|Index||9 reviews in total|
It's surprising so few people have commented on this movie since it
enjoyed a degree of success upon its original release and still
qualifies as one of the better Tarzans. The plot follows the
traditional pattern of a guide/protector leading a party through
dangerous territory toward a sought-after destination. The
guide/protector in this case is Tarzan who's come from Africa to
parachute into an Asian kingdom that looks a lot like Thailand. His job
is to escort Kashi, a boy who's been chosen as the "Successor" to the
kingdom'e dying leader. The leader's evil brother, however, seeks power
for himself and is determined to keep Kashi from reaching the city
where his ordination will occur. The middle part of the movie is thus
filled with dangers and obstacles which Tarzan must face and overcome.
Along the way, of course, are snippets of the usual wildlife footage
plus an "adorable" baby elephant who here serves the same purpose
Cheetah did back in Tarzan's African movies. Even better, though, are
the scenes of exotic temples, statues, and ceremonies which have been
well photographed in Metrocolor and widescreen. These scenes alone make
a look at this movie worthwhile.
The title refers to three challenges which Tarzan must pass before he is entrusted with the case of the Successor. The first is a test of skill involving archery and the third is a test of wisdom which requires Tarzan to answer a question. In between comes a test of strength which provided this movie with its most distinctive image. Tarzan stands between two tall posts. Ropes with attached handles have been looped over the tops of these poles. Tarzan takes hold of these handles and then is told: "You will be required to resist the pull of two buffalo for five strokes of the gong." The buffalo, tied to the other ends of the ropes, are then driven in opposite directions, causing Tarzan to be s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d like a wishbone after Thanksgiving dinner. This "stretching," similar to feats of strength in such "Hercules" movies as "Goliath and the Barbarians," gives Jock Mahoney a chance to show off his sweaty, muscular, and carefully-shaved physique in a "bondage" situation that's quite sensual.
Alas, Mahoney's physique looks haggard in the movie's final reel in which he faces a fourth challenge -- a test of might which culminates in a sword fight vs. Woody Strode taking place over a netting stretched above cauldrons of bubbling liquid. (Why isn't the title, "Tarzan's Four Challenges?") Much has been made of the illness striking Mahoney during the filming which resulted in this haggard look, but the truth is Mahoney was about ten years too old for his part. Still, his age gives him a certain "gravitas" missing in most of the other Tarzans and he has no need for apologize for his performance which projects an image of quiet strength and mature judgment. Rocky Der is also commendably good as Kashi, managing to be appealing without resorting to "cuteness" and he has a great smile.
One question: Tarzan's bids farewell to his new friends in the final scene and then runs off down a country road. Where is he going? Does he plan to run all the way back to Africa?
This is Tarzan at its best. A man of nature dealing with the nature of man. Defending the spiritual from the corporeal. Terrific allegory. Jock Mahoney, although a bit old at the time of this film, is a terrific Tarzan. My favorite.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I actually count this as a "7" as a genre movie (as opposed to the
serious "A" list stuff that gets the Oscar nominations every year)
because it has a lot of heart, some pretty good casting and
performances (you gotta love Woody Strode when he plays a heavy), and a
lot of nice touches in the screenplay. (I especially enjoyed the "test
of wisdom" challenge, where Tarzan gives a very clever and witty answer
to the monks' puzzler.)
As a kid I was a bit taken back by how skinny the "new" Tarzan seemed to be compared to the beefcake idols who preceded him, but knowing that poor Jock Mahoney was dealing with dysentery and dengue fever during the shooting of the film explains a lot. Even so, "Tarzan" was still lithe and agile looking, and the character seemed to have a wisdom and wit that was missing from previous movies (Lex Barker was great, but his character was still somewhat pre-verbal.)
This made for an interesting change in the movie. Normally Tarzan is the primal Alpha Male in a Tarzan movie, and the outcome is never really in doubt. However,it was obvious from the beginning that for all his sinew and courage and resourcefulness, Tarzan might be outmatched this time by the Woody Strode character. It made for a genuinely suspenseful climax when the two finally locked horns. Or swords, or whatever.
In short, for what it was "Three Challenges" was a fine movie. I'd love to see it again some time soon.
