Saturday, May 7, 2011

King of the Jungle

Not that I ever want Caliban's Revenge to be about the same things over and over, but it's not nearly about hot men enough for my tastes. Combine hot men and movies... well. A little gratuitous skin in the guise of a semi-serious discussion about movies, anyone? I'm in.
With the upcoming John Carter of Mars and the return of Conan, I thought it may well be time to resurrect yet another classic character, Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan of the Apes. The last serious attempt was Greystoke, starring Christopher Lambert and Andie McDowell in her film premiere; a performance so incomprehensible that Glen Close was brought in to dub every single line of her dialog.

Of course, Tarzan movies have been around almost as long as the character has. 1918 Tarzan made his film debut with Elmo Lincoln in the title role. In the 1930's and 40's Tarzan was played on screen by several actors, including Buster Crabbe; Bruce Bennett and Glenn Morris. But it's Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller who is most associated with the character, having played Tarzan in 12 films from 1932 to 1964. 

After Weissmuller came Lex Barker; Gordon Scott; Mike Henry; and Jock Mahoney, among others. While all of them were able to pull of the loincloth, not all of them were really right for the character who in Burroughs' books is a British royal raised by apes. These actors could n't be more American-looking if they tried. But the best example of this is from the 52 episodes of the 1966 - 1968 NBC Series "Tarzan," which starred the the whitest-looking actor they could find in Ron Ely. The preppy-looking Ely was as ridiculous as the show's premise in which Lord Greystoke has tired of his educated life and returned to protect the jungle home in which he was raised. This Tarzan mostly fought poachers, if I remember correctly. If he did fight an animal, it was only to save a fellow human being. There were quite a few Tarzans between then and director John Derek's 1981 stinker starring O'Keefe and Jonathan Harris, which which simply a super softcore showcase for the then superstar wife, Bo Derek (10).

You gotta love a movie that isn't afraid to have soaking wet Bo Derek utter lines like "I'm still a virgin..." while coyly munching a banana with a half-naked savage in the middle of a waterfall pool.

Joe Lara took on the role for a CBS TV movie in 1989 and an unrelated syndicated series, "Tarzan: The Epic Adventures," which ran for one season.

1998 saw Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers) once again attempt to prove he's not as dumb as looks in 1998's Tarzan and the Lost City. Dreadful doesn't even begin to describe this completely inept movie. 

Then 1999 saw the House of Mouse's take on the property with an animated musical version featuring songs by Phil Collins -- who, (IMHO) completely ruined Genesis - but that's a discussion for another topic.  

And even though Tarzan wasn't one of their biggest hits, Disney tried to recreate their previous Broadway successes with a stage version starring Josh Strickland (pictured at the top of this post). The show ran for 14 months, despite complaints from patrons who paid top dollar for orchestra seating, half of which had exceptionally obstructed views for a full third of the first act. It may not have had the technical difficulties of a certain Superhero musical currently struggling on Broadway, but it was Disney's first Broadway flop after monster hits with Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King

In 2003, the WB tried to resurrect the character again in their own series. It starred Travis Fimmel and lasted all of 8 episodes.

You can see a fairly comprehensive list of actors who have played Tarzan on film and television here.

So Uncle P was thinking maybe it's time to reboot the character again, but return to the source material. An iconic character deserves a good modern version, set in the correct period with reverence to the source. Burroughs' prolific output provides material for a long-running franchise, if it's done right. And a lot of that has to do with casting. 

With that in mind, I'm going to offer up a few choices for who might make a good Tarzan in a reboot and ask you to tell me who you think would be the perfect Tarzan.

Who Shouold Play Tarzan in a Modern Reboot?

Create an online survey quiz or web poll
Taylor Kitsch0%
Jason Mamoa0%
Travis Fimmel0%
Josh Strickland0%
Josh Halloway0%
Chris Hemsworth0%
Taylor Lautner0%
Other: (Please specify)0%
Create an online survey quiz or web poll

I can't wait to see the results!

More, anon.


Anonymous said...

My vote is for Taylor since I don't really know the others - except Josh.

There may be a problem with the poll, when I tried to vote, I got an error message.

Stephen said...

How about Channing Tatum? He can hardly speak English...