Wednesday, August 28, 2019

CONSENSUS #62 - Battleship Potemkin (1925)



SYNOPSIS: "Battleship Potemkin" is a Russian silent film about the crew of a battleship during the Revolution of 1905. The sailors revolt due to mistreatment while in the port of Odessa. The citizens of Odessa back the men, but the government forces are prepared to quell the rebellion.

BACK-STORY: Battleship Potemkin is a combination war movie / propaganda piece. It was meant to be one part of an eight part series on the Revolution of 1905. It turned out to be the only one in the series that ended up being made. It did not have the intended inspirational effect as it was not warmly embraced by the Russian people. It actually lost the box office to Robin Hood the opening week. It was a big hit outside Russia, however. The movie is justifiably famous and is considered Sergei Einsteins masterpiece. It has been oft-copied by other directors. The film is divided into five parts: (1) Men and Maggots (2) Drama on Deck (3) A Dead Man Calls for Justice (4) The Odessa Staircase (5) The Rendezvous with a Squadron. Interestingly, the staircase scene was not planned as part of the movie and was added during production.

TRIVIA:  Wikipedia, imdb
1.  The movie was rushed to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Revolution of 1905.

2.  Eisenstein used lots of non-professional actors.  He was more interested in “types” of persons.

3.  The original script called for several episodes, but due to time pressure, Eisenstein pared it down to basically the uprising on the battleship.

4.  The movie was banned in the United Kingdom longer than any other film in British history.  It was not screened until 1954.

5.  There was no massacre on the Odessa Steps, but troops did shoot into crowds in Odessa.

6.  It was Charlie Chaplin’s favorite movie.

7.  Brian DePalma reenacted the Odessa Steps Massacre scene in his movie “The Untouchables”.

8.  Eisenstein used a battleship that had been beached to mark a sand bank.  This is why you do not see the movie ship from a distance.

Belle and Blade  =  N/A
Brassey’s              =  5.0
Video Hound       =  4.4
War Movies         =  N/A 
Military History  =  #47
Channel 4             =  no
Film Site                =  yes
101 War Movies  =  no
Rotten Tomatoes  =  no


OPINION: Once again we have a movie that is obviously one of the greatest war movies, but not necessarily one of the best. It is interesting and does a good job covering an important historical event. It is very influential and is still studied. This influence has been basically on films in general, not particularly on war movies, however.  It is a classic that holds up well. You do not have to be a film historian to recognize the brilliance of Einsteins direction. His innovations of montages and cross-cutting are apparent in their importance to the evolution of movie-making. The staircase scene alone is worth the price of admission.  Since this is a list of the “greatest” war movies, I would say it is appropriately ranked at #62.


Saturday, August 24, 2019

PICTURE, QUOTE, MOVIE #66


1.  What movie is the picture from?

2.  What movie is this quote from?

This isn't a hospital! It's an insane asylum, and it's your fault!


3.  What movie is this?


It had one of the most famous productions in cinema history.  The director insisted on filming half the movie on location in Uganda and the Congo.  The production was beset by climate, critters, and diseases.  Virtually the entire cast and crew suffered with the notable exceptions of the director and the male star  who inoculated themselves with copious amounts of alcohol.  The teetotaler female lead later wrote of enjoying the experience, but had to overcome dysentery, drunken pranks from the other two, and the director’s unique directing style.  (Clint Eastwood later made a film about the production entitled “White Hunter Black Heart”.)  The movie was a big hit with audiences and critics.  It turned out the suits that dismissed an action / romance about an older couple would be icky were wrong.  The male lead won his only Oscar and the film was nominated for Director, Adapted Screenplay, and Actress.  IN the most recent AFI ranking of the best movies it placed #65.

  

Sunday, August 18, 2019

CRACKER? The Gallant Hours (1960)




                        I waited for years to see this movie and finally it appeared on TCM's recent orgy of war movies.  I had read that it is a possible best 100 movie.  “The Gallant Hours” was a joint project by Robert Montgomery and James Cagney.  The close friends had been looking for a movie to make together.  Montgomery had served under Admiral William Halsey in the Pacific and got the idea for a movie about him when he attended Halsey’s 75th birthday party in 1957.  Cagney agreed to come out of retirement to play Halsey and he and Montgomery co-produced the film.  Montgomery directed, it was his last film.  The screenplay was written by Frank Gilroy and Beirne Lay, Jr (“12 O’Clock High”).  Halsey was given 10% of the profits.  He was interviewed twice by Cagney (who also interviewed many of Halsey’s staff).  Cagney made the decision to not try to copy Halsey’s mannerisms, but when Halsey and his son visited the set, the son remarked that Cagney looked just like his father did in 1942.  Cagney later said it was his most difficult role.  The movie was a moderate box office success.  Sadly, Halsey died in 1959 before he could see the film.

                        It opens impressively with a choir singing “Away He Went”. That would be a good title for Halsey’s performance in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, but this movie covers five weeks in 1942 during the Guadalcanal campaign.  The framing device is Halsey’s retirement as a five star admiral in 1945.  From there we flash back to October 16, 1942.  Halsey and members of his staff, including Lt. Commander Lowe (Dennis Weaver), are on a trip by PBY to Guadalcanal.  Halsey has a hunch and diverts to Noumea.  Good thing because Yamamoto (James Goto, who also served as a technical adviser) has sent Zeros to intercept.  At Noumea, Halsey receives order from Nimitz to relieve Adm. Ghormley as commander of forces in the South Pacific.  Halsey is old friends with Ghormley and it is an uncomfortable meeting.  Halsey is modest and understanding.  “You didn’t do anything wrong.  I’m gonna get credit for what you started”.  Halsey may have believed that, but historians don’t.  Halsey meets with all his subordinate commanders and the movie drops a lot of names, if you are familiar with the war in the Pacific.  He takes charge and visits Guadalcanal.  It is a big morale boost as Halsey is a very popular leader.  The Marines love his aggressive spirit (“Strike, repeat, strike!”) and the Navy was desperately in need of a fighter.  He talks to various Marines on the island, including ace Joe Foss, Chaplain Frederic Gehring, and future Yamamoto assassin Thomas Lanphier.  Two of the Marines are the sons of Cagney and Montgomery in uncredited roles.  The movie covers Halsey’s decision making through the next five weeks.  This encompasses the naval Battles of Santa Cruz and Guadalcanal.  It concludes with the shooting down of Halsey.  There are ups and downs, but Halsey is imperturbable.  He’s bothered more by having to get injections than the crisis he is dealing with.   In the end, we win and Halsey’s reputation is not tarnished by some of his questionable decisions later in the war.  He retires with no mention of these.

                        “The Gallant Hours” is not your standard biopic because it covers such a limited amount of Halsey’s life.  However, it is certainly about him.  In fact, although a war movie, there is no combat in it.  We get background and aftermath only for the two naval battles and the mission to kill Yamamoto.  The lack of action is made up for by some unusual features.  As each historical figure is introduced, a narrator (Montgomery) gives us a little mini-biography.  Some of the information is amusingly trivial.  Did you know Halsey “once owned a parrot”?  These identifications include the Japanese characters, like Yamamoto.  We even find out who a corpse was!  The Japanese were brave, too.  The movie intercuts between Halsey and his crew and Yamamoto and his.  The Japanese are not subtitled, but the narrator summarizes what they say.  There is a lot of narration in this movie, possibly a record for a war movie.   As to be expected for a 1960 Pacific war movie, the Japanese are portrayed as worthy adversaries.  Something that Halsey never acknowledged, by the way.

                        If you are a Halsey fan you will not be disappointed, there is nothing controversial in the movie.  In fact, there are no warts on anyone, including the Japanese.  Cagney plays Halsey well, but you don’t get the impression that he could be Pattonesque.  However, kudos to the film for erring in the right direction as Halsey was actually a modest man who was not out for glory, but did know how to give aggressive quotes to the press.  Tellingly, the script leaves out his famous reaction to getting Ghormley’s job:  “Jesus Christ and General Jackson!  This is the hottest potato they ever handed me.”   The rest of the cast is fine, with lots of familiar faces including Richard Jaeckel, naturally.  Dennis Weaver was second-billed and it was his first big movie splash.  He had won an Emmy the year before for “Gunsmoke”.  He is excellent as the wolf (since Halsey could not be portrayed in that role, although it would have fit him and earned him his nickname “Bull”).  Montgomery does a good job at directing and has some verve to his compositions, but this is balanced by the overly choral music.

