- Movie Rating -

Tarzan the Ape Man (1981)

| August 7, 1981

I know what I expected from Tarzan the Ape Man, I know that in my mind I was angling for some kind of primal sexual exploitation picture, something like The Erotic Adventures of Tarzan, and it wouldn’t have been outside of the nature of this character.  There is something sexual about Tarzan, about the primal man meeting the civilized woman for the very first time – sort of a Blue Lagoon in back Africa.  And yet, for all of its promises of sex and nudity Tarzan the Ape Man turns out to be a crushing, timid bore.

The advertising plays up Bo Derek’s sexuality but it’s hardly on display here.  You might hope that she and Miles O’Keefe, the former football star who plays Tarzan might spend some time in some soft-core erotic posturing with exposed body parts and maybe a little bit of R-rated thrusting, but you’d be wasting your time and your money.  Yeah, there’s a little nudity on Bo’s part but it’s not the sex romp that everyone is hoping for.

This is, of course, a remake of the 1932 original that starred Maureen O’Sullivan and Johnny Weissmuller but why has the material been so dumbed-down and softened up?  What possibilities are now possible on the other side of the sexual revolution.  With the production code now gone and sex and nudity now possible, why give us a movie that does everything to avoid the sex part?

What passes for a story here is kind of stupid.  Bo plays Jane Parker, a virgin (uh-huh) who is on safari with her father (Richard Harris) who is on the trail of The Great White Ape.  Over and over and over and over Harris reminds us that he wants this ape badly, Ohhhh he wants this ape stuffed and in his trophy room.  Yes siree Bob, he wants that Ape!  Now!  Today!

Jane, on the other hand, is set up as bait to lure the ape man out of the jungle and, lo and behold, things go awry and she finds herself in his company.  But what do they do when they are together?  Not much I’m afraid.  John Derek, who directed this movie and is Bo’s real-life husband either can’t or won’t let these two kids explore their primal biological urges.  The movie approaches sex, but it never quite gets there.  Frankly, I was bored by this movie.  I kept waiting for something that is promised but never quite delivered. 

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1981) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized