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Volume 7677

 Tarzan: The Epic Adventures ~ XIII

Review by Charles Mento

Series Star:
Joe Lara as Tarzan
List of Credits is Featured in ERBzine 7670


Comedy pirates that seem straight out of THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS OF HERCULES pull up on a rowboat from a sinking ship. Dalen is the female alpha of the trio who knees the taller, handsomer Flynt when he mentions her father. Dalen is more XENA than HERCULES, though. The other one, who seems more bloodthirsty later on when they attack Tasi’s village, is called Kuno.

This might be picky but in the night time dance by Tasi’s people, females only, Themba does not clap along but Tarzan does. It feels as if it should be the reverse. They dance around gold. The belief: the gold contains power and soon the chief’s spirit will be guided back to the people and will speak to the sun woman and tell her that his eldest son will take his place as chief unless there is bloodshed on this night (Tasi starts this talk off but it is Tarzan who provides Themba with the info about the bloodshed in what is a great delivery from Lara). Okay then the talk moves to this: Goro the moon god is mentioned by Themba in a mocking manner; when the great Chief Shemba led his tribe into warfare, all the men were killed but before he died he was visited by Goro, the Moon God who gave him this icon (the gold?) so that his spirit could be led back to the tribe to look after the women and children, provided there are no more bloodshed. Does that myth even make sense?

If there was bloodshed, the “dweller of the dark” will be reawakened to reclaim the icon. Was it taken from the Dweller?

If that happens, the tribe will be left without a chief.

The pirates appear and the two men start shooting native men while the leader, Delan, threatens the chief (if he is the chief or if he is the son?) with a sword. The shot son survives. Tarzan protects two children after kicking the rifle of Flynt. One of the kids looks like he’s smiling. Flynt looks like he recovers the rifle quickly. Tarzan is pretty useless here to be honest.

For some reason, then Themba moves to help the son of the chief (or is he the chief?), the man shrugs Themba’s hand off him. Thankless much?

The pirates steal the gold. The chief or son is named Bujo and Tarzan tells him in the light of the morning, that Bujo needs to heal. Bujo is the chief’s eldest son. For some reason, he blames Themba, a chief without a people who would stop a successor. Does that make sense? Bujo blames Themba and even seems to blame Tasi a bit, too.

He also says that evil people and evil medicine come from the other. What?

Bujo tells Tarzan that evil medicine comes from someone in the family or from someone they think is a friend. Bujo is an idiot.

Tarzan goes to Senge for strong medicine to protect himself from Bujo’s anger. What?

Senge says cryptic things such as “rejecting the past leads to rejecting the future” and he claims that Tarzan lives by a certain saying:  “It’s easy to forget what’s important when it’s not around to convince us. You live by that, Tarzan.” Tarzan defends Themba’s memory of some of what they are talking about. What they are talking about is another matter altogether. Mumbo Jumbo, which I thought this episode might avoid.

Sigh. He then goes on to say that part of Tarzan’s past is here but without the other part, Tarzan can never be whole. What is this? This series keeps telling us Tarzan is incomplete and not whole and missing something, isn’t balanced between his two worlds and therefore flawed.

For one or even two episodes, I get it as a plot contrivance, maybe. BUT to have it happen over and over again, makes Tarzan not only look stupid and wimpy but deeply unable to learn from his mistakes, these supposedly wise sayers around him, and makes him almost not worth watching. It dilutes Tarzan greatly and I can see why this series didn’t work really but maybe it’s cancellation didn’t mean it did not work but maybe the company ran out of money or something.

At this point, I don’t really care. I’m not being entertained by this but at times, it does almost reach a kind of greatness and fun but pulls back with crap like this with Senge and this pop philosophy and nonsensical sayings that are not only NOT enlightened (as say KUNG FU WAS) but slow down the action completely and totally and come off as only filler. And it is starting to get on my nerves EVERY episode now.

Themba wants to find the idol and digs up a rifle and ammo? He’s shirtless as he does that.

