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It's "movie light" out there -- light enough for the camera to show us what's going on but not light enough for the people at the Mantu Settlement Hospital to crawl out of their sacks, and thus we can only assume they are lazy and are sleeping in. It must have been quite a party the night before.
But four African natives are up and at 'em, paddling a canoe to the shoreline. They busy themselves piling up boxes of dynamite that are kept in the Hospital dispensary, apparently for use by heart patients when they run out of nitro-glycerin. One is a sloppy stacker and the boxes fall, awakening the sleepers. The invading natives shoot a black guy and then plug the old white doctor in the back. No racial discrimination here.
The dying native grabs the radio microphone and, with his last breath, says, "Squint. Squint."
The cryptic message is heard by Angina, a ravishing, blonde pilot, who lands at Mantu just in time for the credits to start rolling, beginning with the name of the film, "Tarzan's Grittiest Adversary." The credits call it a Sy Weintraub and Harvey Hayutin film and for those who wonder who the high-falutin' Hayutin is, he worked with Weintraub on a few films before some legal disputes emerged and he ended up in obscurity, a small town near Four Corners, Arizona. But, who knows? He may have achieved fame elsewhere by changing his last name to Weinstein or his nickname to Hurricane to stay in the public spotlight.
When the credits are finally over, the boatload of natives pulls up to a one-cabin river boat and the four gents debark. If it wasn't obvious before, it is now: These are not natives but white men slathered in dark makeup.
The boss is Squint, who explains that he had to kill one of the villagers because "They recognized me." So, obviously, the dead native at Mantu had seen some movies with Anthony Quayle in them, such as "Pursuit of the Graf Spee." His appearance as "Squint" in "Tarzan" may have been his road to greater fame, as his more well-known roles in movies such as "The Guns of Navaronne" and "Lawrence of Arabia" were yet in his future.
Their boat chugs upriver until Tarzan's tree house comes into view and Squint squints and grits his teeth as the morning sun reflects off the water. He orders the engines cut so the ape-man, who also is a late sleeper, won't hear them.
"So that's Tarzan's tree house," says Dimbulb, who pilots the boat. "It looks more to me like the one used by the Swiss Family Robinson."
"This isn't Disneyland, you idiot!" barks Squint. "Now shut up!"
"Wait," said James O'Bondian, another member of the gang, twitching his trigger finger. "Why don't we just pepper that flimsy tree house with bullets and get rid of him?"
"I'm among fools," groaned Squint. "If we do that, this movie will only be 15 minutes long and we'll get paid a lot less!"
Despite the loss of power, the boat has no problem continuing to move forward against the current and is out of sight by the time the ape-man awakens, startled at the sound of silence.
Tarzan, on his morning swim, demonstrates his mastery over the nearby animals, flapping his hands like donkey ears at a hippo, making a hand gesture to order a gaping crocodile to close its mouth, and engineering the most difficult feat of all -- getting Cheeta to wash up before breakfast.
Drums alert Tarzan to trouble at Mantu so he arrives there and learns of the deaths and that Squint, an old enemy, was responsible. Angina doubts Tarzan's ability to hunt down the murderers. "One man hunting four? This is going to be something," is her snarky comment.
Tarzan clutched his heart and wished for some nitro, or at least some dynamite. "Angina—“ he thought. “Chest pain is the last thing I need.”
"Two people are dead here," the stern ape-man reveals to Angina. “Is this a joke to you?”
It's time for the funeral but Tarzan doesn't stay. He never did care for funerals. That was one of the responsibilities he usually delegated to Jane, since she would recite as much of the burial service as she remembered from growing up around her father, Professor Porter, an ordained minister.
Tarzan decides to pursue Squint and crew by paddling upstream in a boat instead of moving swiftly through the middle terraces of the jungle primeval. The movie-makers reasoned that he might need a boat to give Angina a ride if she decides to buzz Tarzan with her plane and fouls up and crashes in the river.
