Monday, December 27, 2010

Tarzan Raja Rimba (1989)

1989 - Tarzan Raja Rimba (Kanta Indah Film PT)

Director Ackyl Anwari Cinematography Subakti Is

Cast Barry Prima (Tarzan), Machfud Abud, Alex Bernard, Panji Dharma, Yongki Dp, Yoshep Hungan, Ziela Jalil, El Koesno, Yurike Prastica, Donny Sabella, Rama Soedin, Joes Terpase, Rudy Wahab, Tonny Yusuf

Todd Stadtman’s review from his Die, Danger, Die, Die, Kill! blog:

1989’s Tarzan Raja Rimba looks even more promising for the fact that it stars the great Barry Prima, and was helmed by the director of the riotous Virgins From Hell, Ackyl Anwari. This was the first of two turns by Prima in the Tarzan role, the second being in the following year’s Tarzan Penunggu Harta Karun directed by M. Agnar Romli.

In the grand tradition of Tarzan films, Tarzan Raja Rimba shows our hero coming up against destructive forces from the civilized world, in this case a corrupt logging crew that is chainsaw-ing its way through the Indonesian rainforest like there’s no tomorrow. Of course, while this is a Tarzan film in name, it is, more importantly, a Barry Prima film, and so we get a version of Tarzan who gorily kung fus people to death. Yay! Tarzan’s favorite method of dispatch is to toss an opponent onto a convenient bamboo spike or pointy tree limb, but the logging aspect of the story also provides a generous supply of nasty hardware to further the carnage, including a band saw which Tarzan tests against the villain’s neck during the climactic fight.

Much like the many Indian takes on the Tarzan story, Tarzan Raja Rimba puts an emphasis on the irresistible sexual pull that Tarzan exerts upon any woman in his orbit. Early in the film, Karina, a female member of the logging team, is shown tossing restlessly in her bed, consumed by thoughts of the muscled jungle man. (And, after all, this is Barry Prima we’re talking about –- and he does look amazing in his loincloth and little leopard skin boots –- so who can blame her?) Later, she somehow falls afoul of her crooked colleagues and is forced to flee the camp. The expected menu of jungle perils follows, and she is ultimately driven into the protective arms of Tarzan. However, Prima’s Tarzan is not the thick-skulled, unwitting sexual catalyst that we see in, say, the Zimbo movies, but is rather played by the star as being articulate, authoritative, and not a little bit arrogant.

While making some concessions to the film’s tropical setting (when Tarzan forages for Karina, he returns with watermelon), Tarzan Raja Rimba still manages to deliver on at least the minimum of those ingredients that are internationally agreed upon as constituting a Tarzan movie. The most notable change in this regard is that, rather than an ape, Tarzan’s faithful animal companion is instead a bear –- and a bear played by a man in a very obvious bear costume, at that. (In fact, I think we may be seeing here an early appearance by the Masturbating Bear, back in the days before he succumbed to compulsive onanism). This bear leads the climactic elephant charge upon the villain’s camp at the movie’s conclusion, and also gruesomely mauls to death one of the female bad guys. At least, I think that’s what he’s doing.

Still, if you put these Burroughsian –- or Weismullarian? -- trappings aside, Tarzan Raja Rimba is pretty much indistinguishable from one of Prima’s Jaka Sembung movies, though sadly one without all the mystical flying around and modular body parts. There’s the “tournament” style scene, where Prima’s martial arts skills are tested against a towering, carnivalesque goon in the bad guys’ employ, who seems to have been hanging around in the wings for just that purpose. And then of course there is the requisite tableau of martyrdom in which Prima is chained and abused before dramatically freeing himself to wreak havoc upon his oppressors. All of this, in sum, means that, if you are a Prima fan –- as I most certainly am –- this will probably be the best Tarzan movie you’ve ever seen.

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