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Volume 5357a

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Luana, the Girl Tarzan (1968)
Luana la figlia delle foresta vergine (original title)
G | 1h 28min | Adventure | 28 March 1968 (Italy)
Film References: IMDB: LUANA
Luana Full Movie on YouTube ~ 1968 WITH MEI CHEN
A girl searching a forbidding jungle for her missing father stumbles upon a savage jungle girl.
Producer: Franz Josef Gottlieb
Director: Roberto Infascelli
          (as Bob Raymond)
Writer: Louis Road 

Mei Chen: Luana 
Glenn Saxson: George
Evi Marandi: Isabel
Raf Baldassarre 
Pietro Tordi: Norman
Alfred Thomas: Ukeke
Giovanni Ivan Scratuglia

Music: Stelvio Cipriani 
Cinematography: Mario Capriotti 
Film Editing: Rolando Salvatori 
Art Department: Frank Frazetta
          (poster artist - uncredited) 




An Online Summary and Review at

Actually, you'll be hard-pressed to find much of darkest Africa in the studio jungle sets of 1968's Luana, The Girl Tarzan. In the film's confusing prologue, George Barrett (Glenn Saxson), an intrepid African explorer, is being pursued by a "terrifying" (read: they wear a lot of makeup) group of African tribesmen who wipe out George's group, and almost kill George as well, with a deadly volley of poison darts. Just as the tribesmen move in for the kill on paralyzed George, a mysterious Asian jungle beauty, Luana (Mei Chen, of Queen of the Vampires fame), shows up, her mere presence making the tribesmen hightail it out of there. She removes George's darts, and before he passes out, he notices a peculiar pendant that Luana is wearing.

Some time later (the film isn't exactly clear on this), George is tracked down by Isabel Donovan (Evi Marandi), the beautiful daughter of a scientist who had crashed landed in the dense jungle fifteen years ago. Isabel had read George's book on his experiences in the wild, and decided that he's the best guide to help find her father's remains. But George has gone to seed (big tip-off: he doesn't shave), and spends his time gambling and drinking. Eventually convinced to help her, George and Isabel make plans to head out into the studio-created jungle sets to find her father. But death stalks the romantic, strangely-ill-at-ease couple; someone doesn't want George and Isabel to find her father's remains, and the bodies start to pile up.

Coming upon a jungle village (which for once, is actually shot outside), George finds that his bearers have all been dismissed, so he challenges Ukeke (Al Thomas), the man who supposedly is responsible for the manpower shortage, to an impromptu arm wrestling match. While it's no Over the Top, this match does have the added benefit of deadly scorpions waiting to strike the loser. Quitting when he realizes he's beat, Ukeke is arrested and held captive until George can return and properly deal with him. Continuing on with their trek, Norman (Pietro Tordi) shows up to help Isabel; he's the scientist partner of her late father, and something of a guardian to Isabel. Against Norman's advice, Isabel tells George the circumstances behind her father's journey and crash. Evidently, her father was traveling with his Asian princess lover and her three-year-old daughter (I kid you not).

Inside the deepest parts of the jungle, the team continue on the booby trapped pathways, while George tries to figure out why mysterious tribesmen want the group dead. And all the while, watching from the jungle, just out of reach, is Luana, who smiles at everything the group does, but who skitters away when approached. She saves Isabel (who sleeps during the ordeal) from a poisonous tarantula, and then watches her bathe nude in a startlingly realistic studio-erected lagoon (see picture), as well as watches George and Isabel make out (which Luana pantomimes with a chimp - yes, you read that right). After a "savage" tropical storm (mild precipitation, no wind), George and Isabel make love (Luana watches this, too, but thank god, the chimp is MIA this time), and afterwards, George playfully chases Luana. Eventually, Ukeke, who escapes his bonds, teams up with the traitor in the group (take a wild guess) and captures George and Isabel, who both discover that drugs are at the center of this jungle mystery. Will Luana prove to be a helpful ally in this deadly game of drugs, monkeys, blow darts, and studio palm fronds?

It's hard to determine exactly what director Roberto Infascelli was going for with Luana, The Girl Tarzan. The central character, Luana, has to be one of the most passive action heroes in the annals of cinema derring-do. Luana, who seems to be rather challenged in the thinking department, spends most of the film just walking around the jungle, watching and smiling at the antics of the explorers. Is she high on the drugs her father was growing? Did a coconut drop on her head at an early age? It's tough to say, but never have I seen a title character do so little -- and when she did do something, do it so idiotically (watch her put Isabel's bra on her head -- it's a heaven-sent moment).

