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Aside from Johnny Weismuller, Ron Ely is my favorite Tarzan. An
unlikely show, in a sense, it played well amidst the superhero genre
that was somewhat prevalent at the time - i.e. Batman with Adam West
and Burt Ward and The Green Hornet with Van Williams and Bruce Lee. The
show was also contemporary with Star Trek.
Unlike campy Batman, the show took itself seriously and yet, Ron Ely running around in a loin cloth week by week on prime time, didn't seem out of place. Ron played Tarzan serious and straight, dealing with poachers and jungle baddies of all sorts as though it were natural for a partially naked man to be a quasi-jungle policeman/detective. Ely's Tarzan was reminiscent of Hawaii Five-O's Steve McGarrett (played by Jack Lord).
This was no "Me Tarzan" ape-man. Ely's Tarzan was articulate and educated.
Enter Jai (Manuel Padilla Jr. - The Pharoah's Carlos from American Graffiti) and Cheetah the Chimp to provide the less-serious, comedy relief tone to the show. I always wondered how Jai fit in to the cast, as it seemed unusual for a Hispanic boy to be running around in Africa with Tarzan. Was he an orphan or what? Was he a "ward" of Tarzan's, a la Batman's Dick Grayson? Nevertheless, Jai provided an important element to the series - he took the serious edge off of Tarzan and made him compassionate, looking out for a young boy who emulated him (loin cloth and all).
You could always count on Cheetah to bring a smile to Tarzan's face at the end of each show with Jai in hot pursuit shouting, "Cheetah, you come back here," or something of that nature.
Ely had a great physical look for Tarzan. Long and lanky, yet sinewy and strong, he made the physical part of Tarzan's exploits look good. The vine swinging and running through the jungle were performed with style and aplomb.
The introduction always ran with Ely calling out that famous Tarzan yell (Johnny Weismuller's original recorded Tarzan yell - as it was with most Tarzan movies and shows).
The plots were well-contrived and enjoyable. It was one of my favorite series at the time.
This was one of my favorite shows as a kid. It was exciting and
and had some of the most evil villains on TV every week.
However, when I saw reruns of "Tarzan" in the early 1980s, either I caught a batch of bad episodes or I had evolved because I found 6 episodes in a row to be very poorly written and even boring, so I stopped watching.
Recently, a friend loaned me four episodes and all four were exceptional. So, I saw an additional four episodes and three were quite good. Aside from obviously being an uneven series (although I have read that the show had script problems during the first year), I agree with previous posters that just the fantastic on-location photography puts all of the other Tarzan TV series to shame. Ron Ely was perfectly cast, an honorable and articulate "lawman" who respected the native tribes around him. There's one episode, "Last of the Superman" (which must have been written by an Ayn Rand admirer) where Tarzan philosophically reflects on how humans owe it to themselves to be the best they can be.
The other distinguishing thing was that there was no holds barred when it came to violence - guest star William Smithers frantically firing a revolver as piranha fish devour him, and Bo Hopkins as a no-gooder who is lazing around a lake shore when he's pulled into the lake and killed by a crocodile (one of the goriest TV scenes ever filmed). When bad guy Pat Conway is shot to death as he tries to escape by swimming across a raging river, Tarzan angrily admonishes the shooter with, "He had a right to choose how to die!"
The show was attacked by critics in the 1960s, and yet dig the guest star roster - Helen Hayes, Jimmy MacArthur, James Earl Jones, Michael Dunn, Maurice Evans, Julie Harris, James Whitmore, George Kennedy, Sally Kellerman, Diana Ross, the great (if late) Gia Scala, Leslie Parrish, the late Michael Witney, Nichelle Nichols, etc. People like that don't appear on a show if it's bad.
TV Guide reported in June 1968 that the series still had a 31 share and finished in the top 40 during 1967-68, but NBC felt its demographics (too many older women and too many kids) made it unappealing and it was cancelled. Popular demand brought it back for summer reruns in 1969.
A good series.
I have fond memories of this show, which one of our local independent
stations used to air on Sunday afternoons as part of `Tarzan Theatre.' I
loved the show at first simply because I was a big Tarzan fan, but I truly
came to appreciate it once I started reading Edgar Rice Burroughs' novels.
This is one of the few times Tarzan is portrayed as ERB envisioned him:
intelligent and articulate. ERB, however, gave Tarzan a savage and violent
side, something you would never see on a `family' TV series of the 1960s.
Fortunately, the producers compensated by loading the show with plenty of
All the elements came together nicely: Ron Ely had both the physical presence and the acting skill to play a convincing ape-man. I've heard stories of the punishment he took while making the series, injuries that would make Jackie Chan wince, but he kept going. The producers were smart enough not to film in a studio jungle set, but instead take the show on location. The Mexican locations were a gorgeous stand-in for the African savanna and rain forests, and they increase the show's credibility.
