56. ALEX THE GREAT
57. TRINA ~ 1968.04.05
ERBzine Summary ~ Guest Stars ~ Date Aired
56. ALEX THE GREAT ~ 1968.03.22
(Neville Brand ~ Alex Spence, Michael Dunn ~ Amir)
The task of protecting a village from a man-eating lion is complicated
by the arrival of a man determined to prove himself superior to Tarzan
- by killing the jungle lord.
Ron Ely’s TARZAN
Episode 56. ALEX THE GREAT
Review By Charles Mento
“Have you ever heard of a man called Tar-zan?”
“Yeah, sure, some kind of a legend. Ape man, swinging through trees on a vine. Throws elephants over his shoulders.”
“Anything this Tarzan can do, I can do better.”
Okay, when I first saw the opening here, I had missed the credits and/or thought, the cable station I was watching this on cut in with a different channel and movie. I thought this was NOT Tarzan. A drummer looks directly at the camera. Is this James Bond? Some other spy TV show? The Saint? The Avengers? There’s Michael Dunn as a villain it would seem, so is this the WILD WILD WEST?
Plot: Alex Spence, a world judo champion, is also a braggart who wants to prove he can best Tarzan in any physical endeavor. This rivalry is being taken advantage of by a band of ruthless smugglers, whose diminutive leader, Amir Chin, wants to steal a huge golden idol and use Alex's boat to hijack it out of the country. To achieve this goal he also kidnaps Alex's girlfriend Stacey Wells who drinks a lot at the start of this due to Alex’s preoccupation with being the best at everything or at least claiming to.
Alex holds one of the eight red belts in judo in the world.
Though Neville Brand is hardly impressive in the athletic look he does look like a heavyweight and he and Dunn make the episode well acted and entertaining, at least at first. So too is the actress that plays Stacey who is likeable even while drinking. She bets against Alex for 15 minutes of silence from Alex! She bets for Tarzan to win!
Dunn makes Amir calculating, cool, calm and without temper, differentiating him from villains such as his Dr. Lovelace in the WILD WILD WEST and the eminently wonderful WAX MEN clown on VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. Unlike in those roles, there’s little ranting or raving here and while it makes for a different kind of villain, it’s a bit too sedate at times and yet…this all makes him more menacing and seemingly deadly and powerful. It’s one of the only ways to have a villain up against Tarzan who is much smaller. Of course, there are other ways and this series has tried all of them but this is unique.
Tarzan is on his way to the village of the Kinaga, the cat people. There is a death and apparently others before this one. Apparently, something which is not natural is happening: a leopard and a lion turning man eater at the same time is not normal. Is that true? I thought they were man eaters no matter what.
Though Tarzan arrives running, Jai is apparently already there as he just is there in the next scene when they hear a roar. He wears his low boots. Ely in the lighting of the torches scene wear slip on shoes. Alex calls Tarzan, “You there in the bikini.”
Of course, Dunn’s character is releasing the man eating animals into the village via his tall man Hassim. He also used a man named Hamud to attack the yacht Alex was on and later has the shirtless man hung over a pit of animals that scratch him. Chin tells Hamud he was expelled from “their” country because he used excessive discipline to servants of his and some of them died due to beatings because they failed to respond to an order of his efficiently.
Alex destroys a spear the chief took two days to make and he responds to Tarzan by telling him that he will give him five bucks for a new one to be made.
Jai tells Stacey that morning is the best time for fishing. Jai is handling the goat that will be the prey for the animal to fall into the pit Tarzan and others dug. Jai feels nobody can beat Tarzan. Stacey thinks if Tarzan beats Alex, it could make him nice again or it could destroy him.
Once more, the camera men are only doing static medium shots of Jai or during action, extreme long shots.
Tarzan tells Alex he does not enjoy killing an animal for any reason.
Just before Alex attacks Jai to make Tarzan fight him, his brand of dysfunction starts to get on my nerves.
