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April 06, 1984 - Image 16

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1984-04-06
Note:
This is a tabloid page

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Me

Tarzan
Greystoke: The Legend of
Tarzan
Directed by Hugh Hudson
Starring Christopher Lambert, Sir Ralph
Richardson, and Ian Holmes
Now playing at Campus Theater
By Byron L. Bull
A BAD MOVIE is like a bad
marriage-quite often all the love
and hard work that goes into one will
have nothing to do with how successful
it turns out.
Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan is
a marriage on the rocks even before the
honeymoon begins. Based on a screen-
play that Robert Towne nurtured for
eight years, two years in the making
under director Hugh Hudson, the result
is anything but the epic its purported to
be. It's a languid, uninspired
melodrama that makes one of Johnny
Weismuller's Saturday matinee ver-
sions glow by comparison.
For one, the narrative is choppy and
broken. The film opens in Edwardian
Scotland, on the estate of Lord and
Lady Clayton, who are about to embark
on some sort of expedition to Africa, for
reasons never stated. Lord Clayton's
father, the Earl of Greystoke, watches
their carriage pull away in the rain,
overcome by a dire premonition.
Cut to an unexplained shipwreck on
the African coast, Lord and Lady
Greystoke, the only surrivors, peering
anxiously into the dense jungle.
Cut to some months later where we
find them living in an elaborate Swiss
Family Robinson-style treehouse. In
just a matter of seconds we see that
they have an infant boy, John, then
watch Lady Clayton die, and then see
the family treated to an unprovoked at-
tack by a band of apes. The apes kill
Lord Clayton and take the baby with
them, to raise as one of their own.
Cut to a series of sequences, with
various boy actors playing the youth as
he grows up in an ape society, acting
and reacting like his surrogate species.
Finally we stop at Christopher Lam-
bert, a handsome but otherwise unex-
pressive actor who plays John (never

once called Tarzan) as an adult who is
inexplicably beardless, and who,
somewhere along the way, picked up a
loincloth.
John stumbles across a near-dead
Belgian explorer, Phillippe D'Arnot,
(Ian Holmes), the sole surrivor of a
pygmie attack on his expedition. John
takes him back to the ape tribe and
cares for him. D'Arnot, upon his
recovery, deduces that John is the lost
Greystoke heir and teaches him
English, convincing him to come back
with him to civilization.
After a brief scene in a seedy English
outpost that has nothing to do with the
story, he arrives, dressed in style, at
the Greystoke mansion. What follows is
a lengthy, heavyhanded but shor-
tsighted reworking of the noble savage
theme. John is introduced to the
aristocracy, makes embarrassing slips
in etiquette, seduces Jane, an
American woman, finds Industrial
civilization cold and brutal and opts for
the jungle.
Working with an already familiar
storyline and theme that has been
worked to death in the last century, the
only way Hudson could have succeeded
would have been to make a purely
escapist, action-oriented version of the
story, or somehow come up with a novel
approach and inject some new ideas in-
to the tired Tarzan legend. He goes for
the latter, and fails. Stripping the Tar-
zan myth of its mystique leaves one
with a highly implausible, and, let's
face. it, rather silly story. Yes it worked
in turn-of-the-century England, but
we're far more knowledgable and a lit-
tle bit more sophisticated. Hudson's
reverance for the Tarzan legend runs to
an obsessive extreme. He drapes the
proceedings with such a heavy-handed
romanticism that it turns absurd in the
end. To expect a contemporary
audience to swallow a serious,
philosophical Tarzan film is too much
to ask.
Greystoke is further burdened with
the same kind of crushing sentimen-
tality Hudson weighted Chariots of Fire
with. The friendship between John and
D'Arnot, and the romance between
John and Jane are unconvincing.
There's not one honest, character-ex-
ploring scene in the whole movie. The
actors cry, embrace, shiver, and
scream, but they're just going through
exercises. And John is such a sniveling,
weak-minded character it's impossible
to feel anything more than sympathy.
We're constantly told how bright he
is, and how sophisticated he's become
in society, but his reactions are always
adolescent. He never displays a con-

Lambert: Where's Jane?

vincing sense of pride or strength, when
confronted with a problem he doesn't
reason it out, he snorts and growls. In
the end, when we're supposed to believe
he's relinquished Jane and society 'to
return to the jungle he's really making
a cowardly retreat. It's a
demoralizing, downbeat ending.
Robert Towhe is a writer of im-
pressive credentials, and he himself
withdrew his name from the project,
using his pseudonym in the credits.
Therefore the blame rests with Hudson
and his rewriter, one Michael Austin.
The resulting collaboration is one mon-
ster of a mess that ended up way over
budget and too long in its running time.
Warner Bros. was set to release
Greystoke last Christmas, but after a
disastrous preview screening they
pushed back its release.M
The film, then three hours long, was
handed to a team of editors who trim-
med over an hour, and after three more
previews and recuts arrived at the
present version. It's not the tightest, or
most effective version, merely the least
offensive.
The studio supposedly considered
releasing it only to television and on
video cassette as the easiest way to
write the project off. But with a $46
million-dollar tag, they were forced to
save face, to do something semi-
legitimate with it. So they released it in
this, the graveyard season, with very
little promotion.
Beside Hudson's ineptness (he shoots
scenes like he was a second-unit direc-
tor), the production is basically shabby.
The plastic jungle sets don't match with
the location footage, looking little bet-
ter than the back drop from a
"Gilligan's Island" episode.

