Tarzoon: Shame of the Jungle
Medium:
Year:
1975
Director:
Picha, Boris Szulzinger
Writer:
Pierre Bartier, Picha, Anne Beatts [American version], Michael O'Donoghue [American version]
Keywords:
Language:
French, English [in the edited dub I watched]
Country:
Actor:
Bernard Dheran, Georges Aminel, Arlette Thomas, Paule Emanuele, Claude Bertrand, Pierre Trabaud, Roger Carel, Guy Pierauld, Bob Perry [English], Christopher Guest [English], Andrew Duncan [English], Brian Doyle-Murray [English], Pat Bright [English], Emily Prager [English], Johnny Weissmuller Jr. [English], Bill Murray [English], Guy Sorel [English], Deya Kent [English], Judy Graubart [English], Adolph Caesar [English], John Baddeley [English], John Belushi [English]
Format:
85 minutes
Url:
Website category:
Review date:
22 August 2012
Brian Doyle-Murray
John Belushi
I don't quite see the point of this film, to be honest. It's a French-Belgian animation that we'll be generous and call a parody of Tarzan. It's not unwatchable, but I don't remember any jokes and it doesn't have much of a story either.
What it has is political incorrectness:
1. An overload of sex, nudity and references to it, which is taken so far that you'd think this film was made by and for thirteen-year-old schoolboys.
2. Racist character designs. The fact that it's 1975 explains, but doesn't excuse.
3. Cannibals in Africa.
4. Casual extremes of violence, with people getting bitten in half, their skeletons pulled out of their bodies, etc. However this is all done in a jolly cartoonish way that's not far removed from Tom and Jerry.
The story involves Tarzoon, or Shame as he's now called even in the original French after complaints by the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate. Tarzoon is a bit like an action hero, but he never achieves anything and he's a failure in bed. His girlfriend, Jane... sorry, June, gets kidnapped on behalf of a bald villainness who covets her scalp. Explorers also show up.
Yup, that's the plot.
The most memorable thing here is the characters, even when they're just outre design concepts with no characterisation. There are penis people, an idea that's taken to such extremes that it becomes quite cool. There are also African pygmy cannibals, who swarm like piranhas and can chew through anything in pursuit of their quarry, like Warner Bros' Tasmanian Devil. They're fun. There's a cannibal chase sequence that's a bit gruesome but still one of the most entertaining things in the movie.
At the end of the day, though, very little in this film is motivated by the conventional storytelling drives of plot, story or character. The filmmakers mostly want to refer to as much sex and nudity as possible. That's the bottom line. Everything else orbits around that. However in addition they quite like being disgusting. Humiliation is also good, especially if combined with Tarzoom or representations of black people that will make you think it's still the 1930s.
When did Fritz the Cat come out? Ah, 1972. Uh-huh. I sense a bandwagon.
The curious thing is that the art style is sufficiently crude that the nudity isn't actually much to look at. June, for instance, has no nose. She looks a bit like Janice from Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem in the Muppets. Nevertheless that's not going to stop her having sex with jungle animals and flashing her boobs at every opportunity. Her idea of getting dressed is to don a loincloth, which isn't saying much since Tarzoom's loincloth keeps slipping down and is only doing its job less than half the time. Sometimes his penis gets used as a vine to swing on.
There are anatomically precise geographical features. There's a woman with fourteen boobs. There are the penis people, who run around on their testicles and can attack by shooting white loads of exploding acid. (Just wait until you see the penis people's maternity ward. Wow.) It's proud to be childish and, in its way, achieves a kind of grandeur in this direction.
It started life as a fifteen-minute short at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival. The long version did quite well in France, but had trouble finding distribution in its original X-rated form and ended up getting re-edited and dubbed into a shorter R-rated version. This is the version I watched and it has people like John Belushi, Bill Murray and Johnny Weissmuller Jr. (yes, his son) doing the voices, but I wouldn't have guessed. Edgar Rice Burroughs's estate sued, but lost. I'm mildly curious about the original version, but not enough to look for it and watch it.
What did the directors go on to do? Boris Szulzinger's only subsequent directing credit is a Belgian live-action horror-comedy with boobs called Mama Dracula, of which I've seen hostile reviews. Picha (the pseudonym of a Belgian cartoonist) has been busier, having since made three other over-sexed animated films: Missing Link (1980), a post-apocalypse comedy in The Big Bang (1986) and more recently Snow White: The Sequel (2007). In between, he did TV.
This film wasn't a success, either critically or commercially. I'm not surprised, although I'm sure it would go down a storm with schoolboys. It's quite nice to look at, though, with lots of energy in the animation and a ton of visual invention. The elephant's leg being drilled through by a woodpecker, for instance, leads up to a peculiar sight gag that one might almost call Pythonesque. This is interesting, although unfortunately it's not funny. That's the movie in a nutshell, really.
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