Watch the show's opening sequence
ERBzine Summary ~ Guest Stars ~ Date Aired
1. Eyes of the Lion ~ 1966.09.08
(Laurie Sibbald ~ Nara, Ned Romero ~ Oringa)
A man-eating lion is mistaken for the 'seeing-eye' lion of a young blind girl,
who has trained the animal from infancy to be her eyes and protector in the jungle.
Tarzan must prevent the hostile villagers from killing the wrong lion.
2. The Ultimate Weapon ~ 1966.09.16
(Andrew Prine ~ Peter Haines, Jock Mahoney ~ Hoby Wallington)
When a game warden is shot by an ivory poacher
looking to make a fortune off the seasonal elephant migration,
the poacher falls off a cliff after tangling with Tarzan,
but the accidental death causes the man's son to vow revenge.
Ron Ely’s TARZAN
Episode 1-EYES OF THE LION
2-THE ULTIMATE WEAPON
“Tarzan, you must be the only marriage counselor who lives in a tree.”
The first five episodes shot were filmed in Brazil. The waterfalls (Iguazu Falls with 275 drops and a height of 210 feet) seen in the credits and in the first two episodes were at the Argentina/Brazil border. It took five and a half months to film these five episodes. Because of that, the show moved to Mexico. An episode was filmed in London in 1967. Episodes in 1967 filmed in Guatemala and Mozambique.
I have to admit that Ron was never my favorite TARZAN but the show was a favorite. Indeed, Ron was in my top three TARZANs. Johnny Weissmuller was dad’s and thus mine; his TARZAN call was used in all the other productions but it was he who made this call up and out. I also like Mike Henry because he looked so good and as Tarzan was a believable athletic Tarzan. Over time, I read about and realized Ely’s Tarzan was as close to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ original vision in his books.
There’s something about Tarzan in movies and especially TV shows that is freeing. I don’t know what it is but it’s probably a combination of living in nature, outdoor location scenes and shoots, wearing as little clothing as possible, getting along with most animals and shunning contemporary and possibly ancient society ideals. Tarzan is freeing, done well or not. THIS is well done, despite what reviewers like the awful Cleveland Amory wrote about it. I also LOVE the character of Jai, who was also, sadly, put down unfairly in the reviews.
Unfortunately, we learn nothing about Jai at all in the opening two episodes (or later?). He’s simply there in this waterside dock town and he wears a shirt and shorts as any kid there would and possibly sandals and/or no shoes. He has no background and seemingly no parents. He’s not really Tarzan’s kid yet or sidekick but more hanging around with Jason Flood, an old guy photographer and looked over by Rao, a game warden (but he really shares few if any scenes with Jai in the first episode). Both Jason and Raul are fairly boring characters to be honest and neither last long.
Both of these episodes have a long opening. The narration goes on about Tarzan’s past, raised by apes and returned to England and then he, of his own accord, returns to the jungle. I can’t recall if Africa is mentioned at all. This takes 1 minute and 25 seconds. THEN, there is an opening credits sequence with the first of three of the series’ theme tunes (all three are excellent). This entire opening takes 2 min and 17 seconds, about. It’s quite well done. It also features a very young Steve Bond (who will go on to star in GENERAL HOSPITAL in the 1980s) as young boy Tarzan. These opening sequences with Bond and a leopard are from TARZAN AND THE JUNGLE BOY (Tarzan actor Mike Henry’s best movie).
Ely was hurt several times during the series and this can be read about in TARZAN OF THE MOVIES by Gabe Essoe (and on line in ERBzine). He did ALL his own stunts and later, directed an episode about a hurricane.
These first two episodes are, admittedly, a bit clunky, but entertaining. They are both sort of…leisurely. The visuals are gorgeous and it was worth going to Brazil to film them. The show looks better than most movies, even by today’s standards. The plots are tight, even if the filming isn’t. It feels as if there is a lot of filler. The soundtrack is really great. Tarzan chases Cheetah a lot in both episodes. So does Jai, who, in THE ULIMATE WEAPON, interferes, unwittingly, with Peter’s desire to kill someone for his father’s death.