                        The movie is admirably accurate (see below), with one major chronology license.  It is a good semi-documentary on command decisions on the American side (not so much in the Japanese scenes), but you’ll learn little about what actually happened in the two battles and the shoot down.  Cagney/Montgomery productions must not have been able to afford the models.  

                        Will it crack my 100 Best War Movies list?  No.  It was a disappointment because it sugarcoats the controversial Halsey.  I'll be truthful in admitting I am not a Halsey fan and find him overrated.  You can see some of the reason for this inflated reputation based on this movie.  It highlights one of his greatest moments in the war and gives no hint of some of his mistakes.  Surprisingly, it does not give a hint at another reason why he was overrated - his relationship with the press.  A main factor in his fame was his quote-worthiness which caused the press to lionize him.  The movie presents a rather boring Halsey.  With that said, the movie is entertaining if you consider the fact that it was made before Hollywood could do a realistic portrayal of a controversial figure.  It is not fair to compare it to "Patton".  It deserves some credit for being different with its lack of combat and the unusual narration.

HISTORICAL ACCURACY:  I found no evidence that Halsey was on a PBY trip to Guadalcanal when he diverted to Noumea.  It is highly unlikely Yamamoto tried to shoot him down.  This was most likely a clumsy attempt to foreshadow the mission against Yamamoto.  In fact, Nimitz had sent Halsey to Noumea because he had himself visited Guadalcanal (which Ghormley never did) and had decided to relieve him.  When Halsey arrived at Noumea, he was met with the orders to relieve Ghormley.  They were good friends and the changeover was appropriately awkward.  I imagine Halsey had kind words for his friend, but Ghormley had done a bad job and was suffering from defeatism.  They may have been old friends, but Halsey’s command style was almost the opposite of Ghormley.  Nimitz certainly made the right decision.  The movie mentions, but does not depict the crisis on Guadalcanal.  The critters, the diseases, the lack of supplies (partly because of the cautious policies of Ghormley), the Tokyo Express (a visit from whom Halsey experiences on his first night on the island), and the lack of naval support.  Halsey did promise Gen. Vandegrift everything he requested and delivered as best he could.  He did divert an army unit from another mission without approval.  The trip to Guadalcanal actually happened after the Battle of Santa Cruz.  The visit was probably enhance with the encounters with Foss and Lanphier, but he did talk to many Marines and made a very positive impression.  The movie correctly describes Santa Cruz as a tactical defeat, but as Halsey argued it was a strategic win because it blunted a Japanese attempt to reinforce Guadalcanal.  The movie implies Halsey sent Admirals Scott and Calahan to intercept a Japanese fleet, leading to the naval Battle of Guadalcanal in which they were both killed.  Actually, Admiral Turner ordered them to be aggressive.  Surprisingly, for a movie obsessed with identifying even corpses, Scott and Calahan are not identified when they meet with Halsey.  Halsey did send a star to each of their wives.  The movie mentions the sinking of the battleship Kirishima as a post script to indicate Halsey had won the campaign.  In reality, the sinking occurred on the second day of the Battle of Guadalcanal.  Squeezed in between the two days (and months out of order) comes the Yamamoto mission, which was in April, 1943.  In the movie, Halsey finds out about Yamamoto’s trip because the Japanese code has just been broken, when it actually had been broken before Midway.  I can not criticize the movie for having Lanphier as the assassin when he was given credit at the time and still was believed to be in 1960.  In turns out, there is a stronger case to be made for Rex Barker, who does not appear in the movie.  As far as Halsey’s personality, Cagney gives a one-dimensional portrayal.  He gets the modesty right and the charismatic leadership, but the movie omits his Pattonesque bluster for the press.  When asked about his strategy, he famously said “Kill Japs, kill Japs, and keep on killing Japs”.  On the other hand, he allowed for his men to dispense with ties in the tropical heat.  It’s these contradictions that make Halsey a prime candidate for a full-scale biopic.  He and MacArthur are the two closest personalities to Patton in the Pacific.  Of course, that type of warts and all flick could not have been made in 1960.  Certainly not with Navy and Halsey’s approval.