Two warriors take Tasi away when she tries to keep Themba necklace (?) from Bujo who will use it to do magic against Themba. Three other warriors watch. Tasi admits that Themba means just as much as her own brothers and sisters (her tribe or her biological brothers and sisters or both?).

Themba is still wearing his necklace so maybe it was his pouch? Or some other belonging?

Tarzan finds Themba polishing the gun, ready to go on the hunt. When Tarzan gives him some kind of wooden cylinder attached to another cylinder (with hay or hair on it? WTF?) to fight the medicine (voodoo? Though they do not say that word) Bujo is using against him, Themba, stupidly, tosses it down. Tarzan asks if he’s forgotten the meaning of the name Themba. It means Trust.

Tarzan retrieves the cylinder and gives it to Themba, telling him he needs to trust the world he lives in and Tarzan walks away.

Amid great music, Tarzan tracks the pirates (I think) and we’re treated to a great deal of animal footage that is more real than any before used in ANY Tarzan, including a hyena with meat in its mouth (EWL), a giraffe, baboons, a snake and more.

I think Delan’s accent is Irish? Or Scottish? In any case, the other two, the men, blame her for getting the rest of the crew killed in the storm, which presumably (we have to presume a lot in this show) was what sank their huge ship.

Tarzan pounces on the two pirates and knocks them down, chases Delan and catches her and over powers her, throws her sword away (the handle is made of pure gold and Tarzan either knows or jokes that it was commissioned by Blue Beard), and questions her about where she hid the icon. Unfortunately, after this brief and impressive scene, Tarzan is waylaid by two more men, a man who hits him from behind and an older one who gets Delan from strangling Tarzan! Tarzan is knocked out. Again.

The younger one is former crew mate of Delan’s who knew her father (the father of Delan was named Parkston) and he, the traitorous crew mate is named Hawg.

The older one is Manlan. Delan and Tarzan are tied separately but sat back to back. The two men want the treasure. Tarzan says Delan is bargaining at his expense.

Not for the first time in this series, I feel as if some vital scenes were deleted, scenes that were either written or filmed or both and then left out, affecting what comes later…to the confusion of the audience.

The two take her to a tree to kill her if she does not reveal more info about the treasure’s location. Hawg sings Hey Diddle Diddle, The Cat And the Fiddle.

Tarzan gets free, gets two knives, and knocks out Hawg while Delan knocks down Manlan and gets away. All of this is sort of played for comedy rather than action. Delan kneed Manlan between the legs and he moans so Tarzan pushes him over, for instance.

Tarzan recaptures Delan and the two men, recovered (any other Tarzan might have killed them) and with their rifles (any other Tarzan might have smashed their rifles but I guess he didn’t have time if he wanted to recapture Delan), give chase.

The music, also, plays things as if they’re funny.

Tarzan does something stupid here: he gives Delan back her knife. He tells her he doesn’t need her to tell him where the gold disk is. Did he see it when he was sitting down? He sure saw something.

Tasi is not sure Themba must believe everything she does for them to be together. He kisses her and leaves behind the three talismans Tarzan had made to protect him from Bujo’s magic. He believes his determination from his heart will be enough but Tasi believes that is where Bujo’s magic attacks.

She gives him the talismans anyway and he takes them. I never realized how much shorter she is than he is.

Slowing down the “action” again, Tarzan has taken Delan to Senge’s cave to sleep. Tarzan sees a kindness in her too deep to get to but Senge sees Tarzan’s past in her and believes Tarzan does, too. He also says Tarzan fears what he learns from her Sigh.

Senge vanishes.

Tarzan tells a woken Delan that his father mentions her father in his journal. His parents were on the Fuwalda and there was a mutiny and they thought they would be killed as the other officers were. Parkston spared them.

She knows they were the Claytons and that he is Lord Greystoke. She thinks her father thought his parents were resourceful, like him. He tells him his name is Tarzan.

Tarzan says they were not like him, “They couldn’t survive the jungle.” She says it is not easy to survive being attacked by a pack of apes. She says his father went to bring them back to civilization but it was too late and he never came back himself.