There's just one thing I never liked: Jai. I realize there's probably a lot of Jai fans out there, but the kid just irritated me. His main function was both to ask simplistic questions about what was going on so Tarzan could explain for his (and the audience's) benefit, and to eat up valuable screen time that could be spent on Tarzan. It's part of the whole `juvenile sidekick' syndrome in TV, movies and comics that drives me nuts. Ugh.
In spite of that, `Tarzan' was a great series, deserving of much more attention than it currently gets. It may not be the way * you * see Tarzan, but you can't deny it was a well-crafted, exciting and eminently watchable show.
What a fantastic and action packed show this was.Ron Ely for my money was the best Tarzan ever (certainly the most articulate)and this series should be resurrected forthwith for modern TV audiences to enjoy.In the UK this hasn't been seen for many years.Certain episodes stand out in my mind even now as some of the best I have seen in any action adventure series;episodes like THE PEARLS OF TANGA, THE ULTIMATE COMPUTER and ALEX THE GREAT with guest star Neville Brand as adventurer Alex Spence(which packed more fistfights into its 50 minute running time than any other show I have ever seen)This was wonderful stuff and I maintain that this was the definitive Tarzan and unfairly one of the most neglected.
After the huge success of Tarzan on the big screen, Producer Sy
Weintraub took the ape man from the silver screen to television. Tarzan
made its debut on the NBC network for the fall schedule of 1966.
Producer Sy Weintraub(who took over the "Tarzan" franchise in the mid-
1950's from Sol L. Lesser) wanted Mike Henry(who played Tarzan in the
movies),but instead got Ron Ely to portrayed the ape man on television.
Ron Ely was 28-years old when he got the part of a life portraying the
14th Tarzan based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' most famous character..this
time on television. Ron Ely had a strong resume of work on both films
and television to his credit including the films "South Pacific", "The
Fiend That Walked The West", "The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker", "The
Night of the Grizzly",and his television work for the series "How To
Marry A Millionaire"(1957-1959);,and "The Aquanauts"(1960-1961) to name
a few. The television version based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' character
retained many of the elements and trappings of the classic movie series
that included Cheeta The Chimp,and a boy sidekick named Jai (played by
Manuel Padilla,Jr. who starred in the Tarzan films with Mike Henry) was
Tarzan's companion helping him out in any way possible(only in this one
there was NO Jane here),and lets not forget that this was a series that
was indeed action packed with non-stop thrills,excitement and high
adventure each week. Ron Ely did his own stunts here for this series.
Under the production of Sy Weintraub,who also served as executive producer of this series under his production Banner Productions, the television series "Tarzan" made its debut on September 9,1966 and it was filmed on location in Central America and Mexico with spectacular photography and to what NBC presented as "The Following Program Is Brought To You In Living Color"...A total of 57 episodes were produced in which Season 1 produced 32 episodes in color. The second and final season produced 25 episodes in color. "Tarzan" aired in prime-time on NBC's Friday night schedule where it faced strong competition in its first season opposite "The Green Hornet", "The Time Tunnel" and the hugely popular "The Wild,Wild West". The second and final season on Friday nights faced competition opposite "Off The See The Wizard", "Hondo",and it's rival in the ratings opposite "The Wild,Wild West". A total of 57 episodes aired in prime-time from September 9,1966 until April 5,1968. After NBC canceled the series in the Spring of 1968(due to show's violent content), "Tarzan" enjoy a resurgence in summer repeats for CBS airing from May 22,1969 until August 30,1969(as the summer replacement for "The Jackie Gleason Show").
Interesting note about this show...several episodes of the "Tarzan" television series were two part episodes that were strung together and actually shown in theaters as full length features that were released under Banner Productions and National General Pictures...among them were "Tarzan's Jungle Rebellion"(1966);"Tarzan and the Perils of Charity Jones"(1967);"Tarzan and the Four O'Clock Army"(1968);and "Tarzan's Deadly Silence"(1970). Actors that had recurring appearances in this series were Maurice Evans, Julie Harris, Chips Rafferty, Rockne Tarkington, and Woody Strode appeared in numerous episodes of the series. Check out the guest star roster for this series that consisted of Ethel Merman, James Earl Jones, Diana Ross, Cicely Tyson, Don Marshall, Neville Brand, Carlos Riva, Roscoe Lee Browne, Pat Conway, Ted Cassidy, Simon Oakland, Rafer Johnson, Fernando Lamas, Rosie Grier, Diana Sands, Beah Richards, Ralph Meeker, James Whitmore, Jock Mahoney, to Russ Tamblyn, Yaphet Kotto, George Kennedy, Barbara Luna, James MacArthur, Nichelle Nichols, Don Marshall and many more.
