Tarzan the Ape Man - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Tarzan the Ape Man Reviews

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½ July 30, 2016
The first Tarzan movie that started it all is still a vicious, entertaining and thrilling experience even though it's made back in 1932. They really created some groundbreaking scenes. If you are a movie lover and want to see a classic, you definitley need to watch this!
July 10, 2016
Love this old series. Spent many a Saturday afternoon in front of the TV watching them on Tarzan Theater back in the late 50s and early 60s in Pittsburgh. The first few, like this one and Tarzan and his Mate were pretty good for their time. They were fun, escapist flicks and bring back fond memories.
Antonius Block
Super Reviewer
½ May 1, 2016
Meh. The original Tarzan has some historical appeal and watching it can be fun in a campy way, but it just didn't click with me, despite reminding me of the classic 'King Kong' in a few ways. The white man goes to the unknown, forbidden jungle in search of treasure. The natives jump around and dance to sacrificial rites. The explorers have no qualms about blowing things away with their guns, in this case, hippopotamuses, not dinosaurs. The young woman along for the adventure falls into the hands of a powerful being who can take care of her. Tarzan, like Kong, has to fight and kill other wild creatures that threaten them. They want to bring him back to civilization, but here is it where it diverges: Tarzan has the choice, and declines, and Jane has fallen in love with him, and wants to stay.

Olympic champion Johnny Weissmuller was a great choice for Tarzan (my understanding is that Clark Gable was also considered ... yikes), and Maureen O'Sullivan has great chemistry with him, so what's the trouble? I ask myself, does the movie hold up? The worst of the scenes has the explorers very noticeably standing in front of stock footage of African tribesmen in the background. Ugh. The best has Tarzan battling a lion in what looks real, and we know it's not CGI. There are scenes that drag on, dashing through the jungle and bellowing his famous cry in places he could not possibly have done, such as when he's swimming, and O'Sullivan shrieking 'Tarzan' gets quickly jarring to the ears. There are other scenes that surprise us, like Jane falling off a cliff face shortly after a native has; the difference, she's on a rope, whereas his death is treated simply as property loss, with no recognition that he was a human being. We see the African porters whipped on more than one occasion to keep up. We cringe as we hear Jane trying to stop the others from shooting Tarzan by yelling "He's White!" The racism is certainly one of the film's problems, and is more than a little off-putting. The other is the plot, which isn't all that exciting, and I began looking forward to the movie ending about halfway through. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood. Maybe I would have preferred the sequel, where it sounds like the sex and violence was ratcheted up a notch. I don't know. Just, meh.
April 6, 2016
Some groundbreaking stuff, the ending battle is pretty fantastic in and of itself.
March 4, 2016
I know this is from the early 30's and filmmaking was different back then but this is nearly all so obviously fake that it looks stupid. The have footage of African tribespeople shown on a screen and then our 3 white snobs parading around in front of the screen pointing at them. In the scenes when they couldn't separate the stars from the so-called natives, they painted the faces of a bunch of very western looking little people to make them look like pygmys. A lot of the animals were clearly humans in suits although, bizarrely, there are a couple of scenes where it really looks like Tarzo is fighting lions. The story is boring and ridiculous. I expected better from a so-called classic.
November 9, 2015
Strange blend of previously shot footage of African animals and natives (both treated badly and with disrespect) and live action involving Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan and Maureen O'Sullivan as Jane Parker, some actual chimpanzees and elephants and some guys in monkey suits. When Jane joins her father (C. Aubrey Smith) in the jungle where he is searching for the secret "elephants' graveyard" to score a huge stockpile of ivory, she is unexpectedly abducted by an ape man. Although the hunters try their best to get her back (including shooting Tarzan and killing some of his friends), she falls in love with Tarzan and eventually decides to stay in the jungle with him, even though they can barely communicate. Obviously, Stockholm syndrome is involved. Despite its flaws and overall sloppiness, the movie does have a raw, rough and ready feel for action (it has some zing) and there are some peaceful establishing shots. This was probably fun for the audiences in 1932 and Weissmuller made 11 sequels.
October 26, 2014
tarzan + pre-code= racy winner
October 18, 2014
great film. i can see why it is a classic. i enjoyed it. i liked the part when Tarzan fought the ape at the end.
July 27, 2014
(First and only viewing - 7/23/2010)
March 29, 2014
Good story. Weissmuller is competent, if not perfect. Lot of interesting symbolism & study into human nature. It was great to see, for the first time, so many references that one is familiar with, via pop culture. (eg. Tarzan's call)

Jane is cute enough, but her barely intelligible mid-Atlantic accent is grating on the ears, dah-ling. It gets old after the 7000th time. There's also an irritating feminist aspect about it. And I mean feminism, in the most annoying way possible.

However, after that nonsense, & when they begin looking for the ivory, the film really picks up. Especially when the titular character is introduced. Tarzan is a man who has been living in the jungle as a liberal for much of his life.

For living in the jungle, his hair is stylized quite perfectly. Some pretty risque wardrobe.

The use of animals is exceptional. Maybe the best in the history of film (not counting Jumanji). The special effects were pretty good for their day. Also, I detect some Return of the Jedi inspiration, here.

An annoying instance of moral equivalence once again. An ape kidnaps a woman & won't let her go. Her relatives shoot the ape. Tarzan kills the ape-killers. Apparently, we're told that the crime is no different.

Despite the adequate story, it was kind of an uneven ending.

*best scene in the movie (63 minutes in) is when Jane comes running from something, and the monkey is caught off guard and runs at her with a forearm shiver. lol. commendably, O'Sullivan doesn't break stride. Cheeta is awesome.
½ January 21, 2014
The one and only real Tarzan-Johnny Weissmuller--Love, Action, & Adventure!!
September 23, 2013
I thought I'd seen this before, but after watching it again, I'm not sure I've ever seen it in its entirety. I've read the first 6 books in the series, albeit many years ago, and I have to say I enjoyed them much more than this film. Naturally, the mentality of the greedy white expedition leaders sickened me. If it moves, shoot it! It reminded me so much of the redneck, hillbilly mentality of humans today. If it moves, shoot it, then drink some beers! Unfortunately, one of them managed to make it out of the jungle, while every single one of their well whipped, dark skinned pack mules got wasted. I also had to laugh at them acting in front of a screen playing a film as if they were right there. Even for 1932, I thought that was shoddy. The meat of the film was entertaining enough, with some action, a small bit of suspense, a bunch of sadistic pygmies and even some wild, white monkey romance. It was also nice to watch a film with just a touch of dialogue in my native Swahili. I guess it's all the senseless animal slaughtering that left such a bad taste in my mouth. Oh, and since when are there trapezes hanging in the trees in Africa? Ehh, extra half star 'cause it's fucking Tarzan!
September 14, 2012
One of the greatest Tarzan Movies ever made.
July 19, 2012
Obvious racism aside, this is a pretty entertaining film that I dearly loved as a child and it still holds up today as a fun film. Originally filmed do made use of a unused stock footage from a more expensive film shot on location in Africa, this film ended up the bigger hit and started an enormous franchise that ran for decades. The film also has a pre-production code sexiness that's missing from Hollywood films post Hays code.
May 4, 2012
Grew up on the cartoon film which was great. But I would love to see how it all started.
December 30, 2011
Loved this as a boy. Thrilling.
½ December 16, 2011
Great film from the 30`s. A review of film shown in the poster. Not the 81 version.
September 4, 2011
The first of the famous Tarzan series starring Johnny Weissmuller is a decent movie...it isn't great, but it is decent. I liked both Weissmuller and O'Sullivan, but the pacing leaves something to be desired.
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