The Tarzan Vault Collection (1918-1921-1935, The Film Detective, 3 Blu-ray, NR, 403 min.). This three-film collection features two films with Elmo Lincoln playing Edgar Rice Burroughs’ jungle hero, including “Tarzan of the Apes,” the first film depiction of Tarzan, and the cobbled-together bits from a partially lost serial in “Adventures of Tarzan,” and Herman Brix, Burroughs’ choice to play Tarzan, in “The New Adventures of Tarzan” 12-chapter serial. Clearly, Brix, who later starred in several topnotch films as Bruce Bennett, was the better Tarzan by far, but both were Olympic athletes, with Lincoln a swimmer and Brix a shot putter.

Gordon Griffith played the young Tarzan in 1918.

“Tarzan of the Apes” (1918, 65 min., silent) not only was the first Tarzan film – the book was first published as a serial in 1912 – but it also is rare, and the better for it, by devoting half of its running time to the young Tarzan, here played by Gordon Griffith. Tarzan’s parents, Lord John, and Alice Greystoke are set ashore in Africa by ship mutineers. When Alice dies months after giving birth and the ape Kala loses her baby, Kala raises Tarzan as her own. Tarzan does not realize how different he is from the apes until he sees his reflection in the water one day.

The film jumps forward many years until the adult Tarzan (Lincoln) encounters Jane Porter’s party, which has come to search for the Greystokes. Jane (Enid Markey) is abducted, but Tarzan, who has fallen in lust at his first sight of a white woman, battles her abductors in what is more a wrestling match. In one of Tarzan’s poorer choices, he sets afire the huts of a native village to stop its warriors from attacking Jane’s party. The film was shot in Louisiana.

Herman Brix starred in “The New Adventures of Tarzan.”

“Adventures of Tarzan” (1921, 67 min., silent) also stars Lincoln, his third and last time playing Tarzan. The other time was 1918’s “The Romance of Tarzan,” based on the second half of Burroughs introductory novel. All prints are believed destroyed.

The film is cobbled together from a 15-chapter serial, of which the first four or five chapters are missing. Prologue pages fill in the missing action. Jane (Louise Lorraine) once again has been kidnapped, this time by Arab slave traders. She next is kidnapped by white Queen La (Lilian Worth), Priestess of the Sun in the lost city of Opar, known for its great wealth. Tarzan again rescues her, but Russian Secret Service agent Nicholas Rokoff (Frank Whitson) seizes Jane because the map to Opar’s location has been tattooed on her shoulder. In the Burroughs canon, Opar is a lost colony of Atlantis, containing fabulous riches and to which Tarzan often returns to supplant his wealth. The city appears in four Tarzan novels.

Highlights include a fight with a lion, a cabin fire, and a cool flipping staircase. Journalist/historian Ed Hulse provides audio commentary here and for “The New Adventures of Tarzan” (1935, 256 min.). He talks a lot about how the films were distributed.

“New Adventures” is the complete 12-part serial, with the first chapter being an extra-long 57 minutes. The others run 15 to 20 minutes. Tarzan is played by Herman Brix, who had been Burroughs’ choice to play Tarzan in the MGM films, but when Brix broke his collarbone making “Touchdown!” in 1931, MGM went with Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan. Weissmuller would go on to play Tarzan 12 times, but the character was much different, less educated than the Tarzan of Burroughs’ novels.

Not only was Brix easy on the eyes, he was a much better athlete than Lincoln – it particularly shows in the tree climbing and vine swinging – and he spoke and acted like the cultured Englishman Burroughs had created.

In the serial, bad guy Raglan (Don Castello, aka Ashton Dearholt) is after the Green Goddess, a Mayan stone relic that contains the formula to a new, extreme explosive and some gemstones. The stone is worshipped by the inhabitants of a dead city in the Guatemalan jungle (where, in fact, the film was shot). Tarzan has gone to Guatemala to find his lost friend D’Arnot but ends up helping Major Martling (Frank Baker) and party search for the Goddess. Along the way, Tarzan saves the life of Ula Vale (Ula Holt) at least three times, as she also is trying to stop Raglan. George (Lewis Sargent) of Martling’s party becomes more and more a comedic character as the serial progresses, being easily terrified and always complaining about being hungry.

