Director – Kurt Neumann, Screenplay – John Jacoby & Marjorie L. Pfaelzer, Producer – Sol Lesser, Photography (b&w) – Archie Stout, Music – Paul Sawtell, Makeup – Norbert Miles, Production Design – Phil Paradise. Production Company – RKO Radio Pictures
Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan), Brenda Joyce (Jane), Johnny Sheffield (Boy), Henry Stephenson (Sir Guy Henderson), Mme. Maria Ouspenskaya (Amazon Queen), Barton Maclane (Ballister), Shirley O’Hara (Athena), Don Douglas (Anders), J.M. Kerrigan (Splivens), Steven Geray (Brenner)
Tarzan, Boy and Cheeta travel to the Randini trading post to meet Jane as she returns home by river. On the way there, Tarzan comes across a woman being attacked by a leopard and rescues her. The woman, Athena, comes from the all-woman city of Palmyria and Tarzan insists on carrying her back there. Men are forbidden to enter Palmyria but Tarzan is granted exemption after he swears to keep the location of the city a secret. Tarzan insists that Boy remain behind as he enters the city but Boy disobeys orders and follows. After they return to meet Jane, Cheeta accidentally lets a gold bracelet left by Athena fall from a kit sack. This is viewed with great fascination by archaeologist Sir Guy Henderson and his party of scientists who have travelled into the jungle alongside Jane. Henderson wants to mount an expedition to find the source of the bracelet but Tarzan refuses to guide them. After Tarzan and Boy argue, Boy agrees to show Henderson’s expedition the way to Palmyria. However, when the group arrive, the queen decrees that they never be allowed to leave again.
Tarzan and the Amazons was the ninth of the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films, the third made after the series moved its treehut from MGM to RKO Radio Pictures. It was also the first Tarzan film since the RKO move to attempt to replace Jane. During the course of the MGM series, the original Jane, Maureen O’Sullivan, made repeated attempts to leave before finally doing so when her contract expired with Tarzan’s New York Adventure (1942), the last of the MGM entries. While Johnny Weissmuller and Johnny Sheffield continued in their roles as Tarzan and Boy, RKO’s first two entries, Tarzan Triumphs (1943) and Tarzan’s Desert Mystery (1943), had only tiptoed around the issue of Jane’s absence, claiming respectively that she was away visiting her mother in England and helping the War effort. With Tarzan and the Amazons, they finally recast the character with the blonde Brenda Joyce, who played Jane throughout the rest of Johnny Weissmuller’s RKO tenure and in one further RKO film, Tarzan’s Magic Fountain (1949), after Weissmuller was replaced by Lex Barker.
Almost every single one of the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films, excepting the first two, were utterly routine. Tarzan and the Amazons is no exception. Brenda Joyce brings a certain flirtatious bubbliness to the role of Jane, although is no patch on Maureen O’Sullivan. This film does return somewhat to the implied sensuality that was a feature of the first two Johnny Weissmuller outings, with scenes of Tarzan and Jane frolicking, swimming and rolling in the grass while wet. The film also returns to the cosy jungle domesticity that was an ongoing feature of most of the Johnny Weissmuller sequels with gags about Tarzan and Boy doing the housework but they merely sweeping the leaves under the carpet. There is much in the way of comic relief scenes involving Cheeta trying to smoke, use a fishing line, playing with a magnifying glass and swapping cigars with sticks of dynamite.
Born more of a desire to add some novelty to the limited formula of the jungle adventure than anything else, one suspects, the RKO Tarzan films have a mild degree more in the way of fantastic imagination than the MGM outings. Tarzan and the Amazons offers up the promising idea of a lost city inhabited by Amazons where men are forbidden. Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs would no doubt have done some great things with the idea of an all-women city but the delivery of the idea here is entirely routine. Indeed, the Amazons have no real purpose in the film other than to provide the impetus of the adventure – forbidding people to enter the city and then deciding that the men must stay once they break this taboo. (There is also no explanation ever offered of how the Amazons manage to maintain their populace without any men in the city). The Amazon city and surrounding mountains are represented by thoroughly shabby matte paintings. The rest of the film is just adventure movie cliche. The film also keeps Tarzan off-screen for the bulk of the venture to the lost city, with Johnny Weissmuller only being there during the first half and then turning up again at the end.
The other Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films are:– Tarzan the Ape Man (1932), Tarzan and His Mate (1934), Tarzan Escapes (1936), Tarzan Finds a Son (1939), Tarzan’s Secret Treasure (1941), Tarzan’s New York Adventure (1942), Tarzan Triumphs (1943), Tarzan’s Desert Mystery (1943), Tarzan and the Leopard Woman (1946), Tarzan and the Huntress (1947) and Tarzan and the Mermaids (1948).
Director Kurt Neumann made several other of the RKO Tarzan films, including Tarzan and the Leopard Man (1946) and Tarzan and the Huntress (1947) with Johnny Weissmuller, and Tarzan and the She-Devil (1953) with Lex Barker. Neumann made a number of other genre films, including Rocketship X-M (1950), one of the earliest films of the 1950s sf boom; the Arabian Nights fantasy Son of Ali Baba (1952); the mad scientist cheapie She Devil (1957); Kronos (1957) about a giant invading alien machine; and, most famously, the classic The Fly (1958).