GRADE  =  B-

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

CONSENSUS #63 - Gettysburg (1993)



SYNOPSIS: "Gettysburg" is based on the novel "Killer Angels". It tells the story of the Battle of Gettysburg mainly from the command perspective.  The movie covers all three days of the battle and concentrates on the fight for Little Round Top and Pickett’s Charge.  Although the main unit covered is Joshua Chamberlain’s (Jeff Daniels) 20th Maine, the movie is mostly from the Southern perspective.

BACK-STORY: Gettysburg is a war movie that began as a TV miniseries produced by Ted Turner. The finished product pleased the millionaire so much that he decided to release it to movie theaters. It may be the longest American movie (254 minutes) ever to appear in theaters. It appeared in a limited number of cinemas and did not recoup its cost, but the publicity was golden and when it was first shown on Turner Broadcasting Network, it was the most viewed basic cable program up to that time. The movie is based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. The title was changed to the battle name after it was discovered that potential viewers thought the original title indicated a motorcycle gang movie. The National Park Service allowed filming on site, although much of the action was lensed at a nearby farm. The film made use of over 5,000 reenactors. There are also cameos by Ted Turner and Ken Burns. Turner is killed during Picketts Charge (rumor has it by Jane Fonda masquerading as a Union soldier). Burns plays an aide to Hancock.

TRIVIA:  Wikipedia, imdb
1.  The movie is based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel “Killer Angels” by Michael Shaara.  It was going to be entitled eponymously, but test audiences thought it was a biker movie. 
2.  The project was pitched to ABC as a miniseries, but after “Son of the Morning Star” flopped, ABC passed.  Ted Turner picked it up. 
3.  Turner has a cameo as Confederate Colonel Waller Patton (“Old Blood and Guts” great uncle).  The real Patton was actually hit in the face by shrapnel during Pickett’s Charge. 
4.  Ken Burns, the famed documentarian, appears as an aide to Gen. Hancock.  Historian Brian Pohanka is the Union officer who gathers all the swords after Pickett’s Charge. 
5.  It was the first time the National Parks Service allowed filming at Gettysburg.  The scenes at Devil’s Den and Little Round Top were filmed on site.  The rest of the film was done at a nearby farm.
6.  In postproduction, Turner decided the movie was good enough to be released in theaters.  At 271 minutes, it was the longest American film to ever appear in theaters.  It appeared in 248 theaters.  The TV premiere drew a record audience. 
7.  Over 13,000 reenactors took part in the film.  They were in Gettysburg for the 125th Anniversary of the battle. 
8.  Sam Elliott was  the only star who treated his uniform so it looked old and worn.  He did the treatment in his hotel room.
9.  The movie cut a Chamberlain brother.  John, a doctor, was with the 20th Maine on Little Round Top. 
10.  The ASPCA commended the film for its treatment of horses.  The explosions were low-noise to avoid scaring the horses. 
11.  Stephen Lang was actually thrown from his horse during Pickett’s Charge. 
12.  Longstreet was Tom Berenger’s favorite role.
Belle and Blade  =  4.5
Brassey’s              =  5.0
Video Hound       =  4.4
War Movies         =  N/A
Military History  =  #46
Channel 4             =  no
Film Site                =  yes
101 War Movies  =  no
Rotten Tomatoes  =  no 

OPINION: Gettysburg has been harshly judged by critics who are not familiar with the Civil War, "The Killer Angels", or the way people talked and groomed in the 1860s.  If you criticize the screenplay, you are essentially criticizing a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. The movie follows the book very closely. The dialogue is almost word for word from the book, which is a good thing. It could be argued that the movie improves on the book. There is little reason to read the novel if you see the movie.   Thanks to the magnificent reenactors, we get two of the great battle scenes – the defense of Little Round Top and Pickett’s Charge.  It is the second best Civil War movie, behind “Glory”.  It belongs much higher on this list.

