Thursday, February 08, 2007

Tarzan the Fearless (and Fu Manchu)

I should've done a little reading up on Tarzan the Fearless before I watched it. I saw "Tarzan" and "Buster Crabbe" though and went, "Oooh! Cool!"

What I didn't realize was that I'd gotten a copy of the feature film version that had been made from the first four chapters of a twelve-episode serial. I knew that studios had a tendency to do that -- they did it with Crabbe's Flash Gordon serials and I've been warned against watching those versions -- but I didn't know that they'd done it here. Not until I started watching it anyway.

The movie opens with Tarzan's just swinging around and hanging out with Cheetah, then it cuts to a bunch of people trekking through the jungle trying to find this cute blonde's father, then it goes back to Tarzan who's now hanging out in a cabin with said Dad. That's where I started realizing that maybe this thing had been spliced together. A little while later there was a weird cut right after what would've been a typical end-of-episode cliffhanger and then the sudden introduction of a couple of bad guys who talked like they'd been scheming for a while (and I'm sure they had, only those conversations had been cut out). I gave up after that and didn't even finish, which is for the best since, like I said, it's only the first four episodes and ends in a cliffhanger.

Apparently, you can't get the 12-episode serial anymore, which is too bad because Crabbe is a charming Tarzan. It's annoying that he doesn't talk at all, but only grunts and pantomimes (at least in the parts I saw) and it's especially unfortunate that his loin cloth is a thong, but he's got a lot of personality and always looks like he's having fun. The girl (not Jane, so forget continuity) is also cute, and apparently there's an even cuter La-esque jungle priestess later on, but I never saw her. The plot (the girl's dad is captured by the jungle priestess' followers and needs rescuing) is classic Tarzan movie stuff too, so all-in-all I'm sorry I can't see the real version.

I also recently re-watched Boris Karloff in The Mask of Fu Manchu. Maybe I'm getting more sensitive in my old age, but I was more bothered this time by the racism than I was last time. I've typically been able to acknowledge this kind of thing as a product of its time and just enjoy the other aspects of it, but it's so prevalent in Mask that I had a hard time getting around it. Especially when Fu Manchu shows all of his Chinese followers a white woman and asks -- to thunderous applause -- if they'd like to kill all the white men and take their women. 'Cause, you know, all those Asian women just weren't doing it for them. But it wasn't just that. It was also the references to evil Chinese "gods" and strange Chinese science. I don't know, it just bothered me this time.

I'm interested in checking out some of Hammer's Fu Manchu films with Christopher Lee though. I'd like to see if 30 years made a difference in how pervasive the fear of Eastern cultures is in the films.

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails