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The True Story Behind Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes


Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984) - A Review




Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes is a 1984 film directed by Hugh Hudson and starring Christopher Lambert, Andie MacDowell, Ralph Richardson, Ian Holm, and James Fox. It is based on the novel Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, but with some significant changes and additions. It is considered one of the most faithful and realistic adaptations of the Tarzan story, but also one of the most controversial and divisive. In this article, I will review the film and discuss its merits and flaws.




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Introduction




What is Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes?




Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes is a film that tells the origin story of Tarzan, a man raised by apes in the African jungle. It follows his journey from his birth as John Clayton, the son of a British aristocrat who dies in a shipwreck, to his discovery by an explorer named Philippe D'Arnot, who teaches him English and brings him to England, where he meets his grandfather, the Earl of Greystoke, and falls in love with his cousin Jane Porter. It also explores his struggle to adapt to civilization and his identity as both a man and an ape.


Who are the main actors and characters?




The main actors and characters in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes are:


  • Christopher Lambert as John Clayton/Tarzan: Lambert is a French-American actor who was relatively unknown at the time. He was chosen for his physical resemblance to Tarzan and his ability to express emotions without words. He spent months training with a mime coach and learning how to move like an ape. He also wore contact lenses that made his eyes look more animal-like.



  • Andie MacDowell as Jane Porter: MacDowell is an American actress who made her film debut in Greystoke. She was cast for her beauty and innocence, but her Southern accent was deemed inappropriate for the role. Her voice was dubbed by Glenn Close in post-production.



  • Ralph Richardson as John Clayton II/The Earl of Greystoke: Richardson was a British actor who was one of the most respected and acclaimed performers of his generation. He played Tarzan's grandfather, who welcomes him to his ancestral home and tries to help him adjust to society. He died shortly after filming his scenes, and Greystoke was dedicated to his memory.



  • Ian Holm as Philippe D'Arnot: Holm is a British actor who is known for his versatility and range. He played the French explorer who finds Tarzan in the jungle and becomes his friend and mentor. He teaches him how to speak, read, write, dress, and behave like a gentleman.



  • James Fox as Lord Charles Esker: Fox is a British actor who played Jane's fiancé, a snobbish and arrogant aristocrat who disapproves of Tarzan and tries to sabotage their relationship.



What is the plot summary?




The plot summary of Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes is as follows:


  • The film begins with a prologue that shows John Clayton I (Paul Geoffrey) and Alice Clayton (Cheryl Campbell), a young British couple who are sailing to Africa with their newborn son. Their ship is attacked by pirates and they escape in a lifeboat. They reach the shore but find themselves in a hostile environment. They build a treehouse to live in but soon die from disease and animal attacks.



  • Their son is found by Kala (Ailsa Berk), a female gorilla whose own baby was killed by a leopard. She adopts him as her own and names him Tarzan (meaning "white skin" in ape language). He grows up among the apes, learning their ways and forming bonds with them. He also discovers his parents' treehouse and some of their belongings.



  • Years later, Tarzan (Christopher Lambert) encounters Philippe D'Arnot (Ian Holm), a French explorer who was wounded by natives while searching for the legendary city of Opar. Tarzan saves him from being killed by a leopard and nurses him back to health. D'Arnot is fascinated by Tarzan's story and decides to teach him how to speak English. He also tells him about his true heritage as John Clayton III, the heir to Greystoke Manor in England.



  • D'Arnot convinces Tarzan to accompany him to England to meet his grandfather, John Clayton II (Ralph Richardson), the Earl of Greystoke. They arrive at Greystoke Manor where they are greeted by Jane Porter (Andie MacDowell), Clayton's cousin who lives with him as his ward. Jane is engaged to Lord Charles Esker (James Fox), but she feels attracted to Tarzan.



  • Tarzan tries to adapt to civilization but finds it difficult and confusing. He misses his ape family and feels out of place among humans. He also faces hostility from Esker, who sees him as a threat to his marriage plans. He befriends some animals in the estate's zoo but gets into trouble for releasing them.



  • Tarzan learns that his grandfather is dying from old age. He visits him on his deathbed where he tells him that he loves him but he wants to return to Africa. His grandfather understands and gives him his blessing. He also reveals that he knows about Jane's feelings for him.



  • Tarzan decides to leave England with D'Arnot but not before confessing his love to Jane. She reciprocates but tells him that she cannot go with him because she has obligations to her family. They share a passionate kiss before parting ways.



  • The film ends with an epilogue that shows Tarzan back in Africa with his ape family. He hears Jane's voice calling his name from afar but he ignores it.



The Good




The realistic portrayal of Tarzan and the apes




One of the main strengths of Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes is its realistic portrayal of Tarzan and the apes. Unlike most previous adaptations that depicted them as cartoonish or exaggerated characters, this film shows them as complex beings with emotions, intelligence, culture, language, hierarchy, family bonds, conflicts, joys, sorrows, and survival instincts.


