Tarzan's Magic Fountain (1949) Poster

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Lex Barker's Tarzan Debut Sentimental, but Routine...
cariart26 October 2003
Sol Lesser, producer of the TARZAN film series for RKO, missed a golden opportunity when he cast Lex Barker to replace aging Johnny Weissmuller as the jungle lord. At 30, the 6'4" Barker's background ideally prepared him to play author Edgar Rice Burroughs' orphaned English lord; a direct descendant of Rhode Island founder Roger Williams, Barker's family was wealthy and 'Old Guard', and he was a star athlete with an Ivy League education from Princeton. A love of hellraising and sense of adventure had led the young man to choose acting as a career, a move that effectively cut his ties to his family.

With Barker's background, it would have seemed natural for Lesser to abandon the clichéd 'Me, Tarzan' portrayal of the previous 17 years, and return Tarzan to the character as written by Burroughs, that of a worldly adventurer as comfortable in a tuxedo as a loincloth, whose unique jungle instincts made him the perfect choice for exciting adventures around the world. But the veteran producer, afraid to tinker with a proven money maker, chose to simply have Barker imitate Weissmuller, speaking broken English, and still living in the treehouse condo with Jane (Brenda Joyce, making her last appearance in the role) and Cheeta.

TARZAN'S MAGIC FOUNTAIN has an intriguing opening; a long-missing 'Amelia Earhart'-type aviatrix (Evelyn Ankers) comes out of the jungle, looking years younger than her actual age, to save her wrongly convicted husband (future 'Batman' star Alan Napier). While Tarzan knows the secret of her youth, he refuses to share the knowledge with Jane (who is a bit peeved!). Soon the couple return, and the woman flier has aged, considerably (Civilization will DO that...). Tarzan refuses to return the couple and their party to where she had achieved her 'youth', so Jane decides to take them herself, based on what the flier remembered of the journey, and the bits and pieces she'd learned from Tarzan.

The group reach a forbidden city, and a fountain that IS the 'Fountain of Youth'...and face the ire of the 'lost civilization' living there, who had trusted Tarzan to keep their location secret. Naturally, the other members of the couple's group turn out to be money-hungry evil men, who reveal their true intentions with bloodshed...and it's Tarzan to the rescue!

One can see why Lesser wouldn't have wanted Weissmuller for this film (critics would have been quick to suggest HE drink some of the elixir, pronto!), and despite the excellent cast (including veteran actors Albert Dekker and Charles Drake), the end result is no more than a standard 'B' movie, despite the publicity build-up given to Barker's assuming the role. The best moment of the film, in fact, goes to Cheeta, who guzzles Jane's hidden stash of the magic water, and reverts back to a baby chimp!

Lex Barker got favorable reviews, in general, for his sexy, confident portrayal of the Ape Man, and he would appear in four more of the jungle epics, over the next four years.

For those fans hoping for a Burroughs-inspired Tarzan in 1949, however, there would be ten more years of frustration, before he would finally emerge...
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4/10
Tarzan and the Fountain of Youth
lugonian20 August 2005
TARZAN'S MAGIC FOUNTAIN (RKO Radio, 1949), directed by Lee Sholem, introduces Lex Barker to the role of Tarzan, and marks the fifth and final performance of blonde actress Brenda Joyce as Jane. With Lex Barker as a new Tarzan after 16 years and 12 installments starring Johnny Weissmuller at both MGM and RKO studios, this must have been a hard act to follow, especially for Barker, since comparisons are evident. With Barker being younger and slimmer to the slightly taller but recently heavier and somewhat older Weissmuller's carnation as the lord of the jungle, his debut into the series is one of the better entries.

For TARZAN'S MAGIC FOUNTAIN, Tarzan (Lex Barker) discovers a woman named Gloria James (Evelyn Ankers) and takes her over to his tree house where his mate, Jane (Brenda Joyce), remembers her as the famous aviatrix whose airplane had disappeared into the jungle some twenty years ago. What has surprised Jane is how Gloria has remained looking so young for a woman her age. It is learned that Gloria had been found and living in the secret valley of eternal youth. Things go well until Donald Trask (Albert Dekker) and Mr. Dodd (Charles Drake), a couple of unscrupulous hunters, enter the scene, invading Tarzan's territory and causing trouble when they learn of and wanting to be taken to the lost valley of eternal youth.

Supporting players include Alan Napier as Douglas Jessup, Gloria's former beau; Ted Hecht as Pasco; Henry Brandon as Siko; and David Bond as The High One, among others.