In that episode, Peter Haines is the son of Jim Haines, a man who wanted to pay for Peter’s medical bills (he had jungle fever) by taking up illegal activities with one scum named Walker Sully who wants to kill elephants for profit. Sully also employs someone named Sandos or something? Sandos’s every line looks and sounds dubbed for some reason. He puts a trap up for Tarzan, using a deadly snake, that Tarzan later saves Peter from and tosses the snake without killing it. It turns out that Jim tried to shoot game warden Hoby Wallington in the back when Hoby warned him about capturing Sully soon. Tarzan saved Hoby, who was shot but not fatally. In a fight with Jim, Tarzan seems to accidentally knock him over a cliff and Jim is killed. Later, Sully, who can’t be trusted, claims that the elephant herd stamped over Jim’s body but there’s no evidence of that.
Predictably, Peter wants revenge but he knows something is wrong. Jai chasing Cheetah prevents him and later Tarzan stops him. Ely proves himself in the acting chops in this scene as he pulls the gun from Peter and knocks him against the wall, demanding he open the door to his returned new wife, Kathy. We’re not told but it feels as if Tarzan had the elephants block Kathy’s riverboat exit so he could talk her into returning. Peter could never see his father through the jokes and good guy. Jim did seem conflicted. Hoby tells Tarzan, laughably, “Tarzan, you must be the only marriage counselor who lives in a tree.”
BTW, Hoby is played by former Tarzan Jock Mahoney. Mahoney played in TARZAN GOES TO INDIA and TARZAN’S THREE CHALLENGES, both good movies but his Tarzan never felt right to be honest. In addition, the 60s movies and this show, to be fair, never felt like they were totally based in Africa, though this TV show improves that feeling in later episodes. Jock will return in the two part THE DEADLY SILENCE parts one and two as one of the show’s best villains, the Colonel.
Another really creepy thing is that in THE ULTIMATE WEAPON, Jai has this thing about seeing Hoby’s bullet wound. I guess the writer felt that little boys would be fascinated by a wound and want to see it. If Jai did it once, it would be okay but he does some four times and talks about it again to Peter. I love the character of Jai but this makes him come off as creepy. His theme music here is cute, though as are his scenes of him mocking Peter kissing Kathy by him kissing Cheetah.
I also don’t get the feel of the dock town. I even saw telephone poles. Is this outpost somewhere Tarzan is associated with? Does Jai live there? Is Jason Flood, seen in both first episodes, watching over Jai? Where was Rao (the wonderful Rockne Tarkington), the game warden in the first episode. Is the outpost in THE ULTIMATE WEAPON the same outpost as in THE EYES OF THE LION?
The plot of EYES OF THE LION is intriguing. A blind girl, who we do not find out is blind right away in an interesting twist, has a kind red maned Seeing Eye lion and as ludicrous as that sounds, it really is well presented and it really works. Another red maned lion has maimed Oringa and later, kills Oringa’s father when the father goes out looking for vengeance. I’m not sure if it killed anyone else but the feeling is that it must be dealt with. The two lions are probably from the same liter, with only a dark spot on the girl Nara (Nora)’s lion Sultan. Predictably the two lions fight but unpredictably Sultan survives, even though he loses. Tarzan has to fight and kill the other lion, sadly. This might be the fight that had Ely bitten on the forehead. The same lion bites his thigh later. Maybe the animal was trying to tell the makers of the show something.
Not sure what Nara’s history is. I believe her parents were killed when their riverboat exploded and she was raised by two natives of the land (which land? Is this supposed to be Africa?) but those two were killed in a tribal war (and yes, those happened even as far up in time as the 1990s). This girl has no luck. The same explosion that killed her parents made her go blind so the adoptive father taught her lion to be a sort of Seeing Eye lion. She feels she can live alone but Tarzan shows her she has to trust someone and be with people. When Sultan needs to recover, she had to trust Rao and the village. Not sure what nationality Ned Romero is supposed to be with his face seemingly tanned up or made up to look darker but it seems slightly…I don’t know, dated. Or offensive. He starts a fire to kill the lion, endangering humans and other animals alike. It kills him and no one seems to mention it later at all.
Strangely, the next episode, opens with a fire, too. The same fire? Sully, the scum, mentions that the elephant herd is being driven toward the waterfalls…where Tarzan is just moseying around…doing nothing in particular. This idea is forgotten it seems and…well, the herd just moves. Not down the waterfall, thankfully. Did Tarzan’s call divert them? I think that was the idea. Similarly, later on, in the big finale fight, it seems important that the plunger not be plunged down to set off the explosives Sully wanted hidden but has a plunger out in the open…but then Cheetah, of all, plunges it down and the elephants are quite okay. I can’t recall if Tarzan called them away again but I don’t think he had time. Turning his back, thanks to liability Cheetah, Tarzan is nearly shot by Sully but Peter saves him.