The use of prosthetics and makeup




The film uses prosthetics and makeup instead of CGI or animatronics to create realistic-looking apes that resemble real gorillas but also have some human features. The makeup was designed by Rick Baker, who won an Academy Award for Best Makeup for his work on this film. Baker spent months studying gorillas in zoos and creating lifelike masks that could move with facial expressions. He also made body suits that covered every inch of skin with synthetic hair.


The performance of Christopher Lambert and Andie MacDowell




The performance of Christopher Lambert and Andie MacDowell as Tarzan and Jane is another highlight of this film. Lambert delivers a convincing and nuanced performance as a man ```html caught between two worlds and struggles to find his identity and place. He shows a range of emotions from curiosity to fear to anger to love without relying on words. He also moves and behaves like an ape but also displays some human traits. MacDowell also gives a good performance as Jane, a sweet and innocent young woman who is drawn to Tarzan's wildness and innocence. She shows compassion and understanding for his situation and tries to help him fit in. She also has some chemistry with Lambert, despite their voice mismatch.


The emotional bond between Tarzan and his ape family




The film also depicts the emotional bond between Tarzan and his ape family, especially his adoptive mother Kala. The film shows how Kala rescues Tarzan from the leopard that killed her own baby, how she nurtures him and protects him from the other apes who reject him, how she teaches him the ways of the jungle, and how she supports him when he decides to leave. The film also shows how Tarzan cares for Kala and the other apes, how he defends them from danger, how he plays with them and communicates with them, and how he misses them when he is away. The film makes the audience empathize with Tarzan and his ape family and feel their joy and pain.


The historical and cultural context




Another strength of Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes is its historical and cultural context. The film sets the story in the late 19th century, during the height of European colonialism and exploration in Africa. The film explores some of the themes and issues that were relevant at that time, such as racism, classism, imperialism, exploitation, civilization, nature, identity, and culture.


The colonialism and racism themes




The film portrays the colonialism and racism that were prevalent in that era. The film shows how the Europeans viewed Africa as a source of wealth and adventure, but also as a savage and dangerous land. The film shows how they exploited the natural resources and the native people of Africa for their own benefit. The film also shows how they treated Tarzan as a curiosity and a spectacle, but also as an inferior and a threat. The film exposes the hypocrisy and cruelty of the colonial system and its impact on both the colonizers and the colonized.


The adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' novel




The film is based on the novel Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, but with some significant changes and additions. The film follows the basic plot of the novel, but also adds some scenes and characters that were not in the original source. For example, the film adds the prologue that shows Tarzan's parents' shipwreck and death, the epilogue that shows Tarzan's return to Africa, Jane's fiancé Lord Charles Esker, Tarzan's grandfather John Clayton II, and some animals in Greystoke Manor's zoo. The film also changes some details and events from the novel, such as Tarzan's age when he meets D'Arnot (in the novel he is 20, in the film he is 28), Jane's nationality (in the novel she is American, in the film she is British), Tarzan's first encounter with humans (in the novel he meets a tribe of black Africans who capture him, in the film he meets D'Arnot who is wounded by natives), Tarzan's name (in the novel he is called John Clayton by his parents and Tarzan by himself and the apes, in the film he is called John Clayton by D'Arnot and Tarzan by himself only), and Tarzan's decision to leave England (in the novel he leaves because he learns that Jane is engaged to another man who turns out to be his cousin William Cecil Clayton, in the film he leaves because he wants to return to his ape family). The film tries to be more faithful to Burroughs' original vision of Tarzan as a noble savage who is torn between two worlds, but also updates it to make it more relevant to modern audiences.


