Tarzan and the Huntress is the last of the Tarzan films to feature Boy played by Johnny Sheffield, at the time of this picture’s release Sheffield was sixteen and producer Sol Lesser had come to the startling conclusion that maybe the kid had outgrown the role of cute jungle boy. Thus the character of Boy would no longer appear in further Tarzan movies.
This entry begins with your standard idyllic jungle moment with Tarzan and family, of course white man will enter the picture and ruin all this, but until then Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller) is having fun swinging through the trees, Boy (Johnny Sheffield) is making a fishing rod, and Cheeta is doing her Winnie the Pooh impression while trying to steal honey from bees. Jane (Brenda Joyce) informs Tarzan and Boy that it’s time to leave for King Farrod’s (Charles Trowbridge) birthday party, and the trio head off down the river. Tarzan gives the raft’s pole to Boy and tells him, “Boy man now. Do man’s work.”
The other key players in this jungle drama are Tanya Rawlins (Patricia Morison), one of the world’s foremost animal trainers, her financial backer Carl Marley (John Warburton) and Paul Weir (Barton MacLane) the ruthless hunter who will do anything to get the job done. Tanya Rawlins has come to Africa to bring back as many animals as possible due to a shortage of animals in American zoos following World War II. She is quite upset to find out from Marley and Weir that King Farrod will only allow them to take two of any one species. This is disastrous for Tanya as all her money is tied up in this expedition, and getting just two of each animal will not be enough.
They attend the King’s birthday celebration with the hopes of Tanya sweet talking the King into lifting the quota, but the kindly ole codger sticks to his decision. Weir suggests to his compatriots that they pull an end run around the King and secretly deal with his nephew Oziri (Ted Hecht). This evil bastard wouldn’t care if they emptied the whole jungle as long as he got a cut, but he’s not even satisfied with that, during the hunt he orchestrates the assassination of King Farrod.
The young Prince Suli (Maurice Tauzin) does not buy it being an accident, and after spotting the killers lurking in the jungle he runs after them. Sadly this results in him being tossed off a cliff overlooking a pool of crocodiles, and he is left for dead. Now that Oziri is king pillaging of the jungle can proceed post haste, and a sad Tarzan and family return to their home across the river. Unfortunately before leaving Boy was shown a flashlight by Smithers (Wallace Scott), Tanya’s pilot and comic relief, and is offered a trade, “I’ll swap it for the chimp.” Boy tells Smithers that Cheeta is like family, and cannot be traded for. But later Boy spots a lioness and her cubs and thinks they’d make for a perfect trade.
Eventually Tarzan finds out about this trade and returns to the American encampment to get the cubs back. When Tarzan arrives at he is shocked to find more animals than the late King’s decree would have allowed. Weir isn’t a fan of Tarzan and tells the jungle man mind his own business and, “Take the cubs back to your side of the river and stay there, if you know what’s good for you.” When the Ape Man says, “Tarzan stay on his side of river, hunters stay on theirs.” Weir thinks he has won, but nothing could be further from the truth because Tarzan is one canny son of bitch, and he just uses his stock jungle call to bring ALL of the animals in the jungle to HIS side of the river.
This doesn’t stop that bastard Weir though, he just marches the men right across the river and proceeds to hunt and trap on Tarzan’s land. How they manage to remain unnoticed for so long, trapping and shooting off their guns as they do, without Tarzan noticing is beyond me, but eventually the idiots try and cage Cheeta. Big mistake. The chimp escapes and lets Tarzan know about the intruders, and what follows is some fun with Tarzan and Boy sneaking into the camp at night, knocking out the sentries, and stealing all the guns. Our two heroes hide all the apprehended guns in cave behind a waterfall, and without those guns the chances of those bozos surviving in the jungle is very slim. Tarzan let’s Tanya know that if they release the animals they’ve trapped so far he will safely guide them out of the jungle. Sadly the idiots won’t deal
In the previous film Tarzan and the Leopard Woman Cheeta was practically the bloody hero, rescuing Tarzan, Jane and Boy multiple times, that will not be the case here. The stupid chimp tries to steal Tanya’s compact and when caught at it she decides to trade for it, and she retrieves one of the guns from the cave. Tanya tells Cheeta that she will only part with the compact if Cheeta leads them to the rest of the guns. Cheeta’s kleptomaniac tendencies have been well documented, but never with such disastrous results. Tanya even stiffs Cheeta, by keeping the compact anyway.
Meanwhile Tarzan and Boy stumble upon the actually not quite dead Prince Suli, saving him from an approaching python, and after sending Boy back to Jane Tarzan offers to take the young prince back to his people. Of course they will run into the killers who murdered King Farrod, and Tarzan will return the favor by murdering the hell out of them, and when evil Ozir shows up with coterie of armed men Tarzan does the only thing a man can do in a situation like that.
Marley is trampled to death, all the animal cages are smashed freeing the poor beasts, and Weir is chased by the herd into a pit trap that that just so happens to be holding a very pissed off lion. Irony is the most brutal killer in the jungle. Tanya and Smithers escape to their plane, but Cheeta, who really wanted the compact, sneaks aboard to get her “rightful” property.
As a Tarzan movie this has a lot going for it, but as a send-off for Boy it’s a tad disappointing. As an almost grown man, one who has lived in the jungle with Tarzan and Jane since he was a baby, I don’t buy him trading any animal for flashlight. Did he not pick up any of Tarzan’s moral codes over the years? He certainly keeps forgetting that any interaction he’s had with “helpful white men” has gone badly for him. So is Boy just a callous teen or is he just a stupid idiot? I’ll let you the viewer decide. Now don’t feel too bad for Johnny Sheffield, once he got kicked out of Tarzan’s jungle he landed a gig in his own series Bomba, the Jungle Boy.
You can find all my Tarzan movie reviews here: Tarzan at the Movies
Film grad who spends most his time trying to catch up on his "To Watch" pile of movies.