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The World's Greatest Athlete (1973)

A down on his luck coach travels to Africa where he spots the world's greatest athlete - a white Tarzan-type. The coach brings him back to the U.S. of A. to compete.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Dean Maxwell
Mrs. Petersen
Danny Goldman ...
Leopold Maxwell
Games spectator
Liam Dunn ...
Dr. Winslow
Dean Bellamy
Dr. Gottlieb
Howard Cosell ...
Himself - Announcer
Himself - Announcer


Coach Archer is has not won anything in any sport that his school has participated during his tenure. Now the head of the Alumni Association, who was one of the people who endorsed him for the job, feels like Archer is making him look bad. He then tells him that this coming season is the last on his contract and will be his "last" unless he turns things around. He and his assistant, Milo go to Africa for a little vacation. While there they discover a man named Nanu, who grew up in the jungle after his missionary parents died, and who is also by all aspects the greatest athlete in the world. And if Archer can get him back to the States, he can save his job. However, Nanu is happy where he is. So Archer tricks him into doing an act by jungle law obligates him to be with Archer. When they arrive Archer gets him into the school and gets him a tutor, Jane. The two of them fall for each other the moment they meet each other. This does not make Leopold, her former boyfriend, very happy, so ... Written by <rcs0411@yahoo.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


From the Jungle to the Gym...He's the Greatest! See more »


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Official Sites:



Release Date:

14 February 1973 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Big Boy - Der aus dem Dschungel kam  »


Box Office

Gross USA:

$22,583,370, 31 December 1973
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.75 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Actor Jan-Michael Vincent did his own swimming in the movie but all the sporty stunts and athletic feats were performed by body doubles and stunt men. See more »


The film does explain that Harri the tiger IS from India. He is just a house pet that Nanu's parents brought to Africa when the tiger was just a cub. See more »


Jane Douglas: [tutoring Nanu in biology, Jane has him hold her hand] Your brain signaled the muscles in your hand to contract in order to hold my hand. Is that clear?
Nanu: Nanu understand.
Jane Douglas: Now when...
Jane Douglas: You can stop holding my hand.
Nanu: Nanu's brain is still signaling.
See more »


Referenced in NCIS: Jack-Knife (2010) See more »

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User Reviews

Funny, funny, funny!!!!!!
24 July 2001 | by See all my reviews

This is one of the funniest film's of Disney's live action library. Taking another spin on the tale of Tarzan, The World's Greatest Athlete is the story of how college coach Sam Archer, tired of losing, tries to get away from it all by taking a trip to Africa. While there, he encounters Nanu, a superhuman by any standards measured!!! Seeing a gold mine and wins with Nanu as his athlete on campus, Coach Archer lures him to their university, where Nanu indeed excels in sports, but also feels homesick. Good jokes and tasteful humor make this a must-see. Jon Amos and Tim Conway are great as the bumbling coaches, and Jan-Michael Vincent shows that he could act wonderfully within a comedic setting. Also, this is one of the movies that displays Vincent's prowess, and makes people wonder what could have been. While younger viewers may not know of Vincent, or wonder why anyone cares about a "second rate actor", there was a time when many movie fans felt that Vincent could have been a major box office draw. While Nanu ultimately proves that he is a champion, Vincent will always make people ponder if he could have been a real Hollywood contender.

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