Back on Squint's boat, O'Bondian is playing cards with himself and, unlike 007, losing badly.
Dimbulb is relaxing.
Greedy Krugerrand, the chunky German, is lusting after Torso, Squint's girlfriend, and eyes her lustily.
Squint squints and grits his teeth when he notes Krugerrand's interest in his woman and eyes him menacingly.
Torso is also aware of Krugerrand's interest and eyes him scornfully.
Squint figures Tarzan will pursue them but O'Bondian, who has licentiousness to kill, reassures him: "If he comes within 100 yards, I'll bust 'im wide open."
Downriver, Angina does decide to buzz Tarzan. Her plane stalls and crashes head-on into the water. Fortunately, she is unscathed. We can all be thankful for seat belts. She sees a crocodile coming and figures the best thing to do is leave the comparative safety of the cockpit and swim madly to shore. However, Tarzan shows up and turns the croc into food for the lesser denizens of the river, thus helping to maintain the delicate ecological balance in Africa.
"Thanks, but whaddya gonna do for an encore?" asks Angina. "It's obvious I can't walk back. Looks like you're stuck with me. You'd be surprised how handy I could be on a hike."
While Tarzan is calling her a fool for wanting to see a good fight, O'Bondian is trying to start a fight of his own by teasing Dimbulb without mercy until the boatman threatens him with a knife.
Torso has changed into something more comfortable, exposing quite a bit of her torso, but her unmarred flesh remains free of mosquito bites, the pesky insects apparently kept away either by the smell of Squint's sweat or his tobacco breath.
With a backward, seductive glance, Torso walks into the jungle, and Squint decides to ditch his cigarette and follow her.
Angina, in the interim, is hungry, but doesn't want either the antelope or fruit that Tarzan has available. If only he'd brought a box of chocolates! But he forgets about Angina's hunger because he finds Squint's cigarette butt floating and, with all his jungle learning, inspects it and is able to quickly determine that it was tossed out two, maybe three miles upstream. No doubt he was able to calculate the number of degrees the cigarette had cooled in the river water. Nobody has a nose or a touch like Tarzan.
Squint and crew see startled birds and figure Tarzan must have scared them so he and O'Bondian head downriver on foot to stop the ape-man. "Stay safe," Squint thoughtfully warns O'Bondian, showing that he cares.
O'Bondian works the action on his rifle and flicks off the safety to demonstrate that he is fully able to stay safe.
Tarzan knows they're coming so he leaves Angina with orders to create a distraction while he pulls a monstrous knife and crawls toward the enemy. But a big tarantula decides at that moment to take a walk on the ape-man's leg. No way of knowing if this is the same tarantula which would menace 007 in "Dr. No" or The Wet Bandits in "Home Alone." Squint finds Tarzan's canoe and the bully shoves it off into the water, squinting sufficiently so that he does not notice Angina hiding behind a tree. About then, Tarzan bats at the big spider, revealing his position to O'Bondian, who sends a bullet his direction. The sound alerts Squint who was about to stumble onto Angina; instead, he rejoins O'Bondian.
Tarzan misses with a couple of arrows, then returns to Angina and gives her his smaller knife. "Sorry about the canoe," she says. "But this is my first manhunt."
As they continue on, Angina is frightened by a monkey and then by a python. Tarzan holds the python's head -- his way of saying, "Nice snake. Easy, boy" -- as they go by. Tarzan is nicer to Histah than Rambo, who glared venomously at a python while holding its head in "Rambo, First Blood, Part II."
Back on the boat, Torso flirts with Dimbulb and O'Bondian but not with Krugerrand. So he starts bragging about what a good diamond cutter he is, since Squint is going upriver to try to find a cave full of diamonds.
Tarzan makes a pair of jungle shoes for Angina, then hauls her into a tree for safety. They are apparently in a part of the jungle that borders the Savannah as they can see Sabor stalking the grasslands to kill an antelope.