Tarzan's Three Challenges (1963)
** (out of 4)
Strange entry in the never ending series has Tarzan (Jock Mahoney) going to an oriental country when he learns that their leader is dying. The throne is suppose to go to the dying man's son but his evil brother (Woody Strode) plans on stealing it. This film does have some nice touches here and there but sadly the screenplay takes way too many easy spots and in the end there's just not enough to carry the 93-minute running time. I think Mahoney makes for a rather strange Tarzan because outside the outfit and people calling him Tarzan you'd never really know he was the legendary character. I say that because Mahoney really doesn't give him much of a personality and so many of the classic things are missing here including the famous yell. I'm really not sure how much blame should go towards the actor since he apparently got dysentery and dengue fever while filming this movie. You can actually see that his body weight is different in various scenes in the film and there are times that he appears so white you'll be thinking he's playing a ghost. I'm really not sure of the full story so I don't know if the actor got sick early on and this impacted everything going forward or not but there are many scenes where it's obvious the actor isn't in the best shape. Strode is pretty fun as the bad guy but the screenplay really doesn't leave him too much to do except be mean and act tough. The rest of the supporting cast fit their roles nicely even if no one really sticks out. The title refers to three challenges that Tarzan must go through and these here are certainly the highlights. One of the best moments happens during the strength challenge when Tarzan's arms are attached to two bull pulling in the opposite direction. Another very good scene happens at the end when Tarzan and the brother must battle to see who will get the throne. Having a kid as a side kick was certainly due to this film being aimed at children but I didn't mind this too much. I only wish the screenplay had added a tad bit more of a story or at least thrown in a few more interesting characters. This isn't a totally worthless film but I don't see anyone except Tarzan junkies eating this thing up.
Although this film was shot in Thailand, the small inaccessible kingdom
where the action of the film takes place looks more like a Tibetian
type culture. Jock Mahoney plays Tarzan for the second and last time in
Tarzan's Three Challenges. And the title is a misnomer, the heir to the
kingdom has three challenges, Tarzan is his champion in the fourth
which is a kind of medieval wager of battle.
Woody Strode is both the old and dying king and his younger ambitious brother. A young child played by Ricky Der is named the heir probably in a process similar to how the Dalai Lama is chosen. The brother who is a warrior and has trained his son to be the same thinks the time has come for a warrior to lead in this modern age and the hell with traditions of pacifism.
Tarzan comes to this kingdom to aid young Master Der on his journey to claim his rights. And of course Strode the warrior tries to stop him as the king Strode dies. When Der completes his three challenges Strode does the wager of battle thing that involves barrels of hot oil. Quite a good challenge as Tarzan is the only guy around who would have chance against Strode.
Actually Strode the warrior does make some rather valid points about moving into the 20th century. Even the Dalai Lama in exile has come to grips with modernity in some ways.
Tarzan's Three Challenges holds up very well for today's audiences, these films shot on location are so much better than those shot on the back lot of RKO back in the day.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
FOR THE SECOND film in a row, our Jungle Lord both leaves Africa to be
a Globe Trotting troubleshooter and also enters the film in an
aircraft. In the previous outing, TARZAN GOES TO India (Aflin A.G.,
MGM. 1962), he dives into a river from the small plane. With no flowing
body of water handy, the Apeman goes it the common sense route; making
use of a parachute.
WE SOON LEARN that this unnamed land (somewhwhere in the region referred to as Indochina *)is in trouble due to political and religious treachery. The trouble from a jealous brother, who is a pretender to both the throne; as well as his coveting the position of religious leader (apparently being a Budist nation with a Dali Lama like Holy Man in charge(.
TARZAN PROMISES THE dying King that he will protect the young heir to the throne from the evil brother, Khan, who will stop at nothing to ensure that the line of succession will pass to Kahn's son, who is the rightful heir's cousin. Understand?
INCIDENTALLY, BOTH THE infirm King and this warrior guy, Khan, are capably portrayed by former Decathalon Champ and Football End from UCLA and the Los Aneles Rams, Mr. Woody Strode.
BUT IN MUCH the same manner as the character of Darth Vader was brought to the screen in a sort of 'Tag Team' method; using two actors to cerate one character. In STAR WARS(Lucas Films Ltd., 20th Cetury-Fox, 1977), it was 6' 7" former Weightlifter/Bodybuilder, David Prowse, who gave Vader his imposing physical presence; while James Earl Jones gave us the benefit of his fine, deep and richly voiced tones.
IN THIS OUTING,TARZAN'S THREE CHALLENGES (Banner Productions, MGM, 1963), most of the voices are dubbed over the words spoken by the multitude of mainly native Asian actors on location where the filming was done, in Malaysia and Thailand. The voices that appear in the final, on-screen product have an overall British tone and accent (not that we're suggesting that most residents of the U.K. wear overalls).
ANOTHER DISTINCTIVE ATTRIBUTE of the movie is the very crisp and distinctive presence of the sound effects used in the sound track. The general expression of action for the ear seems to be at least somewhat exaggerated; often could be classified as highly or even extremely over stated. That is not to imply that this treatment of sound is too extreme; for it all adds up to being proper and even equal proportions, when all components are assembled.
THE VISUALS ARE very good, even breathtaking at times. The great and expansive tropical outdoors are shown to fine advantage; all of which gives us a truly authentic jungle in which to send all of our suspension of disbelief. Cdertainly, no jungle picture has had better "sets" on which to film. Without having to consciously say or think it, we know that this movie wasn't done on a Hollywood Studio's back lot.
ALL OF THESE previously mentioned elements add up to give us the thesis that appears in the Summary Box above these written paragraphs. The intensity of sound, the crisp editing of action sequences together with the dubbed speech, all add up to a movie which is very much like that which was coming out of Italy and Spain from such filmmakers such as Sergio Leone and Bruno Bozetto.
