Text.
85. This evidenced best of all in the final Mike Henry film, Tarzan and the Jungle Boy, which comes even closer to a modern re-configuration of the first Tarzan novel. For no ‘apparent’ reason, the ‘new’ Stunning Woman/Jane is introduced in the company of a hapless fiance who bears an uncanny resemblance to Mr. Clayton, the veritable un-embodiment of the animus. Like Mr. Clayton, the fiancé dies and Tarzan re-enacts the primordial scene to acquire ‘Jane’. The Heroine announcing her ‘entry into the Jungle’ by the ostentatious and dramatic means of parachute pushes the ‘neo-Jane’ imagery even further; she is haplessly dangling from the trees when Tarzan makes his ‘initial discovery’. Parachuting also suggests a coeval status with Tarzan as advernturer/‘adventure-ess’
86. These include seeing Tarzan ‘in barehanded combat with a wild jaguar…escaping vicious man-eating river piranhas…trapped by a blazing volcano…[and] braving the savage tribes.’ Essoe, Tarzan of the Movies, 177. With the exception of the last one, none of these events take place. However, Tarzan ‘in barehanded combat with a wild jaguar’ does take place but in a wholly symbolic form. Like Mr. Train, the new villain is both feral in nature and constitutive of a phallic symbol, Barcuna, The Jaguar-Man, the leader of a primitive death cult whose warriors dress in ceremonial jaguar costumes, suggestive of feral transformation. Set in South America like GOLD, the film begins with Tarzan accepting a mission to kill the villain, about whom we are informed the following: ‘Every day that Barcuna is in the Jungle, he becomes stronger.’ And, like GOLD, the climax of the film is a spectacular ‘barehanded combat’ between two rival Jungle-Lords.
87. The suspension of the Hayes Code means that it is possible to reverse the dis-placement and re-introduce Jane directly. However, we are still facing the same situation as before; the archetypal meaning of the open mating between animus and anima can only be maintained through dramatic and narrative devices possessing the required degree of erotic ‘seriousness’. Expressed in practical terms, Tarzan and Jane will only ‘work’ dramatically if their individual re-presentation exhibits both adequately ‘youthful’ Text and ‘adult’ Sub-Text.
88. This evidenced best of all in the final Mike Henry film, Tarzan and the Jungle Boy, which comes even closer to a modern re-configuration of the first Tarzan novel. For no ‘apparent’ reason, the ‘new’ Stunning Woman/Jane is introduced in the company of a hapless fiance who bears an uncanny resemblance to Mr. Clayton, the veritable un-embodiment of the animus. Like Mr. Clayton, the fiancé dies and Tarzan re-enacts the primordial scene to acquire ‘Jane’. The Heroine announcing her ‘entry into the Jungle’ by the ostentatious and dramatic means of parachute pushes the ‘neo-Jane’ imagery even further; she is haplessly dangling from the trees when Tarzan makes his ‘initial discovery’. Parachuting also suggests a coeval status with Tarzan as advernturer/‘adventure-ess’
Tarzan of the Apes e-Text edition
The Return of Tarzan e-Text edition
Philip Jose Farmer
Tarzan and the City of Gold
Tarzan and the Valley of Gold
Tarzan and His Mate
Tarzan's Greatest Adventure
Tarzan the Ape Man
MEET THE AUTHOR
an LLB from the University of British Columbia and
an LLM from the University of Washington.
He was awarded the SJD from Melbourne in 2005.
His current subject interests are in the history and philosophy of