The contrast between civilization and nature




```html wealth, and love, but also some disadvantages such as corruption, oppression, alienation, and loss. The film shows how nature offers Tarzan some advantages such as freedom, harmony, belonging, and joy, but also some disadvantages such as danger, violence, isolation, and death. The film shows how Tarzan is conflicted between these two worlds and tries to find a balance between them.


The Bad




The slow pace and long runtime




One of the main weaknesses of Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes is its slow pace and long runtime. The film is over two hours long and has many scenes that drag on or are unnecessary. The film spends too much time on Tarzan's childhood and upbringing in the jungle, which are interesting but not essential to the plot. The film also spends too much time on Tarzan's adjustment to civilization, which are important but not engaging. The film lacks action and adventure, which are expected from a Tarzan story. The film focuses more on drama and romance, which are fine but not exciting. The film fails to capture the attention and interest of the viewers and makes them bored and frustrated.


The lack of action and adventure




The film lacks action and adventure, which are essential elements of a Tarzan story. The film has only a few scenes that involve danger or excitement, such as Tarzan's fight with the leopard, his rescue of D'Arnot from the natives, his escape from the zoo animals, and his confrontation with Esker. The rest of the film is mostly dialogue and exposition, which are dull and tedious. The film does not show Tarzan's amazing feats of strength, agility, and courage that make him a legendary hero. The film does not show Tarzan's exploration of the jungle and its wonders that make him a curious and adventurous character. The film does not show Tarzan's encounters with other animals and humans that make him a friend and a foe. The film does not deliver the thrill and fun that a Tarzan story should have.


The unnecessary scenes and subplots




The film has many scenes and subplots that are unnecessary and do not contribute to the main plot or theme. For example, the film has a scene where Tarzan meets a young boy named Jeffson Brown (David Suchet) who is fascinated by him and wants to be his friend. This scene is supposed to show Tarzan's innocence and kindness, but it is also awkward and irrelevant. The film also has a subplot where Esker tries to expose Tarzan's true identity as an ape-man by hiring a journalist named Hugh (John Wells) who snoops around Greystoke Manor. This subplot is supposed to show Esker's jealousy and malice, but it is also contrived and pointless. The film could have cut these scenes and subplots to make it shorter and tighter.


The inconsistent tone and style




Another weakness of Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes is its inconsistent tone and style. The film tries to be both a serious drama and a light comedy, but it fails to balance them well. The film switches from dark and tragic to bright and humorous, but it creates confusion and dissonance for the viewers.


The switch from drama to comedy




The film switches from drama to comedy in an abrupt and awkward way. For example, the film has a scene where Tarzan is introduced to his grandfather and other guests at Greystoke Manor. This scene is supposed to be dramatic and emotional, as Tarzan meets his family and learns about his heritage. However, the scene also has some comedic moments, such as Tarzan spitting out his wine, eating with his hands, and making animal noises. These moments are supposed to be funny and charming, but they also undermine the seriousness and sentimentality of the scene. The film does not blend the drama and comedy well, but rather clashes them.


The romance and sex scenes




The film also has some romance and sex scenes that are inconsistent with its tone and style. For example, the film has a scene where Tarzan and Jane make love for the first time in Greystoke Manor. This scene is supposed to be romantic and passionate, as Tarzan and Jane express their love for each other. However, the scene also has some awkward moments, such as Jane's voice being dubbed by Glenn Close, Tarzan's contact lenses being visible, and Jane's dress being torn off by Tarzan. These moments are supposed to be realistic and natural, but they also distract and amuse the viewers. The film does not match the romance and sex scenes ```html and style, but rather contrasts them.


The ending and epilogue




The film also has an ending and an epilogue that are inconsistent with its tone and style. The film ends with Tarzan leaving England with D'Arnot but not before kissing Jane goodbye. This ending is supposed to be bittersweet and poignant, as Tarzan chooses his ape family over his human family and his true love. However, the ending also has some cheesy moments, such as Tarzan saying "I love you" to Jane in a broken accent, Jane crying and waving at Tarzan from the window, and D'Arnot smiling and nodding at them. These moments are supposed to be touching and romantic, but they also seem clichéd and melodramatic. The film then has an epilogue that shows Tarzan back in Africa with his ape family. He hears Jane's voice calling his name from afar but he ignores it. This epilogue is supposed to be ambiguous and open-ended, as it leaves the possibility of Tarzan and Jane reuniting in the future. However, the epilogue also has some confusing moments, such as Jane's voice being heard without any explanation, Tarzan's expression being unclear, and the film cutting to black abruptly. These moments are supposed to be intriguing and mysterious, but they also seem vague and unsatisfying. The film does not conclude the story well, but rather leaves it hanging.


Conclusion




Is Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes worth watching?




Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes is a film that has some strengths and some weaknesses. It is a film that tries to be a realistic and faithful adaptation of the Tarzan story, but also a modern and relevant one. It is a film that tries to be both a serious drama and a light comedy, but also a thrilling adventure and a romantic love story. It is a film that tries to balance civilization and nature, culture and identity, family and love, but also conflict and tragedy. It is a film that has some good performances, some impressive makeup, some interesting themes, but also some slow pace, some long runtime, some inconsistent tone, some unnecessary scenes, and some unsatisfying ending. It is a film that is worth watching for some viewers who appreciate its merits, but also a film that is not worth watching for some viewers who dislike its flaws.


What are the main strengths and weaknesses of the film?




The main strengths of Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes are:


  • The realistic portrayal of Tarzan and the apes



  • The historical and cultural context



The main weaknesses of Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes are:


  • The slow pace and long runtime



  • The inconsistent tone and style



How does it compare to other Tarzan adaptations?




Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes is one of the many adaptations of the Tarzan story that have been made over the years. It is different from most other adaptations in its realism and fidelity to the original source. It is more similar to some adaptations that have been made in recent years, such as The Legend of Tarzan (2016) starring Alexander Skarsgård and Margot Robbie, and Tarzan (2013) starring Kellan Lutz and Spencer Locke. These adaptations also try to update the Tarzan story to make it more relevant to modern audiences, but they also add some elements of fantasy and action to make it more appealing and entertaining.


FAQs




  • Q: When was Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes released? A: Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes was released on March 30th 1984 in the United States and on July 20th 1984 in the United Kingdom.



  • Q: How much did Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes cost to make? A: Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes had a budget of $30 million, which was considered high for its time.



  • Q: How much did Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes earn at the box office? A: Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes earned $45.9 million in North America and $136 million worldwide, making it a moderate success.



Q: What awards did Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes win or get nominated for? A: Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes won one Academy Award for Best Makeup and was nominated for two more for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Ralph Richardson). It also won one BAFTA Award for Best Makeup and was nominated for three more for Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, an


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