What makes TARZAN'S MAGIC FOUNTAIN interesting is the concept borrowed from James Hilton's novel, "Lost Horizon." Evelyn Ankers, best known for her co-starring roles in numerous horror films for Universal in the 1940s, the best known being THE WOLF MAN (1941), assumes the part of a woman suggested on an actual lost aviatrix, Amelia Earhart (who had disappeared in 1937, never to be seen or heard from again), is quite satisfactory as the middle-aged woman who hasn't aged a day in two decades. Only after she has departed the land of eternal youth does she begin to slowly age, as the Maria character from "Lost Horizon," however, not as extreme. It's not so bad in borrowing from a classic novel to provide new developments to the long running "Tarzan" series, however, it seems a pity that the writers didn't rise above the juvenile standards and predictable screenplay the starts off so well then simmers down midway to what might have been the first superior Tarzan adventure in nearly a decade. While it includes Tarzan getting into the swing of things by traveling from tree to tree on the vine (seen through the opening title credits), giving out his ape call, there's also the traditional Tarzan defeats including his battle with a nasty torch carrying villain (Henry Kulky) for beating an animal and a man below his standards, and on the lighter side, Tarzan's pet chimpanzee Cheta providing the usual comedy relief.

As with the cinematic "James Bond" character a decade into the future, the "Tarzan" series would resume with different actors playing the part, and while many claim Sean Connery to be the best "James Bond," and Weissmuller the best "Tarzan," these two fictional creations have become the most recognizable characters of all time. While Weissmuller's departure as Tarzan might have put an end to the series altogether, Tarzan's box-office appeal was still successful, successful enough to keep it going as long as possible. Whether Lex Barker could be categorized as one of the better or least successful Tarzans is a matter of opinion. The duration of the series in which he appeared might have suffered not only for its lack of originality, but the non-consistency of stories and different actresses portraying Jane. Brenda Joyce bowed out of the series and movie making altogether following the release of TARZAN'S MAGIC FOUNTAIN, going on record in the Tarzan log books as the only Jane to appear opposite two different Tarzans, Weissmuller and Barker. There would be other Janes, but the redheaded Maureen O'Sullivan remains most recognized, playing her six times to Brenda Joyce's five. After four more future installments, Lex Barker would hang up his loincloth, leading the way other actors to keep Edgar Rice Burrough's Tarzan alive.

While TARZAN'S MAGIC FOUNTAIN was never distributed on video cassette, (DVD distribution came around 2009), it became one of the series of Tarzan adventures in its lineup from the 1930s to the late 1960s to be presented on American Movie Classics cable channel (1997-2000) and Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: July 2, 2011). As former AMC host Bob Dorian had pointed out in one of his profiles about this movie, production began as "Tarzan and the Arrow of Death," and the movie's very first Tarzan, Elmo Lincoln, first introduced on screen in 1918, appears briefly as a fisherman. Interesting bits of Tarzan trivia.(**) Next installment: TARZAN AND THE SLAVE GIRL (RKO, 1950).
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8/10
When Tarzan was Still Tarzan
vitaleralphlouis28 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Johnny Weissmuller quit Trazan in 1948 in order to make films where he could cover his "aging" body. Lex Barker took his place, and for my money he was the ONLY Tarzan who successfully carried the role after Weissmuller's departure.

This was Brenda Joyce's final turn as Jane. Brenda was the best and sexiest Jane ever, but she preferred quitting Hollywood altogether, and that's our loss.

Thank heavens for RKO and Sol lessor making these Tarzan movies with modest budget and simple plots. They can be watched over and over, while big budget garbage like "Greystone" is relegated to the dumpster.

One part of Magic Fountain worth noting is the scene where Jane has led a party of 4 into a ravine in order to get much needed water. It shows how, in Africa, Mother Nature can turn on you on a dime. Rain starts, so they can now drink... but not so fast. The rain is hard and fast, turning into a dangerous flood in mere seconds, trapping them in the ravine. That's how it is: rain for maybe 30 minutes, so hard it might give you a headache. Then nothing. Then sunlight. Then no trace it ever rained. Many dangers from rain. Roads turn to slick mud and you slide. Dangers everywhere.
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6/10
Not quite "Magic" but still entertaining
dinky-47 March 2007
The "Lost Horizon" aspects of this plot may border on the silly -- the residents of the "Blue Valley" dress in Egyptian-Polynesian style! -- but they provide a serviceable framework for the first of Lex Barker's Tarzan movies. Barker, alas, is asked to play the title role as something of an overgrown bumpkin who can't quite seem to master the use of such basic articles of speech as "a" and "the," and there's little hint of the "killer instinct" which has allowed him to survive for so long in such hostile terrain. However, Barker's Tarzan is a likable sort who looks good in his loincloth which, for the sake of modesty, rides high enough on his midsection to cover his navel. Perhaps his beefcake-highpoint comes in the final reel when he's tethered with outstretched arms in a cave while some men from the Blue Valley prepare to blind him. (Yes, they actually have a tool designed for this purpose: a two-pronged fork that can poke out both eyes at the same time. Why this fork has to be heated white-hot before it can do its work remains a mystery.) Obviously aimed at a Saturday matinée crowd, this briskly-plotted movie devotes a lot of attention to the antics of Cheetah who, during the course of the proceedings, chews bubblegum, learns the peril of hot pepper, and gets to play with ants. Children may giggle, adults will groan. As an added bonus, there's Elmo Lincoln - the silent movies' Tarzan -- who here plays a burly villain with a black eyepatch. He and Barker get to engage in a couple of semi-comic fights.

