Tarzan on Film book review

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It wasn’t until paging through Tarzan on Film that I realized the King of the Jungle might be my most glaring blind spot in terms of American franchise filmmaking. I’ve seen every James Bond film, all of the Marvel and DC films, and a decent sample of many other franchises. But of all the Tarzan films (well over 30), I’ve only seen the animated Disney version. Of course, I absorbed much of Tarzan’s iconography via cultural osmosis, with the famous “yell” and the animated version. I vividly remember playing Tarzan in kindergarten or so, but don’t remember the origin.

But author Scott Tracy Griffin, an Edgar Rice Burroughs historian, has convinced me that this needs rectifying. The book itself is a nice large format, and covers every on screen appearance of Tarzan from 1918’s Tarzan of the Apes, through this summer’s The Legend of Tarzan (and a blurb on a forthcoming Netflix animated series). It includes entries for both cinema and television interactions, and additional profiles of the many actors and actresses involved with Tarzan over the years. The entries are informative, giving a concise overview as well as enough detail to demonstrate what makes the film stand out among the long-running franchise. Tarzan on Film walks that fine line between being comprehensive without being caught up in the minute. Griffin is a true expert, but easily threads the needle to bring the most value to any reader.

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But that’s only half the equation. The other half of what makes this book so much fun to read are the pictures. Each film has a large, usually full page image of the poster for the film. They are all wonderful in their own way, tracing the history of movie posters from the era of silent films and serials all the way to contemporary filmmaking. In addition, there are gorgeous, high-quality photos throughout the book, and seeing page after page of film history filled me with joy. While he hasn’t enjoyed the popularity in recent years as he did for much of the previous century, the Ape Man has never gone away for more than a few years, and few other characters have had the longevity to carry three major projects or more a decade for almost 100 years.

Tarzan on Film is an obvious pick up for fans of the jungle boy, but there is plenty to interest cinephiles of all kinds.

Author: Ryan Silberstein

Ryan spends his days at a company named one of the best to work for in the Philadelphia area, and his nights as a mysterious caped vigilante saving his city from the disease that is crime watching movies. He lives on a diet consisting of film, comic books, experimental beer, black coffee, and those big metal historical markers around town. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.

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