I’m starting to think I might have been doing this for a while now. Keeping in mind there are still thousands of movies I want to write about, the film I was going to write about today, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (which turns 60 this year), I already wrote about two years ago. So being that I’m still in pulp action kind of mood today’s film is the 1966 adventure film Tarzan and the Valley of Gold.
Sol Lesser began producing Tarzan movies in 1943 with Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan. The films had started in the 1930’s at MGM. Weissmuller started there and the films were a huge success despite not being true to the source material. The most notable change was the way Tarzan talked. In Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novels, Tarzan was a raised in the jungle but he was taught many languages and grew up to take over his birthright as Lord Greystroke. In the films Tarzan was reduced to speaking in a monosyllable style. Weissmuller made six films at MGM before the franchise moved to RKO with Lesser producing them. Lesser didn’t want to mess with success so he kept the pidgin speak. Weissmuller had another six Tarzan films (twelve total) when he decided he was getting too old for the role. He was replaced with Lex Barker (who made five Tarzan films) and then Gordon Scott took over the role.
After four films with Scott, Sol Lesser stepped down as producer. Sy Weintraub took over as producer and quickly decided that he wanted the films closer to the source material. The next film in 1959 ditched the pidgin speak and Gordon Scott’s Tarzan suddenly became an educated adventurer. Scott did one more film and then the role passed on to Jock Mahoney who only made two Tarzan films. By now it was the middle of the 1960’s . James Bond had appeared on screen and changed action films forever. Mike Henry took over the role of Tarzan and his first film was Tarzan and the Valley of Gold.
The film has a James Bond feel to the adventure. The plot has to do with an evil villain named Augustus Vinero (David Opatoshu) who has a habit of blowing up his enemies with exploding watches and necklaces. Vinero is looking for the lost Valley of Gold and has kidnapped a young boy who might know the way. Vinero has several mercenaries at his disposal as well as a couple of tanks. Tarzan is called in to help the boy but arrives too late. He goes after Vinero and the boy and the race to the valley is on.
The film is stupid but fun to watch and it reminds me of cheesy adventure films like Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze. The film features what might be one of the earliest deaths by product placement and Mike Henry made two more Tarzan movies before moving on. Henry became more famous for his role as Junior in the Smokey and the Bandit movies. That’s right Henry went from an articulate Tarzan to Jackie Gleason’s idiot son. Quite a career.
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