There are sequels that upgrade on the original. Such is the case with Tarzan and his Mate. Behind this "rom com" worthy title hides a movie quite simply epic!
One year has passed since Tarzan the Ape Man. The hunter Harry Holt shaved his mustache but hasn't forgotten the elephant cemetary which is located on the Mutia Escarpment, a "tricky to get to" location where are now living Tarzan and Jane. He undertakes an expedition with one of his friends, Martin, a womanizer who will turn out to be quite a ruthless partner. Holt hasn't forgotten Jane, he even fell in love with her and hopes, with the help of robes and perfumes, to make her nostalgic enough of civilization to take her away from Tarzan.
A surprising movie, which on many levels plays "bigger and better" than the first one, but without forgetting what made its charm. The second Holt expedition proves to be even more dangerous than the first one. If hippopotamus give hima break this time, he has to face a whole native tribe, the Gabonis, before being stoned by Tarzan's fellow apes even before setting a foot on the Escarpment! And once he has arrived, he understands that he forgot a little detail... ask Tarzan what where his feelings towards the profanation of the elephant cemetary. Tarzan will emphasize his refusal by summoning at least a hundred elephants! The Escarpement seems to represent quite a big landscape... The climax is apocalyptic, opposing apes to the members of a lion-eater tribe in the trees, while on the ground, a herd of lions and lionnesses face the surviving members of the expedition, helped eventually by elephants!
Jane shows quite some determination in the movie, and is more than able to take care of herself, while holding a rifle, or by starting a fire in a few seconds with two wooden branches! She has learned to move among the trees like Tarzan, and even has her own version of his famous yell! Sexy like never before, she wear a gorgeous looking bikini, and during a swimming session with her Tarzan, wears... nothing at all! The famous aquatic scene had been filmed in three versions at the time, not with Maureen O'Sullivan, but with a body double, also an olympic swimmer, like Johnny Weissmuller. One version was shot with the bikini, one topless, and the last one completely nude! MGM had thought that since each US state and country had their own regulations, every one could choose the version they wanted. But the scene was ultimately eliminated when a catholic league for decency opposed it! We had to wait until 1990 for this scene to be discovered among the MGM archives, and ultimately integrated to the movie.
The eroticism of the movie unleashed the wrath of censorship, and from the next movie on, Tarzan Escapes, in 1936, she will be wearing a one-piece costume. Let's talk about Tarzan Escapes. Credited to Richard Thorpe, who will shoot many movies in this series before directing such classics as the 1952 Prisoner of Zenda, Ivanhoe and The Knights of the Round Table, the movie uses quite a lot of scenes from the first two movies. Tarzan hunts the same gnu than in the first movie, Cheetah must escape the same animals, the Gabonis of the second movie are back as well as the crocodile that Tarzan fights in it! The plot: a cousin of Jane has to ask her to come back to London because a relative of hers left her a legacy. To get to Jane, she has to hire a hunter, whose only goal is to capture Tarzan to exhibit him around the world... Tarzan has to face his greatest fear, that Jane would go to never return. Jane wants Tarzan to stay away from civilization, fearing that he could become a freak, and losing his innocence. Few novelties in this episode, apart from one of the most hated items of Edgar Rice Burroughs' purist fans: the Treehouse! Equipped with all the equivalent of modern cosiness (among them an elevator activated by an elephant) and a running water system, it considerably downplay the savage side of Tarzan and Jane's life! We'll never know if Tarzan himself built the house, or if it's his parents', we just learn that Jane designed the kitchen! We're far from the feminist picture of Jane Parker! Men in gorilla suit disappear, leaving only Cheetah as their only species representation. In shot, the Escarpment seems quite depopulated in this cheap sequel, that remains nonetheless enjoyable.