Ivory poachers, headed by Lyra the She-Devil, Vargo and Fidel, capture a native tribe to carry their loot. Tarzan intervenes and is captured. Jane is also captured and believed killed, so ...
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Ivory poachers, headed by Lyra the She-Devil, Vargo and Fidel, capture a native tribe to carry their loot. Tarzan intervenes and is captured. Jane is also captured and believed killed, so the despairing Tarzan endures endless torture until he learns she is alive. He rises to the occasion and leads his elephants in the usual victory stampede.Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
TARZAN AND THE SHE-DEVIL (RKO Radio, 1953), directed by Kurt Neumann, stars Lex Barker making his fifth and final screen appearance as Edgar Rice Burrough's lord of the jungle. As the writers of the series attempt new ideas with their screenplays, and gearing to another direction from its previous efforts, for the first time since TARZAN ESCAPES (MGM, 1936) starring Johnny Weissmuller, does the fearless Tarzan allow himself to become the victim, losing his savage fight to overpower the villains, who, in this production, are strong enough to gather more attention than to the main characters. While the title reads like a horror movie, giving indication of Tarzan matches wits with Dracula's daughter, the woman in question is a princess compared to the male hunters she supervises, particularly one enacted by Raymond Burr only a few years before changing his frequent bad guy image to prosecuting attorney in TVs long running series, "Perry Mason" (1957-1966).
The story begins with routine everyday life as Tarzan (Lex Barker), his companion, Jane (Joyce McKenzie), and pet Cheta, find peace and tranquility in their jungle habitat until ivory poachers, Lyra (Monique Van Vooren), Fidel (Tom Conway), Vargo (Raymond Burr), Maka (Robert Bice), and others enter the scene. They want Tarzan to round up a large heard of elephants for them. Naturally, Tarzan refuses, so Lyra, leader of the expedition, attempts to persuade the lawman of the jungle by having Jane kidnapped. As the hunters carry out her plan, a struggle ensues, starting off a fire that burns down the tree-house. As Jane makes her escape, she is injured, left in a semi-conscious state, roaming about the jungle to face the dangers of the wild, including a crocodile and deadly snake before she is taken in and cared for by a native tribe. As for Tarzan, he returns to find his home burned and Jane gone. Believing Jane has perished in the fire, he becomes despaired. Not caring what happens now, he allows himself to be captured by Lyra's men, chained like a slave, held prisoner in a cottage, submitted to whippings (with limited scars of his torso), and when all else fails, extreme measures are used by having his arms tied above his head onto a wooden-like door frame structure. The angry Vargo tells Tarzan that if he doesn't do what they want, he'll hang there "until he rots." At this point the nearly unconscious Tarzan continues to be the prisoner, making no attempt whatsoever to save himself.
The problem with the Lex Barker's "Tarzan" series is the lack of consistency from one film to another. After succeeding Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan, Barker never played opposite the same Jane twice. He inherited Brenda Joyce in his initial role in TARZAN'S MAGIC FOUNTAIN (1949), followed by Vanessa Brown, Virginia Huston, Dorothy Hart and finally Joyce McKenzie. Second problem is having the much younger Barker, who looks very educated, to not be more articulate. In fact, in his last as Tarzan, he has fewer lines than ever before. Those familiar with the Barker/Tarzan series might ask themselves, "whatever became of their adopted son, Joey?" introduced by Tommy Carlton in TARZAN'S SAVAGE FURY (1952). Characters simply come and go, and while Cheta remains, Tarzan and Jane are once more childless. A few years later, Tarzan would go it alone, with Jane written out of the stories, forever absent with no explanation.
While the proposed title, TARZAN MEETS THE VAMPIRE, is a misnomer, TARZAN AND THE SHE-DEVIL is even more misleading. As for the scenario, which finds Tarzan enslaved, it's at times unpleasant, especially witnessing an action hero who never loses to become weakened while submitted to torture. At any rate, TARZAN AND THE SHE-DEVIL which runs at 76 minutes, does have its moments of interest, but not enough for excitement purposes. It may not the best nor the worst in the series, but its action relies mostly on suspense, whether or not Tarzan will be able to regain his strength, free himself from his captivity and do what's traditionally expected of him other than his ape calls.
TARZAN AND THE SHE-DEVIL, which has never been distributed on video cassette or DVD, did become one of a whole series of Tarzan adventures from 1934 to 1968 to be presented on American Movie Classics cable channel (1997-2001). In spite of the weakness in the scenario, which might have been the reason for Lex Barker to surrender his loincloth, Tarzan, like Ian Fleming's James Bond, due to its popularity, would continue to hit the theater screens for many years to come, performed each decade by different actors. Next chapter: TARZAN HIDDEN JUNGLE (RKO, 1955) starring Gordon Scott. (**1/2)
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