Director: Carl Schenkel
Starring: Caspar Van Dien | Jane March | Steve Waddington | Winston Ntshona | Rapulana Seiphemo | Ian Roberts
Music: Christopher Franke
Based on characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Last week I reviewed TARZAN THE APE MAN (1981) and I spoke at length about what I didn’t like about the film. I may have been rash in my condemnation. TARZAN AND THE LOST CITY is far worse. It must be said it looks great – the cinematography by Paul Gilpin is first rate, and Casper Van Dien is a passable Tarzan. But what little plot there is barely makes sense. It is clearly a film that relies on spectacle rather than story, which I believe is a crime.
As the film opens a nefarious British explorer named Ravens (Steve Waddington) seeks the location to the fabled lost city of Opar. He and his men ransack and African village for a talisman that will show the way. As the village burns a psychic message is sent to Tarzan – or more precisely John Clayton, Lord Greystoke (Casper Van Dien). Clayton is in London, preparing for his imminent wedding to Jane (Jane March). The psychic message tells him something is amiss in the jungle. He postpones the wedding and heads back to Africa to attempt to stop Ravens. Jane, who refuses to be left behind and forgotten, follows several days later.
Possibly borrowing the style from the aforementioned TARZAN THE APE MAN, this film also chooses to use slow motion whenever Tarzan swings into action. Admittedly, LOST CITY is edited better than APE MAN, but none-the-less the effect is the same, rendering Tarzan’s primal power and energy little more than a visual effect – rather than a force of nature.
Another quibble is the quest for the lost city itself. Not that I want the film to be an Indian Jones clone, with booby-traps and hidden danger at every stage of the journey – but I do expect a quest for a lost city to feature a ‘quest’ or ‘journey’. Ravens and his team go straight to the secret entrance, and then through to the hidden valley. It’s only then they encounter some resistance – and some dodgy dated CGI effects.
At the climax, the film takes a weird turn toward weird mumbo-jumbo mysticism. All throughout Ravens’s search for Opar, his reasons are never explained, and upon his arrival he suddenly rants about the city being the cradle of all civilization. It’s an info dump that the viewer could have used an hour ago. Instead it appears to be shoehorned in at the last minute to allow a glitzy special effects ending. Lightning flashes and magical powers are unfurled but for what purpose we are never really sure.
While undemanding viewers and children may find something to enjoy in TARZAN AND THE LOST CITY, most viewers will be left bewildered, shaking their heads at the wasted opportunity to make an entertaining action adventure. It could very well be the worst Tarzan movie ever made.