Tarzan, The Ape Man (1981)

R | 112 mins | Adventure, Romance | 24 July 1981

Director:

John Derek

Producer:

Cathleen Collins

Cinematographer:

John Derek

Editor:

James B. Ling

Production Designer:

Alan Roderick-Jones

Production Companies:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Film Co., Svengali
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HISTORY

Tarzan, Tarzan, The Apeman and Tarzan, the Ape Man – Me Jane are alternate titles for the film.
       The 14 Feb 1980 DV announced that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) was remaking their 1932 film Tarzan, The Ape Man (see entry). John Derek would produce and direct the remake, with Bo Derek starring and also producing. On 15 Feb 1980, DV reported that Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc., representing Burroughs’ heirs, had a deal with Warner Bros. to make Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984), and were investigating the legality of MGM’s film. David Begelman, president of MGM, countered that MGM’s lawyers had ascertained their rights to remake their 1932 film. Articles in the 16 May 1980 WSJ and the 21 May 1980 Var reported that Burroughs heirs filed suit in a New York federal court against MGM, claiming the studio did not have the rights to remake the film. The 11 Jul 1981 LAT reported that MGM’s 1931 agreement with Burroughs allowed the studio to make the 1932 film and entitled them to film remakes of that movie. The Burroughs heirs contended that the U.S. Copyright Law of 1978 gave them the right to terminate MGM’s remake rights. The suit claimed the heirs had the exclusive rights to Burroughs’ work. Roger L. Zissu, an attorney for the heirs, also noted that MGM’s remake rights “stipulate that the film be suitable for young audiences” and the Dereks’ film promised to be “erotic” and “sensual.” United Artists, the film’s planned distributor, was ... More Less

