Filmsite Movie Review
Tarzan and His Mate (1934)
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Background

Tarzan and His Mate (1934) is considered the greatest of the Weissmuller-Tarzan films, even better than its predecessor - Tarzan the Ape Man (1932). This lively and exciting film concentrates more on Jane (Maureen O'Sullivan) and how she has adapted to life in the jungle with Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller) - as an uninhibited and sexually-free partner who reveals much of her primitive nature.

In the credits, the film is said to have been directed by Cedric Gibbons, although much of the film (after the first few weeks) was actually directed by an uncredited Jack Conway. This was the second of five films in which Maureen O'Sullivan played the part of Tarzan's mate. With the rise of the rigid censorship of the Hays Production Code after this film was made, Jane's scanty clothing and nudity, and rampant sexuality with Tarzan, would disappear in future installments.

The Story

A year after the earlier film, explorer Harry Holt (Neil Hamilton) returns to Africa as a guide for his British friend and adventurer Marlin Arlington (Paul Cavanaugh) - on a secretive journey to find the vast ivory fortune at the remote elephant's burial grounds. The trip is disguised as a hunting expedition.

One of Holt's other wishes is that he can win back his long-lost love Jane and convince her to return to London with him. Per his request, the womanizing Arlington has brought with him the latest Parisian wardrobes and makeup (for Jane) to entice her with gifts and memories of civilization. Arlington:

So your lady turned you down for a sort of a wild man from Borneo, eh? It's a bit fantastic isn't it? A well-read English girl living in the treetops of a glorified native ape man.

Holt doesn't believe Arlington understands Tarzan's appeal: "Tarzan's as white as we are." Looking longingly at a photo of Jane, he explains the last time he saw her and lost her: "She's Parker's daughter. She stayed behind when he died up there." Arlington realizes the impact Jane has had on him: "She's hit you pretty hard, hasn't she?" Holt admits: "Well, I'm in love with her if that's what you mean." Arlington wishes that Holt would keep his priorities straight - the discovery of the secret ivory hoard will be their major goal, he reminds Holt: "You know, if you have money, women aren't hard to get."

The two explorers must travel together on a 14-day trek to the foot of the Mutia Escarpment, a remote and difficult-to-reach barrier of mountains. The land beyond is unexplored, considered tabu and deadly by the superstitious natives. Holt tells Arlington that he was the only survivor (other than Jane) on his previous trip, but that he has a map to assist them. Arlington comments on the difficult trip: "It promises to be something more than a pleasure jaunt, eh?" Holt is infuriated when he is told that rival explorers Pierce and Van Ness have left before them, suspecting that they are also searching for the ivory fields. They hurry their preparations for departure. Holt also hopes for Tarzan's assistance: "Tarzan is our only hope."

It is a dangerous trip - with wide rivers, hot dusty plains, thick jungles, swamps, and snakes - and the native bearers in the safari are led at a brutal pace. When they are within sight of the steep cliffs of the escarpment, the explorers come upon the bodies of Pierce and Van Ness, hung upside down and tortured. Just then, they hear native drum beats and warlike chanting that appears to be getting louder. The safari group attempts to make a run for it, and is attacked by a murderous group of white face-painted headhunter natives in a spectacular, action-packed sequence. The two Englishmen lose many of their native bearers in the deadly assault. The superstitious, spear-throwing natives retreat when they reach the escarpment and the safari is spared - but not for long.

Climbing the Mutia escarpment is very treacherous, with steep cliffs and narrow ledges while the bearers carry heavy burdens. Just when they are about to reach the top before dark, a tribe of gorillas begins to hurl huge boulders down on them from above. The sounds of Tarzan's trademark jungle cry are heard twice, "Aaah-eee-aaah," calling off the giant ape attack. Tarzan appears in view after swinging through the jungle on tree vines (trapeze-like), and he is vigorously thanked by Holt for arriving just in time to save them. Tarzan is able to repeat the names of everyone when introduced, pointing to each person: "Harry, Martin my friend, Tarzan." Holt is impatient with Tarzan's repeated mimicry and asks: "But where is Jane?...Where is she? How is she?...Has anything happened to her?" Just then, both Chetah, the chimpanzee and Jane appear in the trees. Jane cries out "Tarzan!" and then sees Harry and calls out to him too. She does an incredible swan dive into Tarzan's arms. She is wearing only a skimpy, sexy halter top and loin cloth that leave her midriff, hips and thighs exposed.

Jane greets her old friend Harry with a warm embrace. Harry is overjoyed in seeing Jane and immediately expresses his concern for her: "Jane, I was so worried about you. When I saw Tarzan alone, I..." Jane responds that she is thankful they have been saved by Tarzan and then says: "I knew you'd be back Harry. You know it's been a year." Arlington appreciates meeting Jane: "Even if there wasn't any ivory, I'd be glad I made the trek, now." He also seems pleased when she sucks the poison from a wound on his forearm.

Around the night's campfire, they share hot coffee. After Tarzan leaves to prepare a place for sleep in the trees, Holt asks Jane if she misses the comforts of civilization, such as coffee:

Holt: Don't you miss it, Jane? Things like this?...But Jane, you can't spend the rest of your life camping out. Don't you ever want to come back?
Jane: No, Harry.
Arlington: Wouldn't it be nice to live where there's a lot of other men around, just to remind the number one boy that there's a number two, and possibly number three?
Jane (retorting wisely): Ah, but on the other hand, there are no other women here to make a fool out of my number one boy.
Harry (pressing the issue further): Don't you ever miss the fun you used to have?
Jane (seeming to have found everything she desires in the jungle): I have fun.
Harry (reminiscing): Those June nights in England...
Jane (remembering too): Moonlight on The Thames.
Harry: Dance, glass of champagne, sitting with real people and listening to the music.
Jane: Real people? I wonder.
Arlington: Well, at least the men are civilized.
Jane: Does that make them any better? (Chetah is seen smoking a cigarette and Jane laughs.) There's your civilization for you.


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