The spiritual leader of an oriental country is dying. The leader's evil brother Khan is plotting to prevent Kashi, the youthful heir, from assuming his rightful position. Tarzan is summoned...
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H. Bruce Humberstone
The spiritual leader of an oriental country is dying. The leader's evil brother Khan is plotting to prevent Kashi, the youthful heir, from assuming his rightful position. Tarzan is summoned to protect Kashi and, in doing so, he must face Khan in three tests of strength. The final test is a sword fight which takes place on a wide-mesh net stretched over cauldrons of boiling oil. Jeweled elephants lead grand processions, and a thousand girls perform the "dance of the candles". A baby elephant named Hungry replaces Cheetah in the humor role.Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
It's surprising so few people have commented on this movie since it enjoyed a degree of success upon its original release and still qualifies as one of the better Tarzans. The plot follows the traditional pattern of a guide/protector leading a party through dangerous territory toward a sought-after destination. The guide/protector in this case is Tarzan who's come from Africa to parachute into an Asian kingdom that looks a lot like Thailand. His job is to escort Kashi, a boy who's been chosen as the "Successor" to the kingdom'e dying leader. The leader's evil brother, however, seeks power for himself and is determined to keep Kashi from reaching the city where his ordination will occur. The middle part of the movie is thus filled with dangers and obstacles which Tarzan must face and overcome. Along the way, of course, are snippets of the usual wildlife footage plus an "adorable" baby elephant who here serves the same purpose Cheetah did back in Tarzan's African movies. Even better, though, are the scenes of exotic temples, statues, and ceremonies which have been well photographed in Metrocolor and widescreen. These scenes alone make a look at this movie worthwhile.
The title refers to three challenges which Tarzan must pass before he is entrusted with the case of the Successor. The first is a test of skill involving archery and the third is a test of wisdom which requires Tarzan to answer a question. In between comes a test of strength which provided this movie with its most distinctive image. Tarzan stands between two tall posts. Ropes with attached handles have been looped over the tops of these poles. Tarzan takes hold of these handles and then is told: "You will be required to resist the pull of two buffalo for five strokes of the gong." The buffalo, tied to the other ends of the ropes, are then driven in opposite directions, causing Tarzan to be s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d like a wishbone after Thanksgiving dinner. This "stretching," similar to feats of strength in such "Hercules" movies as "Goliath and the Barbarians," gives Jock Mahoney a chance to show off his sweaty, muscular, and carefully-shaved physique in a "bondage" situation that's quite sensual.
Alas, Mahoney's physique looks haggard in the movie's final reel in which he faces a fourth challenge -- a test of might which culminates in a sword fight vs. Woody Strode taking place over a netting stretched above cauldrons of bubbling liquid. (Why isn't the title, "Tarzan's Four Challenges?") Much has been made of the illness striking Mahoney during the filming which resulted in this haggard look, but the truth is Mahoney was about ten years too old for his part. Still, his age gives him a certain "gravitas" missing in most of the other Tarzans and he has no need for apologize for his performance which projects an image of quiet strength and mature judgment. Rocky Der is also commendably good as Kashi, managing to be appealing without resorting to "cuteness" and he has a great smile.
One question: Tarzan's bids farewell to his new friends in the final scene and then runs off down a country road. Where is he going? Does he plan to run all the way back to Africa?
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