My pick for worst film ever is this 1981 travesty. Director John Derek could have competed with Ed Wood as Hollywood’s worst director if he could have found a way to fund more movies. Fortunately, the studios realized that the market to see his wife prance around naked after his dreadful Bolero in 1984 had dried up. People were already renting Blake Edwards’10 and rewinding over and over to the “Bolero” scene to see as much of Bo as they wanted to.
Tarzan the Ape Man hardly tells us anything about Tarzan at all. We don’t even see Miles O’Keefe until halfway through the movie and Tarzan doesn’t do much more than stare at Jane and fight things in slow motion. He does have the best dialogue of the inept screenplay, which is absolute silence, save for his Tarzan yell. But that could be dubbed in from an old Johnny Weismuller film. Actually, Tarzan shows more life in the closing credits, so I suspect that the director ordered O’Keefe to simply pose so that the female audience can admire his pecs, but not to obstruct the true purpose of the film, which is to titillate the male audience with Bo’s breasts.
Indeed, it’s so obvious that soft porn and Bo exploitation is the sole purpose of this movie. While the camera has a difficult time focussing on any of the “action,” it does settle down when a sweaty Jane arrives at the beach to sit up and remove her blouse to pose for a massive photo shoot. Lying down would have ruined the breast shots, and husband John is well aware of the film’s purpose here.
There may not have been a real script for this film. The IMDB only gives “writing credit” to Gary Goodard, and this is the only film that Goodard has ever authored. The few lines that are there are likely created just before shooting, so the story has to be carried through the visuals. Actually there isn’t much of a story to the piece. It starts as a safari with Jane’s father, overacted horrendously by Richard Harris, who rants through the jungle like he’s overdosed on speed, until he is mercifully killed by an all white tribe of cannibals. Many others on the safari get killed or separated, but it’s really difficult to determine exactly what happens because the hand held camera doesn’t follow the action very well. (note: the cinematographer had never worked on a film before, and hasn’t since)
Somehow this rare tribe of cannibals has survived in Africa through the years; it does allow Jane to end up alone and be discovered by Tarzan and his elephant. The plot doesn’t really doesn’t matter here because at various times Bo will simply strip down to nakedness to reveal the true purpose of the film. But it’s not even good soft porn.
Two memorable lowlights involve a banana and a rubberized python.
In one of their many staring scenes, Bo seductively gazes at O’Keefe and suggestively begins fondling a banana with her tongue. (I kid you not!) This had us in hysterics. Is this really happening? If there were any doubts about this amateurish film being little more than soft porn, they were immediately removed during the banana scene, as Bo wonders what this hunk is thinking about as he stares at her.
The other laughable scene occurs when Tarzan protects Jane from a carnivorous python. This becomes John Derek’s cinematic tribute to the artistic work of Ed Wood. To “hide” the fakeness of the giant snake Derek has Tarzan and the snake thrash around in the water in slow motion, and he actually loops the same sequence over and over and over. Just when you are beginning to laugh at seeing this exact same footage (remember when Lancelot charges the castle in Monty Python?) Derek repeats the same loop again and again to stretch the fight interminably. This could be really funny if the comedy were intentional. Sadly, it’s not.
If the movie were meant as a spoof of Tarzan films, it doesn’t work. It’s too serious and the filmwork is simply inept. Not surprisingly, the cinematographer is also director John Derek in his only attempt at the craft. Also, the editing is done by James Ling, who never found editing work again. No surprise here. This is John Derek’s home movie, meant to exploit the sexuality of his wife after her striking appearance in <i>10</i>. At least Ed Wood hired people who had worked on other films.
Thankfully, this will be a difficult video to find. If you really want to see Bo Derek in her prime, you can find still pictures of her that are more entertaining that enduring this hopeless drivel. If you really must see Bo in action, you’ll have better visuals in 10 or Bolero. On the other hand, if you want to see Bo at the peak of her acting powers, check out Tommy Boy instead.