Of note is Tall Boy, a tall man who seems to be an aide to Rao.
Both episodes are clunky at worst (taking their time and with a bit of filler but nice filler) but entertaining and visually stunning at best. They are worth seeing again.
…and Ron Ely is a great Tarzan.
ERBzine Summary ~ Guest Stars ~ Date Aired
3. Leopard on the Loose ~ 1966.09.23
(Russ Tamblyn ~ Bell, Ken Scott ~ Morrisey, Morgan Jones ~ Galloway)
A trading-post worker in need of money tries to steal Jai's pet leopard.
4. A Life for a Life ~ 1966.09.30
(Jon Alvar ~ Obasi, Danica d'Hondt ~ Calloway)
After a spider bite fells Jai, Tarzan races to find one of two people
whose blood might have antibodies that could save the boy:
a lady photographer and a wanted murderer.
Ron Ely’s TARZAN:
3-LEOPARD ON THE LOOSE
and 4-A LIFE FOR A LIFE
“Tarzan, my compliments to your tailor.”
“Boy, I’m having a terrible childhood.”
On the whole these episodes are better but the skies over Brazil look cloudy and dark a lot in all four episodes. Jason Flood is back and so is Rao but they don’t do much in LEOPARD ON THE LOOSE, though Rao does help Tarzan (there’s also a well staged fight on the riverboat). Both do more in A LIFE FOR A LIFE, where Jai is bitten by a Galloway is credited as Gallow in the credits. The theme music at the credits changes to a more vibrant theme, both are good. This will become the opening theme soon. Russ Tamblyn as Bell causes a lot of trouble but saves Tarzan twice. He tries to steal Jai’s pet leopard, who had a black head, for passage back toward home and money to get home. Morrisey, another evil minded animal hunter, tries to shoot Tarzan several times. Also he has natives helping him but not to the point that they will NOT report a murder? Huh? In any case, there’s lots of action and also lots of filler in both episodes, again. Overall, it’s tighter but in A LIFE FOR A LIFE, Rao’s jeep smokes out (in LEOPARD, a jeep crashes that Bell steals…and he leaves Jai unconscious, the creep who deserves jail never gets his comeuppance, not even in the end), and Tarzan takes off for the outpost without him but in the next scene…Rao is right behind Tarzan. What?
In A LIFE FOR A LIFE, Jai is bitten by a deadly spider. Rao finds the annoying, self centered female photographer who later apologizes for being such a jerk, stalling her arrival at the outpost for photographs of animals. She also had a run in with a lion that Tarzan has to fight and then let go. I applaud the series for not making him kill it which, when a leopard or cheetah attacks Tarzan who is trying to save a native named Ohringa, a British police officer shoots and kills it. Twice. You see, the female and Ohringa have been bitten by the same type of spider and their blood can be used to make an antidote to save Jai, otherwise he will die within 24 hours. With a time limit, the episode is tense, well done and…amazing.
In what is probably the best set piece I’ve ever seen for a TV show (and most movies), Tarzan and Ohringa (who doesn’t want to be caught by anyone because he killed a man who was stealing his traps) fight on a high bridge and a fire erupts all around them. The police, who having been villainous in not caring about Jai all along, now change their position, send up a trolley. After a fight, Tarzan takes Ohringa down it while it’s on fire, through the fire when the bridge is on fire from both sides! Amazing. I don’t think the footage is stock footage from previous TARZAN movies but it’s amazing either way. Nothing like it on TV other than years later in a short lived show called CHASE in the 2000s and possibly both 9-1-1 shows on FOX.
This series looks great and, for a show set in another country, does well. The girl’s attraction for Tarzan is in the quote and her constant eying of him, “Tarzan, my compliments to your tailor.”
Jai might come off as spoiled but we DO get a background in A LIFE FOR A LIFE. Jai was in a plane crash and walked his way through the jungle to survive. We don’t hear much more than that. It might be supposed that his parents were killed in that crash?