Okay, it sounds like he abandoned Tarzan’s parents on a shore after saving them and that’s when they were attacked by apes? It can’t be. It must mean that they were rescued from that, only to then get in a plane some time later WITH Tarzan and crash in the jungle, survive the plane crash and then be attacked by apes?

Maybe I’m getting my shows mixed up but I thought we saw them DIE IN the plane crash? Or was that the Wolf show? Or not?

Either way I looked quickly at my other reviews to find this but can’t seem to find ONE reference to the plane but Know we saw an episode of Tarzan as a child in the plane with is parents. Okay, another search reveals it must have been the unrelated (other than the main actor JOE LARA) TARZAN IN MANHATTAN.


More later…

…She tells Tarzan that he is just as human as the rest of them and rejects his heritage. She follows him out.

Themba seems dizzy and it’s shown as if he’s being attacked by Bujo’s magical efforts.

Delan tells Tarzan she never met her father in all her life and that she feels that the gold shield is all she has of him and that he found that when he came back to get Tarzan’s parents. It is not greed that she wants it. Her father sent her two letters: one was about the baby stolen by the great apes and the other was about the gold disks. She may be lying about some of this or all of it.

Flynt and Kuno find them as they wrestle for the gold disk which seems to have fallen off a cliff but the rope dangling saved it from falling completely downward. Tarzan gets it and doesn’t believe it is not for greed but when the other two show up, the pirates get the upper hand and Delan points a gun at him. She fires it, shockingly, but hits his left arm and causes him to tumble down the cliff. She shows no hint of remorse for this.

When he wakes up, he uses what looks like an Aloe Vera leaf to nurse his wound.

NOTE: the jungle IS Africa but…South Africa from what the production notes seem to say and while it looks forestry or like a wild farm, it hardly looks like the jungles of past Tarzan movies or TV shows IMO. It’s visually stunning though and okay but it doesn’t really look like the “fake” African jungles we’ve seen in other productions, Tarzan or not.

Flynt slaps Delan while Kuno ties her to a tree. Flynt almost chokes her to death but she tells them, as before the storm, that there is a treasure chest she can help them find.

For some reason, Tarzan pops up unexpectedly from the stalks Themba walks through.

“You reject the teachings of the Wagambi yet you risk your life for the Waziri,” Tarzan tells him. Themba rejects the witchcraft and has trouble with but he does know the restorative powers of nature such as the aloe. Tarzan thinks Delan is a bad shot. Did she miss on purpose?

Delan gets free. Tarzan and Themba arrive after she gets free. The two men split up to find her and the other two. She runs right into Tarzan, who is now ahead of her and he smiles at her. Brushing his him aside, she moves on and tumbles right into a covered up pit.

When she claims she saved him, he lets her drop into the pit again after holding onto her hand to get her out, seemingly. This is the first EXTREMELY TARZAN-like thing he does, letting her fall back in as she rants. He walks away. At times like this, I miss Cheetah who would have laughed his head off at her in the pit.

Children play with a barrel in Tasi’s village, which looks very populated again. Bujo goes to her dwelling but she tells him he is no longer welcome here. They discuss Themba and that it will never work.  Bujo pronounces her name like “Tesi” and even the subtitles spell it that way here.

Themba catches up to Kuno and Flynn and from hiding is about to shoot them (?) when from behind he is made to drop his rifle by Manlan and Hawg. Manlan and Hawg point rifles at the other two who draw on them so Manlan and Hawg shoot them. The camera follows the gold disk which goes up in the air and the two men are on the ground after that, dead. It’s pretty bloodless, thank goodness. Thus Kuno and Flynt are out of this. Themba fights Hawg who has a knife after being removed of his gun and I guess he dropped the rifle. He formerly had a smaller gun in one hand (on Themba) and a rifle in the other pointed at the other two.

Manlan gets the disk and knocks Themba out, and gets Themba off Hawg.