Seconds after their fight begins, the Arabs (?) attack Tarzan and Alex, who then have to fight as a team to stop them, sort of. During this both men seem to be happy to be fighting and are enjoying it.
They’re knocked out and Stacey is taken. Tarzan goes after her and Alex badgers Jai, when Alex comes to, to give him the direction Tarzan ran in. Unlike before, where to his credit, Jai doesn’t call out for Tarzan like Alex wanted him to, here, he just points the direction.
In a curious scene after some usual stock footage of darker haired Ely running, Tarzan helps a native who is upsidedown in a trap meant for him. The man says nothing and Tarzan sends him on his way. What?
So Amir is after the idol of the natives AND Spence’s boat. One of his men is called Yuseff. About a half hour in, Amir seems to be smoking opium. He asks his hench man if he is aware of the story of the man who shot his horse when the horse stumbled three times. Dunn appears to have a scar on his right wrist. This henchman is called Karat. I’m having trouble keeping all these henchman differentiated from each other.
While Tarzan and Alex track Stacey’s kidnappers, who left a trail leading to traps, which Tarzan avoids (and Alex doesn’t), Jai feels sorry for the baby goat (a female one) and trades places with it as the bait for the next big cat (lion this time)! He’s very sensitive and…dangerous here. To himself. It’s an act of kindness.
The lion falls into the pit and is alive. So either that’s stock footage or someone pokes a stick ---that we see being stuck down at the lion and waved around quickly---down the pit to antagonize the “actor” lion to react because Jai would never stick a stick at the lion, it’s just not his character so this is a flub of some kind.
Amir’s also been creating man killer cats using injections of drugs and other methods.
Stacey is tied by her hands over a pit of lions.
Tarzan is right when he thinks the (fake) near beheading of Karat, three times failed Chin (not really?), is a trap that he and Alex are supposed to run into…so they do? They were expected to save Karat? Huh?
Alex falls for Chin’s line of bull so that he reveals the location of the idol for Stacey’s release. He also fights Tarzan in the large arena type cage---not sure how this relates to their deal but Alex still wants to prove who is best---or so it seems?
Tarzan and Alex eventually work together after Tarzan beats the snot out of him but…don’t these men (Arabs?) have guns or at least swords? None seem to so they are beaten down two at a time it seems.
The idol looks like he’s holding a microphone.
When Tarzan and Alex rob two guards at the dock of their clothes it seems as if it is in plain sight and Alex’s robe has red on the back of it? Blood? His blood or the guard he tackled?
Ely gives a rare wink of Tarzan’s to Alex as they approach the next bare chested guard.
Okay so…while dumping this guy into the water, Tarzan opens his robe to hide it? I get that every other bad guy is busy with the idol being loaded onto the yacht but they are really oblivious to all of this that Tarzan and Alex are doing? All they have to do is turn around to see them and/or hear the splash of the guard, who also YELLS as he falls. What?
So far, the episode’s been pretty good and entertaining so…it’s almost over and then that?
The Amir man manning the pulley to get the idol on board looks decidedly Un-Arabian and more the boy next door…from America? And white.
Alex knocks out an old man sweeping! I kid you not. And the old man has on an open robe with no shirt underneath. I kid you knot there, too.
The rest plays out predictably. Their guns mean nothing, Tarzan and Alex fight; Alex gets Stacey out; the guards don’t appear to be able to swim or are knocked unconscious before hitting the water, Amir gets a machine gun (shades of his clown character in THE WAX MEN on VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA) but Alex punches a man who falls into the mechanism holding the idol up and it falls on and kills Amir. Shockingly, we see it on top of his body!
Tarzan refuses coffee when he, Cheetah and Jai come aboard Alex’s yacht but thinks Jai might like a glass of milk.
Okay, Alex challenges Tarzan one last time to prove to Stacey that he is number two, maybe even number three. She will stay with him now.
