Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes Movie Review
Director Hugh Hudson had just finished Chariots of Fire, so why wouldn't he be perfect to direct the annual retelling of the Tarzan legend? Christopher Lambert -- hell, with that mop of a hairdo he looks a lot like Tarzan. Ralph Richardson and Ian Holm are excellent actors. How could this miss?
First off, you don't mess with a classic. Admittedly, Edgar Rice Burroughs didn't exactly write a challenging novel: Folks go to jungle, folks meet Tarzan, folks evade danger thanks to Tarzan.
Hudson's Tarzan throws this all out of whack. The story begins as Holm's explorer Phillippe is shipwrecked, encounters the orphaned Tarzan as an adult, teaches him English and how to shave, and brings him back to London to meet his grandfather Lord Greystoke (Richardson)! In the original story, Jane is the daughter of the Phillippe character. Here she never leaves England: She's the daughter of Lord Greystoke, and she doesn't appear until 80 minutes into the movie. Played by a young Andie MacDowell, Jane's southern accent was so atrocious it was entirely dubbed over (by Glenn Close, uncredited) in a more pleasing voice. The romance that develops is one of cinema's great creep-outs.
Ultimately, the story gets more and more pathetic and ridiculous (in equal measures), but Hudson gives it the Old Boy try to make something worthwhile out of this mess. (Writer Robert Towne disowned the film before it was shot.) Alas, even Hudson -- one of cinema's greatest one-hit wonder directors of all time -- can't make much out of this aside from some beautiful panoramas of the jungle and of a chest-beating Lambert.
Amazingly, Hudson shows up to offer a virtually mute commentary track (addressing none of the above trivia) on the new DVD -- which not only is reincarnated as a director's cut, it actually begins with an overture (complete with title card). Because that's what we all wanted, you know: More Greystoke.