Tarzan, Tarzan, The Apeman and Tarzan, the Ape Man – Me Jane are alternate titles for the film.
       The 14 Feb 1980 DV announced that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) was remaking their 1932 film Tarzan, The Ape Man (see entry). John Derek would produce and direct the remake, with Bo Derek starring and also producing. On 15 Feb 1980, DV reported that Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc., representing Burroughs’ heirs, had a deal with Warner Bros. to make Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984), and were investigating the legality of MGM’s film. David Begelman, president of MGM, countered that MGM’s lawyers had ascertained their rights to remake their 1932 film. Articles in the 16 May 1980 WSJ and the 21 May 1980 Var reported that Burroughs heirs filed suit in a New York federal court against MGM, claiming the studio did not have the rights to remake the film. The 11 Jul 1981 LAT reported that MGM’s 1931 agreement with Burroughs allowed the studio to make the 1932 film and entitled them to film remakes of that movie. The Burroughs heirs contended that the U.S. Copyright Law of 1978 gave them the right to terminate MGM’s remake rights. The suit claimed the heirs had the exclusive rights to Burroughs’ work. Roger L. Zissu, an attorney for the heirs, also noted that MGM’s remake rights “stipulate that the film be suitable for young audiences” and the Dereks’ film promised to be “erotic” and “sensual.” United Artists, the film’s planned distributor, was also named as a defendant. Items in the 25 Jun 1980 DV and 2 Jul 1980 Var reported that U.S. District Judge Henry Werker denied the preliminary injunction to stop MGM from making the film.
       The 25 Feb 1980 DV reported the filmmakers planned to shoot in Thailand, but an item in the 23 May 1980 DV reported the Dereks were scouting locations in Brazil, Panama, and Surinam. The 11 Jun 1980 Var stated Brazil was chosen, the film was budgeted at $4 – $5 million, and principal photography was planned to start Sep 1980. The 10 Jul 1980 DV announced the casting of Lee Canalito as “Tarzan.” The 27 Jul 1980 LAHExam and the 26 Aug 1980 HR reported that actor Oliver Reed would play “Parker” in the film. However, the 13 Jan 1981 HR reported Richard Harris was cast in the role. Plans to film on location in Brazil also changed, and a 15 Jan 1981 MGM press release stated six weeks of principal photography in Sri Lanka would be followed by a move to the Seychelles islands. The 9 Jan 1981 DV reported principal photography would begin 12 Jan 1981.
       A 17 Feb 1981 MGM press release stated that Lee Canalito left the production. Reportedly, Canalito’s stunt double underwent an emergency appendectomy and was no longer available, and Canalito’s mobility was limited by an injury to his right knee that had necessitated surgery in the spring of 1980. Miles O’Keeffe was hired to replace Canalito and made his feature film debut as “Tarzan.” Canalito, however, countered that he was in top physical shape and offered to do his own stunts, according to the 6 Mar 1981 LAHExam. Canalito claimed the Dereks told him they were pleased with his work, but fired him after four days of principal photography. An article in the 8 Apr 1981 LAHExam reported Bo Derek’s contention that Canalito “got very out of shape” prior to production and, although they hired a trainer, Canalito’s physique was not up to par for the role. Bo Derek claimed they paid Canalito his full fee, not just for the filming he completed. The 23 Feb 1981 New York magazine reported that the production was troubled, with key crew members leaving. Reportedly, problems arose when John Derek proposed that he should also be the film’s director of photography, a position normally filled by a member of the International Photographers union. An MGM spokesperson admitted that several people had left the film, but refuted the claim that John Derek was the director of photography. However, Derek receives the onscreen credit “photographed by.” Production notes in AMPAS library files reported the completion of principal photography on 9 Mar 1981.
       An article in the 3 Jul 1981 DV stated that MGM was ordered to screen the film for Federal Judge Henry Werker, who would determine if the film would be released in its present form and/or open as planned on 24 Jul 1981. The screening would determine if the original licensing agreement with Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. had been breached, if deletions to the film were required, and whether MGM should postpone the film’s release until the fall. The Burroughs heirs had been awarded “a key victory” on 2 Jul 1981 when Judge Werker declared the Tarzan characters are covered by the Copyright Act. However, Judge Werker also granted a summary judgment supporting MGM’s allegation that it was “not properly served or notified in the original action” to terminate MGM’s rights. An article in the 9 Jul 1981 LAT reported Judge Werker’s ruling that the film required edits, siding with the Burroughs estate’s contention that the film featured “too much Bo Derek” and not enough of Tarzan. Judge Werker did not grant the estate’s desire to delete the character of Tarzan from the film, claiming his intention was not to destroy the movie. MGM agreed to make the edits and screen a revised version for the judge in three days. John Derek was reportedly infuriated and stated that “not one frame” of the film would be cut. However, Derek did not have contractual rights to final approval, and MGM made the edits over Derek’s objections. According to the 11 Jul 1981 LAT, Judge Werker ordered a second re-edit after screening the film, stating it was still “too sexy.” Despite John Derek’s accusation that MGM was bowing to censorship, the studio cut the film again to the judge’s specifications. MGM wanted to keep its profitable summer release date and did not want to undercut their promotional campaign, including a sixteen-page feature on Bo Derek in Playboy magazine’s Sep 1981 issue which would be available the week following the film’s announced release date. The 14 Jul 1981 