In Hit Me With Your Best Shot, we look at a predetermined movie, and choose what we think of as its best shot. We're taking a break next week (change of plans) but please consider joining us on Wednesday, June 1st for Moulin Rouge! You have two whole weeks to pick a shot. That'll be a theme week right here at the blog "Spectacular! Spectacular!" 10th anniversary (5/30-6/03).
This week's film is TARZAN THE APE MAN (1932) which kicked off the most popular stretch of this enduring franchise. (You know some reboot has to be just around the corner). In this particular outing that famous jungle swinger (Johnny Weismuller) sweeps sexy Jane (Maureen O'Sullivan Centennial!) right off her feet and into the air (and water) until she's flat on her back in his tree house. I'm speaking literally. Jane is kind of a slut.
I mean that in the nicest way. She Jane! Respect must be paid.
But even Jane's own father is all-too aware of her sexual allure. In what has to be one of the weirdest introductory father/daughter scenes in film history, she changes in front of him and when he tries to look away, she scolds him with multiple flirtatious "darlings".
You don't often hear about Tarzan in discussions of "Pre-Code" movies, which technically applies to most movies prior to 1934, because that designation is usually reserved for contemporary (for the time) crime dramas, and romantic dramas/comedies. But watching Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) again, it's abundantly clear that it had sex on the brain and just off the screen. But when I was a little boy, this all flew over my head. In the 70s before VHS or DVD and CABLE you had three options for visual entertainment in your home (ABC, NBC, and CBS) and if you were fascinated by wild animals (as many little boys and girls are) chances are you loved watching old Tarzan movies on the telly. So if you had asked me when I was 4 or 5, this might have been my "best shot".
Tarzan has been injured in a lion brawl but he's real tight with the elephants. One 'phant picks him up like it's the mama cat and he's the wee kitty. I still absolutely love this shot. It's brief, animalistic and surreal. Which is when Tarzan movies work best.
But this time through all I could see -- whilst trying to look away from all of the racism -- was how hot Tarzan and Jane were for each other. Initially it's one of those old school heternormative Beauty & The Beast things with uncomfortable shades of rapey Stockholm Syndrome = Love issues sprouting up everywhere (lots of screaming and coercing but mutual attraction... you know how it goes "no" really meaning "yes"). But after Jane nurses Tarzan back to health they go swimming and she starts putting the moves on him.
Jane: (Thinking of the civilized world) Women are such fools. They'd spoil you. I don't think you'd better look at me like that -- you're far too attractive. I love saying things to a man who cant understand, who doesn't even know what kisses are.
Tarzan may not not technically know what "kisses" are but it's pretty clear that he knows exactly what to do with Jane, or he'll figure it out quick.
In an unbroken shot --- god bless editors who know when to back off -- he yanks Jane to her feet after investigating her foot (Tarantino would approve) and then picks her up. She stares at him "Oh Tarzan, please..." but she doesn't finish the sentence. He glances up to his tree house. (We don't see it, no cutaway) and she buries her face against his shoulder, in total submission. He begins the walk up to the tree and we fade out on this image.
You have to see it in motion to understand how hot it is. For once Jane shuts up, there's no music swelling just bird and maybe chimp sounds.
The morning after shots drive their jungle fever home. Look how happy and relaxed she is.
Jane: Tarzan, what am i doing here alone with you? Guess i'd better not think too much about that. Just be here, be happy. And I am happy, not a bit afraid, not a bit sorry. What are we going to do about us?
Jane: You and I?
Tarzan: Tarzan Jane. Hurt me boy love it Jane.
Jane: Darling, that's quite a sentence!
Tarzan's already good with his tongue.
I knew this one would be a hard sell so there's fewer entries, but I felt like going to the jungle.
- Film Actually leaves Jane hanging
- Awwww the Movies triples the assignment with love, elephants and english lessons
- Okinawa Assault looks at racial binaries (and Tarzan's quite-awesome hair.)
- Movies Kick Ass Me Tarzan You Horny
- Pussy Goes Grrr loves Chairoscuro Weismuller but finds this a difficult strange viewing
Tarzan has never been popular with the Academy with only the 80s prestige retelling Greystoke (1984) making a dent. But Tarzan the Ape Man was a significant box office hit, spawning 5 more films with the Weismuller/Sullivan Tarzan/Jane pairing. Weismuller stayed with the character for six more movies after O'Sullivan left the series.