The best episodes from this action-packed series were "The Pearls of Tanga", "Faces of Death", "The Last of the Supermen", "Alex The Great","Tarzan's Jungle Rebellion", "The Deadly Silence", "The Ultimate Duel", "The Four O'Clock Army", "Mountains of the Moon", "The Blue Stone of Heaven", "The Convert", "Hotel Hurricane", "Jungle Dragnet",and "Jungle Ransom" to name a few. When NBC canceled this series in the Spring of 1968 after two seasons and 57 episodes it was immediately replaced on its Friday night schedule by the Western adventure series "The High Chapparal"....Revised on July 15, 2016 to commemorate on the show's 50th anniversary...originally written on July 12, 2000 but this has been revised and edited.
In commemoration of the show's 50th Anniversary Edgar Rice Burroughs'
character was played by several different actors over the years not to
mention a series that has it's origin going back to Johnny Weissmuller,
Lex Barker, Gordon Scott, Jock Mahoney,and Mike Henry. Producer Sy
Weintraub(who took over the "Tarzan" franchise in the mid-1950's after
Sol. L. Lesser) was trying to bring "Tarzan" to television as early as
1958,but the project never got off the ground. By the early-1960's the
"Tarzan" films were still theatrical releases,but it wasn't until the
mid-1960's when the franchise went into a new medium. Gordon Scott was
replaced by Jock Mahoney who abandoned the role in 1963 who lost out to
football player turned actor Mike Henry. Henry made three theatrical
"Tarzan" films between 1966-1968 and was originally cast for the
television version of the series,but declined after some bad
experiences while shooting the 1967 theatrical picture "Tarzan and the
Great River". In a desperate search,the producers along with Sy
Weintraub finally was able to bring "Tarzan" to television as a weekly
series by casting Ron Ely in the title role. Ron Ely who was 28-years
old when he got the part of playing the 14th "Tarzan" on television
while Mike Henry still played him in the movies. Ron Ely had a strong
resume of several films and television series to his credit including
the films "South Pacific", "The Fiend That Walked The West", "The
Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker",not to mention "The Night of the Grizzly",
and in the TV-series "How to Marry a Millionaire" from 1957-1959. Ron
Ely was cast in another series "The Aquanauts" that lasted one season
The television version based on Edgar Rice Burroughs character retained many of the trappings of the classic movie series including Cheeta The Chimp and a boy sidekick(Manuel Padilla,Jr.) leaving the character Jane on the cutting room floor. Under the production of Sy Weintraub who also served as executive producer under his production company Banner Productions and Starring Ron Ely as "Tarzan" made its television premiere in prime-time on NBC's Friday Night schedule on September 9,1966 for 57 episodes and two seasons,filmed on location in parts of Central America and Mexico in full color until April 5,1968. After NBC canceled the series in 1968,"Tarzan" enjoy a resurgence in summer repeats for CBS airing from May 22, 1969 until August 30, 1969. "Tarzan" the television series on Friday nights faced strong competition during its two seasons on the air opposite "The Wild Wild West" and "The Green Hornet" in Season 1 and in its Second and final Season opposite "Off The See The Wizard","Hondo" and the wildly popular "The Wild Wild West". Several episodes of the "Tarzan" television series were two part episodes that were strung together and actually shown in theaters as feature length films that were released under Banner Productions and National General Pictures. The "Tarzan" television series produced 57 episodes all in color with 32 episodes in Season 1 and 25 episodes in Season 2. Actors that had recurring appearances on this series were Maurice Evans, Julie Harris, along with Chips Rafferty and Woody Strode appear in numerous episodes.
Even though this series was attacked by critics,"Tarzan" was indeed a series that was action-packed throughout with breathtaking excitement and high adventure each week. Basically throughout production, Ron Ely did all of his own stunts and took it seriously. But yet check out the big name directors that were associated with this series from William Witney, Robert Day, Barry Shear, Anton Leader, Robert L. Friend, Charles S. Dubin, William Wiard, R.G. Springsteen and Hollingsworth Morse along with Paul Stanley,James Komack, Alan Crosland, Jr. and even Ron Ely himself directed an episode. Big name writers ranging from Jackson Gillis, Richard and Esther Shapiro, Wells Root, Carey Wilber, Don Brinkley, Samuel Newman, John Hawkins and Lawrence Dobkin.