LAHExam stated that three minutes and six seconds were cut from the movie. The 14 Jul 1981 DV and the 15 Jul 1981 LAT reported Judge Werker’s ruling that the film was “based substantially” on the 1932 film and there were not “material” changes or departures from that film. Werker ruled that MGM did not breach the licensing agreement with the Burroughs estate and could release the film on 24 Jul 1981. The Burroughs estate planned to appeal the decision in the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. Werker rejected the estate’s request for a permanent injunction against the film’s release, but did rule that a preliminary injunction “be deemed to continue” until the case was fully resolved. Articles on 1 Jun 1982 in DV and HR reported that MGM was victorious in the appeal. The appeals court ruling on 26 May 1982 compared the synopses of the 1932 and 1981 films, and the original 1912 Tarzan of the Apes book. The judges supported MGM’s contention that the 1932 film’s licensed “Tarzan” character did not “infringe on the book.” The court ruled that, pursuant to the 1931 agreement, the 1932 film was MGM’s original story utilizing the character “Tarzan,” but was not based on the book. Therefore, the Burroughs estate’s termination of MGM’s rights to copyrighted material from the book was inapplicable.
       According to the 28 Jul 1981 DV, Tarzan, The Ape Man, was MGM’s largest opening-to-date, with a first weekend box-office gross of $6,700,809 at 930 theaters. A 4 Aug 1981 United Artists’ press release announced the film grossed $10,198,355 in its first week. The 13 Aug 1981 LAHExam noted the film’s box-office gross was $20,428,716 in its first seventeen days of release, and the 9 Sep 1981 LAT estimated the film’s box-office gross at $27 million.
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
14 Feb 1980.
---
Daily Variety
15 Feb 1980.
---
Daily Variety
25 Feb 1980.
---
Daily Variety
23 May 1980.
---
Daily Variety
25 Jun 1980.
---
Daily Variety
10 Jul 1980.
---
Daily Variety
9 Jan 1981.
---
Daily Variety
3 Jul 1981
pp. 1-2.
Daily Variety
14 Jul 1981
p. 1, 18.
Daily Variety
28 Jul 1981
p. 3, 12.
Daily Variety
1 Jun 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Aug 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jan 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jun 1982.
---
LAHExam
27 Jul 1980
Section A, p. 2.
LAHExam
6 Mar 1981
Section A, p. 2.
LAHExam
8 Apr 1981
Section A, p. 2.
LAHExam
14 Jul 1981
Section A, p. 2.
LAHExam
13 Aug 1981.
---
Los Angeles Times
9 Jul 1981
p. 1, 5.
Los Angeles Times
11 Jul 1981
p. 3, 5.
Los Angeles Times
15 Jul 1981.
---
Los Angeles Times
25 Jul 1981
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
9 Sep 1981.
---
New York
23 Feb 1981.
---
New York Times
7 Aug 1981
p. 10.
Variety
21 May 1980.
---
Variety
11 Jun 1980.
---
Variety
2 Jul 1980.
---
Variety
29 Jul 1981
p. 20.
Wall Street Journal
16 May 1980.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANIES
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents
A Svengali Production
presented by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
1st asst dir
The asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Cam assoc
1st cam asst
2d cam asst
Gaffer
Lighting
ART DIRECTORS
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
1st asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
COSTUMES
Costumer
MUSIC
Mus consultant
Mus rec at
Mus rec mixer
Mus ed
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Supv sd ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Dial replacement by
Supv dial ed
Dial ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Opt supv
Title art by
Svengali card by
Titles by
MAKEUP
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod exec
Prod asst
Scr supv
Tech adv mountain climbing
Head animal trainer
Asst animal trainer
Asst animal trainer
Asst animal trainer
Asst animal trainer
Animals supplied by
Prod coord, Crew - Sri Lanka
Prod asst, Crew - Sri Lanka
Prod asst, Crew - Sri Lanka
Lab contact
COLOR PERSONNEL
[Col by]
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Tarzan
Tarzan, The Apeman
Tarzan, The Ape Man - Me Jane
Release Date:
24 July 1981
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 24 July 1981
New York opening: 7 August 1981
Production Date:
12 January--9 March 1981
Copyright Claimant:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Film Company
Copyright Date:
20 October 1981
Copyright Number:
PA116914
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
112
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1910, Jane Parker travels to West Africa seeking adventurer James Parker, the father she has never known. She pays for passage on a small boat, but when drunken sailors break into her cabin, she shoots at them and subsequently sails to Parker’s camp on a supply boat. Parker is stunned when Jane steps off the boat, noting she looks exactly like her mother, Elizabeth. Harry Holt, the expedition photographer, is surprised to learn Parker has a daughter and insists Jane take his tent. Holt also introduces Jane to her father’s mistress, a native woman Parker calls “Africa." That night, Jane dines with Parker and informs him that her mother died, leaving Jane a wealthy heiress. She hates her father for leaving shortly after her birth and only knows him through newspaper clippings of his adventures. Parker insists he loved them and still carries a photograph of his wife and baby daughter. In the morning, Jane learns that her father is searching for the legendary elephant graveyard, and declares she is joining the expedition over Parker’s objections. Jane is adamant, so Parker gives her a pistol, and they set off into the jungle. Later, they reach a mountain of rock that must be scaled. As they camp for the night, Parker announces Jane must return to base camp in the morning and report on his “remarkable” progress. That evening, they hear someone yell and Parker claims it is the legendary Tarzan, a gigantic white man who might be half ape. The native porters are frightened of Tarzan and do not want to continue, so Parker offers more ... +