And there's precious little action from the other characters to offset their curiously catatonic lead. George and Isabel do a lot of mooning at each other, but the very few shots -- not scenes -- of action, are so unconvincing it's a wonder Italian film fans, who were coming off the violence of Leone and gearing up for the ultra-violence of Bava and Margheriti, didn't riot at the utterly tame nature of Luana, The Girl Tarzan. It doesn't help that the sets are so laughably fake, making Gilligan's Island look like a gritty documentary. And it's the same little ten by ten foot set in each shot, with the actors invariably entering stage left and exiting stage right, time and time again. Constantly inserting badly-matched stock footage does little to alleviate this situation. Ridiculously fake sets, zero action, lots of stock footage, and some questionable acting (read: rotten), makes for an interesting, to say the least, time in the jungle.

(aka "Luana, the Girl Tarzan" and "Luana the Jungle Girl") (1968)
'Luana': A movie as vapid as its title character
A Review from:
Isabella (Marandi) hires a burned-out jungle explorer (Saxson)--who is amusingly named George--to take into the remote jungle where her father's plane crashed 15 years earlier. Will they find any survivors? And just who is that mysterious, mostly-naked girl (Cheng) who keeps grinning at them from the underbrush? Could it be the title character?!

"Luana" is one of those films that sounds like it can't possibly go wrong, at least if you're a fan of Tarzan movies and babes in scant clothing. The Russ Manning-illustrated comic strip makes the film look even more appealing, so Big Kudos to the marketeers who cooked up that promotion. Of course, the drawback to the strip is that it tells virtually the entire story of the movie. Yeah... that's how empty and devoid of any action or even activity this film is... it can be summarized in its entirety in a handful of four panel strips. The Manning strips even give away most of what passes for plot twists in the film.

Something else the Manning strip does, although this is only clear in retrospect, is provide a preview of the fact that Luana is the most passive action heroine to ever appear on screen (on in any media for that matter). She does little more than lurk in the bushes and grin stupidly at... well, just about anything. The most action we get from her is during a storm when smarter humans and animals take shelter, but she goes prancing around in the rain, somehow managing to avoid being struck by the falling branches that are injuring other people and animals alike. 

The passivity of Luana is made all the more irritating, because the rest of the film is empty of interesting content, except for underbaked cookie-cutter characters portrayed by actors who seem like they are rehearsing instead of actually performing with cameras rolling, jungle sets that at times make "Gilligan's Island" seem gritty, and plot twists so lame one has to wonder why they even bothered. And then there's the climactic encounter between the heroes and the bad guys--for which Luana once again just stands around and grins stupidly--during which someone falls into a mutant carnivorous plant and is slowly, slo-o-o-o-w-ly devoured. One wonders why he didn't just roll out, or why one of his allies didn't just reach in and pull him out. Heck, this might even have been a moment where Luana could have developed some personality and have stepped in and rescued him. It would have explained why the natives think she's a goddess.

Finally, there's the ending. The heroes leave the jungle waving to Luana who stands alone and watches them go. We, the viewers, can't see if she's grinning stupidly or not, but the jungle explorer blathers on about how Luana is happy in the jungle and it's best to leave her there. If she was so happy, why did she seek the explorers out? Why did she keep following them? Why did she stand and watch them leave, perhaps even sadly? Had the Italian/German cinematic geniuses behind this film bothered to read Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan novels (or perhaps even one of the comic book adaptations of "Tarzan" or "The Return of Tarzan", of which several were available by the late 1960s, some even illustrated by the artist for the "Luana" strip, Russ Manning) they would have seen that Tarzan was given a choice between living in the jungle and living in civilization. That's one of the reasons the Tarzan story works. The ending to "Luana" is lame, and it makes characters we are supposed to feel positively toward come across like arrogant and collous assholes. What evidence does George of the Jungle have that Luana is happy in her isolation? And why could he not give her the opportunity to make an informed choice about how she wanted her life to be? The writers and directors manage to end their already bad movie on the most abysmal note possible. (Yes, I know the run-time probably wouldn't have allowed for us to see how things turned out for Luana, but it would have made a far better ended if the main characters had either chosen to stay and educate her, or if she had otherwise gone with them, with viewers having the understanding that she would be coming back to the jungle down the road.)


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