Tarzan's Greatest Adventure

Tarzan's Greatest Adventure is a 1959 Eastmancolor adventure film directed by John Guillermin, produced by Sy Weintraub and Harvey Hayutin, and written by Les Crutchfield, based on the character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs. With a strong supporting cast that included Anthony Quayle and Sean Connery, and a focus on action and suspense, the film won critical praise as a Tarzan film that appealed to adults as well as children.

Tarzan's Greatest Adventure
Directed byJohn Guillermin
Produced bySy Weintraub
Harvey Hayutin
Written byLes Crutchfield
Based onCharacters created
by Edgar Rice Burroughs
StarringGordon Scott
Anthony Quayle
Sara Shane
Sean Connery
Al Mulock
Scilla Gabel
Niall MacGinnis
Music byDouglas Gamley
CinematographyTed Scaife
Edited byBert Rule
Solar Films
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • July 8, 1959 (1959-07-08) (New York City)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1 million (est. US/Canada rentals)[2]

The film features a literate Tarzan portrayed by Gordon Scott. The character of Jane, Tarzan's wife, does not appear and is not mentioned. At one point, Tarzan briefly romances a female character, suggesting that he is a loner, not a family man. Cheeta, Tarzan's chimp companion in many films, appears only a few times near the start of the film, and the kind of comic relief that Cheeta represents is generally absent from the film.[3]


During the night the village of Mantu is raided for its supply of dynamite by what appear to be black Africans. The village doctor and radio operator interrupt the robbery and are fatally shot. Before dying, the radio operator gasps, "Slade" over the shortwave radio.

The next morning, Tarzan is awakened by African drums that alert him to something wrong. He arrives at Mantu, where a funeral is held for the fallen villagers. British police inspector Colonel Sundley informs Tarzan of the previous raid and that root dye was found. This leads Tarzan to believe that the robbers were "white men painted black" rather than black Africans. Tarzan meets Angie, a self-absorbed American model and pilot. Tarzan knows her manager, Sanchez, and immediately dislikes her manner. However Angie does tell him that she overheard the name "Slade" on her airplane radio. Tarzan remembers a "Slade" as "a man with a passion to kill"; a ruthless criminal who once sacrificed three men rather than lose the hunt for a prized rogue elephant.

After dropping off his pet chimpanzee Cheeta at his tree-house, Tarzan heads up river by canoe to catch Slade and his gang. Along the way Tarzan sees Angie's plane. She taunts him with low flyovers. But her Cesna engine stalls, and Angie crashes into the river. Tarzan saves her from a crocodile but thereafter can't leave her stranded, so he continues the hunt with Angie alongside.

Meanwhile, Slade and his quartet of thieves (consisting of the sullen ex-con Dino, the drunkard O'Bannion, an implied ex-Nazi Kruger, and Slade's Italian girlfriend, Toni) continue by riverboat towards what is revealed to be a secret diamond mine. The dynamite was stolen for excavating the gems. When their riverboat malfunctions the thieves begin to quarrel among themselves, allowing Tarzan and Angie to catch up. O'Bannion's teases Dino to the point of Dino trying to kill him. But during a chase, Dino stumbles into quicksand and drowns. The criminals find their boat riddled with arrows, a signal that Tarzan has tracked them down. Slade and O'Bannion disembark, while Kruger hurls dynamite at Tarzan, wounding him. Tarzan manages to kill O'Bannion, but Slade closes in. With Slade gone, Kruger believes he can coerce Toni into telling him where the diamond mine is and tries to eliminate Slade. Slade survives Kruger's attempt, pummels him into submission, and continues with Toni towards the mine.

Tarzan's injuries require Angie to tend to him, she comforts him and then risks her life to steal medical supplies from Slade's anchored boat. Angie is captured by Slade, who uses her to lure Tarzan into a trap. With Slade absent, Kruger sees another chance, he frees Angie and tells her to inform Tarzan where they are. Toni overhears Kruger and flees to warn Slade, but she accidentally falls to her death through the trap door pit meant for Tarzan. Kruger convinces Slade that Toni was frightened by a passing lion, and the men continue toward the diamond mine. Once inside, Kruger confirms that it is a mother lode of diamonds. However Slade is more interested in killing Tarzan than in the gems. Kruger tries to push Slade down a pit to his death and almost succeeds, but Slade survives. He confronts Kruger, who offers him all the diamonds he has so far collected if he will let him go, but Kruger is unmoved and drops Kruger down the pit to his death.

Tarzan is nursed back to health by Angie, and they engage in an off-screen romance. Afterwards, Tarzan continues to be obsessed with capturing Slade, much to the displeasure of Angie. "Why don't you just leave him to the jungle?" she argues. Tarzan replies, "this is where I belong", explaining further that to allow Slade to escape would endanger everyone. He thanks Angie for her help, then grabs a vine and swings away for a final confrontation with Slade.

From high atop a river bluff, Slade fires rifle shots that intentionally miss Tarzan but allows him to know where Slade is. Tarzan scales the sheer bluff, setting up the final melee both men long for. At first Slade gets the upper hand by lassoing Tarzan with his wire noose. But eventually Tarzan's superior strength and endurance wins out, and Tarzan pushes Slade over the edge of the cliff onto the rocks below.

Tarzan bellows his famous yell, runs to a pool, and gazes upon his reflection triumphantly. The sound of Slade's riverboat distracts Tarzan. He hurries to the cliff again, only this time to see Angie below, steering the boat back to Mantu. Tarzan hesitates, considering joining her. But he looks back at the jungle, realizes that's where he belongs, and returns instead to his tree-house and Cheeta.


Production notes

"Tarzan's Greatest Adventure" presented a grittier, more realistic Tarzan. A loner who could be as savage as his opponents, but could also speak eloquently and politely to allies. Tarzan was also made vulnerable and not as invincible as previous incarnations. Although shot on location in Kenya, stock safari footage was used to particularly portray wild animal attacks.

This vision of Tarzan, by producer Sy Weintraub, heralded a new direction for the character and the series. He became more like the original Edgar Rice Burroughs creation (that is, articulate and intuitive) and even occasionally traveled abroad to make other wilderness regions safe (as in Tarzan Goes to India and Tarzan and the Valley of Gold).

Gordon Scott stayed for one more Tarzan film, Tarzan the Magnificent, before being replaced by Jock Mahoney.


  1. "Lesser Firm Guarantee On 'Tarzan' $600,000; Made in Kenya at 750G's". Variety. 3 June 1959. p. 3. Retrieved 16 June 2019 via Archive.org.
  2. "1959: Probable Domestic Take", Variety, 6 January 1960 p 34
  3. The AFI Catalog of Feature Films:..Tarzan's Greatest Adventure Retrieved March 13, 2016
  • Essoe, Gabe, Tarzan of the Movies, 1968, The Citadel Press
  • Fury, David, Kings of the jungle : an illustrated reference to "Tarzan" on screen and television, 1994, McFarland & Co.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.