Monday, June 27, 2016

Movie Review: "Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes" (1984)

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Movie"Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes"
Director: Hugh Hudson
Year: 1984
Rating: PG
Running Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

A young man (Christopher Lambert) who has been raised in the jungle by gorillas is discovered by a Belgian explorer named Phillippe D'Arnot (Ian Holm) during his scientific expedition to Africa. They quickly discover this young man is actually John Clayton, heir to the massive Greystoke estate and fortune, whose parents went missing many years ago. Now, John must learn to adapt to a civilized society and forget his life in the jungle.

Directed by Hugh Hudson, the unreasonably long titled "Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes" is an adaptation of the classic Edgar Rice Burroughs literary tale "Tarzan of the Apes." It stars Christopher Lambert in his first American feature film as Tarzan, though he is never actually called Tarzan in 2 hours and 15 minutes, oddly enough. He is only ever referred to as John Clayton, which is the character of Tarzan's real family name. Lambert is not a very good actor. In fact, sometimes he downright stinks, even while trying to be a wild, untamed specimen. Because of his performance, which some might see as exactly how an ape-man would act, the movie feels unnecessarily long and drags through most of its run time.

When this film first came out, it received high praise for the effects and makeup work of the gorillas, which are designed by the fabulous Rick Baker. He even received an Oscar nomination for his work on this film. However, 32 years later, these effects haven't exactly aged well. It is blatantly obvious all of the gorillas are simply actors in ape suits with fairly well designed animatronic heads. The proportions of humans and apes are quite different, so the flaws in the makeup becomes very apparent no matter how much the actors try and hide the length of their legs. It's sad to see award nominated practical effects age so poorly, but we literally laughed out loud during some of the scenes where the actors are attempting to be gorillas in the jungle because their look so unrealistic and unnatural. From certain angles, the makeup work looks more like something out of "Harry and the Hendersons" than something from a Tarzan film. Sure, the camerawork and natural visuals of the jungle are breathtaking, but putting actors in gorilla suits in front of swaying trees and babbling brooks does little to persuade us that it's anything but a farce.

Much of the early part of "Greystoke" is spent with a young and very naked Tarzan in the jungle. These early scenes have no dialogue beyond the occasional grunt and some screams from Tarzan and the apes. It isn't until the exploration group shows up where we start to get real dialogue. When this group is attacked by a native tribe, Tarzan saves the life of one of the explorers, Phillippe D'Arnot, played excellently by Ian Holm, who in turn starts to teach Tarzan to speak English. Phillippe discovers who Tarzan really is, a nobleman named John Clayton who is the heir to the massive Greystoke estate in England. With Tarzan, errrrr, John, in tow, the two of them eventually travel back to the civilized world where John has trouble adapting and regularly falls into his ape-like tendencies (mostly when at fancy parties where there are tons of people). Soon after arriving home, he meets Jane, played by Andie MacDowell in her feature film debut, though her voice is dubbed by Glenn Close for some reason, and very, very poorly, might we add. John also meets his grandfather, played by Ralph Richardson, who inexplicably received an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor for his performance here. We personally can't really find or think of anything notable reason why his performance garnered award recognition, other than his horrible portrayal of a fall down a flight of stairs, which is laughable and not convincing in the slightest. Of course, John and Jane fall in love, but they may be torn apart by John's failure to fully adapt in the civilized world, always longing to go back to the jungle where he was raised.

Despite the occasional memorable scene and some good dialogue here and there, "Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes" is a slow moving drama that hasn't exactly aged well. We probably won't ever revisit this version of Tarzan again with all of the others to chose from.

My Rating: 4/10
BigJ's Rating: 5.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 67%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.
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One year ago, we were watching: "Love & Mercy"

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