Tarzan gets to fight – again a lot of wrestling – a lion, two jaguars, a panther, a tiger, and another lion, with the latter a highlight as it takes place in a prison cell, with Ula huddling in the corner. Tarzan also has several fights with crowds of foes, as he is not too bright when calculating his odds of success. One such misadventures leaves him tied to a tree, and there is a lengthy closeup of his bare chest as he strains to break the rope. Another highlight is when a hurricane strikes the ship after they head back to England.
Other extras are an archival interview with Brix on his career (27:52); Donald Glut, who wrote Tarzan comics with artist Russ Manning and others, giving a history of the early Tarzan comics (10:52); and a look at the early adventures of Tarzan on film (19:46). All are worthwhile. Grade: Tarzan the Ape 3 stars; Adventures of Tarzan 2.5 stars; New Adventures 3.25 stars
Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

Running Out of Time Collection (Hong Kong, 1999-2001, Arrow Video, 2 Blu-ray, NR, 189 min.). This release contains the brilliant, highly entertaining “Running out of Time” by director Johnnie To and its much lesser sequel, “Running Out of Time 2.” Both films center around police hostage negotiator Ho Sheung-sang (Ching-Wan Lau, “Black Mask”). In the first film he has the perfect foil in Cheung (Andy Lau, “Internal Affairs” trilogy), a cancer-stricken thief with less than two weeks to live.

Both films start with the antagonist standing on the edge of a skyscraper’s roof –definitely vertigo-inducing shots – and both even repeat a taxi encounter between Ho and the criminals. Cheung weaves a much cleverer scheme, drawing Ho into his plans, which are more a cat-and-mouse game than a crime, although an $80 million blue diamond is in play. The film has many twists – including one great surprise – that delight the viewer, who soon roots for both the cop and the thief. It moves at a brisk pace, blending high-octane action and humor well.

In 2000, Lau won Best Actor Award at the Hong Kong Film Awards for his work here. The film also won the Film of Merit Award at the Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards. Extras include two audio commentaries: one by Asian film expert Frank Djeng; the other by screenwriters Julien Carbon and Courtiaud. Carbon and Courtiaud appear in two interviews (2003, 21:57, in their native French; and 2005, 37:09, in English) and are talked about by HK directors (8:24). Also interviewed are To (11:43), Ching-Wan (25:19) and composer Raymond Wong (27:24), all from 2003.

The sequel’s script is a letdown compared to the first film, lacking the depth and surprise elements the first film had. The unnamed thief/magician leading Ho on a chase this time is played by Ekin Cheng (“The Storm Riders”), who uses a lot of concealing smoke. The magician is connected to an eagle and the sequence in which Ho and others try to follow the eagle though the city is boring. Better is a foot race in the rain between the two opponents that leads to an aggressive bicycle race.

Also back is Ho’s antagonistic superior, Wong Kai-fat (Shiu Hung Hui), who has been promoted from chief inspector to assistant commissioner.

The film won Golden Horse Awards for Best Choreography and Best Editing. Extras include another audio commentary by Djeng; an archival making-of featurette (5:46): and a look at Hong Kong filmmaking that includes Carbon and Courtiaud (49:46). Both films have image galleries and the set’s illustrated booklet features writing by David West on both films. Grade: Running Out of Time 4 stars; ROT2 2.5 stars

Murder at Yellowstone City (RLJE, Blu-ray or DVD, NR, 126 min.). The 1881 Montana-set western has a pretty good cast—headed by Gabriel Byrne as Sheriff Ambrose, Thomas Jane as Preacher Murphy and Richard Dreyfuss as barkeep Edgar – but stoops to an action ending that makes no sense at all, as the “good guys” start killing nearly everyone in town. Isaiah Mustafa plays Cicero, the mysterious black stranger who rides into town and almost immediately is accused of killing prospector Robert Dunnigan (Zach McGowan), who has just found gold.

Extras include a group audio commentary; a brief making-of (4:33); and six deleted scenes (6:47). Grade: film 1/2 star

Tom Von Malder of Owls Head has reviewed music since 1972, just after graduation from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He has reviewed videos/DVDs since 1988.

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