Tarzan tells Angina, "We sleep here for a few hours." Angina tries it but a hippo bellows and awakens her. "He won't harm you; he just wants to see who you are," explains the jungle-wise Tarzan.
Dimbulb takes off his locket to work on his boat and O'Bondian decides to play keepaway with it. He heads into the jungle and Dimbulb, furious, grabs a knife again and gives chase. O'Bondian takes potshots at Dimbulb and Squint grabs a gun to join in the fray, although on whose side we are not told.
A wild animal jumps on Dimbulb's face and draws blood with its claws, causing him to lurch blindly into a quicksand pond in which all of him sinks except for his clutching hand.
O'Bondian opens the locket and realizes it has a picture of Dimbulb's mother, whom he loved so much that he killed her husband, his father, 15 years earlier and just got out of the slammer for it. Not being the sentimental type, O'Bondian gets rid of the locket, tossing it at Dimbulb's hand, but makes sure it lands with unerring accuracy on a nearby limb, forever out of the reach of Dimbulb. O'Bondian was always practicing his aim in case he ever got a role which would require him to throw his hat onto a hat rack to impress a secretary.
Tarzan and Angina come upon the ghastly sight and the ape-man offers some words of comfort: "Death is never a pretty sight and you'll see it again before this is over." Tarzan probably plans to send Jane out later to say the appropriate words over Dimbulb's final resting place.
Tarzan begins teaching Angina other uses for a knife. First, he uses his as a pencil to draw a map in the dirt. Then, he turns it into a machete to clear out some jungle brush.
"Did you know that I was named one of the best-dressed women of the year," Angina brags to Tarzan. "Ten of the world's most famous photographers picked me as their ideal model." Tarzan is unimpressed; the number “10” only reminds him of another beau, another time.
With two crocodiles positioned in their path, Angina wonders, "How we gonna get around that?" Tarzan simply grabs and tests a vine and says. “Put your arms around my neck." They swing over the crocs as one of them opens its mouth mechanically. Tarzan rolls his eyes and thinks to himself, “I’ve heard that robots are taking over society but I didn’t realize they would invade my jungle!” Since Tarzan did not drop Angina to the crocs, he now knows he would be capable of giving George Washington Williams a similar lift should the need come about.
"Thanks for the ride," says Angina.
Speaking of women and what they say to men, back on the boat Torso is looking for a little attention. "I want to be loved," she says to Squint.
"I love you," he says, but squints and grits his teeth when he says it. Somehow, Torso gets the idea he's insincere.
Krugerrand tries to capitalize and tells Torso, "You know Squint cares nothing for you." This does not please Squint, who shows Krugerrand his homemade garrote-on-a-stick and implies that it could fit around Krugerrand's neck as well as anyone else's.
Angina spends half the movie being tired at the jungle pace and Tarzan finally lets her rest on a log. He tells her she'll be safe in the middle of the jungle while he tracks Squint and crew. The ape-man manages to fell a tree across the river to impede the further progress of the killers and, when the boat is close enough to it, he fells another one behind them to pen them in. Although it isn't shown in any of the scenes, he obviously was using the ax of his long-dead sire, which he had buried nearby in case he ever needed it.
By this time, Squint has had it with Tarzan and starts lighting the fuses of dynamite sticks and throwing them at the ape-man. Once again, the ape-man's poor aim is demonstrated with a couple of arrows fired into the boat but missing their human targets. In the dynamite barrage, Tarzan is injured in his ribcage.
Nonetheless, the ape-man manages to get the best of O'Bondian, who is stalking him. Tarzan fits an arrow to his bow and pulls on a vine to rattle some leaves above, causing O'Bondian to fire into the tree. Lacking a semi-automatic rifle, O'Bondian has to work the bolt action to get his next round chambered and that's enough time for Tarzan to step out from behind a tree a few yards away and plant an arrow in his chest. At that range, Tarzan couldn't miss.
