Monday, April 25, 2011

Retro View: Tarzan and the Amtorans

As some might remember I posted some pics from a few months back and promised a review. Well better late than never.

While visiting the N'Gono tribe with his friend Kimba Tarzan (Joe Lara) suddenly finds himself asked to leave after a strange occurrence leaves him with blood on his hands. The village witch doctor thinks it's bad magic but Tarzan claims to have seen a strange scene of women giving birth and thinks the blood is from a newborn baby. When the daughter of the village chief disappears around a well, Tarzan decides to investigate by going into the well. Where he comes out is a barren wasteland inhabited by purple humanoids and acid rain. He is saved from the latter by another human Carson Napier (Anthony Guidera) who informs Tarzan that he is on the planet Amtor, which has become dried out due to a lack of rain. This has also caused the people to become unable to reproduce, resulting in the kidnapping of the village women. Tarzan agrees to help Carson retrieve his formula-which he thinks will cause it to rain-and to rescue the women. Standing in their way is Mintep, the jong of Amtor whose daughter Duare (Michelle Botes) is in love with Carson, and who sees Napier as troublesome rebel. Will Tarzan rescue the women? Can Carson make it rain? Will that big spider eat our heroes? And did anyone involved ever read the books?

I admit to only having seen one or two episodes of Tarzan: The Epic Adventures, the short-lived syndicated TV series from the late 1990s, back when it was on. But the general consensus was that it was closer to Edgar Rice Burroughs' original creation-an educated Lord Greystoke, the inclusion of characters from the Tarzan novels and some other Burroughs creations-most notably some Pellucidar inspired episodes. But with Tarzan and the Amtorans, it seems the writers decided to change Carson, Duare and company around quite a bit. Instead of the cloud covered, watery planet of Amtor Burroughs described, we get a dried out desert and the standard sci-fi plot of a lack of rain fall that has caused major problems. The characters are also different-Carson is an archaeologist whose exposure to Amtor's atmosphere is slowly killing him-Duare at one point even asks "Carson, are you dying?"-while Duare and the Amtorans are purple faced creatures who drive around on motorcycles and low-rent Mad Max dune buggies. And Mintep? He's a mutant which makes no sense, unless all that breeding with Earth women has caused a more humanoid appearance. (Any thoughts on that?)

As is the case with most of these TV shows from that period, Tarzan also shows it's low budget-from the costuming to the incredibly fake spider CGI to the laughable laser gun effects. The cast does try it's best-especially Guidera who has some of the humor of the Carson from the books, and Botes. As Tarzan Joe Lara does the action scenes well and that's about it. He isn't the most boring Tarzan ever-that honor goes to Casper van Dien in Tarzan and the Lost City-but in this episode he's close. And the comedy relief sidekick? Suddenly I missed Cheeta.

Given that the Carson Napier movie seems to be going nowhere, I guess this will rank as the character's only film appearance. As far as low-budget TV film making goes, it's passable entertainment and was a fun look back at a time when this type of program provided some alternative on rainy Saturdays. Rating: ** out of 4. (One quick thing-the episode I was provided still had the original commercials in it. Between the ads for exercise equipment (where you never looked as good as the buff guys and girls shown using it) and psychic friends was an ad promoting a contest looking for Jane, telling young women to send the picture to the casting agents for the series. Does anyone know if someone was hired for the part?)

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