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Volume 2150

ERBzine Silver Screen
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Unlike any other "Tarzan" you've ever seen!


In the early '80s MGM once again exercised its option to remake Tarzan the Ape Man. This Bo Derek version of the "Tarzan" legend is a remake of the MGM version of 1932, starring Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan, which also had been remade in 1958 with Denny Miller.

The film gets off to a good start by featuring the Weissmuller Tarzan yell over top of the usual MGM lion opening. Also shown is also a fine piece of Frank Frazetta female art. Although this is a remake and used some elements of the 1932 original, it takes many of these plot elements to the extreme. Shot over eight weeks in Sri Lanka and the Seychelles Islands the film unfortunately proves to be little more than a vehicle for Bo Derek. Directed and photographed by her husband, John Derek, the story is told from Jane's perspective. Bo Derek rose to fame in motion pictures for being extremely beautiful and extremely naked -- and both qualities are on ample display in Tarzan the Ape Man. While her acting performance may not have attracted much attention, her nude scenes did, and the movie received an R rating, much to the dismay of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. The script does little more than to provide a succession of reasons to show off Ms. Derek's physical assets.

Although Tarzan, played by Miles O'Keefe, gets first billing in the title he doesn't show up in the movie until it's half over and his role amounts to little more than a mere sex object. O'Keeffe is one of the best-looking Tarzans ever to appear on the screen, although he has little opportunity to display any acting ability since he has no dialogue. Nor is there any explanation of who his Tarzan character is or how he came to be in this jungle.

Richard Harris' role as Jane's father, James Parker, makes up for this lack of dialogue as he chews up the scenery and blathers on constantly whenever he appears on camera. Parker had abandoned his wife and Jane many years before to explore far-off, exotic places. Now that her mother has died, Jane seeks out her irresponsible father. After finding him in Africa she joins him in his search for the fabled elephants' graveyard. They are accompanied by photographer Henry Holt, played by John Phillip Law, as well as by a party of native bearers.

As the safari trudges along in their search, the beautiful scenery of Sri Lanka and Seychelles is juxtaposed with the appealing lead actors. There are long periods of tedious walk and talk before the silent Tarzan makes his appearance in time to join Jane and a lion on the shore of an inland sea. He then returns with the intention of dragging her into the jungle, and later to save her from a large snake and the diabolical leader of a savage African tribe. The lame action in these sequences is "enhanced" by the use of many dissolves and annoying stop- or slow-motion effects. The action sequences really are just used as filler between the many scenes of Bo Derek appearing topless, nude, or in clinging wet clothes.

Despite the controversy over the film's rating, there are no sex scenes - or even real love scenes - in the movie. The production has many flaws but the $6 million movie grossed over $36 million, making it the most financially successful Tarzan movie at the time.



Director: John Derek
Producer: Bo Derek
Writers: Tom Rowe (screenplay) and Edgar Rice Burroughs (characters)
Bo Derek: Jane Parker
Richard Harris: James Parker
John Phillip Law: Harry Holt
Miles O'Keeffe: Tarzan
Akushula Selayah: Africa
Steve Strong: Ivory King
Maxime Philoe: Riano
Leonard Bailey: Feathers
Wilfrid Hyde-White: Club Member
Laurie Main: Club Member
Harold Ayer: Club Member
Stunts: Jock Mahoney - stunt coordinator (as Jack O'Mahoney)
Runtime: 107 min ~ Colour: Metrocolor ~ Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1
Filming Locations: Seychelles and Sri Lanka
Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

Plot: The Tarzan story from Jane's point of view. Jane Parker visits her father in Africa where she joins him on an expedition. A couple of brief encounters with Tarzan establish a (sexual) bond between her and Tarzan. When the expedition is captured by savages, Tarzan comes to the rescue.
Awards: Golden Raspberry Awards ~ The Razzies
    Won: Worst Actress (Bo Derek) Tied with Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest (1981).
    Nominated: Worst Picture | Worst Screenplay (Tom Rowe  Gary Goddard) | Worst Actor (Richard Harris) | Worst Director (John Derek) | Worst New Star (Miles O'Keeffe)

