Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes

GreystokeTarzanSuggested by Brad Nelson • A shipping disaster in the 19th Century has stranded a man and woman in the wilds of Africa. The lady is pregnant and gives birth to a son in their tree house. Soon after, a family of apes stumble across the house and take the tiny boy.
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10 Responses to Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    With True Blood‘s Eric Northman soon (July) starring in The Legend of Tarzan, that was more than enough of an excuse to re-screen this old semi-classic.

    Greystoke is not highly-rated at IMDB.com, which is neither here nor there considering that they rate some of the most mediocre films in the 9.5 range. But its 6.3 rating is a rough measure of attitude.

    I suspect the creature effects are what hold it back. I don’t think this film would play well with a modern audience. The chimp costumes were okay for their time but have been surpassed before (Planet of the Apes, 1668) and since (some of the more recent “Apes” films in the franchise).

    The problem is that much of the interaction between John Clayton and his ape family doesn’t come off well. There is sympathy missing in the eyes of the apes. What works much better in a book where imagination can fill in the gaps doesn’t work so well on screen. What we have is Christopher Lambert acting with a backdrop of creatures who don’t seem to be of his kin.

    We see more realistic sympathy between Johnny Weissmuller and Cheetah than in “Greystoke.” But if you suspend disbelief a bit and squint it’s all just fine.

    It’s also worth noting that this is Christopher Lambert’s first picture in English. He is good in this and one wonders why his career isn’t studded with more gems such as Greystoke and Highlander.

    Also worth noting — I’m not sure that in 1984 I knew who she was — that Glenn Close dubbed the voice for Andie MacDowell. Why this was so, I don’t know. I thought Andie has a very acceptable voice.

    Also of major note is that this is the great Shakespearian actor, Ralph Richardson’s, last film. He died sixth months before the movie was released. He was the original member (1947) of the “sir” trio including Laurence Olivier (1948) and John Gielgud (1953). As the bio at IMDB notes: Co-stars and friends, the three theatrical knights were considered the greatest English actors of their generation, primarily for their mastery of the Shakespearean canon. They occupied the height of the British acting pantheon in the post-World War II years.

    And Richardson is wonderful in this film as well, playing the indulgent grandfather. Apparently this film was originally 3 hours or so. It was cut to 143 minutes. You can tell that certain roles were truncated, particularly that of Cheryl Campbell who plays Lady Alice Clayton. Also, there is very little buildup to the shipwreck.

    But the movie moves along okay. You’re in England. Then you’re in Africa. Then you’re back to England. And then you’re back in Africa. The contrasts and themes are set. In the character of John Clayton, you may ask what civilization means if we so callously kill such remarkable creatures as apes. And you get the somewhat underplayed sexual tension where, at least in the case of Andie MacDowell, chicks definitely don’t dig pajama boy. John Clayton is a mix of refined man over primal man…and that primal man is barely held in check.

    You obviously get an implicit commentary on English society. (Oh, how stuffy and false they all are, hiding behind an exterior of pretense.) But thankfully Cultural Marxism (as today) is not yet in full stinking bloom. The subject matter is handled intelligently. Yes, there are flaws in the English way of life. But, good god, ape society is no nirvana either.

    This is ultimately a wonderful sci-fi movie that plays “what if?” with an extraordinary circumstance. And it features the now mostly foreign and forgotten idea of “human exceptionalism.” Lord Greystoke is something more than his environment. He is something more than just an ape. One wonders if the creative constraints of today’s fascist-like artistic forces would ever allow such an idea to inhabit a film.

    But this is 1984, a generally good year for films. Greystoke, with all its flaws, was certainly one of them.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Burroughs gives the impression that the apes were a bit higher than normal apes. Or maybe I’m thinking that because I happened to read Philip José Farmer’s Lord Tyger (a parody of Tarzan) before I read Tarzan of the Apes. One thing I liked in the movie is that Tarzan learns how to use a twig to forage for extra protein in a termite nest — something certain apes actually do (as was learned probably just a few years before the movie was done).

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Speaking of apes, I recently watched #3 in the reboot of the “Planet of the Apes” series, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” I thought the first in the reboot, “Planet of the Apes,” by Tim Burton was fairly awful, but technically a marvel of CGI (a common theme of today’s movies).

    The second one, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” was a terrific film when consideering the series (old and new) as a backdrop. This is just very good sci-fi as it tells a plausible (for a movie) story of how apes might have become smart (they were testing an Alzheimer’s drug on them which had the unintended consequence of growing many more brain cells and connections). By all means, watch this thoughtful movie.

    But beware the latest in this reboot series, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” Again, the CGI is technically masterful. And although there are some good moments between Caesar and Jason Clarke (who plays Malcolm), most of the movie is a reminder that Hollywood targets the intellectual and emotional content of movies to the 13-year-old demographic. This movie is otherwise little more than strung-together cliches and stale bits you’ve seen a dozen times before. Kirk Avevedo is particular shallow as one of the human villains in this. And Gary Oldman…well, no one really knows what he is doing in this film.