While O'Bondian and Squint had been looking for Tarzan, Krugerrand was having ideas of his own, and sets off some dynamite to remove the tree blocking the boat's progress. Although dynamite had been going off regularly, Squint somehow understands that this blast was being used by Krugerrand to head on up the river by himself and he angrily returns to the boat. As he points a gun at Krugerrand's face, the weasel asks, "Why would I kill you. You know where the mine is. You're the only one that knows it." Squint lowers his gun and orders Krugerrand to get the boat started.
Tarzan, meanwhile, is in agony from his wound when four or five African warriors come out of nowhere to sneak up on him through the trees. Tarzan has about had it with gratuitous and pointless delays such as this so he grabs his knife and slashes away at some of the forest's grassy growth. This frightens the natives, who don't want to end up like the grass, and so they hurriedly melt back into the jungle.
Angina catches up to Tarzan and uses a large leaf to form a pitcher to give him water. She decides to head for the enemy boat to get some meds for Tarzan. Torso's on the boat by herself but climbs on top of the cabin for a sunbath, allowing Angina to sneak in and open drawers until she finds penicillin. As she leaves, Torso discovers her and gives chase. Squint and Krugerrand are coming back and she runs smack dab into them. Of all the rotten luck.
Squint, squinting and gritting his teeth, gives Angina the once-over and says, "Tarzan's got better taste than I give him credit for." They find the medicine she stole and conclude that Tarzan is wounded.
As it turns out, Tarzan didn't need the penicillin, because he recovers on his own. He begins tracking Angina and her captors.
During the night, Squint sneaks off to the cave and Krugerrand decides it's in his best interest to cut Angina free. Torso, meanwhile, is walking around with a rifle but Numa the lion shows up. Instead of shooting it, she calls for Squint, who comes, squints with one eye and aims with the other, and blasts the lion as he grits his teeth to buffer the rifle’s recoil.
But 'tis for naught as Torso falls into an open pit and is impaled by several sharp stakes through her torso. The lion hunters are going to get a big surprise when they come to check their trap.
Now it's down to just Squint and Krugerrand and from the look in Squint's squinting eye he won't have Krugerrand to kick around much longer. They go to the cave, which is really an old mine. Squint sets a dynamite charge to clear away the rocks he piled in the entrance at his last visit.
"This is a former copper mine," said Squint. "Found their bones at the bottom of one of the shafts and the diamonds were right beside them."
Angina catches up with Tarzan but by now he's exhausted from his recovery and says one word, "Sleep," before closing his eyes and sawing logs; he's going to go to sleep for 24 hours, which means that Squint and Krugerrand are going to have to spend at least a day distrusting each other in the mine.
Krugerrand starts chipping at the last place the dead miners were working. He finds some diamonds and, when he does, lapses into German so we will suspect him of Nazi leanings. Then he catches himself and resorts back to English to say, "We're rich."
Tarzan awakens and Angina is pleased that his side is healing. Tarzan realizes she has cared for him while he slept. "You held me all night. I'm glad I know you," he says.
"You don't know me," she says. "If you did...."
"I know all I have to," Tarzan said. "I'm the man who lives in the trees, the one you didn't believe. You've changed," he said.
"Maybe I have," she says, a sultry look on her face. Tarzan grabs her by her neck and draws her toward him. She doesn’t say no.
We discreetly cut away, back to the cave, where Squint is quite content to refine his garrote stick while Krugerrand exults in the diamonds. At some point, he realizes that Squint is more interested in killing Tarzan than he is in diamonds. The movie has now run long enough and the actors' paychecks assured, so it's okay to kill the ape-man.
The puffy-faced, sweating German tries to steer Squint back to the diamonds. "You work with me, you get everything you want," Krugerrand said.