Friday, August 9, 2019

THE 9th ANNIVERSARY: More American Graffiti (1979)



                        I’ve been so busy setting up my web site (more on that in a future post) that I lost track that my ninth anniversary passed on August 4, 2019.  886 posts later, I am still enthused with this blog.  I’ve come a long way since starting it.  Originally, the idea was to review the 100 Greatest War Movies, according to Military History magazine.  It quickly morphed into an attempt to review other war movies as well.  Little did I know how many war movies there are!  I would need a second lifetime to watch just the non-sucky ones.  At this point, in the last nine years, I have watched around 700 war movies.  I am still working on my 100 Best War Movies and I am close to compiling that list.  I have seen every possible contender, with the exception of some like “Ice Cold in Alex”.

                        I like to do special movies for my anniversary posts and this one is no different.  Most people are not even aware there was a sequel to “American Graffiti”.  However, I have a special relation to this movie.  I almost got fired for showing it in my American History class.  I won’t bore you with the details.  It was a combination of a bad decision on my part and overreaction by my superiors.  Anyway, I survived and had not seen the movie since then.  It was made six years after “American Graffiti” which was probably too late to rekindle the fire.  George Lucas chose up and coming Bill Norton to write and direct the film.  The fact he made only two more films after it tells you something about his effort.  He blamed the critical drubbing he took on Lucas' hands-on approach to the production.  It was Coppola’s idea to do the movie in four intertwined threads, each in a different style.  Coppola also did some editing of the screenplay and some editing of the final product.  He shot some of the Vietnam War sequences.  The movie cost eight times more than the original, but it was only a minor box office success.  It was not the bomb that many assumed.

                        The movie opens with helicopters jockeying over Vietnam, but quickly shifts to a drag racing track on New Year’s Eve in 1964.  This places it two years after the last day of school depicted in “American Graffiti”.  The movie updates us on what is happening in the lives of the main (and some periphery) characters from the original.  Milner (Paul Le Mat) is now an official drag racer, hoping to move up to the big time.  He is visited by Steve (Ron Howard in his last credited live-action role), Laurie (Cindy Williams), Debbie (Candy Clark) and Toad (Charles Martin Smith).  Toad is about to ship out to Vietnam.  Suddenly, we are exactly one year later in Vietnam with him.  This is the first inkling that the movie is going to be nonlinear and multi-thread.  One thread covers Milner’s day at the races and his wooing of a foreign exchange student.  Toad’s thread has him doing his best to get himself out of the war.  He is a co-pilot on a chopper and Joe of the Pharaohs (Bo Hopkins) is the door gunner.  On New Years Eve, 1966, Debbie is a hippie living with her boyfriend and Carol (Mackenzie Phillips) who is now called “Rainbow”.  Harrison Ford shows up in a cameo that is discomforting because the movie feels its necessary to literally spell out that he is Falfa.  Pretty lame for a movie that tries to be intelligent.  Debbie will get involved with an acid rock band headed by Newt (Scott Glenn).  And lastly, we time jump to 1967 where Laurie and Steve are unhappily married.  This thread touches on women’s lib as Laurie wants to get a job and Steve is playing the traditional male Neanderthal.  Laurie’s brother is an anti-war protester so the movie is headed for campus and pigs beating on peaceniks. 
 
                        For a sequel, this movie could not be much more different from the original.  Where “American Graffiti” covered one night, this covers four days a year apart.  In the original, the arcs of the main characters intertwine in a linear narrative, in this movie the threads are not connected and are nonlinear.  Then there is the tonal shifts from sequence to sequence.  Toad’s Vietnam is filmed in grainy 16 mm. hand-held to give it a news footage feel.  Milner’s drag racing day is done wide-angle with a stationary camera.  Laurie’s day of revelation is done as an homage to the student rebellion films like “The Strawberry Statement”.  Most ambitious, and most memorable, is Debbie’s trip (get it?).  This is done in the style of the “Woodstock” documentary (and even includes Country Joe singing “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag” in case you don’t get it).  It is multi-screen, sometimes very multi.  It may turn some viewers off, but I felt Debbie’s story was the most interesting to watch.  Plus, Candy Clark is very hot as a hippie chick.  Of course, I think Toad in the Nam is the most entertaining and what makes the movie clearly a war movie.  Although played mostly for laughs, it has a cynical verisimilitude to it.  For instance, Toad attempts to give himself a self-inflicted wound and instead causes his base camp to think it is under attack.  The camp reacts with extreme prejudice, including a napalm strike.  It, of course, is reported as a big victory with a large body count.  There is also a segment that involves a fragging.  There is some action, but it looks low budget and half-assed.  There’s a nice helicopter crash and Charles Martin Smith is all-in and carries the film similar to his performance in the original. 

