TCM’s weekly Saturday inclusion of a Tarzan film continues at 12noon/11am central on Saturday, October 15 with 1962’s Tarzan Goes To India. In a further effort to breath new life into the then-30-year-old Tarzan franchise, producer Sy Weintraub and director John Guillermin, who had previously directed 1959’s Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure, not only present Jock Mahoney in his debut as The Ape Man, but also moves the film’s primary action away from the jungles of Africa. In the annals of Tarzan films, Tarzan had only been seen outside his jungle home in 1942’s Tarzan’s New York Adventure and 1952’s Turkish language film, Tarzan in Istanbul, the latter of which is not typically considered part of the franchise, since it was not released in the US and has rarely been screened since.
As mentioned in last week’s article about Tarzan’s Greatest Adenture, Jock Mahoney had previously been considered for the role of Tarzan in the late 1940’s when Johnny Weissmuller was ending his reign, but Mahoney lost out to Lex Barker. Later, Mahoney was cast in Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure, but as one of the film’s main villains, so casting him as the lead in Tarzan Goes to India was unexpected. As the franchise’s thirteenth actor to play Tarzan, and following muscle-bound Gordon Scott in the role, Mahoney presented a leaner, more naturally athletic looking Lord of the Jungle. Mahoney also made history by becoming the oldestTarzan in film. He was 44-years-old when he starred in his first of only two Tarzan adventures.
In spite of our hero’s age, the plot of the film, like so many action/adventure genre movies of the early 60s is aimed at a juvenile audience. This time out, at the request of Princess Kamara (then-future Bollywood actress Simi Garewal), Tarzan flies to India where a modern dam is being built in a drought-ridden town. The technological advance of the dam will end the drought, provide jobs for locals, but more important to Tarzan and the Princess, may endanger the lives of a herd of 300 elephants unless Tarzan can use his ability to communicate with animals to lead the herd away from the desolate area soon to be flooded once the dam is complete. Let’s just hope Tarzan‘s distinctive ululating yell is a universal language and not limited to Africa.
Adding an interesting element of the nature of animals, Tarzan soon discovers that the herd is being led by a rogue elephant. Tarzan not only has to face the usual human villains, but has to battle the rogue elephant in order to save the rest of the large endangered herd.
Later, another elephant charges a work camp near the dam site, but this one isn’t a wild beast acting on natural instinct, instead it’s an elephant named Gajendra, a domesticated elephant that was sent to waylay the build by a young Tarzan-esque boy named Jia, the Elephant Boy. Perhaps missing his own Boy, Tarzan eventually befriends young Jia and coaches him in the responsible way to balance nature and progress with the help of Princess Kamara. Our hero also wrestles with a cobra, and later a leopard. On the subject of animals, Tarzan‘s sidekick, Cheeta is completely absent from the film, after being reduced to a mere cameo in the previous movie.
Tarzan‘s human foils include O’Hara (Mark Dana), the dam’s contractor and ivory poacher/turned dam engineer Bryce (Leo Gordon). Adding to the authenticity of the film, Tarzan Goes to India was actually filmed in India. Additional scenes were shot at the famed Temple of Buddha’s Footprint high atop the mountainous jungle region near Krabi, Thailand.
Next week, TCM continues their weekly Tarzan presentation as Mahoney returns in 1963’s Tarzan’s Three Challenges.
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