Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, August 25, 2016


Lex Baker took over the role of Tarzan
TARZAN'S MAGIC FOUNTAIN (1949). Director: Lee Sholem.

Aviatrix Gloria James (Evelyn Ankers of The Pearl of Death) disappeared twenty years before but her plane and diary are found by Tarzan. Since James' testimony is required to free a jailed man, Tarzan goes to a hidden city -- full of what could best be described as white Aztec-Romans -- to bring Gloria back, and discovers she hasn't aged a day in all those years. Naturally there are unscrupulous people who hope to discover the Fountain of Youth, such as Trask (Albert Dekker) and Dodd (Charles Drake). In a development that borrows from Lost Horizon, Gloria ages as soon as she gets home, and returns to Africa with her husband, Douglas (Alan Napier), where the two hope that Tarzan will guide them back to the Blue Valley where she lived all of those years. But Tarzan is opposed to the plan, and some nasty residents of the hidden city -- against the orders of their leader, the High One (David Bond) -- do their best to kill him and anyone else who knows of the pathway to their valley. Tarzan's Magic Fountain was Lex Barker's first appearance as Tarzan, and he's fine, playing it in the nearly monosyllabic mode popularized by Johnny Weissmuller. Brenda Joyce, who replaced Maureen O'Sullivan as Jane in the last Weissmuller movies, returns as Barker's Jane, but this was her last appearance in the role -- and her last picture, as she promptly retired from the movie business. Johnny Sheffield as Boy had already left the series and turned into Bomba, and he was not replaced in the role. Tarzan's Magic Fountain has an interesting premise, but not a lot is done with it, and the screenplay is mediocre, as is the direction; Lee Sholem mostly directed TV episodes. The ever-versatile Henry Brandon plays one of the Blue Valley natives who wants to kill Tarzan for allegedly giving away the secret location of their city; Rick Vallin is another one of those natives. Elmo Lincoln, one of the first Tarzan's, supposedly plays a fisherman, but he is not credited. Cheetah's cutest scene of many is her encounter with bubble gum. When she regains her youth at the end of the movie, she turns into a different species of ape! Albert Dekker and Charles Drake also appeared together in The Pretender.

Verdict: Barker is fine, but it's an inauspicious debut for him. **1/2.


angelman66 said...

Though not as iconic as Johnny Weismuller, I do find Lex to be the dreamiest and handsomest movie Tarzan of them, what a hunk of man...

But on TV, I had a huge crush on Ron Ely, too...he was the TV Tarzan I grew up with...


William said...

I remember watching Ely as Tarzan on TV as well, but other than that remember nothing about the series.