For the record, the fountain doesn't belong to Tarzan nor does it fall under his jurisdiction so the title is something of a misnomer.
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Good Tarzan adventure
searchanddestroy-13 December 2018
The least that we can say is that feature is not the worst Tarzan adventure ever. Maybe not the best, but an interesting yarn. Let me explain why, in my own opinion. The "bad guys" Albert Dekker and Chuck Drake are not so bad guys after all, just greedy fellows in search of a multi million magic liquid which can ensure eternal youth...I hav seen meaner heavies in Tarzan films. And those natives who protect their paradise can, for some of them, also being seen as savages, bad guys of the movie. yes a good film debut for Lee Sholem.
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Brenda Joyce and Henry Kulky
davjazzer-430689 June 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Anyone notice that Brenda Joyce looked a little heavy in this film? Mostly her legs. She was still gorgeous and had a great figure,but there's quite a differance from the year before. One reviewer thought Elmo Lincoln was the villain with the eyepatch-that was former wrestler Henry Kulky. Elmo can be seen briefly as a fisherman near the pond where Lex and Kulky fight.
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5/10
Tarzan minus Weissmuller is still entertaining
a_chinn3 June 2018
The first Tarzan film minus Weissmulle,r and replaces him with Lex Barker as the new Tarzan. In this outing the Lord of the Apes finds a secret Valley where nobody ages, so it's basically "Lost Horizon" with more loincloths. Co-written by Curt Siodmak, who wrote a few minor classics including "The Wolf Man," "I Walked with a Zombie" and "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers," makes this one of the better later Tarzan films. Overall, it's nothing brilliant, but if you're in the right mood it's entertaining enough and far better than any of the cheaper Tarzan spinoff-/ripoff Bomba films. Alan Napier, Alfred on the 1960s Batman TV series, also appears in the film, as does Albert Dekker, who played the evil Dr. Soberin in "Kiss Me Deadly."
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6/10
Welcome, Lex Barker!
EdgarST25 December 2014
First Tarzan film with Lex Barker in the title role, "Tarzan's Magic Fountain" is a welcome improvement after Johnny Weissmuller's last entry, the dull "Tarzan and the Mermaids", whose only saving grace was the location shooting in México, with its attractive monuments and landscapes. When he moved the franchise to RKO Radio, producer Sol Lesser was much helped with the addition of Barker, a handsome, tall and dignified Lord Greystoke; simple and attractive art direction and inexpensive but effective visual effects. Although the story is lineal and easy, lacking strong emotional or action peaks, it is still fun to watch, due to its fantasy elements: a British woman pilot who disappeared in an African jungle (not to far from Tarzan's home), reappears 20 years later looking as young as when her small plane crashed, thanks to the magic fountain of Blue Valley. Soon greedy men want to get there and start a business bottling the fountain water. (In the story, the product target is women, but in these days it would be also a success among vain men). The plot is more romantic than this but it's up to you to discover the whole story. And Cheetah is funnier than ever!
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5/10
Lex Barker Swings into Action
wes-connors11 July 2011
Lord of the jungle Lex Barker (as Tarzan) and beautiful blonde Brenda Joyce (as Jane) are given an old cigarette case and journal "Cheeta" the chimp finds while frolicking with a mate. They belong to famous pilot Evelyn Ankers (as Gloria James), who disappeared in a 1928 plane crash. As it turns out, Ms. Ankers survived the crash and took up residence in a "Shangri-la" known to only a select few, Tarzan being one of them. He retrieves Ankers because she can clear a man unjustly accused of murder...

But the fact that she didn't age while living in "The Blue Valley" for 20 years attracts the criminal element...

RKO and producer Sol Lesser kept the "Tarzan" series going by green lighting Mr. Barker as a replacement for the departing Johnny Weissmuller. In his first appearance as the character, Barker fills the loincloth comfortably. This was the last appearance of Ms. Joyce as Tarzan's "Jane" and it's also her best-acted appearance. Albert Dekker and Charles Drake make fine villains. Considering how the film ends, "The Magic Fountain" provides an implicit explanation for Tarzan's suddenly more youthful appearance.

***** Tarzan's Magic Fountain (2/5/49) Lee Sholem ~ Lex Barker, Brenda Joyce, Evelyn Ankers, Albert Dekker
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5/10
Surprisingly enjoyable non-Weissmuller "Tarzan"...
moonspinner5522 June 2011
Edgar Rice Burroughs' Ape Man creation had already seen some rocky cinematic days by the time "Tarzan's Magic Fountain" was released in 1949. Still, this inoffensive adventure will most likely placate fans of the series, particularly with Lex Barker making his debut in the leading role. Story has Tarzan discovering a mystical valley where no one grows old, a scenario which appears to perplex Brenda Joyce's Jane (who seems catatonic) and two funny, neurotic chimps (one paces, the other bites her nails). Handsomely-produced entry with some amusing asides. Barker is a bit bland and slow to start, but Tarzan-addicts might want to cut him some slack: this was quite a daunting part to fill. ** from ****
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Not a Classic But a Step Up From the Previous Few Films
Michael_Elliott8 August 2011
Tarzan's Magic Fountain (1949)

** 1/2 (out of 4)

After Johnny Weissmuller walked away from the Tarzan series RKO was quick to replace him with Lex Barker and the first of the new series actually turned out to be a good little film. Tarzan (Barker) and Jane (Brenda Joyce) find a cigarette case, which just happens to belong to Gloria Jessup (Evelyn Ankers), a pilot who went missing twenty-years earlier. It turns out that her plane crashed and she was taken in by a local tribe who also happen to have a magic fountain that can keep something youthful forever. Gloria returns back to her homeland but begins to grow old so she wants Tarzan to take her back to her village. TARZAN'S MAGIC FOUNTAIN certainly isn't a masterpiece but it's still a lot better than the previous five films from the Weissmuller series. I think a lot of the credit has to go to Curt Siodmak who co-wrote the screenplay. Film buffs will recognize his name as the man behind many of the Universal horror movies like THE WOLF MAN and BLACK Friday. He certainly knows how to add in some good touches and he turns this typical story about youth into a pretty good adventure film. I think the screenplay does a nice job at not taking itself too serious but at the same time it works well for adults. The previous few films were certainly aimed at children but this one here has a more serious tone including a couple rather violent deaths and another sequence with some nice black humor involving the skeletons of the plane crash victims. There's no question that Weissmuller was the greatest screen Tarzan so Barker had a large loin cloth to fill. For the most part I thought he was decent in the role as he certainly has the physical appearance for the part and he handled most of the dialogue just fine. Joyce, in her final appearance as Jane, isn't too bad either but I'm a little surprised the producers brought her back considering they were trying to start a new series. Ankers is as charming as ever and Albert Dekker makes for a good villain. The screen's very first Tarzan, Elmo Lincoln, appears quickly at the start of the film as a fisherman. There are a few pacing issues and there are some dry moments here and there but it's hard to not say that the series at least got going back in the right direction after some pretty lifeless films.
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4/10
Ponce DeLeon Had It Wrong
bkoganbing2 July 2011
Tarzan's Magic Fountain which introduced Lex Barker to the role of Tarzan and marked Brenda Joyce's farewell performance as Jane was hardly a change from some of what the RKO Studio was doing with the franchise when Johnny Weissmuller was swinging on the vines at RKO.

Tarzan's keeping secrets again even from Jane about yet another civilization lost in the jungle. This one has a fountain of youth in it and we now learn that Ponce DeLeon was looking on an entirely wrong continent for same.

But the secret spills when Cheta brings in evidence of famed aviatrix Evelyn Ankers who like Amelia Earhart disappeared during a round the world flight over Africa. As it turns out she parachuted into the jungle and these people took her in and kept her forever young.

Now however she has to go out and give evidence that will save her beloved who in her absence was convicted of murder and has been in prison all these years. When she leaves the Blue Valley with that mystical and magical Fountain Of Youth she reverts to her proper age in appearance, but she and now husband Alan Napier return to Africa to live with the people who took her in.

The problem is that a couple of bottom feeders played by Charles Drake and Albert Dekker want to tag along and exploit the youth water. But as it does in Tarzan films, Tarzan and the jungle elements take care of the bad guys.

When the series was originally with MGM it tried not always successfully to stay within the Edgar Rice Burroughs parameters of the character. Gradually that changed as the Tarzan budgets got lower. But during RKO the series was at its worst. So many changes were happening in Africa, but no notice was taken at RKO, especially after Howard Hughes acquired the studio.

Still Lex Barker does look good in a loincloth.
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