In 1910, Jane Parker travels to West Africa seeking adventurer James Parker, the father she has never known. She pays for passage on a small boat, but when drunken sailors break into her cabin, she shoots at them and subsequently sails to Parker’s camp on a supply boat. Parker is stunned when Jane steps off the boat, noting she looks exactly like her mother, Elizabeth. Harry Holt, the expedition photographer, is surprised to learn Parker has a daughter and insists Jane take his tent. Holt also introduces Jane to her father’s mistress, a native woman Parker calls “Africa." That night, Jane dines with Parker and informs him that her mother died, leaving Jane a wealthy heiress. She hates her father for leaving shortly after her birth and only knows him through newspaper clippings of his adventures. Parker insists he loved them and still carries a photograph of his wife and baby daughter. In the morning, Jane learns that her father is searching for the legendary elephant graveyard, and declares she is joining the expedition over Parker’s objections. Jane is adamant, so Parker gives her a pistol, and they set off into the jungle. Later, they reach a mountain of rock that must be scaled. As they camp for the night, Parker announces Jane must return to base camp in the morning and report on his “remarkable” progress. That evening, they hear someone yell and Parker claims it is the legendary Tarzan, a gigantic white man who might be half ape. The native porters are frightened of Tarzan and do not want to continue, so Parker offers more money. When Tarzan yells again, Parker orders Africa to shame the workers by telling them she is not afraid to continue. The next day, Jane announces she is climbing the mountain, too, despite her father’s protests. The rope wears thin as each person scales the mountain face, and as the last worker climbs, the rope breaks and the man falls to his death. Later, Parker shows Jane a map he found in a Cairo, Egypt, museum revealing the route taken by an Egyptian expedition 1,000 years ago to a graveyard of ivory near an inland sea. Jane is doubtful, but as they continue to hike through a river, Parker hears the sound of waves. The group runs through the jungle and onto the beach of the inland sea. While the others continue on their trek, Jane insists on bathing alone, and plans to meet them at the campsite. After bathing, a lion runs onto the beach, and she dives back into the water. The lion watches her until Tarzan yells, and runs onto the beach to pet the animal. When a large wave washes over Jane, Tarzan attempts to save her, but she thinks he is attacking and tries to escape. Moments later, a shot scares the lion away and a second shot drives Tarzan away as Parker and Holt arrive to rescue Jane. As they camp that night, Parker insists the “ape” desires Jane. Parker plans to kill Tarzan and hang his stuffed body as a trophy. However, Jane declares Tarzan is a man, and she knows he did not want to hurt her. As they journey through the jungle, the expedition is unaware that members of an unfriendly tribe follow them. Africa is abducted by the savage tribe, but Parker thinks Tarzan kidnapped her and it fuels his desire to kill the ape man. As they continue through the jungle, Jane stops at the river to fill her canteen and Parker orders Holt to watch her. However, Holt turns his back for a second and Tarzan pulls Jane under the water and they disappear. He carries her through the jungle, swinging on vines. When they stop, Jane fires her gun as a warning, and Tarzan runs away. Jane maneuvers through the jungle and hears a shot fired in the distance as Parker and Holt try to locate her. She fires in response and leans against a tree to wait for them. However, an enormous snake wraps itself around her and she falls into the water while struggling to escape. Tarzan swings to the rescue, battles the snake, and carries Jane off. He swings her through the jungle until he cannot move anymore, then drops to the ground, unconscious. Chimpanzees and an orangutan surround their friend, and an elephant lifts Tarzan with its tusks and carries him to a nearby river. Jane follows and rips a piece off her skirt, wets the cloth and bathes Tarzan. When Tarzan awakens, Jane realizes he does not understand what she is saying. The humans and monkeys swim together and when it gets dark, Tarzan takes Jane to his bower in the trees where they sleep. In the morning as they bathe, Tarzan is intrigued by Jane’s breasts. Although he cannot understand her, Jane confides that she is still a virgin and assumes he is one, too. Parker, Holt and a guide lead separate search parties looking for Jane. Unknown to Parker and Holt, the guide’s group is captured by the evil tribe. Later, Parker and Holt meet on the beach. Jane tracks the search parties’ shots and runs onto the sand, followed by Tarzan. Parker aims his rifle, but Jane tells him not to shoot, and Tarzan escapes into the trees. As Jane reveals that Tarzan did not abduct Africa, the evil tribe surrounds them. They kill the native workers and kidnap Jane, Parker and Holt, taking them by canoe to the village of the “Ivory King.” Parker and Holt are tied up, while Jane is stripped, bathed and painted white from head to toe in preparation for being raped by the Ivory King. However, Tarzan leads a pack of elephants toward the camp and kills the guards. As the king moves toward Jane, Parker frees himself and attacks. The king knocks Parker aside and spears him with an elephant tusk. Tarzan’s yell announces his arrival as he swings into camp and fights the king. The other tribesmen do not intervene, but allow the two to battle until Tarzan snaps the king’s neck. Jane rushes to her dying father’s side and they admit their mutual love. Jane asks Holt to tell the world of her father’s success, then leaves to live with Tarzan in the jungle. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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