Is Hawg being dubbed? He’s an over the top ARRGRGG pirate. Apparently Themba is trying to sell them on the idea that the map on the gold disk leads to a better treasure that he can take them to.

Or at least I think that’s a map on the other side? If so why do they need Themba to lead them to it? So maybe it is not?

NOTE: once again, Lara looks great, his arms veined and vascular and his stomach and legs muscled as the rest of him.

Tarzan finds the two dead men (no wounds, thank goodness and no blood). Delan shows up and Tarzan floors her with one hand on her hand that tried to punch him. She asks if he’s never taken weapons as a bounty or taken food from another’s mouth. He seems to HAVE done both those things as his answer is, “That’s survival.”

Themba has led them to a cave where there is a treasure chest but he seems surprised when he says, “It’s sacred ground.”  Manlan moves up steps but an electric field hits him and he dies? Electric field?

Hawg brings Themba up the steps lightly? A swinging rock trap falls from the roof of the cave and knocks Hawg away from Themba (killing him?). Themba retrieves the gold disk but a monster (the Dweller?) attacks him from behind.

The monster is a cross between Predator and the Humanoids from the Deep. Tarzan arrives and fights it while Delan grabs the gold icon (the shield, the disk) from Themba and runs out.

Tarzan fights it but then yells, “The icon belongs to the Waziri!” This makes it just vanish. Tarzan tells a questioning Themba that IT knows the bloodshed has stopped. Tarzan tells Themba that he does not need to forget what he learned in Europe to embrace his life here.

Tarzan gives him something to eat? It looks like one of the talisman objects he gave Themba. Were these potatoes?

Tarzan finds Delan digging. She tells him he can have the icon now. In the sun, another map appears over the first map on the icon (Disk, Shield, Goro) that shows where the gold is. Delan digs for the “real treasure” now.

She explains that her father was a better man than most people knew. He had a map leading to a treasure any pirate would want but left another treasure just for her. When he wrote his last letter, he knew he was going to die. The Waziris took him in but couldn’t heal him. He told her about “the shadow” and how it would lead to her treasure. It’s metal box of pictures of her as a baby with her father. Tarzan peeks at it and then walks away with the icon.

Night: full moon: the dance again. Tarzan tells Tasi that the spirit is being guided to Sengoma. Tarzan tells them Themba would never use evil magic (though he uses the words evil medicine) on the tribe. Bujo tells Tarzan perhaps his medicine made Themba realize his mistake. He’s a jerk and annoying.

Tasi asked Themba to tell her about Europe and America. Tarzan leaves. He goes to his cave and looks at his box of family memories. The picture of his parents has them looking NOTHING like the ones we saw in his visions in THE WHITE PEBBLE.

Delan shows up and asks him to come with her, she’s short a few hundred pirates. She calls his life lonely but he counters with no more lonely than her own. She says, “Very lonely, then.”

She will not take a jewelry piece of his mother’s (again, assuming that is what it is) that he tries to give her. She says he cannot get rid of memories that easy.

Maybe one day, she says, it will lead him to his treasure. What? He already has his parents’ things. She fakes a punch to him and he stops it. She says, “Not bad.” Huh?

Earlier, Tarzan whistled to show her the way to go after the remaining pirates. He whistles to her now and says, “Take care.”  Huh?

The end credits seem to be over one minute long.

Okay, what?

I know I’m being picky and this was a more straight forward, if simplistic adventure but…

…does the story of Delan’s father make any sense? Who was he? Who was he that she became a pirate? Does her story make sense? He was hurt? How? He could not be healed? Why? What happened to him? AND, more importantly, IF the Waziri took him in, why would he give them so much grief to hide a treasure for his daughter? How did he hide the treasure for his daughter? Did he have it buried by the Waziri? Did they know of the daughter? Did he bury it before whatever happened to him to make him die slowly? WHY bury it at all? If the Waziri were his friends as that story seems that they were…WHY not just leave his daughter’s stuff with them to give to her? Why not write to her that he had her stuff left with them? WHY didn’t ANY Waziri know the story of her father or seem to? How did the letter get to her in the first place?