Not a bad episode by any means. A bit disjointed at times and a bit more like a James Bond knock off but again, not bad and fairly entertaining. Not sure why Amir would want to release a man eating lion into the village when his men were going there to get the idol or where all the cat tribe went (were they all hiding?) but every episode has flaws so…
…these can be forgiven as the characters are engaging enough, the villain different enough, and the design visually stunning again.
Uhm, if Amir just wanted Tarzan and Alex out of the way so he could steal the idol, why didn’t his men just kill them when they were both unconscious after the fight rather than just kidnap Stacey? Maybe they’re stupid? Maybe they had orders NOT to kill the two men and to kidnap the girl instead? Who knows. It’s just one flaw but still…
ERBzine Summary ~ Guest Stars ~ Date Aired
57. TRINA ~ 1968.04.05
Trina (Stacey Maxwell ~ Trina McKenzie, Nehemiah Persoff ~ Chembe Kunja)
A girl requests help from Tarzan to find her long-lost uncle.
Ron Ely’s TARZAN
Episode 57. TRINA
Review By Charles Mento
“That’s one man that belongs strictly to himself.”
Last episode! Wow! The promo at the start is almost a full minute and 30 seconds! Ely’s last lines are to Cheetah, “Say bye bye, wave bye bye.” Fittingly he waves about three times and Jai waves once, too.
Nehemiah Persoff, consummate actor, plays Chembe Kunji. Roy Glen is Bokunetsi. Robert Munk is Doggu. The girls’ names are Marguerite, Minette, Noreen (Noreen and Minette came along to study native dance rituals), Gloria (she and Marguerite are rich and bored), Maxine (doing a thesis on musicology for her doctorate), and Maggie (the photo journalist of the group). Edith goes uncredited. This must be the largest credited cast. One of the extras driving the slaves, a big hulking fellow, seems to be one of the men driving the girls away at the end. Trina’s last name is Mackenzie.
Men driving other men in what looks like slavery are whipping them and hitting them with spear shafts. The lead man is Doggu, the man of Chembe Kunji. They are transporting something to Kimyotay (?) for Chembe Kunji. This is a man whose name means lord of the earth and he’s been here for 20 years and knows what’s best for them…according to himself. He claims to have ended war in this area and has war spears banded together in peace under his direction.
PLOT: Trina MacKenzie, one of seven girls on an expedition, is also trying to find her uncle, who she believes to be doing humanitarian work. She finds that he has become the leader of a large tribe, and has helped them develop more peaceful ways. But Tarzan comes to believe that his latest crusade, involving a statue he claims to be obtaining but which locals insist does not exist, may involve less than noble intentions.
Tarzan mentions Yanek bearers or something?
Kunji claims to be Tarzan’s friend. Tarzan thought they were friends.
Jai and Cheetah came along and found Trina and her friends had run out of gas. She is looking for her uncle, Ben Mackenzie. After her parents died, Ben paid for Trina’s education. She’s never met him before. Letters came to Kinyoti.
Did something happen to Ely’s right eye? It looks closed or swollen or something.
When they want Tarzan to take them to Kunji (none of them knowing HE IS Ben), Jai asks, “You gonna argue with seven women, Tarzan?” Tarzan answers, looking up at Cheetah, “Eight.” So, here Cheetah is once again female.
The rich girls talking, the blond mentions that Tarzan belongs strictly to himself. Hmmm.
In one of the last fights of the series, amazingly, Gloria and Marg participate eventually. Tarzan takes the girls to a friendly Bosai village to the right, even though the village the girls want to go to: their objective is straight ahead.
Unhappy that Kunji treats them like a father with his young is Chief Bokunetsi of the Bosai. He wants to go the sea port directly and directly exchange his gold, willing to make mistakes and pay for them. He seems thankful for the knowledge given but wants to do things for himself now.
Okay, some of the girls participating in the African dance scene might be the single most embarrassing scene in the entire series.
Kunji goes to Bosai to ask for men from the chief to stop Tarzan but he never mentions that. He only states he needs to bring the statue of Doombawa, the symbol of their unity to his village in Kinyotai. This is the god that faces the four corners of the Earth.