                        Milner’s drag racing and romancing is most similar to the original film in that nothing of consequence happens.  Paul Le Mat, aware of his career trajectory (which was the opposite of the no-show Richard Dreyfuss’), puts in a good effort.  For those of you aware of Milner’s demise, foreshadowed at the end of “American Graffiti”, the movie brings poignant closure.  The Laurie story is an instructive, if simplistic, take on the anti-war movement.  Laurie plays the conservative pro-war kool-aid drinker and her brother Andy (Will Seltzer) is your stereotypical dove.   He burns his draft card.  Steve and Laurie are hipped to the scene and reconciled in the process.  This is the weakest New Year’s Eve.

                        “More American Graffiti” took a critical beating that was not justified.  While it is not able to recapture the magic of the original, it is a must-see for lovers of “American Graffiti”.  You may be frustrated with it being a misfire, but it is a chance to revisit the characters and see what happens to them.  I personally admired the gutsiness of the four different threads approach, especially Debbie’s.  And you get another wonderful soundtrack full of classic sixties hits.  If you decide to show it to your class, skip Debbie’s meeting with her strip club boss.

GRADE =  C+
Harrison Ford's caneo



Tuesday, August 6, 2019

PICTURE, QUOTE, MOVIE QUIZ #65


1.  What movie is the picture from?

2.  What movie is this quote from?

That was an order! Steiner's assault was an order! Who do you think you are to dare disobey an order I give? So this is what it has come to! The military has been lying to me. Everybody has been lying to me, even the SS! Our generals are just a bunch of contemptible, disloyal cowards.

3.  What movie is this?  


  It is loosely based on the novel by Richard Hooker.  The screenplay was by ex-blacklistee Ring Lardner, Jr.  He was upset with the liberties (ex. Improvisations) the director took with the script, but still accepted the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.  Lardner was not the only one upset with Altman.  The two lead actors tried to get him fired because they did not like his gonzo directing style.  The director also had trouble with the suits.  They wanted him to take out the graphic operation visuals, but backed down partly because they were distracted by their two big projects – “Patton” and “Tora! Tora! Tora!”.  The studio did succeed in insisting on references to the Korean War be inserted into the film so noone would mistake it for Vietnam.  Mission not accomplished.  14 of the top 30 actors were making their movie debuts.  The film was a smash hit as it tapped into the iconoclastic mood of the early 70s.  It was nominated for five Academy Awards (Picture, Director, Screenplay, Editing, and Supporting Actress).  It won the Golden Globe for Best Comedy or Musical.  It won the Palme D’Or at Cannes.  It is #54 on the AFI list of all movies and #7 on the Comedy list.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

“Now Tarzan Go to War” – Tarzan Triumphs (1943)



          With the advent of World War II, M-G-M decided to dump the Tarzan franchise.  50% of the grosses had come from overseas markets which the studio had seen dry up.  Producer Sol Lesser and RKO were happy to pick up the rights.  M-G-M also traded Johnny Weismuller, Johhny Sheffield, and Cheetah, but not Maureen O’Sullivan.  The excuse was that O’Sullivan was a contract player, but the truth was that Mrs. O’Sullivan was sick of playing Jane and looked at the shift to RKO as a way out.  RKO cast Frances Gifford as the jungle babe.  She had caught eyes starring in a serial called “Jungle Girl”.   (Probably that credit on her resume was sufficient to get the role of “jungle girl”.)   M-G-M, in a dick move, refused to allow Lesser to use the iconic Tarzan yell.  The yell in the movie is abbreviated and weaker.  “Tarzan Triumphs” was the first RKO release after six made by M-G-M.  It was the first Tarzan movie that could be classified as a war movie.  The U.S. State Department encouraged Lesser to make a morale-booster.  This was something of a challenge considering previous films had made it clear Tarzan was a pacifist and previous outings had supported isolationism.  I’m sure director William Thiele, an Austrian, was up for the challenge.