While Rich Baker's ape costumes are
highly overrated his apes don't have
nearly the facial expressivness or their
fingers the dexterity of real apes. Shot
with extreme, over-lit close-ups, they're
all too obviously made of latex and rub-
ber. Despite their miming of primate
gestures and. mannerisms, these apes
still look uncomfortably like men in
gorilla suits. Sixteen years ago, and for
far less than Baker's $7 million tab,
Stuard Freeborn created a similar but
far more convincing make-up job for
the opening sequence in 2001.
John (2001, Barry Lyndon) Alcott's
cinematography is diffused and listless.
He goes through the motions of wide
panaramas and crane shots that shout
out THIS IS AN EPIC but to no avail.
The matte paintings employed to add
some grandeur to the settings would
stick out even on television.
The only ones who seem to be in on
what's going on are Ian Holmes and the
late Sir Ralph Richardson. They play
their roles with a comic, tongue-in-
cheek edge that leads me to suspect
they didn't buy any of this nonsense for
a second. Their roles are minor ones,
and an actor does have to eat.. .
Edgar Rice Burrough's tale of a wild
man may have struck a strong chord
once, but it's too outdated to warrant a
serious adaptation today.Greystoke,
with all its somberness, fails to convin-
cingly find a niche to explore man's
buried link with nature.
The Tarzan saga, like the writings of
Jules Verne and H. G. Wells, have lost
much of their plausibility, and roman-
ce, over the years. They are at best
quaint entertainment, and hardly the
stuff for provocative filmmaking.

Make'
my day
The Comedy Company
University Activities Center
Michigan Theater
8 p.m., Saturday, April 7
By Mike Fisch
SO, YOUR DORM room's too small
to have company. And if the comp-
any can't come to you why don't you go
to the Company - The Comedy Com-
pany.
The Comedy Company is an all-
student comedy troupe that started
back in '79 when two friends decided
that it might be fun to put on a comedy
show. Since, then the casts have
changed as has the troupe's name - it
was formerly called Sunday Funnies.
Said Jackie Purtan, the associate
director of the troupe, "We meet four or
five days a week for three hours and
more before a show."
Why such devotion? "Well, we're not
doing it for the money or credits - so
we must enjoy it." that folks, is what
hasn't changed - the people involved in
the Comedy Company think it's fun,
they like making people laugh. And the
troupe will be doing just that, Saturday,
April 17, at the Michigan Theater.
Though enjoying themselves is
probably enough, being a part of the
Comedy Company team has some other
advantages, Major said. "It's worth it
-100%."
Though enjoying themselves is
probably enough, being a part of the
Comedy Company team has some other

advantages. "It's worth it - 100 %,"
Purtan a communication major said.
"It's a good experience. So much of
communications is theory. The Univer-
sity needs opportunities like this to get
hands-on experience.. ."
According to Liz Lembke, a director
of the troupe, the performance on the
7th will be unlike others in the past.
This is the case because the cast is
primarily a young one with many
freshmen and sophomores, and they
have been given the chance to adlib.
"They're a great group, they work
really well together.. . they are doing
some neat interpretations - ex-
perimenting with charactgers," Lem-
bke said. Interpretation does not tend to
include a lot of swearing, however."
We've been criticized for our
cleanliness, but we don't want cheap
laughs . . . We also don't want humor
directed just at college students -
there's a lot of diversity in the humor.
Everyone should be able to relate."
Along with these new actors and their
fresh ideas, the Comedy Company has
added a musical director, Mary
Shapiro, who will play the piano in bet-
ween sketches.
The show includes 20-25 student-
written sketches. One of them, just to
give you an idea, is Clint Eastwood on a
gameshow "Cut the crap o.k. - I know
the rules."
David Gundry, a junior member and
actor in the show said "If we don't like
the way something is written we can
change it.. . when we screw up lines it
really doesn't matter, we just get so in-
to it we keep on moving. . . It's free -
there are not really any stage direc-
tions."
If you need some good laughs, and a
welcome change of pace, check out the
Comedy Company's show. It'll be a lot
of fun.®

The Comedy Company: 'When you're smiling ,

Itellya, McPherson- t's not
likethe old days wAen menwere
men,,, now all theoys'r

CITIZEN
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(313) 668-8480

A benefit for the Student Advocacy Center
Tickets $10
Group rates avaiable in advance.
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Stepping into Tomorrow
YolandaKing.AttaUah Shabazz & Company
A Theatrical Production by Nucleus

wearin' pants
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