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Volume 6089

From the Roger Balder and Dash Site
“Tarzan on Film” by Scott Tracy Griffin
Book Review:  by Brian Tallerico

When the wonderful people at Titan Books reached out about a new coffee table volume that would chronicle the history of Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan character in entertainment, I thought it might make an interesting, thin volume to tie in with the surprisingly successful “The Legend of Tarzan.” How much could one really write about a single character? Honestly, I had no idea how ubiquitous Tarzan has been over the last century, popping up over and over again in pop culture, and this excellent book looks at every single iteration of the character, from the ones that made international waves to the ones that you’ve never even heard of. It’s a definitive history of Tarzan in pop culture from the 1918 silent film “Tarzan of the Apes” to the recent Alexander Skarsgård version in "The Legend of Tarzan" nearly a century later. And, unlike a lot of these books, it is no mere cursory piece of fan service, padded out with stills and posters you can just find online.

The structure of  Tarzan on Film by Scott Tracy Griffin is simple but brilliant. Each film gets a relatively detailed history, followed by a look at the stars of the film. For example, we learn that “Tarzan of the Apes” was a massive box office success even though Burroughs himself boycotted the film over a dispute regarding royalties, but later saw it and liked it immensely. And then we get a page that offers a bio of the first man in the loincloth, Elmo Lincoln. The book then moves on to 1919’s “The Romance of Tarzan,” also starring Lincoln, followed by a bio of that film’s Jane, Enid Markey. And so on.

And I do mean “so on.” There were six Tarzan films in the ‘20s, eight in the ‘30s, nine in the ‘40s, ten in the ‘50s, and so on and so on. Griffin is interested in more of a comprehensive look at the character than playing favorites. So, there are the Tarzans you’ve heard of like Johnny Weissmuller and even Christopher Lambert (in 1983’s infamous “Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes”) along with dozens of films that you very likely have not seen. Consequently, the book is filled with trivia—1957’s “Tarzan and the Lost Safari” was the first color version of the character—but also incredibly detailed for a coffee table book. Most of these collections are heavy on pictures, light on text and substance. Tarzan on Film is remarkable in its comprehensiveness, offering detailed histories of every single production, including behind-the-scenes stories, public responses and insight into how the legend changed over the years. It shows us how we got from “Tarzan of the Apes” to “The Legend of Tarzan,” and why that legend endures.


From the Deep Focus Site
“Tarzan on Film” by Scott Tracy Griffin
 Book Review:  By Brian Eggert

For those interested in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ jungle hero Tarzan, Burroughs historian and author Scott Tracy Griffin released an impressive, comprehensive book back in 2012, Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration. That book detailed the hundred-year history of Tarzan’s literary origins, and how Burroughs’ original character changed in transition from text to film, from film to animation, and onward into comic books, toys, and other assorted media. But within the Tarzan franchise, the film adaptations alone represent a world unto themselves. Griffin’s new book, Tarzan on Film, released by Titan Books, explores the varied adaptations of Tarzan over the years in loving detail.

Tarzan has been on film for nearly a century, from Tarzan of the Apes in 1918 (released just six years after Burroughs created the character) to this year’s underwhelming summer blockbuster The Legend of Tarzan (starring Alexander Skarsgård, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz, and Samuel L. Jackson). In between, MGM’s series of twelve films from 1932 until 1948 featured Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan opposite Maureen O’Sullivan’s Jane; Disney released a popular cartoon; and Christopher Lambert evoked the Legend of Greystoke. But these well-known examples of Tarzan on film barely scratch the surface of Griffin’s book, which also delves into serials and television adaptations.

Indeed, even Tarzan aficionados may find a few surprises or learn of a forgotten Tarzan title showcased in Griffin’s pages. I was surprised to find several, being primarily familiar with the Weissmuller-era black-and-whites, which also featured a lovable chimp-sidekick named Cheeta. Although my more adult, animal-friendly sensibilities today might scoff at subjecting a chimpanzee to the inhumane conditions no doubt suffered on a Hollywood set in this era of filmmaking, my boyish self fondly remembers Cheeta alongside the “Me Tarzan, you Jane” iteration of the character. Elsewhere, I was surprised to learn about the NBC series Tarzan (1966-1968) starring Ron Ely, as well as a few failed-and-forgotten big-screen versions throughout the years.

