2010 was a year of highlights here at 4DK, and certainly the lowest was Jungle Adventure Month. Over the course of that harrowing thirty days of wrestling rabid chimps and swatting at tsi tsi flies, I checked in with versions of Tarzan from corners of the world as far flung as Israel, Mexico, Egypt, and India –- two in the latter case: one chaste and one nasty!
Of course, as much as I may have hoped otherwise, I knew that I was not done surveying the various international incarnations of the famed ape man. After all, how could any national cinema lay claim to legitimacy without its own version of Tarzan? That’s like not having your own James Bond, or Superman, or… or Darna.
Fortunately, my latest stop on the Tarzan tour takes me to Indonesia, so at least we’re guaranteed a lot of action and gore, and hopefully some Southeast Asian mysticism realized by way of lots of gooey practical effects. So let’s go!
Zimbo movies, but is rather played by the star as being articulate, authoritative, and not a little bit arrogant.
While Tarzan Raja Rimba is relatively straight-faced, films like Ismail Yassin’s Tarzan and Tin Tan, el Hombre Lobo have shown us that interpretations of Tarzan from non-English speaking countries are just as likely to be satirical as they are reverent, and furthermore -- as with the Zimbo movies -- there is often a very fine line between the two. It’s hard to imagine that filmmakers of color -- especially those from countries that had seen white colonial rule –- didn’t encounter difficulties in uncritically addressing the idea of this white interloper, god-like in his physical perfection, who proves himself capable of outdoing indigenous people even at their own indigenousness. (I mean, really, what are Dances With Wolves and Avatar, at their core, other than simply the Tarzan fantasy in different drag?) Given that, one might expect to find at least a little ambivalence in their depictions of our loincloth clad friend.
And, indeed, reverence is about the last thing you can expect from 1976’s Tarsan Pensiunan. Directed by the prolific Lilik Sudjio -- who also gave us Neraka Lembah Tengorak, Darna Ajaib, and the Suzzanna fronted horror classic Queen of Black Magic –- the film is a vehicle for popular Indonesian comedian and singer Benyamin Sueb. Sueb, a member of Jakarta’s Betawi ethnic group, made close to fifty low budget films in the brief period between 1970 and 1978, many of them spoofing Western archetypes from the distinct cultural perspective of the Betawis.