The Lionians are a tribe dying of a mysterious disease. Their Chief decides to kidnap Jane and Lola, a half-breed nurse, in order to help repopulate his civilization. Tarzan must rescue ...
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Tarzan (Lord Greystoke), already well educated and fed up with civilization, returns to the jungle and, more or less assisted by chimpanzee Cheetah and orphan boy Jai, wages war against poachers and other bad guys.
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The Lionians are a tribe dying of a mysterious disease. Their Chief decides to kidnap Jane and Lola, a half-breed nurse, in order to help repopulate his civilization. Tarzan must rescue them while fending off blowgun attacks from people called the Waddies who are disguised as bushes. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
TARZAN AND THE SLAVE GIRL (RKO Radio, 1950) directed by Lee Sholem, returns Lex Barker to the role made famous by Johnny Weissmuller in years past. After a promising start with TARZAN'S MAGIC FOUNTAIN (1949) that introduced Barker as Lord of the Jungle, along with acquiring Weissmuller's very own blonde Jane (Brenda Joyce) in the process, this second edition finds Barker as well as the series going through another period of adjustment, not so much for the stories or character development, but in selecting the right actress to play Tarzan's mate. Although another blonde in the physical resemblance to Brenda Joyce might have helped fit the bill, a darker red-headed type of Vanessa Brown, in two piece attire, in the physical manner of Maureen O'Sullivan's interpretation back in the MGM days (1932-1942). Regardless, Brown is no threat to either O'Sullivan or Joyce.
Scripted by Hans Jacoby and Arnold Belgard, the writers keep the story going by inventing new tribes and situations for the jungle man to encounter. As Tarzan (Lex Barker) and Jane (Vanessa Brown), accompanied by Cheta and companion, riding down the path on their elephants, their peaceful venture is interrupted by the scream and abduction of one of the tribal Nagasi girls gathered together by the pond. The kidnappers are revealed to be warriors of the Lionian tribe who've been abducting girls throughout the surrounding area. With a deadly disease found among the Nagasi's that could spread and kill within a few hours, Tarzan comes to the village seeking help from Doctor Campbell (Arthur Shields), who happens to carry a special serum that can both vaccinate and cure those infected. Campbell is assisted by Lola (Denise Darcel), a temperamental half-breed nurse with flirtatious intentions on Neil (Robert Alda), a drunken big game hunter. She soon takes an interest in Tarzan, causing Jane to become jealous. As Tarzan, Campbell and others head for the Nagasi village with the serum, Jane and Lola remain behind in the tree house where they are soon taken by the Lionians as their latest slave girl victims. After Lola is whipped brutally for refusing the Prince's (Hurd Hatfield) advances, she and Jane soon break away from their captures. As Tarzan and the safari have their own troubles avoiding poisoned darts from attacking natives, and misplacing the bottled serum in the process, Jane and Lola, discovered hiding in the dead king's mausoleum, become trapped inside as the evil Sengo (Anthony Caruso) gives orders to have the tomb sealed, leaving the girls to be buried alive.
As the Tarzan formula proved popular enough to resume a new film annually, the story used for TARZAN AND THE SLAVE GIRL, which plays like a chaptered serial or Saturday matinée, is satisfactory enough to hold interest for 74 minutes. What bogs it down is the bad acting by Vanessa Brown. After being accustomed by Brenda Joyce's interpretation, Brown's performance pales in comparison. It's even hard to interpret during the crowd scenes whether she's one of the slave girls or Jane. There's nothing about her Jane that stands out. The only redeeming quality is the blonde Denise Darcel, whose mannerism and voice comes as an instant reminder to Mexican actress Lupe Velez from the "Mexican Spitfire" film series (1939-1943) for RKO Radio. Sporting a revealing sarong, she gets her chance to shine with her hair pulling fighting match with Jane. Guess who wins? Robert Alda, who, a few short years ago played the lead as George Gershwin in RHAPSODY IN BLUE (Warner Brothers, 1945), is sadly wasted as the booze-drinking hunter. His scenes are as limited as Hurd Hatfield, best known for his title role in THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (MGM, 1945). Anthony Caruso as the prince's wicked adviser comes off well, but not enough to rise the script to a different level. Amusements revolving around Cheta, one where she gets drunk, are thrown in for good measure. Robert Warwick as the High Priest and Tito Renaldo playing the chief's son also round up the supporting cast.
As for its title, it's hard determining which slave girl is actually the key factor, considering how Tarzan spends much of his time with the safari and Jane rather than with any sole slave girl. Maybe this should have been retitled TARZAN AND THE SLAVE GIRLS, indicating they are the ones he's set out to rescue, but by using that could indicate Tarzan is now husband with harem girls.
Formerly presented on Tarzan festivals on Cable TV's American Movie Classics (1998-2000), TARZAN AND THE SLAVE GIRL, available on DVD from Turner Home Entertainment, has turned up on Turner Classic Movies where it premiered as part of its weekly "Tarzan" lineup on July 9, 2011. Lex Barker returns for the next installment in TARZAN'S PERIL (1951), but without Vanessa Brown playing Jane. (**)
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