Saturday, January 14, 2017

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle: "Tarzan's Rival" (November 13, 1976)

In “Tarzan’s Rival,” an evil scientist wishing to acquire the valuable jewels of Opar creates a robot duplicate of Tarzan to alienate his animal friends in the jungle, including Nakima. Tarzan returns from an expedition to find that all his friends are treating him as an enemy.

Realizing that there is “something evil in the jungle,” Tarzan sets out to discover what has caused him to be viewed as a monster.  He soon confronts his own evil duplicate, a twin with “the heart of a jackal.”

The old “evil twin” trope gets pulled out of mothballs for this episode of Filmation’s 1976 Saturday morning series. Here, Tarzan confronts a perfect duplicate of himself, one who is identical in appearance, but not in behavior or “soul.”  

One does have to wonder however, considering that the animals are fooled so readily: does this Tarzan rival also smell like the original model?  And if so, how did the evil scientist, Santi, manage to duplicate Tarzan’s “scent” as well as his appearance?

I could understand the scientist using personal observation (and perhaps early photography) to make a relatively convincing Tarzan in appearance, but I don’t think animals would be fooled by the doppelganger unless he also carried the same scent as their friend.

Also, how is it that a scientist in the early years of the 20th century creates a perfect robot replica?

After Tarzan rebuilds the trust of his friends in this episode, he must confront the duplicate, stop the evil scientist, and protect the treasures of Opar.  After doing so, he has time -- in perfect 1970s fashion -- to impart a lesson in wisdom.  “If enough energy was spent to build worthwhile things, the world would be a better place.”

In other words, the mad scientist wasted a lot of money, effort and time creating something that was evil; that could not benefit humanity. This is a quality that Tarzan sees in other men of his world. They dedicate themselves to war, or destruction, or weapons, rather than helping one another.  So that’s the sermon of the day (and week).  It's a good message.  A mind so brilliant that it can create a robot like the "rival" shouldn't be brought down by hatred and avarice.

I enjoyed this episode quite a bit, because the idea of Tarzan battling a robot version of himself is fun, if ridiculous.  This episode does feature on intriguing visual problem, which I haven’t noticed in other installment. In particular, Tarzan’s skin color seems to change from frame to frame, between white and brown.

Next Week: “Tarzan and the City of Sorcery”

1 comment:

  1. In the mid-'70s robot replicas were being made in Westworld(1973), Futureworld(1976), Stepford Wives(1975) and on Six Million Dollar Man/Bionic Woman. Filmation's TARZAN "Tarzan's Rival" reflect that narrative in '76. Good review from a simpler time of Saturday mornings.