"Diamonds can't buy what I want," says Squint. He says he wants to kill Tarzan with his bare hands. He gets a drink of water from a drip in the cave, then opens the sack lunch be brought along. Apparently, his sandwich got crushed because he plucks the food out of the waxed paper chunk by chunk. He offers some to Krugerrand but the latter, not knowing where Squint's fingers have been, declines.
"So you're not interested in money," says Krugerrand. "I understand you now. It was the danger, the plan and making it work, and now that you've found the diamonds it's not there anymore. There's nothing else for you in the whole world but killing him,” he charges.
Now Squint says he wants to kill Tarzan with the garrote, abandoning his plan of a few minutes before of killing him with his bare hands. The sandwich was salty so he goes for more water, giving Krugerrand the chance to push him into the nearby mine pit.
It's a pretty deep pit, but Squint give it some thought on the way down and decides to hook his garrote loop over a rock and halt his spill. The garrote is also a useful climbing tool and Squint begins slowly working his way up while Krugerrand busies himself fingering the diamonds.
Squint gets out of the pit and grapples with Krugerrand. He grabs Krugerrand's eyeglasses and throws them on the cave floor and steps on them, breaking them into pieces while laughing hideously. Krugerrand offers Squint some diamonds but he grits his teeth and kicks the German into the pit.
Squint had made the last few feet of his ascent from the pit without his garrote, but he somehow gets it back and takes off after Tarzan.
Back with the pursuit team, Tarzan helps Angina tie her shoes and she follows that up by showing she can tie a knot as well, re-connecting the front tails of her blouse, making sure she leaves about a four-inch swath of belly skin exposed. She is ready to steal Squint's boat and head downriver and tries to talk Tarzan into coming with her.
"There are other places," she said.
"Not for me. This is where I belong," says Tarzan.
Tarzan shoots an arrow into a tree which, in some way, Angina interprets as a kissoff.
"Well, I guess two is a crowd," she says, and walks off into the sunset.
"Goodbye," she says.
"Goodbye, Angina," says Tarzan.
Angina climbs onto Squint's boat and heads downriver. Squint squints an eye and aims through the rifle sights and starts shooting from a cliff at Tarzan, who responds with a jungle cry before going after him. Fortunately, Squint is as lousy a shot with his rifle as Tarzan is with his bow and arrow, and the ape-man is easily able to approach the cliff and start climbing the escarpment like allied soldiers at Omaha Beach on D-Day.
Squint preps his garrote while Tarzan tosses away some of his excess weight in the form of weapons. He'd missed so many times with arrows that he figured he didn't need them anyway. The ape-man reaches the top at a point where he is able to grab Squint by the feet. But Squint gets Tarzan down and manages to loop the garrote around his head. Tarzan undoes it and removes it and starts to choke Squint, but the crafty devil is clever enough to grab a handful of dried twigs with which to bash Tarzan in the head. Squint finds better weapons in a log and his boot but they can't hold down a good ape-man for long, so Squint grabs a big rock. Tarzan slugs him and he drops the rock and snaps an arm from a cactus, using it as a caveman club against Tarzan but managing to hold it in such a way that he doesn't puncture his own hand on the cactus spines.
Squint goes for his garrote again and they battle with it next to the precipice. Tarzan wins, pushing Squint off. Squint grits his teeth and squints his eyes to help brace for the impact but to no avail. Unlike Angina, he has no seat belt to break his fall.
Tarzan, on the precipice, gives the victory cry of the bull ape.
Tarzan goes to the river to wash himself and stares into the water until it quits rippling and he can see his reflection. "Yep, that's me," he says.
He also sees Angina heading on downriver in the distance.
“That was fun,” says Tarzan to himself. “I think I’ll follow this up with another outing against four other bad guys and maybe this time I’ll let them chase me instead of me chasing them. Since I’ve already had my ‘greatest adventure,’ I don’t see how I can top it. But at least I can be my ‘magnificent’ self.”
Tarzan turns and looks at the jungle behind him and trots back into it.
AN ERBzine REFERENCE
Tarzan's Greatest Adventure
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