While the episodes are great, there is still a bit of left over clunkiness from the first two and the execution on the whole is better but there are lots of Tarzan swings through the trees, which, is, what this show is for. Do trees even have that many vines to swing on that don’t fall off? The clip of Tarzan dropping boulders to slow down the police in LEOPARD is used in ONE of the credit narration sequences. BTW, the credit/narration sequence changes slightly by becoming shorter, even with the theme music and title card.
We also learn very little about Tarzan but there are lines here and there that amuse. Jai still wears normal clothes and not a loin cloth. Tall Boy appears---and gosh, he IS tall, in A LIFE FOR A LIFE in the scene where the doctor arrives. In LEOPARD, Tarzan gives Jai a new leopard to replace the one that they allow to go off to a zoo (!?). The zoo part might be the oddest thing as Tarzan, in the movies, might be against things like zoos and circuses but here, he realizes that the black headed leopard needs to live there and raise a family there as he’s not trained to fight for himself in the jungle (though at one point in the episode, he is muzzled and lost in the jungle).
It also doesn’t make much sense that Tarzan gives Jai another leopard to eventually be zoo-ed. He does say that the new baby is the runt of the litter and probably would not survive without Jai and later the zoo!
Another annoying thing is that Tarzan, at one point late in the episode, blames the black headed leopard for everything, “You’ve caused enough trouble,” but…he didn’t. It was ALL Bell who stirred up the two animal killers/traders against Jai, Tarzan and the pet leopard itself. What was Tarzan thinking saying that? What a dope!
ERBzine Summary ~ Guest Stars ~ Date Aired
5. The Prisoner ~ 1966.10.07
(Robert J. Wilke ~ Spooner, Charles Maxwell ~ Mac, Ken Drake ~ Dude)
When a native policeman is seriously injured by a diamond thief,
Tarzan tries to get the criminal to jail -
and keep the officer's angry tribe from taking the law into its own hands.
6. The Three Faces of Death ~ 1966.10.14
(Ena Harman ~ Laneen, Woody Strode ~ Jamoya)
Tarzan agrees to compete in three death-defying events
to prove a native woman's right to retain the rulership of her tribe.
Ron Ely’s TARZAN
Episode 5-THE PRISONER
Episode 6-FACES OF DEATH
“After all, she’s only a girl.”
“Can’t Cheetah go to school with me?”
“What and tear up the school room?”
At first glance both episodes seem as if they are merely retreads of the films, THE PRISONER being something similar to the Gordon Scott’s TARZAN’S FIGHT FOR LIFE and FACES OF DEATH, similar to TARZAN’S THREE CHALLENGES, however, if truth be told, I prefer the TV show and its tone over the movies. On the other hand, the movies depict the savagery of TARZAN quite well, with no real redemption of evil doers, at least in the 1960s movies. Here, in FACES, the nasty war mongering Jamoya (played by the excellent Woody Strode who was actually in TARZAN’S FIGHT FOR LIFE) seems to change his ways, reflecting. Even though the girl chief Laneen offered him sanctuary back at their village, he chose, it would seem to leave and some day return in peace. It was that girl that he was going to kill, should he have beaten and killed Tarzan first at the conclusion of the three challenges, all of which are terribly contrived but equally attention drawing.
First, tied together, the two must face a crocodile or an alligator that was put in a nearby lake or river. The poor thing. It’s odd that when watching it these days, I feel more for the animal/creature than the humans. In days gone by, it wasn’t even really a thought but now, with all the care given to the world’s nature and fauna, and it’s a good thing, such scenes seem cruel and unnecessary, even ruining the show for me.
Second, Jamoya gets to give off a high cliff to retrieve something while Tarzan gets the short end of the feather he chose: to run a gauntlet of spears while passing a fire and a pit of spikes. Finally, he has to open a jar, capture a poisonous snake and put it back in the jar, all the while natives are poking spears through the cage at him…though none seem too forceful to be honest. At one point he almost drowns another pit that seems as if it is filled with quicksand of some sort.
Third, the two must race, with observers following to find a golden horn which is across a flimsy rope bridge which they hang. They may only kill the other with the horn. Of course, Tarzan gets it but doesn’t seem to want to kill. Laneen orders him to give her the horn to kill Jamoya but she can’t do it either. This changes the man. In the movies, he’d fall or be killed some other way.
