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A shipping disaster in the 19th Century has stranded a man and woman in the wilds of Africa. The lady is pregnant, and gives birth to a son in their tree house. Soon after, a family of apes stumble across the house and in the ensuing panic, both parents are killed. A female ape takes the tiny boy as a replacement for her own dead infant, and raises him as her son. Twenty years later, Captaine Phillippe D'Arnot discovers the man who thinks he is an ape. Evidence in the tree house leads him to believe that he is the direct descendant of the Earl of Greystoke, and thus takes it upon himself to return the man to civilization. Written by
Murray Chapman <email@example.com>
Greystoke: The Legend Of Tarzan, Lord Of The Apes (Hugh Hudson, 1984) ***
This begins a series (which I'll hopefully keep up every week-end) of films that came out during my childhood in this case, it's one I've only managed to catch now. It was clearly intended as the last word on the subject, which basically had been debased to the level of hokum over the years; however, in its uncompromising striving for a serious-minded approach (a sure measure of which is that the protagonist is never once referred to by the name he's been known all this time the world over!), the film-makers rather lost track of the fact that the thing was intended primarily as entertainment! Consequently, we get a decidedly staid representation of events with more care given to meticulous period reconstruction than in providing a functional thematic environment for its mythic jungle hero! Even so, Christopher Lambert rose to stardom as did another debutante, Andie McDowell, playing his love interest (named Jane, of course) with the title role, which he handles creditably enough under the circumstances. However, Ralph Richardson (to whom the film is dedicated, this being his swan-song) steals every scene he's in as Tarzan's natural grandfather who, in spite of showing obvious affection for his long-lost kin, can't bring himself to forget tradition in an effort to understand his predicament; the hero, in fact, is much more comfortable interacting with primates (even contriving, after having gone back home, to save his adoptive 'dad' from captivity). The film is otherwise very good to look at (with cinematography by Stanley Kubrick regular John Alcott, no less), features an appropriately grandiose score as well as remarkable make-up effects (by Rick Baker) and, while essentially disappointing as a Tarzan outing, retains considerable value nonetheless as a prestige picture of its day.
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