                        For those in the audience concerned about the switch to RKO, the opening scene opens comfortingly with Boy (Sheffield) riding with Cheetah (sigh of relief!) on an elephant (Bully).  Boy says “ungawa”.  Jane may have taught Tarzan English, but Tarzan taught Boy Junglish.  Boy sees the lost city of Palandrya (it’s only a model) and then proceeds to fall off the cliff.  He is rescued by the Wonder Woman-looking Zandra (Gifford).   We learn that Jane is in London with her ailing mother.  She mentions the Blitz in a letter.  The war seems far away, but it intrudes via an “iron bird” carrying Nazi paratroopers.  A Captain Bausch had lived with the Palandryans and clued der Fuhrer in on their exploitable resources.  Their mission is to conquer the “haven of peace” (like they did to Austria).  This will be easier than Poland.  At first, Tarzan refuses to get involved.  “Jungle people only fight to live, civilized people live to fight.”  The only exception is if a jungle person’s son is captured by bad guys.  “Now Tarzan make war”.  So much for isolationism.

                        I had not seen a Weismuller Tarzan movie since my childhood.  I have fond memories, but as an adult I have learned that it’s usually not good to tamper with childhood movies.  They usually don’t hold up.  Plus, this Tarzan movie is a war movie, which means it was jumping genres.  I had no expectation that it would even be decent.  I watched it because my brother Jason is a huge Tarzan fan and he recommended it.  I was skeptical, but what the hell.  I have reviewed “The Incredible Mister Limpet”. 

                        If you are a Weismuller Tarzan fan and a war movie fan, this movie is right up your jungle trail.  The RKO features were lower budget.  The Palandrya set was recycled from “Gunga Din” (1939).  The movie makes up for the lower budget by upping the body count (a Tarzan record).  Fourteen Nazis are killed and they all deserve it.  The deaths are varied and range from being eaten by cannibal fish to being lured into a lion trap.  Most of the killings are done by Tarzan, but he doesn’t hog all the fun.  Boy kills one with a pistol and Cheetah uses a machine gun.  Because he’s Cheetah.  In fact, the movie would have been more accurately entitled “Cheetah Triumphs” or better yet, “Now Tarzan Go to War” (a line that drew applause from audiences). 

                        Thiele knows he is making a Tarzan movie, so he includes the swimming scene and the crocodiles and the vine-swinging.  It’s a war movie, but he doesn’t force in war footage.  Instead, we get the usual wildlife footage.  The swim scene involves some flirting with Zandra which would have enraged Jane, but did not impress the studio execs.  It was deemed that Gifford did not have enough chemistry with Weismuller so this was her last Tarzan film.  By the way, somehow she manages to change from her cleavagey Wonder Woman costume to more modest swimwear.  But then again, the Nazis packed pith helmets to replace their army helmets, so the movie is costume-fluid.  Thiele does not force some Tarzan tropes into a war movie.  Tarzan does not wrestle with a crocodile (or any other animal).  He does not enlist the animal kingdom.     However, he does rescue a damsel in distress and battles civilized villains.  It is a Tarzan movie, after all.

                        Weismuller was near the midway point of his Tarzan career and he is still virile and physical.  He is not at the O’Sullivan stage.  He doesn’t just go through the motions.  It helps that the cast is better than average.  The two main Nazi baddies are not buffoons and they don’t chew too much jungle.  More importantly, the sergeant is played by Sig Ruman (who played Schultz in “Stalag 17”).  He brings some comic relief, but comes out a distant second to the incomparable Cheetah.  That chimp was dynamite!  I recently watched several service comedies that had less laughs than were provided by that monkey.  Stick around for the end where Nazi officials mistake Cheetah for Hitler.

                        “Tarzan Triumphs” is the best Tarzan war movie.  I know it has little, or no, competition, but it is not a bad war movie.  It is a fun watch and it was able to make the leap to a different genre without embarrassing the series.  I would guess the State Department was pleased with it.

GRADE =  B-