Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 16-Nov-2004

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1932
Running Time 96:04
RSDL / Flipper Dual Sided Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By W.S. Van Dyke

Warner Home Video
Starring Johnny Weissmuller
Neil Hamilton
Maureen O'Sullivan
C. Aubrey Smith
Doris Lloyd
Forrester Harvey
Ivory Williams
Case ?
RPI Box Music George Richelavie

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This was the first of the long-running Johnny Weissmuller series of Tarzan films, the first six of which were made at MGM. In the jungles of Africa, a small group including Parker (C. Aubrey Smith), his daughter Jane (Maureen O'Sullivan) and Harry Hoyt (Neil Hamilton) venture forth looking for the Mutia Escarpment. This escarpment, which is juju to the local natives, is said to be the site of the legendary Elephants' Graveyard, where elephants go to die. This legend is predicated on the "fact" that the remains of elephants are never found in the jungle.

    Well, they find the Mutia with the help of a dying native. Attacked by a tribe of natives near the base of the escarpment, they are saved when they reach the base, as the juju scares the natives away. After a perilous climb to the top, they hear a blood-curdling cry. The cry is revealed to come from a white man in loin cloth who promptly abducts Jane: Tarzan!

    This was not the first attempt at a film based on the character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs. That distinction belongs to a 1918 film called Tarzan of the Apes, which starred a less-than-athletic actor named Elmo Lincoln. Nevertheless, a sequel appeared in the same year, and Lincoln reprised the role in a serial in 1921. Since then there have been countless incarnations of the lord of the jungle, but most people associate the role with Johnny Weissmuller.

    He was a natural for the athletic Tarzan, and despite lacking much in the way of acting ability, is convincing in the leading role. Young Irish actress Maureen O'Sullivan was selected as Jane. Her father was played by C. Aubrey Smith, a veteran stage and film actor who appeared in scores of MGM films. Forty years earlier he had captained England in a cricket Test, the first such match between England and South Africa. Neil Hamilton, a silent film star, would be better remembered today for his role as Commissioner Gordon in the 1960s TV series Batman.

    The film was initially conceived as a sequel to Trader Horn, a 1931 MGM film shot on location in Africa and also featuring Smith. That film almost turned into a disaster, but was salvaged by Irving G. Thalberg and was a big success due to the African footage. This inspired Thalberg to make a Tarzan film. The initial draft of the script picked up the story of Trader Horn, but the finished film has nothing to do with the earlier film. Except, that is, for the stock footage shot for the earlier film, which is used extensively, including some obvious process shots. Circus animals were also used. Tarzan doesn't so much swing from the vines, he has trapezes and somersaults in the air, being caught by gorillas. This scenes were done by circus performers, though Tarzan's swimming is done by Weissmuller, and he looks impressive in the water.

    The film was a big success, and reportedly Edgar Rice Burroughs was pleased with the results, despite the Tarzan character being quite different from the original books. The film is a little creaky in the way of early 1930s films, but that does not detract from its entertainment value, which is high even after 72 years. This is the first film in The Tarzan Collection, which includes all six MGM films.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The film is, despite the cover saying it is in the original aspect ratio of 1.37:1, presented at 1.33:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced, though the menus are.

    I would think that this is the best this film can be expected to look given its age and the film technology available in 1931 when it was shot. It is obvious that it had a luminescent look to it on original release, as there is a glow to the film. This also means it is very soft. There are no really sharp images in the film, and the stock footage is considerably less sharp.

    Contrast levels are good, though there is some variation from frame to frame causing mild flickering. Also good is the greyscale of the film, which looks idiomatic. Blacks are not especially solid, nor are whites pure, but most viewers will make the adjustment without issues.

    I did not notice any film to video artefacts. Film artefacts are prevalent, with occasional scratches and flecks, and there is a lot of grain, but this film has been restored and looks very good for a 72-year old film.

    The film comes on one side of a single-layer, dual-sided disc, so there is no layer change. For some reason the film on the other side of this disc is the third in the series, not the second.

    Optional English subtitles are provided. These are in clear white font and are quite readable. The native lingo is not shown in the subtitles. There appear to be errors in the spelling of some of the words. For example, Mutia is rendered as Mutier, and the name of the famous chimp Cheta is shown as Cheetah.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The default audio track is English Dolby Digital 1.0.

    This is a reasonable transfer, with the hiss associated with films of this era being kept to a minimum. The higher frequencies are quite thin, and there is some slight distortion noticeable in the dialogue, though I believe that this is the nature of the original recording, which also has some faint crackling and the occasional pop. There is a good amount of bass present. Audio sync seems perfect.

    I did not notice much in the way of music during the film, apart from the opening credits (the music score is not credited on the film). It has a stereotypical African feel to it.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    No extras are provided on this disc.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release has an additional disc, which includes the following extras:

    Region 1 is a clear winner on the extras count.


    A fine initial entry in the Tarzan series, well presented on this disc.

    The video and audio are good for a 1932 film.

    It is a pity that the extras available in Region 1 are not included.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Monday, December 20, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE