Tarzan Revisited
R0 - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (3rd February 2018).
The Film

"Tarzan Revisited" (2017)

After his first appearance in 1912 in an American pulp magazine, Edgar Rice Burroughs' literary character Tarzan became one of the most significant pop culture characters of the 20th century and the first quintessential superhero. Published in over 20 novels and translated into more than 50 languages, the story of a feral boy raised by great apes was an immediate sensation, spawning radio shows, newspaper comic strips, graphic novels, multiple TV series and countless movies.
Though the vine-swinging Tarzan proved hugely popular amongst audiences, he was often met with much controversy and criticism. Despite the many heated debates surrounding Tarzan, the character nonetheless became a versatile vehicle for highlighting important topics including animal cruelty, colonialism, slavery and the current morals of society. Even Tarzan's primitivist "return to nature" philosophy remains relevant today, further illustrating why this legendary figure has endured generations of cultural change and continues to be such a compelling and timeless hero.
From past to present, "Tarzan Revisited" explores the character's extraordinary evolution, giving a detailed overview of how he was first created, behind-the-scenes stories surrounding his innumerable media incarnations, and a fascinating insight into his longevity and legacy in pop culture.


With a history of over 100 years in various forms of media, the character of Tarzan still continues to inspire and amaze, even with the latest cinematic incarnation - 2016's feature film "The Legend of Tarzan" grossing $356 million worldwide. Starting from books, evolving into comics, cinema, radio, and television, the basic core of the boy raised in the jungles who could talk to nature basically stayed the same through the years along with the themes of love and death, cultural differences, deforestation, the human connection to nature, and what it means to be "civilized". Interestingly Edgar Rice Burroughs never visited Africa, but based many of his works on the news and images of the day, when there was an African cultural boom for the exotic and the unexplored. The first incarnation of Tarzan on the screen was in 1918's "Tarzan of the Apes" which was directly based on the original 1912 novel of the same name. During the silent years there were dozens who played the brawly character, but it was in the sound era when MGM Studios recruited five-time Olympic medalist Johnny Weissmuller to play the role into staggering success. Tarzan may have been well known, but Weissmuller turned him into a major worldwide cinematic icon with a series of twelve movies from 1932 to 1948.

"Tarzan Revisted" mostly looks at the cinematic incarnations of Tarzan over the century, featuring interviews with actors, directors, historians, biographers, and critics sharing their thoughts over the character and its popularity over the years. Ron Ely, Christopher Lambert, Wolf Larson, Alexander Skarsgård, Casper Van Dien, the list continues on and on of actors that have played the loinclothed buff character over the years, with each having varying responses in success, but their thoughts on the character and the message are basically identical. Exotic yet simple, timeless yet timely, Tarzan will continue to find new generations of audiences in the next hundred years as well. As fascinating as the subject matter is, "Tarzan Revisited" has some issue with the fast paced nature and trouble with finding the right balance of entertainment and history. The film is packed with interview subjects but it is also a lengthy montage of scenes from the various movies. Not only Tarzan films but even clips of "Trader Horn" (1931), "King Kong" (1933), and even "Avatar (2009) are shown. The time given to each film or each era is inconsistent and there really isn't much depth given to each incarnation either. As fun as it was to see all the different Tarzans over the years and the evolution of film, something was missing and that was a consistent flow from one film to the next. Overall it mostly features films chronologically, but at times they would jump back and forth and showing clips of films seen previously. "Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes" from 1984 and the aforementioned 2016 film have its clips shown throughout while the animated Tarzan TV series and the non-English language Tarzan movies are conspicuously absent.

The fairly short 76 minute runtime is a bit too short to give a full view of the cinematic Tarzan over the last hundred years. There is a lot more to be talked about - the rises and falls of the character over the years, production notes on many of the films, the international reception, and more could have been mentioned. "Tarzan Revisited" only scratches the surface of the jungle. There is much more to be explored and more to be felt than the runtime can provide.

Note this is a region 0 PAL DVD which can play back on any DVD or Blu-ray player worldwide with PAL capability

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in 1.78:1 with anamorphic enhancement in the PAL format. Various film clips are presented in their original aspect ratios, with the 2.40:1 films having standard black bars on the top and bottom of the screen, and for the 1.33:1 films, they are presented with decorative borders on the left and right sides. For the interview portions they look fairly good with depth, color, and clarity of the subjects, whether they are with greenscreen or not. As for the film clips, they can look great or they can look poor. Recent films such as the 2016 production or "Greystoke" look very good, but many of the black and white clips look washed out with a lot of detail lost, coming from inferior sources. It does give an edge of nostalgia but do not look for restored and remastered clips of the vintage films here.

The film's runtime is 76:30.



















Audio

English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
The original audio track is presented in two channel stereo. The interview segments are mostly monaural with the stereo separation saved for music and various film clips. The stereo track is fairly balanced, though note some of the older film clips have some muffled and hissy dialogue. As for the interview segments, they are very clear with no issues of audio errors or dropouts.

There are no subtitles offered.

Extras

There are no extras on the disc. There is no menu and the film starts once the disc is inserted. Though not on the disc itself, here is the trailer courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment:

Overall

Tarzan has been a character of major fascination for over a century, and while "Tarzan Revisited" tries to capture the essence in the 76 minute runtime, it feels fairly thin and surface level even with the long list of interview subjects giving their opinions. The Umbrella Entertainment release has good video and audio but the disc has no extras itself.

The Film: C Video: B+ Audio: B+ Extras: F- Overall: C

 


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