WE BELIEVE THAT this was indeed no accident; for "Hollywood" is and has long been famous for doing one things. That is following trends and fads. Many would say that this is stealing, plagiarizing and not very honest or original.
OF COURSE, ON the other hand, they** say that,
"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!"
THIS WAS FOLLOWED-UP with TARZAN AND THE VALLEY OF GOLD*** (Banner Productions, American International Pictures, 1967); which brought us a nearly perfect Tarzan physical specimen in ex L.A. Rams Linebacker, Mike Henry. THREE CHALLENGES was Jock Mahoney's farewell to the loincloth.
NOTE: * Indochina = Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Burma (?).
NOTE: ** That is, whoever "they" are.
NOTE: *** Speaking of following trends, just watch the opening of the VALLEY OF GOLD to see how much the very popular JAMES BOND 007 Series had grown and shed its influence over the movies.
In a far eastern country, dying chieftain Woody Strode (as Tarim) wants
pre-teen son Ricky Der (as Kashi) to take over as successor, but Mr.
Strode's wicked brother Kahn (the main role played by Strode) has other
plans. From Africa, jungle king Jock Mahoney (as Tarzan) is summoned to
sort out the mess. "Tarzan's Three Challenges" was the better of Mr.
Mahoney's two outings as Tarzan. He was an older Tarzan, and reportedly
quite sick for a couple of scenes, but remains tough. The Thailand
location is used well by director Robert Day and the crew. Mahoney's
strength test, the raging fire, and a sustained pace keep it above
average. There are several suspenseful sequences, topped by a grand
finale featuring Mahoney and Strode dueling on a giant net.
****** Tarzan's Three Challenges (6/63) Robert Day ~ Jock Mahoney, Woody Strode, Ricky Der, Earl Cameron
Tarzan is called in to watch over the heir to a kingdom whose uncle, played by Strode, is determined to make his son ruler instead. The movie is filled with the uncle trying to keep Tarzan from making it to the end of the obstacles or 3 challenges. The fight scenes are good. The story was good, the other actors were OK. Strode was great, in my opinion. I've never seen him play a bad guy before and he did a wonderful job. There was a lot of action and a pretty good plot. It kept my attention. However, as a lover of Tarzan movies since I was a kid in the 60's, I was shocked to see such a frail looking actor play Tarzan. I learned, as an adult, that he had been sick. Then they should have replaced him. Tarzan movies didn't call for great acting skills, but it did require "presence" Sadly, he didn't have it. Poor Mahoney certainly looked different from the funny guy in the 3 Stooges movies who was in love with "Nell, honey!"
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Call it "Tarzan Goes to Thailand!"
In his second outing as the invincible Lord of the Jungle, sinewy Jock Mahoney ventures off to Asia at the request of a country's critically ill leader, the dying Khan (Woody Strode), strewn on his death bed, to escort his rightful heir, Prince Kashi (Rocky Der), from a religious monastery high up in the hills through miles of jungle to the capital city for his inauguration. Cho San, Prince's Nursemaid (Tsu Kobayashi)is pretty a good shot with a rifle when raiders almost abduct Kashi. Naturally, Woody Strode with a mustache has a son that could sit on the throne so he has plans to eliminate the so-called chosen one. We learn that Khan's son fears him and refuses to assume the throne. Ultimately, Khan challenges Kashi to a test of strength and Kashi asks Tarzan to represent in this trial by combat. There is a huge fire in the jungle that nearly kills the little boy as he prays to his god.
Later, Tarzan and his chief nemesis Woody Strode battle it out with sabers while balancing on a rope net above vault of boiling oil. Well, it looked like oil. Guess who dies? Jock Mahoney makes a tanned, taciturn Tarzan who is quite agile whether he be strung up between two water buffalo and stretched in opposite directions or doing a bungee cord jump before most of us knew they existed off a bridge into a narrow river. When he arrives at the monastery, he has to submit to tests at the hands of the monks. They explain that as a test of strength, he must neutralize the tug of two buffalo for five strokes of the gong. Earlier, he had fired several arrows into a bouncing ball. The scenery is exotic. The sight of be-jeweled elephants marching at the head of grand processions, and thousand girls performing a dance of the candles adds to the spectacle of "Tarzan's Three Challenges." Woody Strode sounds dubbed in the style of a treacherous Italian movie villain as he performs in a dual role as the dying Khan and his brother Khan. The Chosen one picks up a cute little elephant along the way that he calls Hungry who steals the show. Guess who replaced Cheetah? This is one darn cute little fellow. They could have launched a series out of this small elephant.
Woody Strode makes a worthwhile villain and Tarzan is virtuous as usual with Jock swinging on vines through the jungle. During the fire, a villain who had infiltrated the ranks of Tarzan and his followers dies a flaming death. Nevertheless, an above-average, old-fashioned Tarzan movie lensed in Thailand. Think of it as a glimpse at Asia before Vietnam erupted. Robert Day does a good job of storytelling and juggles suspense and tension rather well in some scenes, particularly the net fight and the burning temple.
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