Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

A look at Tarzan throughout the ages

Like dracula, Tarzan is one of those screen characters who is almost as old as movies themselves. He's also one of the most recycled.

The first screen adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs books came six years after the writer first introduced him in 1912's Tarzan of the Apes. He was played by Elmo Lincoln, mostly, in a series of films of the 1920s silent era.

Tarzan's first golden screen period came with the casting of former Olympic swimming gold medallist Johnny Weissmuller. He starred in a dozen films starting with 1932's Tarzan the Apeman.

Weissmuller retired after 1948's Tarzan and the Mermaids and was replaced by Lex Barker for five films (1949-53) and then Gordon Scott for six (1955-60).

The character headed to television in the late 1960s with Ron Ely playing the Tarzan of the NBC television series.

Tarzan returned to the big screen in 1981's Tarzan, the Ape Man - judged the worst Tarzan movie ever - starring then sex symbol Bo Derek as Jane.

In 1984 came Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes starring French actor Christopher Lambert in the loincloth with Jane played by Andie MacDowell, whose voice was later dubbed over by Glenn Close.

Greystoke was the first Tarzan movie to ever be nominated for an Oscar (best supporting actor for Ralph Richardson, best adapted screenplay and best makeup). The next live-action movie Tarzan and the Lost City (1998) starred Casper Van Dien and went largely unloved and unseen.

Next year came the biggest Tarzan of them all. Disney's 1999 animated version earned $US450 million, despite its many soundtrack tunes by Phil Collins.

And now comes yet another Aryan Tarzan with Swedish True Blood star Alexander Skarsgard, who, with his jungle-tuned abs, heads from Greystoke Manor to the forest canopies of colonial Africa.

The story may hark back to the original novels, however, the trailer suggests this is a Tarzan for the superhero age and if the first one's successful, a Apeman vs Batman is only a few sequels away.

- TimeOut

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