Just after the dance, Trina is called to by one of the girls and that is when Kunji is revealed as Uncle Ben and they unite.
The chief calls on Tonda or Donday and says something to him in a different language. There’s another attempt to use a different language throughout this episode. BW Tonday or Donday is young, well built and handsome. He will gather the men of the Bosai for Ben to use to get the statue in four days to Kinyotai.
BTW Ely wears slip on shoes throughout most of this episode.
Tarzan questions the chief about the “god” and he’s never heard of it and the chief answers, “The world is full of private gods.”
Tarzan wonders if the old man who still lives on the high ridge has heard of it. His name is Liligaumba has heard of it. They deduce there is no god of such name but the old man remains contrite and will ask of the drums.
In stock footage that looks badly dated, we see the muscular African extra again.
Ben came here during the war with an artillery crew and he claims they did a good job of blowing things up so he returned to put everything back together again.
At Ben’s house, Gloria pets a normal house hold pet cat, which might be the first time we’ve seen a cat like that?
The chief, early in the morning, takes the men and the gold downriver. Jai is left to guard the women and he sleeps outside the hut. Tarzan wakes him up. Tarzan calls Jai son again.
With Tarzan held at gunpoint, Ben …lets Doggu let him go. Certainly he had to keep him alive but could have held him captive? He doesn’t.
A man servant who is African asks Trina if she wants some coffee. She sends him to warn Ben about Tarzan looking into the Foundation locked shed and that Tarzan is on his way to the Bosai village. She also wants relayed that Tarzan was telling lies about Ben.
In a weird moment, Tarzan attacks men who are holding rifles on him and one is still standing and does NOT shoot. Then Tarzan stops, “Wait a minute. We’re friends.” What? Ben then has him locked up! Huh?
34 minutes in and it’s clear there’s not enough material to fill the episode so they take it up with shots of the men getting the wooden wagon to the place. And at least one dance scene. Sigh. The men with rifles have no need to keep pointing them at the Bosai men who are willingly helping. Yet they kept hitting them with spear shafts and covering them with rifles!
Trina saves the chief’s life when Doggu wants to shoot him and tries after Ben reveals that statue is not a statue at all but a cannon.
Gloria gets her navel on screen at a time when such things were mostly forbidden (women especially since the males of FLIPPER was doing it since 1964 but Jeannie on I DREAM OF JEANNIE had a difficult time).
In the finale attack, it looks like the chief’s men are spearing to death Doggu, who didn’t have time to alert the men after the torched spear landed?! Some of Ben’s men stand around with rifles and don’t fire!? AND Tarzan throws down flaming spears and only Doggu seems to notice? This might have alerted everyone to the attack?
The guard that guarded Tarzan and was kicked unconscious by him (he kept turning his back on the ape man while the ape man was undoing the cage’s bottom?), seems to be guarding the cannon in the finale, too!?
Ben runs and is surrounded. We hear a blast. There’s fire in the shed. Ben falls and is hurt. What happened to him? Ben tells Trina that he wanted nothing for himself only for them, that they are such children, still. Huh? Trina claims that one bad day doesn’t erase all the good he did.
Tarzan says, “He just wouldn’t let himself see that his children had grown up.”
Ben dies but how?
Trina stays to take on his work, not forgetting the good he did and the mistake he made: he forgot that things change. Uhm, he didn’t want anything for himself? Is that why he wasn’t willing to let the chief trade his own gold? It sort of doesn’t really follow. If he went along maybe he could have watched the deals from afar or close. Some of this does not ring true and it could be Ben was just a villain who wanted the gold and power?
Trina speaks Swahili. She offers another chief electric lights! They agree to vote on it.
Jai, for the first time ever, mumbles something that I can’t understand. It sounds like they might make Trina first lady chief. Whatever he says Tarzan agrees they just might at that.
Tarzan calls over Cheetah and either calls her a different name, “Lady” or just “lady.”
In the final scene, it looks like he’s waving goodbye but he’s saying goodbye to the girls who are leaving. Jai waves, too.