At first glance, Griffin’ hardcover may appear to be a coffee table book. And in a way, I suppose, that’s true. The dimensions (about 10” x 13”) certainly fit the requirements. Paging through, you can’t help but stop on each and every entry, each of which contains a high-quality, full-page reproduction of original poster artwork—gorgeous stuff from an age in which posters were tantamount to fine art. Griffin also assembled a generous collection of publicity stills and behind-the-scenes photos to adorn his pages. However, actually reading Giffin’s text proves the author has painstakingly researched and poured his love into the material.

Tarzan has always fascinated me, more in literary form than on film, perhaps because Burroughs’ texts seem rawer and more primal than the commercial Hollywood output. Still, Tarzan on Film instills a strong desire to revisit many of these films, rediscover titles lost in your memory banks, or seek out something you’ve never seen before (there were certainly a few added to my Netflix DVD queue—yes, I still have one of those). Griffin’s book takes a thorough and surprisingly in-depth look at its subject, making this an essential purchase for either Tarzan enthusiasts or those interested in learning more.

From the Cinema Sentries Site
“Tarzan on Film” by Scott Tracy Griffin
 Book Review: By Gordon S. Miller

Highly recommended for fans of Burroughs' character as well as those with an interest in Hollywood history.

Author Scott Tracy Griffin has followed up his Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration with Tarzan on Film, a marvelous exploration of the nearly 100 years that Edgar Rice Burroughs' legendary character has been adapted into 52 films and seven television series.

The book opens with a foreword by actor Caper Van Dien, who starred as the 20th Tarzan in Tarzan and the Lost City (1998) and credits himself as “the only Tarzan who can say he rode on an actual African elephant in a Tarzan film.” Griffin then provides a brief overview of how the character's “fortunes have ebbed and flowed over the past century” in his introductory essay “Whither the Ape Man?”

Tarzan first appeared on the pages of All-Story Magazine in October 1912, where the novel Tarzan of the Apes was serialized before being collected and published in a book in 1914. The next step on Tarzan's journey to becoming the King of All Media was the release of the 1918 silent film of the same name starring Elmo Lincoln, as the first adult Tarzan. Nearly 50 years later, the character made his way to the small screen with Tarzan, which ran for two seasons from 1966-68 and starred Ron Ely. Lou Scheimer of Filmation turned Tarzan (voiced by Robert Ridgely) into a Saturday morning star with the animated Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, which aired 1976-84. The book concludes with two titles from 2016, The Legend of Tarzan film and and the Netflix animated series Tarzan and Jane.

Griffin highlights each project with at least a page that presents a brief synopsis of the plot along with details about the movie, ranging from pre-production dealings to the public's response. Tarzan Escapes (1936) is examined further as a possible “cursed production” because “the mishaps...were so numerous,” such as Maureen O'Sullivan's troubles with lions and the death of co-star John Buckler.

The book is 10.3 x 13.1 inches, a good size to appreciate the films' posters, each of which gets its own page. The book also highlights the actors, both famous and obscure, who played Tarzan and Jane with biographies and photos. And even Cheeta gets a page.

Tarzan on Film is great resource, highly recommended for fans of Burroughs' character as well as those with an interest in Hollywood history.

A Sample of Feedback Review Quotes

“Tarzan on Film is an obvious pick up for fans of the jungle boy, but there is plenty to interest cinephiles of all kinds.” - Cinedelphia
““Tarzan on Film” is remarkable in its comprehensiveness, offering detailed histories of every single production, including behind-the-scenes stories, public responses and insight into how the legend changed over the years.” - Roger
“You can’t help but stop on each and every entry, each of which contains a high-quality, full-page reproduction of original poster artwork—gorgeous stuff from an age in which posters were tantamount to fine art” - Deep Focus
“Tarzan fans and cinephiles will clearly enjoy this all out Tarzan on Film book.” - Retrenders
"Tarzan cinephiles are sure to go bananas." - VG Blogger
“Wonderfully comprehensive” - The Film Stage
“a lovely companion to Griffin’s previous volume. If you have any interest in Tarzan at all, the two books are highly recommended” - Atomic Junkshop
“Tarzan on Film is great resource, highly recommended for fans of Burroughs' character as well as those with an interest in Hollywood history.” Cinema Sentries

Interview in Nerdvana Media
Tarzan on Film author Scott Tracy Griffin
talks apes, actors and Edgar Rice Burroughs
Interview with Bob Leeper 

In 2012, 100 years after the publication of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ first fantasy stories, author and Ape-man aficionado Scott Tracy Griffin unveiled his beautifully illustrated book Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration, the ultimate tome detailing the character’s colorful, century-long history. Now, Griffin is back with an in-depth look at the Lord of the Apes’ cinematic career in his new book, Tarzan on Film.

