For Mahoney, that’s 1962’s Tarzan Goes to India and 1963’s Tarzan’s Three Challenges. He may have been a fine father to actress Sally Field, but he makes for one dull Tarzan. This pair of adventures is notable for getting the character out of Africa and into Asia, yet only the latter sojourn is worth watching … and then only for its final 12 minutes, when it ditches the epic majesty and pageantry to get down to, y’know, action.
That’s when Three Challenges finally makes good on its title, tying Tarzan and the evil Khan (Woody Strode, Kingdom of the Spiders) together like so many Defiant Ones. In a heated competition, they must traverse a treacherous gorge, bungee jump, and finally take part in a saber part atop ropes stretched across boiling vats.
The Henry films really up the ante, primarily because they submit to the James Bond craze then in full Thunderball swing, beginning with 1966’s Tarzan and the Valley of Gold. Right from the start, the 007 influence is wonderfully unmistakable, and it’s a kick to see Henry and his Sharpie eyebrows trade the savage for the suave, donning a three-piece suit and choosing to accept his impossible mission.
Valley of Gold boasts exploding watches, a fight with a giant Coke bottle, and considerable eye candy in The Silencers’ Nancy Kovack. What’s not to love? The following year’s Tarzan and the Great River continues such zippy spy antics, while ’68’s Tarzan and the Jungle Boy tempers them for a more family-friendly approach. Still, it’s better than either of Mahoney’s swings of the vine; ironically, Henry later acted opposite Mahoney’s daughter in the first two chapters of the Smokey and the Bandit. —Rod Lott