So…after all that, was this series worth watching? YES.
Ely shows everyone else how to do and act as an educated TARZAN once and for all, balancing likability with the ape man’s rougher, tougher side. He handles the fights, stunts, swinging, charming scenes and more aptly and superbly. He couldn’t have had a better sidekick than Padilla Jr, who never flinches, never lets up, had to face certain things during filming, I’m sure and who is constantly matching performances of whomever he was acting with. The stunts, the animals, the jungle footage, the visual look of each episode, all magnificent. Nothing on TV then looked like TARZAN and to this day there are few shows that film in such exotic locations. Everything today looks stunning but that’s mostly due to CGI and trickery. Most things in this show were the real thing.
Sure, each episode had something wrong with it but those are really mostly nitpicking. And sure, the scripts could have been tighter on the whole but the show had far more EXCELLENT episodes and entertaining episodes than bad episodes. I’m not sure of the count but there were maybe three really bad episodes, if that.
Frankly, though, I’m exhausted cataloging this show and capping the episodes. I wanted to go through all my reviews and find which ones were top and which ones were lacking and which ones might have had a sequel if the show went to a third and fourth season.
I wish it has last two or three more years. It might have been really interesting to see how Tarzan and Jai grew in personality and relationship, how they would handle Jai becoming a teenager and more. Frankly, though, the team must have been exhausted as they had a trying time from day one of this series until the end and I’m also not sure what new plots could have been squeezed from the premise. I guess the only way to go into the future with it were two ways: the ways that Wolf’s Tarzan show and Joe Lara’s TARZAN show went: either make Tarzan the super ecologist, environmentalist, and peace maker and/or make him go on incredible sci fi fantasy adventures. I’m not sure either work as much as ELY’S show, though I tend to lean more toward Wolf’s show working better than Lara’s. I wouldn’t have minded a few sci fi and fantasy episodes on a par with Edgar Rice Burrough’s other novels but I think week after week, that would have bored and indeed, as much as I love Joe as Tarzan and loved his show, it became so outlandish EVERY week and so out there, it almost wasn’t Tarzan anymore.
Then again, what could have happened here? Several villains survived and / or were lost or were never found, suspected dead some of them. These villains could have returned but what would happen? They’d seek revenge on Tarzan? We’ve seen that at least ten times on the show. Jai could have gotten into more trouble. Charity, Basil, Basil’s grandson Algie, the young prince, Dutch, and numerous other allies and friends could have returned. I’m sure if the series went on, somehow, somewhere, they would have an episode or an arc even with Tarzan falling in love with a Jane type. Maybe a real dinosaur could have popped up? A real ghost? A real curse? A lost city or two? La? Opar? Pellucidar? Another ape man? Tarzan Twins if Jai got too old?
I would have loved to see a twin of Michael Dunn’s villain in ALEX THE GREAT return. Since his character died in the episode the character could not return but a twin of Amir would have been interesting.
Tarzan could have been sent to other places but once you remove him from the jungle, it’s not really Tarzan much anymore. The Moon? New York. I would have loved a version of TARZAN’S NEW YORK ADVENTURE or Amazons showing up.
Does the series fall into one that is faithful to Burrough’s books? I don’t think it does but I’m NO expert on the novels. I might be committing blasphemy here but I started the novels and couldn’t finish one of them. They’re just not my cup of tea and I found the style hard to get through, for me. There were few if any scenes of Tarzan with big apes so this was no GREYSTOKE, nor even reached for that. Frankly, I’m glad for some of that, it all seemed so sad and plodding in that movie and I don’t watch TARZAN for dark depressing ape deaths or Tarzan wrestling with his past or putting clothes and going to England at all. Ever. Still, maybe one or two episodes that did this might have been okay and if the show moved into a season three or four maybe they would have explored some of that.
Perhaps I’ll wrap it all up with another article about the entire series but I need a rest!
In any case, it’s been a long, fun and entertaining swing through the trees!
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