With the popularity of the re-envisioned Planet of the Apes films and the ecstatic buzz over the upcoming Warner Bros. movie The Legend of Tarzan (opening July 1, 2016), simian-cinema is all the rage, and Griffin’s Tarzan on Film is the perfect way to get caught up on the granddaddy of all jungle adventurers.

Scott Tracy Griffin is considered an expert on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ storied pop culture accomplishments, and in addition to his published books Griffin has been a contributor to periodicals including Cinefantastique, FilmFax, Femme Fatale, and the Burroughs Bulletin. The author/actor has also appeared in several documentaries and television specials focusing on Burroughs and Tarzan.

Tarzan on Film
In excited anticipation of his upcoming appearance at the 2016 Phoenix Comicon, the release of his Tarzan on Film book, and The Legend of Tarzan movie, Mr. Griffin graciously granted Nerdvana his first interview about the upcoming events. Read on as Scott Tracy Griffin talks apes, actors and the legendary Edgar Rice Burroughs.

*** Did you first discover Tarzan through the books or the films? When/where did you see your first Tarzan movie?
I read Edgar Rice Burroughs’ original novel, Tarzan of the Apes, at age 9, which cemented my love for the author’s work. Prior to that, I was familiar with the character, and was fascinated by the images on my older brother’s Tarzan lunchbox.

Two movie scenes that made an impression on me when I saw them on television (probably because of the menace and adventure they depicted) were Jock Mahoney and Woody Strode battling over pots of boiling oil in Tarzan’s Three Challenges and the safari party trapped in the idol pit in the 1959 remake of Tarzan the Ape Man. Along with an occasional syndicated episode of the Ron Ely series, these are my first childhood memories of Tarzan on screen.

*** When you title search “Tarzan” in the Internet Movie Database you get 200 results. How many Tarzan films have actually been made, and have you watched them all?
Depending on how you categorize the serials, television pilots, and so forth, there are 52 authorized films and seven television series. Excepting the three silent films currently believed to be lost — The Romance of Tarzan (1918), The Revenge of Tarzan (1920), and the serial Tarzan the Mighty (1928) — I’ve seen all the authorized films several times. The balance of those 200 IMDB listings are television episodes, unauthorized films, and bootlegs.

*** Legend has it that Edgar Rice Burroughs was never really satisfied with Hollywood’s version of Tarzan; but did the author have a favorite among the films?
Burroughs had a contentious relationship with most of the silent film producers, because he felt cheated when they failed to deliver the promised royalties after his initial advance payment — Hollywood accounting was firmly established during the medium’s infancy. Burroughs seemed quite happy with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s serious, big-budget approach to the material in Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) and Tarzan and His Mate (1934), and had a warm (and highly profitable) relationship with producer Sol Lesser, so he didn’t quibble over the later Tarzan films.

*** Which of the Tarzan films is your favorite? Which was most interesting to research and write about?
I like them all, and find things to appreciate in each. My favorite screen adaptation is the animated Filmation television series Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, which offers an intelligent, articulate ape man, and is authentic to Burroughs’ original vision. I also have an affection for the RKO Weissmuller films, which were great escapist fare, and I think Disney did a great job with the animated feature.

*** Do you have a favorite singular scene from all the Tarzan films?
I really like the jungle sequence in Greystoke — I wish we could have experienced scripter Robert Towne’s directorial vision, since it was his passion project. On another note, I find the humor in Tarzan Finds a Son! enjoyable, especially the reveal when the yodeling Tarzan swings into view with Boy — now grown from baby to child — dangling from his feet. That always draws a chuckle.