    I tell you, watching a hash like this brings new appreciation for the sheer relative sophistication of that first Apes movie with Charlton Heston. The kiddies today who are in charge of the movie-production millions ought to sit their inflated little egos down into a plush chair and watch how good sci-fi films used to be made.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I saw the original movies (of course, it helps that Charlton Heston starred in two of them), and a few episodes of the later TV series. One thing I recall from Heston’s autobiography was the discussion of his ending comment in Planet of the Apes — “God damn them all to Hell”, after seeing the wreck of the Statue of Liberty. He successfully defended the swearing because Taylor really meant it — as would just about anyone else in that situation.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Hey, at least Heston’s comment was justified. Those who had come before him had indeed wrecked the world.

        I had a short talk with a yute today outside my building. The kids from across the street (which is a vocational school) often loiter and try to smoke on the premises and I have to shoo them away. This fellow has been nice about it and I’ve since seen him coming and going from time to time by himself.

        I was outside today for a few moments contemplating what work might be required next for the garden (full planting has not yet begun) when this same kid was walking by and obviously wished to start a conversation. I came down to street level and talked to him. He was friendly. The specifics of what we said are not as important as my Jedi radar which picked up an obvious fact: There are millions upon millions of disconnected, disaffected, displaced, and abused yutes looking for life and purpose.

        I broke the ice by telling the kid that I wasn’t an anti-cigarette Nazi. I don’t object to smoking. I object to a bunch of kids smoking on private property and then leaving piles of garbage. We had a very short discussion of ethics and he is of the opinion that both those who came before him and those of his own generation are due little respect because of how they have screwed up society.

        Well, I didn’t go into the specifics or the fallacies he might hold, particularly about past generations. I simply told him: Work hard. Be honest in your dealings. Keep your nose to the grindstone. Don’t hate the rich. Don’t blame other people for your problems or misfortunes. And don’t ever think of yourself as a victim. Do these things and the good life will find you.

        And he pretty much agreed and said that maybe he could come up with a product that people would want and then could be rich. And I told him that another thing to consider is that money and “stuff” isn’t everything.

        Maybe I planted a seed. But more and more I come to see how mind-fucked these kids have been by the Left. It’s atrocious. And we conservatives, Christians, and decent Americans can no longer sit by and be silent. There will be a bloodbath unless we offer these kids a better way of life than wanting to eat the rich.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I suspect, from what you’ve said, that he was ready for that seed — but still, it’s always a good thing to plant one in that case. In too many cases the seeds fall on barren ground.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            I totally get what you’re saying. Any normal (or even abnormal) male needs guidance. They need to learn how to be a man. There is man in them whether they deny it or not, and PC/Leftist culture is all about denying it and shaming it. But love for dolphins and snail darters is no substitute for the kind of mentoring that boys and young men need. Teaching them how to act and think like a girl just puts them in a state of confusion and inner despair. (And teaching girls to be boys isn’t likely to have a much better effect.)

            Although I have a true hate for the community agitators who are mind-raping the young, I have real sympathy for those yutes looking for a way out. It really ought to be our job to help them. We our losing our sons, daughters, neighbors, and countrymen to a foul and destructive religion. And in this case I don’t mean Islam. In fact, the sad reality is that Islam provides a much firmer and more personally constructive (although the cause itself is collectively destructive) means of identity to fill the austere vacuum left by the Religion of Leftism.

            That one customer who came into my office the other day complaining about losing business to the new minimum wage and who thought the answer was to soak the rich with renewed 90% income tax rates ended our conversation by saying that he was actually thinking of going to church. That might be a splendid idea.

            Of course, what he’d likely do is not go to church, per se, but go to some body-of-people masquerading as Christians but who are actually worshipping still at the idol of Leftism. What is needed, however, is a true departure from the noxious elements of our culture. But it was a sign that he knew he had to somehow get outside the box.

            I was reading an article at National Review Online the other day (I think it was there). I gave up on the article quickly because the gist of it was “When times are tough, and everything is politicized, people look for escapism.” Perhaps the rest of the article wasn’t as dull-witted. As you know, I highly recommend escaping from the more noxious aspects of this culture. And leave it to the eggheads of the commentariat to refer to simple cultural enrichment and personal protection through choice-making as “escapism.”

            We need to learn how to escape from this stuff and show others how to do it too. This is not a matter of apathy or disengaging. One can, and should, remain engaged. But one should do so by playing by one’s own rules, not the rules of the daily-drama game.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              One difference between modern liberalism and Islam is that the latter actually has good points, perhaps even in its jihadist form. Liberalism has none; individual liberals have good points to the extent that their lives are NOT run on the basis of their politics.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                Another difference: Islam believes that their way of life is worth fighting for. Liberals believe someone else’s way of life is worth fighting for.

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