Sunday, May 22, 2011

Tarzan and His Mate (1934)


Tarzan and His Mate is an improvement over the previous film. The movie is a definite sequel, building on the characters and plot points of the previous film and going that extra mile to make everything even more spectacular than Tarzan the Ape Man.


The film begins with Harry (Neil Hamilton) returning to Africa with his is old pal Martin (Paul Cavanagh). The two are focused on getting to the elephant graveyard and picking up some serious ivory. Martin needs the money especially bad, he's sunk his entire fortune into the safari and isn't about to give up.

Of course just getting to the graveyard proves hazardous as they run into a fearsome enemy tribe, boulder throwing apes and a rival expedition. Luckily Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller) and Jane (Maureen O’Sullivan) come to the rescue. Harry is still carrying a torch for Jane and does his best to tempt her back to civilization. But she's dedicated to her loincloth wearing man.

The safari gets back on track, but Tarzan is disturbed by its goal. He feels that taking the ivory is the equivalent of robbing a grave. So he does his best to stop Harry and Martin. This makes Mr. Martin grumpy and he takes matters into his own hands. It all boils down to a smash bang finale involving furious tribesman, stampeding elephants, swarming lions, battle crazed apes, and Tarzan leaping around kicking everyone's butt.

Good Points:

  • Great interaction between Jane and Tarzan
  • One of the craziest climaxes I’ve seen in any movie from the 30s
  • More impressive visual effects

Bad Points:

  • The plot is pretty similar to the first film
  • More disturbing animal action
  • More disturbing portrayal of anyone not white


Scores (out of 5)

Visuals: 4

Sound: 3

Acting: 3

Script: 3

Music: n/a

Direction: 4

Entertainment: 3

Total: 3

In Depth Review

This movie attempts to take all the ingredients you enjoyed in the first film and crank it to 11. The result is a true Tarzan epic. You loved all the animal action, well this movie has even more, with rhinos, ostriches, snakes added to the original cast of chimps, leopards, lions, hippos and crocodiles. You loved Tarzan and Jane flashing skin, wait till you see the extended skinny dipping sequence. Hello Jane! You loved Cheetah the chimp shrieking for minutes on end, well this movie has Cheetah shrieking for even more.

More than that, Tarzan and his Mate really builds on the characters and situations established in Tarzan the Ape Man. The moments that Jane and Tarzan share are handled really well, and its fun to see this newlywed couple swinging around the jungle. O’Sullivan has a real charisma and her chemistry with Weissmuller is undeniable. The later movies continue to build on it, but for me this movie is the best representation of the two.

As for the supporting cast, they all do an adequate job. One thing I liked about the script is how Harry turned out to be a good guy who got a raw deal. You can tell he really cares about Jane, but soon realizes that she’s head over heels for Tarzan. He doesn’t like it, but he accepts it. But his money troubles that forced him to complete his safari, even if he must go against Jane and Tarzan’s wishes. Its Martin who starts as a cad and ends as a cad in the film. With his pencil thin mustache and smarmy ogling of Jane, you just don’t’ like the guy. He’s more desperate than Harry, willing to do just about anything to get the riches he needs. It was gratifying to see the horror on his face as the finale kicks into high gear and realized how out of his depth he is.

If you manage to catch Tarzan and His Mate for any reason other than Jane’s skinny dipping scene, it would be to see this crazy finale featuring some of the craziest animal action and special effects I’ve seen in any movie from the 1930s. Tarzan is swinging from trees, fighting natives, battling bloodthirsty lions, dodging spears, gunshots and stampeding elephants all to rescue Jane from two more lions. It’s crammed with action, motion and noise. Even the build up to the sequence featuring the hunters dealing with the lion worshiping tribe is intense and creates some excellent thrill sequences.

All in all the animal action and special effects are impressive for the time. Sure you get lots of rear projection. But you also get scenes with real stuntmen and many times Weissmuller himself dodging or riding rhinos, or rolling around on the ground with a real live lion. As I mentioned, I’m guessing many animals were hurt making this film, so those who don’t look kindly on that should avoid the film. But for me its an impressive feat.

But there was one scene so silly that I had to laugh. At one point Jane is being attacked by a rampaging rhino. Cheetah the elder (who is played by an unfortunate man in a suit) sees her peril and runs to the rescue. You get a hilarious sequence where a live chimp is running in front of a rear-projected jungle. Then turns into a man in a suit being charged down by a rear projected rhino. The rhino charges right at the screen at a bizarre angle. The “ape” gets “hit” and does a back flip to his death. This tragic moment nearly caused water to shoot out of my nose as I took a drink at that moment – don’t let that happen to you!

For all the fun to be had, the movie does run a bit too long. Clocking in at 105 minutes it’s the longest Tarzan movie I ended up watching and reviewing. The scenes with Cheetah running around shrieking really make you feel it. But for my money Tarzan and his Mate trumps the original with safari based adventure.

Read about the other lessons I learned from Tarzan the ApeMan at my review of the first collection of the films over at DVD Verdict.


  1. Best of the Tarzans and the last of the precodes.

  2. Yes and I think it was better because it was the still not constrained by the code. The later ones are fun, but end up being aimed more toward children and less toward the adventure loving crowd. They also took away Jane's lovely outfit from this film and made her a bit more um... covered.

  3. But the costume worn by Jane is very immodest,as it frequently displays a lot of her buttocks and her hips are always exposed. And never mind the swimming scene, where she is totally nude.

  4. Yes, and if thats a problem for viewers it is certainly something to consider. Frankly I didn't mind a little more skin from both of our heros. :)