TARZAN AND THE LEOPARD WOMAN
is the second movie on the second disc of the Weissmuller Tarzan Collection
Vol. 2, and has interesting elements that are recollective of Burroughs'
novel Tarzan and the Leopard Men, published in the early thirties.
Both stories feature Tarzan dealing with a terrorist leopard cult, but
otherwise they are two separate adventures. The main difference is that
in the book the leopard cult is more realistically based upon an authentic
cult of blacks in the Congo region, but in the film the leopard cult is
composed of some kind of semi-tropical Aryan tribe.
It was probably easy for the viewers of this film to assume that the
east coast of Africa, on the Indian Ocean, doubtless had some small countries
comprised of Indians. In trying to pin down where these mysterious countries
of Zambesi and Bagandi might be located, it turns out that there are not
that many small countries along the eastern Africa coastline.
In Burroughs' Tarzan novels, Africa is often given the illusion of being
about the size of Texas -- Tarzan is able to negotiate widely separated
areas with relative ease, giving the impression of a greatly miniaturized
continent, Minunian style. And this in spite of the fact that Burroughs
peppers the African wilderness with unheard of lost civilizations. One
becomes amazed at how well the average African tribesman in a Burroughs
novel is able to squelch his curiosity about what lies over the next mountain
ridge, and mind his own business.
But in the movies, this tendency is even more remarkable -- for the
Tarzan movies, Africa seems to be only about the size of Southern California.
Tarzan and Jane go into town to do some Saturday shopping, and behold!
Somewhere within walking range of the Great Escarpment is a small nation
of people descended from colonists who appear to be from India. I have
checked my map, and even if Tarzan and Jane walked all the way to the coast,
they would still have had to walk a great distance north somewhere beyond
Somalia. Perhaps between the gigantic nations of Ethiopia and Sudan or
someplace there is a small kingdom of Asians lurking about, trying to keep
from getting overwhelmed by militia from the larger neighbors. Perhaps
they still existed in the 1940s, but have since faced extinction like so
many of Burroughs' lost cities.
In any case, the movie starts off with any number of politically incorrect
quotes from the characters, which is designed to establish some obvious
motivations for the reactionary leopard cult (although it does not justify
their actions.) Jane and Boy are main characters in the movie, unlike in
a typical Tarzan book in which a romance occurs between two supporting
characters. Here Jane is still the major love interest. Boy, too, has a
much greater on-going role in the Tarzan films than Korak has in the Tarzan
books. Basically Boy is a kind of Robin to Tarzan's Batman.
Just a few brief
comments about the story: in one scene Boy wears a leopard skin to run
through the woods with the intent to fool Tarzan and Jane that he is a
leopard, which is a scene stolen from Burroughs' books about the young
Tarzan playing pranks on the apes; and a ten-year-old boy is depicted as
being first crushed by a boulder and then shot by the bad guy, something
you don't see on the Silver Screen everyday. But this particular kid is
so rotten that I would imagine few in the audience minded. Finally, it
is Cheeta who saves the day -- when all three of his masters have been
captured together. Again, like Jane and Boy, Cheeta has far more of a role
in the movies than Nkima the monkey has in the books, though by a slimmer
~ Steve Allsup