Reviewed by DAN STUMPF

TARZAN THE MAGNIFICENT. Paramount, US/UK, 1960. Gordon Scott, Jock Mahoney, Betta St. John, John Carradine, Lionel Jeffries. Written by Berne Giler and Robert Day, based on the character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs Director: Robert Day.

   Basically a Western transposed to Africa, with Gordon Scott instead of Randolph, but fun in its way.

   The Tarzan of Magnificent isn’t the solipsistic jungle man of the early Tarzan films, but more like a Lone Ranger of the bush, going about rescuing folks and catching evildoers, and the plot gets moving when Tarzan (Gordon Scott) captures killer Coy Banton (Jock Mahoney) of the notorious Banton Gang, and tries to bring him to justice, as they say. The Lord of the Apes gets his prisoner to a smallish village, but it seems everyone there has seen High Noon and refuses to help him for fear of reprisal from the Banton Gang, which is headed by patriarch John Carradine, in the manner of Lee J. Cobb in Man of the West.

   Nothing daunted, Tarzan decides to escort his prisoner across the prairie –er— I mean through the jungle, knowing the gang will be dogging his heels and accompanied by a disparate group of hangers-on: shades of Ride Lonesome, or maybe The Naked Spur. There’s some interesting cross-cutting between the good guys and the baddies as the characters try to work out their personal issues along the way, sundry encounters with the local fauna, and a would-be dramatic bit where one of Tarzan’s party turns out to be an ex-doctor who rallies himself to save a life — Stagecoach, anyone?

   All this of course is just filler leading up to the final confrontation between Tarzan and Coy Banton, and when that moment finally arrives, it doesn’t disappoint; we get a lengthy, brutal and highly entertaining hand-to-hand battle between the protagonists across jungle, rocks, waterfalls and what-have-you, and while the outcome is never in doubt, the players and their stuntmen make it well worth your time.

   By and large however, Tarzan the Magnificent isn’t in the same league as any classic western; it’s a nice try and something a bit different, but the writing and directing just ain’t there. And as for the acting…. Well one doesn’t go to Tarzan movies for the acting, but Lionel Jeffries does well in an unrewarding role, Jock Mahoney projects a virile menace, and John Carradine is his reliable self. I just couldn’t help wishing Gordon Scott had a little less dialogue.