  • Stunt coordinator for the film was Jock Mahoney who had starred in two Tarzan movies in the 1960s.
  • John Derek suffered a heart attack in May 1998 and after two unsuccessful surgeries was taken off life support with wife Bo's consent. He was 71. His remains were cremated.
  • Bo Derek was born Mary Cathleen Collins in Long Beach, California on November 20, 1956 and is of Irish, German, Dutch and Welsh descent.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. sued the producers over the name of the film, as Derek's role and physique seemed to overshadow the focus on Tarzan himself.
  • Bo has the dubious honour of winning three Golden Raspberry Worst Actress Awards for Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981), Bolero (1984) and Ghosts Can't Do It (1990), and was nominated in 2000 as the "Worst Actress of the Century".
  • John Derek directed his second wife Ursula Andress in two movies and third wife Linda Evans in one.
  • John Derek directed two hit music videos for Shania Twain, "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?" and "Any Man of Mine".
  • Bo turned down a role in the film King Kong in (1976), making her first on screen performance in 1977's Orca: the Killer Whale, in which her character's leg was bitten off when the whale attacked her home on a pier.
  • Bo's Measurements: 32-22-32 (at age 16 as Mary Collins), 35-23 1/2-35 1/2 (while filming "10"), 37C-22-34 (in 1983), 38-22-36 (as reported in 1985), (Source: Celebrity Sleuth magazine).
  • Bo did fund raising work for President George W. Bush during the 2000 election.
  • Bo was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2004.
  • Bo was one of four children. Her father, Paul Collins, was a boat salesman and a Hobie Cat executive. Her mother, Norma Collins, was a hair and make-up artist, hairdresser to Ann-Margret.
  • Bo is a horse enthusiast, animal rights activist and supporter of the Republican Party.
  • Bo and husband, John Derek, formed "Svengali Productions".
  • "Glorifying violence is terrible. Simulating sex is nothing - it's something so impersonal really." ~ Bo Derek
  • "I found my love when I was 17-years-old and my love is one hundred percent honest. We've never had any ugly, rocky things to overcome." ~ Bo Derek
  • Bo was blacklisted by Hollywood at the age of 22, for refusing to be on the cover of Time magazine
  • During a scene involving Jane attempting to get away from Tarzan, Miles O'Keeffe found himself face to face with a full grown lion, who took on the part of the gallant gentleman saving the damsel in distress. The lion, escaping his holding pen, dove into the fray, apparently more intent on protecting Bo Derek than attacking Miles O'Keeffe (it was noted that the two-hundred-pound man wasn't injured by the five-hundred-pound cat). The handler was on the scene almost immediately and stopped the incident. Although neither human star was injured, rumor had it that Miles O'Keeffe thereafter made a habit of checking the security of the holding pen whenever other scenes of "violence" toward Bo Derek were done, citing a deep respect for Bo Derek's formidable self-appointed bodyguard.
  • This film was controversial because of sexual content utilized in a traditional story. Bo Derek is seen having a nipple suckled by an animal, a chimpanzee. There are also a number of scenes featuring explicit topless nudity of her. It was these reasons to why the Edgar Rice Burroughs Estate allegedly sued the production of this movie. The case was lost but another litigation took place from the estate in regards to the prevention of the film being released. This case was lost too. However, apparently the estate was successful in having removed three minutes of footage deleted from the released version.
  • Reportedly, producer Bo Derek fired 15 of the 23 crew members from the Sri Lankan shoot.
  • Reportedly, Miles O'Keeffe did all of his own stunts in this movie.
  • Film critic Leonard Maltin once quipped that this movie almost forced him to create a rating lower than bomb.
  • Going against the grain in film history in this "Tarzan" movie, Jane (Bo Derek) had her name above the title and had top billing over the actor playing Tarzan (Miles O'Keeffe) who didn't even have his name appearing above the title on the movie's poster.
  • C.J. the Orangutan fell in love with Bo Derek at first sight as they were making this movie.
  • This was not the first "Tarzan" movie to have the "Tarzan, The Ape Man" title. It was the third. Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) and Tarzan, the Ape Man (1959) precede it. This movie's working title was "Tarzan, the Ape Man - Me Jane". One of the original working titles for this film was Jane the Ape Woman.
  • Lee Canalito, originally cast as Tarzan, was replaced by Miles O'Keeffe at the last minute. Reportedly, this was because Bo Derek allegedly thought that Canalito was not in the right physical shape.

'Tarzan' a family-flick, says Derek
Stars and Stripes ~ December 11, 1981

Actress Bo Derek and her director-husband, John, at a
1981 Tokyo news conference to promote their new film, ''Tarzan.''

TOKYO -- Actress Bo Derek demurely denies that she is "the most beautiful woman in the world in the most erotic movie of all times." Well, she denies that last part, anyway.