One thing that struck me is that despite having a woman in a leadership role after her father dies, Tarzan pleads for her life and asks Jamoya not to kill her (Jamoya refuses, the creep that he was) but in so doing, Tarzan says, “She’s ONLY a girl.” Sigh. How the times have changed. This line would never be allowed today. Picture the Wakanda movies allowing this line!?
In any case, it’s a good episode and Jai and Tarzan’s relationship is sown deeper here as Jai wants Tarzan to give up the fight and go home, the boy eventually realizing that he was being selfish and that Tarzan would have to live with being a coward and having their friend, the girl, killed after he left her to Jamoya.
FACES OF DEATH seems aired out of order as it doesn’t look like the Brazil location, Jai is now wearing a lion cloth like Tarzan and sandals, Rao and Flood are NOT in it at all, nor is the outpost and the opening does not have the narration.
In the other episode, THE PRISONER, which aired fifth, Jai is unceremoniously dropped off to a man who will boat him to a school! He is fully clothed, too. And Tarzan and Cheetah bid him goodbye and I thought that was it. Frankly, that would have been a bad move. I always find the threat more exciting and involving if a kid is in danger and has to be saved. While this episode is interesting, it would have been better if Jai were involved but we’ll get plenty of that in future.
Tarzan's friend, policeman Khobi is close to death after being severely wounded by diamond smuggler Spooner. Tarzan intends to bring the criminal to justice as Spooner's gang tracks them through the jungle to free him. The chief of Khobi’s people wants to commit the law of the jungle on Spooner, who is responsible for Khobi’s injury and eventual death but in the end as Tarzan saves his life, he relents and lets Tarzan take Spooner to justice, though his men do kill two of Spooner’s men, which is shocking as a more predictable ending would have been to have Tarzan kill them. Another was killed by his own man’s firing a gun wild. The twist is that the diamond(s) Spooner and gang stole (and two others killed two men for) are in Spooner’s hat…which Cheetah threw into the rapids! A good use of Cheetah (he or she even jumps on Spooner’s back at a crucial moment) and much action help enliven this episode.
Both episodes, once again, have terrific locations, the sky filled with clouds, both white and gray. Lots of mountains in the background and green jungle. Also lots of stock footage of birds of all kinds and a lot of leopards and cheetahs. There are also hippos and rhinos.
Whatever’s going on, Ely gives it his all and a convincing performance as if he actually believes what’s going on around him, no matter how contrived or fantastic and it all really works. It’s never dull or boring.
One thing about the format: in these first six episodes, it seems to change back and forth. Usually we get the narration but not in FACES. Then we get the credits with the Tarzan March (again, not in FACES). Some action happens. Then a pause, then the title of the episode. Usually. In another episode we get the title right away and then the action. Not sure if syndication messed with these episodes and we are getting those copies or not. In FACES, what happens is we get a bunch of scenes from the episode itself and then the title of the episode. It jars but I think the show was competing with THE TIME TUNNEL, possibly and that always started right away with a fight or some other action so maybe it was trying to compete with that because TARZAN rarely starts right away with the action but it does build to it.
Despite being a selfish killer, the character of Spooner and the actor who plays him, made him amusing and almost likable. Almost. At one point he tells Cheetah, “When I get out of here, you’re the second on my list.”
In the other episode, a man carries poles to make Tarzan’s gauntlet and Cheetah jumps on the poles. It’s hilarious. Also, I noticed Jai reaching a hand back to hold Cheetah’s but the monkey would not cooperate.
I have to also say that I love Manuel Padilla’s Jai. Of all the replacement boys for BOY in the old Johnny Weissmuller movies, he was the best and probably the most natural. Of Johnny Sheffield was amazing but Manuel does well in both these episodes. He really conveys a love for Tarzan here and their rapport is more father/son here or big brother/younger brother. It’s also touching and would continue to be throughout the series.
One thing I did notice is that the amazing stunts of hanging from the ropes while fighting and trying to reach the golden horn knife…I noticed it was NOT Ron for once. It was a stunt man from what I can tell. I wasn’t really looking at Woody’s character but I don’t think that was him either. Even so, it looks fantastic.
One more thing: even though there’s a lot to be said of having the girl take charge, even of the finale and the choices (good ones), she DOES slow Tarzan down…a lot. Not sure that would happen these days either.
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