Film Festival Highlights 2012

Windy City 2012 Film Schedule

In conjunction with our convention theme, this year’s film program celebrates the 100th anniversary of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ first published stories, which appeared in Frank A. Munsey’s classic pulp, The All-Story Magazine. ERB’s initial contribution, “Under the Moons of Mars” (later published in hard covers as A Princess of Mars), introduced John Carter, who finally reached the big screen this year. But it was the publication of “Tarzan of the Apes,” complete in All-Story’s October 1912 issue, that assured Edgar’s place in pop-culture history. Therefore, the ape-man appears in most of our films this weekend—but we’ve included a brace of non-Tarzan movies for variety.


12:00 — Tarzan the Tiger (1929), Chapters 1-7.  Don’t let the idiotic title fool you: this 15-chapter serial is a reasonably faithful adaptation of “Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar,” ERB’s fifth novel featuring the ape-man. Filmed at the tail end of the silent-movie era, it was released to theaters with a sound track of music and sound effects, including the first cinematic version of Tarzan’s victory cry. Gymnastic champion Frank Merrill stars as Lord Greystoke and beautiful Natalie Kingston plays his Lady Jane. The exotic actress/dancer Mademoiselle Kithnou makes a sensual La of Opar, and the villainy is essayed by Al Ferguson, Sheldon Lewis and Paul Panzer—veteran serial heavies all. Our print of the complete chapter play is tinted and toned, and it has the original 1929 sound track.


02:00 — The Lion Man (1936).  Loosely adapted from ERB’s 1917 All-Story Weekly serial “The Lad and the Lion,” this Poverty Row production stars Charles Locher (soon to achieve limited stardom as Jon Hall) as El Lion, aka Ronald Chatham. The son of an English mineralogist, he survives an Arab massacre and grows up with a holy man who teaches him to live among lions. The Lion Man takes little from its source except basic premise and general setting, but it’s a fascinating “B” picture nonetheless. Kathleen Burke, the erstwhile “Panther Woman” of Paramount’s The Island of Lost Souls (1933), has the leading female role.


03:15 — Tarzan the Tiger, Chapters 8-15. And immediately following Auction — Tarzan and the Golden Lion (1927).  This silent-movie version of ERB’s 1922 novel (serialized in Argosy All-Story Weekly before seeing print in book form) adheres in general outlines to the original yarn but falls somewhat short in the thrills department. Upon initial theatrical release it proved disappointing to both critics and customers, and was the least financially successful Tarzan movie up to that point. However, it remains of historical interest for several reasons, including the title-role casting of James Pierce (who fell in love with and eventually married ERB’s daughter Joan) and the appearance of a pre-Frankenstein Boris Karloff as a witch doctor. Long thought lost, the film turned up in a foreign archive some years ago. The version we’re showing restores the original English-language intertitles, is tinted and toned, and sports a musical track.




09:00 — Tarzan and His Mate (1934).  Although our lineups are usually confined to films adapted from pulp stories, we realized there was no way we could salute ERB’s immortal ape man without including one of Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan movies. And this one is far and away the best of the bunch. The second in M-G-M’s series, Mate continues the first film’s search for the legendary Elephant’s Graveyard. But Harry Holt (played by Neil Hamilton) isn’t just after a fortune in ivory: he also plans on persuading Jane Parker (Maureen O’ Sullivan) to leave Tarzan and return to England with him. The action scenes—including the ape man’s classic tussle with a giant crocodile—are first rate, but Mate also commands interest as the most erotically charged of M-G-M’s Tarzan films.


11:00 — The Son of Tarzan (1920), sample chapters.  Another faithful ERB adaptation, with the early episodes (which we’re showing) following the 1915 All-Story version almost scene for scene. Kamuela Searle stars as Korak the Killer and P. Dempsey Tabler plays Tarzan. Over a period of several decades this rare serial held a special fascination for fans owing to a report that Hawaii-born Searle had died from injuries sustained during the filming of the last chapter and was replaced by a double in the closing scenes. This story, recounted in Gabe Essoe’s 1968 book Tarzan of the Movies and repeated in several sources after that, has since been debunked: Searle was doubled in a couple shots but made a full recovery and appeared in one more motion picture before quitting the business in 1921 to become an artist and sculptor.

12:30 — Tarzan: Lord of the Louisiana Jungle (2011).  The first film to feature ERB’s immortal ape man, Tarzan of the Apes (1918), was mainly shot in and around Morgan City, Louisiana. The densely foliated bayou country impressed producer William Parsons as being an acceptable simulacrum of the African jungle, so he shipped cast, crew and animals to the Pelican State for shooting of exterior scenes. This documentary, made by executive producer Al Bohl in partnership with the award-winning Cinematic Arts Workshop of the University of Louisiana, chronicles the production of that 1918 classic and reveals much information thought lost to history.

02:00 — Tarzan of the Apes (1918).  You’ll want to see the original movie with the documentary fresh in your mind. Originally released at a length of 12 reels (over two hours in running time), the film was subsequently cut, and cut again, for theatrical reissues and 16mm versions aimed at the non-theatrical market. This 61-minute version captures all the highlights. You’ll see barrel-chested Elmo Lincoln in the role that made him an international star (and which he revisited twice, first in a 1918 sequel, The Romance of Tarzan, and then in a 1921 serial, The Adventures of Tarzan).

03:00 — At the Earth’s Core (1976).  A follow-up to 1975’s The Land That Time Forgot, this lively adaptation of ERB’s first Pellucidar novel remains a favorite of baby boomers who saw it theatrically. Doug McClure (from TV’s The Virginian) stars as David Innes, with Hammer horror-movie favorites Peter Cushing and Caroline Munro as Abner Perry and Dian respectively. The special effects are a bit on the cheesy side, some of the acting is over the top, and on the whole the film is too ambitious for its obviously modest production mounting, but At the Earth’s Core remains a lot of fun. We predict it’ll bring back fond memories to those of you who caught it during a Saturday matinee or on a drive-in double bill.

04:30 — Tarzan the Fearless (1933).  In the interest of representing as many screen Tarzans as possible, we’re including this feature-length cutdown of Sol Lesser’s 12-chapter serial starring Buster Crabbe as ERB’s ape-man. Produced the year after M-G-M’s first Weissmuller Tarzan, Fearless was the result of a grand compromise between Burroughs and Lesser, who had obtained limited rights to the character from people who had licensed them several years earlier. Although Lesser could have exercised his option immediately, he agreed to hold off at ERB’s request. Doing so worked to his benefit, as the success of Metro’s first Weissmuller entry reinvigorated moviegoers’ interest in Tarzan and facilitated the marketing of Lesser’s most modest production.

Immediately following auction — Tarzan and the Green Goddess (1935). A few years back we ran the first of two feature films edited down from the serial produced by ERB himself, The New Adventures of Tarzan. This year we’re screening the second, which is arguably the more interesting of the two because it includes a substantial amount of footage not shot for the chapter play. (You can identify the previously unused footage easily because in those scenes leading lady Ula Holt wears a dark blouse, as opposed to the khaki top she wore in the serial.) Largely shot on location in Guatemala, where the story takes place, Green Goddess stars 1928 Olympic champion Herman Brix as Tarzan, who for the first time in a talking picture is played as Burroughs wrote him.


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