Despite the pen-wiper costumes she wears in "Tarzan, the Ape Man," Bo insisted, the movie is a fantasy fit for the whole family. Derek fans, many of whom expected "Tarzan" to be a skin flick, flocked to the box office when the film opened in New York. Most of them ended up disappointed.

Bo blamed a lot of the misconceptions about "Tarzan" on an MGM poster, which showed her as a bare and lissome Jane swinging on a vine and used wording that all but promised "Deep Throat" in darkest Africa. It's not that at all, Bo said, telling of how she personally polled people as they came out of a theater in Los Angeles.

"I asked them what they thought of 'Tarzan,'" she said. "They didn't feel it was a sexy picture. They felt it was sweet and funny and just nice entertainment. And many people said they wished that they had brought their children because they would have enjoyed it." The 25-year-old actress was turned off by the baneful reaction of critics, a lot of whom wrote that "Tarzan," besides being a sex bomb, was a plain bomb.

Derek's husband, John, a former Hollywood leading man who directed and photographed "Tarzan," came to Japan with Bo to promote it. As expected, he did most of the talking. One of the things he said is that some of the misconceptions about the movie came out of a lawsuit filed by the family of the late author of "Tarzan," Edgar Rice Burroughs. They claimed that the movie didn't follow the original story and was too peppered with sex.

Derek said "Tarzan" was a remake of a 1931 film that featured Olympic swimming star Johnny Weismuller and Maureen O'Sullivan. The Burroughs family sold the film rights on the condition that Burroughs' original story wouldn't be drastically changed. Derek said that, as a result of the lawsuit, some cuts were made in his version of the film. But the cuts were made so that the film would conform to the book, not because some footage was too sexy.

"The federal judge looked at our picture only because of the Edgar Rice Burroughs thing, not because of censorship, but to see if we conformed to the original' contract," Derek related. "Then we took out two minutes, four seconds of the film ... There was nothing censored. People assumed it was a filthy picture if a federal judge had to do it."

After that, Derek said, he and Bo traveled all over the United States, telling whoever would listen that the movie wasn't porno. "It looked for a while as if we were going to top 'Star Wars,' but we weren't filthy enough to qualify," Derek related dryly. He said he picked "Tarzan" for Bo because of the image that had been set for her as a result of her first hit, "10." In "10" she was a willowy fantasy figure who aroused the drowsy instincts of a middle-aged songwriter.

"After '10,' it was very difficult to put Bo in a regular film," Derek said. "So with 'Tarzan,' which is a crazy fantasy, also, we thought at the beginning that we would have fun with it. It was a fun picture." He said he wasn't out to make Bo, as Jane, anything but "sweet, pure and funny."

"We had the right to update the morals of the day," Derek said. "That's why we didn't get in trouble with what little nudity there was in it. But it's almost saccharinely pure."

Derek also blasted critics who write of him as Bo's oppressive keeper -- who contend that he handles his wife like a marionette and has her in total, under-thumb control. "We have no access to get back at people who do that (write such things)," Derek said as Bo, dressed in a loose-fitting frock that hid her ample upper curves, sat quietly.

"You can go away now, and write any damned thing you want to write. And (it's difficult) for me to get back here or wherever you are and bring you to task and say, 'Now, that's bull----. We didn't say that. We didn't infer that. I wasn't hitting her across the face. I wasn't puppeting her. I wasn't doing a thing.'"

For Bo's next vehicle, Derek said, he'll take her even further back into antiquity, casting her as Eve in "Eve and That Damned Apple." He'll disdain Genesis, Derek said, leaning on a biblical fantasy by Mark Twain. Twain wrote many works that satirized religion, never published during his lifetime and suppressed for decades by his family, who thought such stories would demean him as a writer.

"It's very satirical and, I think, enjoyable," Derek said. "We hope to get Mark Twain's flavor in this. Adam will be as Twain designed him, kind of a bungler who is half-oafish." Derek paused. "We'll have the devil in it. God will be hopefully played by Richard Harris."

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WEB REFS (for extended reviews)

Tarzan the Ape Man at IMDB
Official Bo Derek Website
John Derek entry at IMDB
In The Balcony .com
Hit-n-Run Reviews
Cool Cinema Trash .com

ERBzine Silver Screen References

ERBzine Silver Screen
Tarzan the Ape Man 1931
Tarzan the Ape Man 1959

Posters ~ Stills ~ Photos

GALLERY I: Bo and Tarzan


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