Saturday, November 26, 2016

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle: "Tarzan and the Forbidden City" (October 2, 1976)

In “Tarzan and the Forbidden City,” a hunter brings his daughter Kelly into the jungle on a quest to locate Tarzan.  The hunter’s need is desperate. His son Brian has disappeared near the Forbidden City, Ushare, a metropolis built on a volcano called Tuen Baka.

A second group of hunters are also in search of the city.  The denizens there are rumored to possess a gem of rare value, known as “The Father of Diamonds.”

Tarzan undertakes the quest, and helps Brian and the hunters learn that there is nothing more precious “than life.”

The fourth episode of Filmation’s Legend of Tarzan (1976-1980) is a loose adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ twentieth Tarzan novel, written in 1938. Both the episode and the book share a title: Tarzan and the Forbidden City, and a plot line.  

Namely, both involve the search for a missing adventurer, Brian Gregory, and the search for a treasure called the Father of Diamonds.

The two stories differ in a crucial way. In the book, Tarzan and Brian resemble one another, and are mistaken for one another.  That element is not retained in this episode.  However, both the book and this cartoon share a climactic revelation: the “Father of Diamonds” is not a diamond, or rare, at all.  

It’s just a lump of coal.  One day, of course, long in the future, it will be a diamond.

In other words, the search for wealth here is a brand of Fool’s Gold. Men have been imperiled, families separated, in a vain search for something that is not a real treasure.  “Men are strange beasts,” Tarzan notes in the book.  In the TV show, he makes the comment that the real treasure we can all have is life, and Brian notes that “wealth is no longer important” to him.

“Tarzan and the Forbidden City” is an intriguing episode of the series not only because of its considerable fidelity to Burroughs’ original vision, but because of the technology in the City of Ascher. It seems like it would be home in 20,000 Leagues under the Sea too.  

Here, Tarzan fights a giant octopus and encounters city-dwellers who wear undersea suits and have considerable undersea technology.

I realize I am only four episodes in at this point, but this Filmation series seems quite superior to some of the other animated output of the company.  Indeed, it approaches the level of Filmation’s Star Trek (1973), to some degree.  So far the stories are exceptional, the animation is solid (for TV of the time), and the adaptation from the source material is on a high level.

Next week: “Tarzan and the Graveyard of Elephants.

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