*** Is it true that the original Crocodile Dundee (1986) was inspired by Tarzan’s New York Adventure (1942)? Do you cover film “tributes” in your book?
I’ve heard that, but can’t confirm it. Discussing the films influenced and inspired by the Tarzan series would be a book in itself, so I confined my approach in this outing to the authorized films and television series.

*** Tarzan, Cheeta and JaneWhat is one of the most interesting trivia items you discovered while researching Tarzan on Film?
I was surprised at how well regarded Cheeta the chimp was, not just by audiences, but by critics and entertainment reporters. Cheeta’s on-set antics were frequently reported in the press, and reviewers seemed to really like the little ape, whose humorous shtick doesn’t translate as well in the modern era. I compiled four pages in my notes of positive quotes on Cheeta from the films’ reviews. (Like Lassie, Cheeta was played by a series of animals over the years.)

*** There is a bit of controversy surrounding the origin of Tarzan’s victory cry, specifically the Johnny Weissmuller version of the yell. Does your book conclude where it came from? Have you mastered the call yourself?
MGM publicity claimed that sound engineers combined Weissmuller’s voice with “a hyena’s howl played backward, a camel’s bleat, the pluck of a violin, and a soprano’s high C.” There are various anecdotal stories about the sound’s creation, but what is evident is that it is a palindrome of a human yodel highlighted by a musical note in the middle, perhaps from a clarinet. Weissmuller was able to mimic the sound a cappella with a fair amount of accuracy, because he loved to cut loose with the Tarzan cry whenever he felt so inspired — often, after a couple of drinks! Like many kids growing up in rural America, I enjoyed giving that victory cry during my childhood.

*** What are you hopes for the upcoming Legend of Tarzan film? What do you want to see in a Tarzan film that we haven’t seen on screen before?
My greatest desire is that it creates a new generation of Tarzan fans, and a renewed interest in Edgar Rice Burroughs and his literary canon. I’d like to see the Tarzan of Burroughs’ novels — a feral man of almost superhuman strength, who navigates effortlessly between the House of Lords and the most primitive jungle — rather than the monosyllabic savage that was so popular in the past.

*** Why do you think Tarzan has remained popular for over 100 years and why is he still relevant today?
Edgar Rice Burroughs tapped into a primal myth in creating Tarzan. He was steeped in the Greek and Roman classics, and imbued his work with heroic archetypes. Tarzan appeals to all that is good and noble in us, while serving as a wish-fulfillment fantasy of being all-powerful. I think that the character is timeless and can appeal to all generations and cultures, as long as the adaptation reflects the spirit of Burroughs’ vision.

From the Tarzan Files Site
“Tarzan on Film” by Scott Tracy Griffin
Book Review: By Michael Sellers

In 2012 Scott Tracy Griffin gave us the exceptional Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration — which set the bar for handsome, coffee-table books about Edgar Rice Burroughs’ jungle hero.  Now Tracy is back with Tarzan on Film, an equally handsome offering that traces the screen history of Tarzan from the first film, Tarzan of the Apes,  in 1918, to 2016’s Legend of Tarzan.  I received my copy on Thursday and initially spent a couple of hours of rapture soaking up the rare and beautiful images.  Since then I’ve plunged into the text — and can report that that aspect of it, which is often relegated to secondary consideration in this type of book — is also a gem.  Griffin gives an incisive assessment of each movie as well as behind the scenes tales on the dealmaking and production that enliven and contextualize each film.

For those who aren’t familiar — Tracy works closely with Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., on these books and with the help of ERB Inc. has been able to access the archives and incorporate letters and information that aren’t readily available.  The images are crisp  handsomely presented, and the text superbly evokes of the time and circumstances that surrounded the making of each film.

Here are seven random pages — just to give you a sense of the layout and presentation.

Off-Site Refs

See all the coverage of 
Meet Scott Tracy Griffin
 Tarzan Sunday Pages by Scott Tracy Griffin and Gray Morrow
 Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration I
 Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration II
 Tarzan Centennial Celebrations
Tarzan: Centennial Reviews

ERBzine References
ERBzine Silver Screen Series
ERBzine Illustrated Bibliography
Earlier Book Release Info and Interview in ERBzine
"ERB and the Santa Monica Connection"
Presented at the Santa Monica History Museum
Tarzan Sunday Page Comics: La's Plight

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