Then, we have no answers with Themba. Was that magic affecting him? WHY does he persist in not believing in magical stuff with all the stuff he’s seen before?

The show almost seemed to have a straight forward adventure story but once more filler comes into it by giving us the “Tarzan hasn’t found himself” yet idea. Sorry, this is not meaty enough for a full arc. Tarzan knows himself, at least the Tarzan of every other movie, book, and TV show and comic. Here, he seems lost in his dysfunction somehow. AND every episode seems to have him come to terms with himself, find himself and accept what it is that happened to him and his parents and his two worlds. AND then, like most shows before the 2000s or late 1990s, the show resets to go back to the beginning so the next episode can have Tarzan doubt himself.

And although we have Bujo (who I think was in a previous episode), he doesn’t come off as a good enough “bad guy” or a good enough “ally” either. And though we have him, Themba, Tasi, Sengi, and the Waziri, there’s not enough of a “universe” that seemed to make these shows popular. XENA, YOUNG HERCULES, HERCULES, MUTANT X, THE LOST WORLD, BEASTMASTER, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SINBAD, CLEOPATRA 2525, RELIC HUNTER and so many others had their own arcs and carry over ideas and characters from episode to episode. Tarzan seems to be trying to do that but not successfully.

None of the characters are as engaging as those in XENA and HERCULES, which this episode, in particular seems to be trying to emulate. There’s a small amount of humor here but not much, which was another staple of the well balanced XENA and HERCULES shows.

This tries almost too hard and then not hard enough. How did the father make that map? What was the shadow? Things are mentioned and not explained. What is Sengoma? How was the Dweller just …okay now and vanishes? The Dweller could have been the focus of an entire episode and clearly seems to be just filler, too. The whole fight ends prematurely.

Thus, this does not work as an action adventure, a horror story about a god and a dark dweller, or even a comedy. It has violence and some humor but it’s sort of falling flat in every department. We get no answers for Tarzan, for Themba, or even Bujo. The icon is saved and Bujo becomes chief. Tasi and Themba seem to move onto a new level of caring about each other and each other’s lives more but did it take something like this to make her interested in his life in Europe and America? And for him to accept his ways in Africa? It sort of makes them look as dysfunctional as Tarzan.

Thing is this aspires to be something that it probably has no right to aspire to or even reach for as a Tarzan adventure should be enough. Instead it does not work as a mystical message story or an action adventure.

Again, maybe I’m being too picky but I remember enjoying the early seasons of XENA (the first three) and HERCULES (the first four or so) immensely for the eclectic feel they had: one week they could be uproariously funny and the next tense and dramatic.

Hercules’ and Xena’s back stories were riveting and fully explained and detailed. When something was mentioned from mythology it went somewhere or was detailed enough and explained enough to matter. Things weren’t just mentioned in passing. Plots were fully balanced and logical given that universe.

TARZAN: THE EPIC ADVNETURES might not be, but it feels thrown together and haphazard with either Tarzan’s back story used as filler or the other traditional Tarzan stuff (the fights, the swinging through trees, the mystery, the tribes) thrown in as filler. It feels unsure what it wants to be and that comes across the TV screen in EVERY episode up to now, including this one.

It’s sad because Tarzan can be so much more than THIS. AND this is the second show in the 1990s that sort of came close but blew it. And both had great guys playing Tarzan but this one feels worse than the Wolf show in many ways. That at least had some sense and logic behind what it did, even when the plots were barely held together. These do not hold together, those did.

I get the idea that we don’t have to be told how to feel in every scene or what to think but some tone would be nice. The Dweller and the cave of traps should be scary and tense but it is all just kind of there. The Monster Outfit is a good one but it’s filmed so matter of fact as not to have any direction whatsoever. There’s no real making us feel anything of any kind throughout this episode, which the other episodes sort of did… at least more than this one. Maybe it’s the direction but it does not feel confident in what it wants to be and that makes us feel this is a waste of time.


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