In honor of the summer Disney hit "Tarzan" our first serial of the month is the only Tarzan film to be produced by creator Edgar Rice Burroughs. Subsequently it is the only film to portray Tarzan as he was in the books. Many fans consider it to be the definitive Tarzan film.
Major Martling (Frank Baker) is preparing an expedition to Guatemala to search for the mysterious Green Goddess, an idol containing both a fabulous treasure and a formula for a deadly explosive. A strange man accosts Martling saying that he must find Tarzan. he has just come from Guatemala, where Tarzan's oldest friend D'Arnot has been captured by the Mayan tribe that worships the Goddess.
Martling sends his assistant George (Lewis Sargent) into the jungle to find Tarzan. George finds him the hard way, by having to be rescued from a lion attack. Learning of D'Arnot's trouble Tarzan (Herman Brix) immediately joins Martling's expedition and heads out for Guatemala. Unknown to the group there are two other individuals also interested in the Green Goddess. One is Raglan (Ashton Dearholt), an unscrupulous individual after the explosive formula. The other is Ula Vale (Ula Holt) whose fiancée was D'Anot's pilot.
Tarzan and company find D'Anot by the simple method of getting captured by the very tribe they were trying to find. Tarzan is to be sacrificed to the Goddess when Raglan inadvertently causes a diversion by stealing the idol. Tarzan and his companions escape and take off after the scoundrel. They meet up with Miss Vale, who learns her finance did not survive the plane crash that put D'Arnot in the tribe's clutches. She decides to join Tarzan's party.
Raglan has made it to civilization but finds he has to cut across the jungle to reach a port town if he wants to get away. Tarzan and his merry band are in close pursuit.
Not only do the heroes have to find Raglan, they also have to contend with being hunted by angry tribesmen who want their idol back.
This is a pretty good serial that has the added advantage of actually having been filmed in the jungles of Guatemala which lends a certain sense of realism to the film. Although this did cause some problems. One was a cluttered soundtrack, the film was actually dubbed when released in feature form to TV in the sixties. Another problem that happened was Don Castello, the actor supposed to play Raglan got sick before filming started and was replaced by Dearholt, one of the film's producers. Just to add to the confusion Castello's name is still listed in the credits as Raglan.
There are some great moments in this serial. Probably best is when we see Tarzan, resplendent in a tuxedo, swinging on a ship's rigging after one of Raglan's men. It combines absurdity and excitement to make a great scene and shows an added dimension to the character that is lacking in the MGM classics. Another great moment is in Chapter Six. Tarzan is caught by some of Raglan's men and tied to a tree. Tarzan escapes by the amazing feat of expanding his muscles until the rope breaks. A sight truly worth seeing.
Herman Brix makes a letter perfect Tarzan. Physically he is well muscled yet slim and graceful. Making his physical actions seem natural whether he is swinging on vines, outswimming crocodiles, or wrestling lions. If there is any discrepancy with his performance it is in the handling of dialogue. Not yet having learned the intricacies of acting, a lot his lines come out sounding flat and emotionless. But that's okay, Tarzan is a character more action oriented than with talking and when it comes to action Brix is always in top form.