TARZAN THE APE MAN (1932)
***/**** Image B- Sound B+
starring Johnny Weissmuller, Neil Hamilton, C. Aubrey Smith, Maureen O'Sullivan
adaptation by Cyril Hume; dialogue by Ivor Novello
based on characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs
directed by W.S. Van Dyke
by Bill Chambers As with most "origin" Tarzan films, Tarzan himself is an off-screen promise for the first third of Tarzan the Ape Man, though his famous yodel (which the studio maintains was artificially created) portends his appearance about ten minutes before he actually materializes. Likewise, as with most origin Tarzans, this one has become something of a viewing formality: The basics of Tarzan are pop-culture fundamentals passed down through the generations as if by osmosis, and so any film that aims to tell the story from scratch is bound to seem a little sluggish. It's remarkable, then, that Tarzan the Ape Man, in addition to exhibiting a surprising immunity to the ravages of time, is also mostly spared the contempt born of familiarity. Cutie-pie Maureen O'Sullivan essays the talkies' first Jane, who joins her father James's (C. Aubrey Smith) expedition in Africa and immediately casts a spell on dad's right-hand man, Harry Holt (Neil Hamilton). Once they begin their treacherous journey across the Mutia escarpment, beyond which allegedly lies an elephant graveyard that James and co. plan to raid for its ivory, Jane meets her true intended, the monosyllabic, acrobatic Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller). Though Tarzan more or less abducts Jane, their compatibility is such that she refutes her father's claim that Tarzan belongs to the jungle when she's reunited with the caravan. "Not now. He belongs to me," she pouts.