The guest star roster for this series consisted of James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson, Don Mitchell, Don Marshall, Raymond St. Jacques, Brock Peters,Rosie Grier, Diana Sands, Rafer Johnson, Clarence Williams III, Hari Rhodes, to William Marshall, Bernie Hamilton, Lloyd Haynes, Yaphet Kotto, Nichelle Nichols, George Stanford-Brown, Diana Ross(and the Supremes),to James MacArthur, Jock Mahoney, Sam Jaffe, Michael Witney, Simon Oakland, Ethel Merman, George Kennedy, Sally Kellerman, Russ Tamblyn, John Dehner, Antoinette Bower, Fernando Lamas, Peter Whitney, Pat Conway, Michael Dunn, James Whitmore, Warren Stevens, Neville Brand, Morgan Woodward, Ted Cassidy, Barbara Luna, Judy Pace, Jan Merlin, Michael Ansara, to Ralph Meeker, Jeremy Slate, Leslie Parrish, Rockne Tarkington, Roscoe Lee Browne, and Helen Hayes.
The best "Tarzan" episodes out of this series from it's first season "The Pearls of Tanga","The Day The Earth Trembled", "The Ultimate Duel", "The Deadly Silence:Parts 1 & 2", "Faces of Death", "A Life For A Life", "The Perils of Charity Jones:Parts 1 & 2", "The Ultimatum", "A Pride of Assassins", "The Fire People", "Jungle Dragnet", "Village of Fire", "Man-Killer", "The Prisoner","The Mask of Rona",and "The Prodigal Puma". The best episodes out of this series from it's second and final season were "Tarzan's Jungle Rebellion", "Last of the Supermen", "Alex The Great", "The Convert", "Mountains of the Moon:Parts 1 & 2", "Jungle Ransom", "The Four O'Clock Army:Parts 1 & 2", "End of a Challenge", "Trek to Terror","Tiger,Tiger", "The Blue Stone of Heaven:Parts 1 & 2","Hotel Hurricane", "The Thief Catcher" and "The Muguma Curse"....
TV Guide reported in June of 1968 that the "Tarzan" television series had a 31 share and finished in the top 40 during the 1967-1968 season,but NBC felt its demographics made it unappealing(due to the show's violent content) and it was abruptly canceled after 2 seasons after NBC rejected a renewal for its third season. Popular demand brought it back in repeats as a summer replacement over at CBS in 1969(on Saturday nights as the summer replacement for CBS' The Jackie Gleason Show). For the 1968-1969 season, NBC replaced "Tarzan" after 2 seasons on Friday nights in prime-time with the Western adventure series "The High Chapparal".
In this episode (A Pride of ASS-ASSins) Jai asks stupid and annoying
questions and makes you want to drown him. A gunman shoots at Tarzan
with his full auto weapon from a helicopter with the stock under his
armpit. An expert drunken knife dude throws his blade, nearly fatally,
into Tarzan's armpit. Tarzan turns a hardened sociopath woman (Jill
Donahue, known for her performance in, "Stacy Keach's Ex Wife), into a
saint, then using his favorite 'Tarzan-pull-the-guy-on-top-of-you-then-
flip-him-back-over-your-head' move, tosses her bad guy partner (Victor
French, AKA Isaiah Edwards from Little Outhouse on the Prarie Dog)
who's trying to kill her, off a cliff!! But not before turning him into
a stiff dummy that bounces off the ground.
Everyone but Tarzan, even though they are all sweating balls, is wearing heavy jackets. This is the dark continent, and I don't think they're anywhere near the snows of Kilmanjaro. Lose the jackets, morons.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Seen today, incredibly inept and stupid portrayal of Africa. Lots of racism. Totally unbelievable. At the time of this T.V. series, the late 1960s (1966 -68) the Angolan Civil War was happening, a proxy war that was fought in Africa between the United States and South Africa vs. the Soviet Union. So Tarzan, a white guy in his underwear with a hunting knife, is going to take on T-62 Soviet Tanks, 155 millimeter howitzers, machine guns, jet fighters, mortars, etc.? Just watching it now, it's obvious that everything was either shot on a Hollywood back lot or in the forests around the Los Angeles area. I wonder how the Black Panthers or the NAACP felt about this series. Something like this could not exist on television or the Internet today (Thank God). An ancient and outdated tale (published in 1912) that belongs in that time period and should stay there. Yes, I know there is a new Tarzan movie coming out this year. I wonder why. Yes, Tarzan, another ridiculous cartoon character that fights crime without a gun (like Batman).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Tarzan series and movies, for the most part, can be accused of racism and it is not difficult to see why. In the movies black Africans were either presented as vicious savages or lackeys good for little more than carrying things on their heads or running away at the first sign of trouble. The whole persona of Tarzan comes across as white superiority to the infinite power. There he is - super strong, capable of killing the fiercest of beasts with little more than a knife, or lowering the boom on the bad guys by summoning elephants with his fearsome yell. The Tarzan movies and television series were not meant to be intentionally racist like "Birth of A Nation", regretfully they come across as an unpleasant reminder of past attitudes towards race. The saddest fact was the Tarzan television series aired during a sixties, a time when African-Americans were struggling to be treated as equals and civil rights were becoming the law of the land.
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