TARZAN THE FEARLESSTHE CLIFFHANGER SERIAL EDITION Principal Pictures, Released August 11, 1933 12 Chapters A chapter play based on characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Directed by Robert F. Hill
Featuring Buster Crabbe as Tarzan Jacqueline Wells as Mary Brooks E. Alyn Warren as Dr. Brooks Edward Woods as Bob Hall Philo McCullough as Jeff Herbert Mischa Auer as Eltar, the High Priest of Zar Carlotta Monti as Madi, Servant of Zar Frank Lackteen as Abdul Tantor the Elephant Galu the Chimp Taug and Bolgani the Apes Produced by: Sol Lesser
Written by: Basil Dickey, George Plympton, Ford Beebe (Screenplay) Directed by: Robert F. Hill Cinematography: Harry Neumann, Joseph Brotherton Music: Abe Meyer (Supervisor), Sam K. Wineland (Score)
DVD Restoration Produced by: Eric Stedman Archival Materials: Drew Caldwell
Attractive Mary Brooks leads an expedition to Uganda to try and find her archaeologist father who she believes to be lost in the region. With her are friendly Bob Hall, and not-so-friendly Jeff Herbert, who both have a strong romantic interest in Mary. Dr. Brooks has been taken captive by the people of Zar, a cult that worships the statue of a god with priceless emeralds decorating his fingers, and is condemned to death by the high priest Eltar to prevent discovery of the location of the Zar worshippers' city. When Tarzan hears the ominous death-drums of Zar he races to the archaeologist's rescue and promises him to help him reconnect with his daughter -- which seems possible until Brooks is recaptured by the high priest's men and taken back to the city of Zar. Tarzan then rescues Mary from a hungry crocodile when she takes her obligatory scantily-clad jungle movie dip in the water and things get complicated when, subsequently, she becomes attracted to Tarzan, and he to her. Little does Mary know that the greedy Jeff joined the expedition to try and claim a $10,000 bounty for killing her newfound object of affection -- and, not only that, he wants her for himself and will do anything to get her. And that brings the total to three guys who would like to move Mary into his cave!
Adventures follow as Tarzan and Mary attempt to survive encounters and battles with the worshipers of Zar, the Koso, a hostile native tribe, hungry lions, a massive gorilla, and other perils of the jungle, including the jealous and scheming Jeff. The serial leads up to a to-the-death confrontation between Tarzan and Jeff, with Mary's fate hanging in the balance.
In terms of overall Tarzan continuity, this story would have to have happened before the events of TARZAN OF THE APES in which Tarzan met Jane Porter as evidence of her is nowhere in sight in the film and Tarzan does not yet know how to talk at the beginning of the story nor that he's the heir to an English estate (though Jeff does, but he's not telling -- and in this serial it’s Greyfriar, not Greystoke!).
This serial was originally planned and licensed as a feature film which would have starred James Pierce, who played Tarzan in TARZAN IN THE GOLDEN LION, and went through a number of permutations before getting to the screen in its final form, as there was a long delay between the licensing of the character and the actual production. Pierce had gained too much weight to play Tarzan believably in the 1930s but was under contract for the role. Producing a comedy version of a Tarzan story with a dominant Jane and goofy Tarzan was considered and apparently partially scripted but the idea was subsequently dumped and Pierce was apparently eliminated by a jimmied audition process and replaced by Olympic athlete Buster Crabbe, who had played a Tarzan-like character in the feature KING OF THE JUNGLE, and the idea of filming a feature changed to the idea of making the project into a serial, which the producer thought might make more money.
The final product, which seems to have retained plot elements from the draft of the story which had been a comedy feature with the more central female character, and Tarzan as near-mute rescuer, was made available both as a 12-episode serial and a featurized version of the first four chapters which could be sold as a feature to theaters and precede the showing of the other eight episodes.
Mary is definitely the central character in the story, with Tarzan her loyal and smitten rescuer, who takes on peril after peril to try and defend his “she.”
That feature is not to be confused with the standalone feature version of TARZAN THE FEARLESS released later, which contains footage from more of the serial.
This existing feature version of TARZAN THE FEARLESS is a hastily-assembled condensation of the original material which presents a good deal of it out of order and some scenes without proper setup or explanation.
Additional footage not seen since the serial's original release has been made available to the Squadron which will be incorporated into this DVD restoration of the serial that will be presented in original single-chapter form, with opening and closing titles and cliffhanger endings intact.
Existing content here is presented in its original cliffhanger format, and every chapter is represented in the DVD. Stil-missing sections have been reconstructed and summarized according to the available information in the existing original script draft, the Big Little Book text, and published descriptions of chapters as released.
The content which remains missing from the serial involved a capture of the explorers by the Koso tribe and their escape from execution, and a sequence in which Tarzan rescues Mary from capture by the soldiers of Zar but is knocked from a high rock by a thrown bolo, then rescued by his friend Taug the gorilla. Photos from both sequences are included in the DVD.
Light toning effects are used mostly on the early episodes to help bring out the clarity of the image and define action locations.
This restoration is complete as of 2/21 and the DVD will begin shipping in February 2016.
Thank you to those who participated in the Squadron subscription program which has made this release possible, and to Drew Caldwell for the loan of original material and assistance with the restoration.
NOTES ON THE ORIGINAL FILM AND TRANSFER
The source material for the new material included on this DVD was an original 35mm print which had suffered some damage and which was far from complete. It did, however, contain the original serial opening and theme music which is not the same as what was used in the feature. It’s actually pretty rousing and much better -- don’t know why it was changed! The film was transferred on a Rank Cintel to standard DVD resolution. The new content was combined with another transfer of footage from the feature version to complete the cliffhanger edition.
1 THE DIVE OF DEATH 16:56 2 THE STORM GOD STRIKES! 18:11 3 THUNDERING DEATH 12:42 4 THE PIT OF PERIL 15:23 5 BLOOD MONEY 6:54 6 VOODOO VENGEANCE 11:21 7 CAUGHT BY CANNIBALS 8:10 8 THE CREEPING TERROR 7:05 9 EYES OF EVIL 13:53 10 THE DEATH PLUNGE 5:49 11 HARVEST OF HATE 9:14 12 JUNGLE JUSTICE 15:10 SLIDESHOW