Director – Robert Day, Screenplay – Clare Huffaker, Producer – Sy Weintraub, Photography – Irving Lippman, Music – Van Alexander, Special Effects – Ira Anderson Sr & Jr, Production Design – Jose Rodriguez Granada. Production Company – AIP/Allfin
Mike Henry (Tarzan), David Opatoshu (Augustus Venaro), Manuel Padilla Jr (Maurel), Nancy Kovack (Sophie Renault), Francesco Riqueiro (Mango), Tom Megowan (Mr Train)
Tarzan arrives in Mexico to aid in the rescue of a young boy Maurel. Maurel was found carrying a map that leads to a legendary lost Valley filled with gold. However, he has been abducted by the ruthless Augustus Venaro. Tarzan sets out to rescue Maurel from Venaro’s mercenaries. He then must race to reach the lost city before they do in order to protect its pacifist people from Venaro’s attack.
Tarzan and the Valley of Gold was one of a series of Tarzan movies produced by Sy Weintraub from 1959 onwards. The other Weintraub films consisted of Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure (1959), Tarzan the Magnificent (1960), Tarzan Goes to India (1962), Tarzan’s Three Challenges (1963), Tarzan and the Great River (1967) and Tarzan and the Jungle Boy (1968). Sy Weintraub purchased the rights to the character from the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate and for a time seemed to be continuing on the tradition that had begun at MGM with Johnny Weissmuller. [See Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)]. In truth, Sy Weintraub’s Tarzan films are far better than most of the Johnny Weissmuller ones – in all but the first Weintraub entries, Jane is written out and the emphasis is placed on action, rather than, as in the MGM films, turning the adventures into a corny Dick and Jane in the jungle soap opera and cutsie slapstick antics with chimpanzees.
Tarzan and the Valley of Gold is the best of Sy Weintraub’s Tarzan films. After the soft-headedness of the Johnny Weissmuller films, it is surprise to see such a grittily realistic Tarzan film – the image of a Tarzan wielding a machine-gun to mow down opponents for instance is quite startling. There are some excellent action scenes – Tarzan bringing down a helicopter with a bolas or a suspense-filled scene where he pulls an explosive pendant off from around Nancy Kovack’s neck. The film was accused at the time of being an attempt to appeal to the James Bond audience. The credits do make an effort to conduct a swinging 60s psychedelic look, all accompanied by lounge music. And there is one sequence that opens the film that does give cause for the Bond ripoff justifications with Tarzan arriving in from Africa via helicopter and emerging not in loincloth but in a sharp business suit, which is followed by an action sequence involving a shootout in a sports arena with Mike Henry distracting his opponent using sunlight reflected off a car sideview mirror and then rolling a giant Coke bottle mock-up down on them.
It is also good to have a Tarzan who speaks perfect rather than pidgin English for once, although this is somewhat weakened by former footballer Mike Henry’s obvious American accent. (Mike Henry at least has an impressively muscled physique that is more than suited to the part). There is convincing wildlife photography intercut with the action. Particularly impressive is the location work at Mexico’s Aztec ruins of Teotihuacan, which stand in for the lost city. Nancy Kovack is there for the sole purpose of being the suggestion of a love interest (which never happens). David Opatoshu, a fine actor who never received any major roles, makes an excellent serpentine villain. Indeed, he makes for a villain of unusually strong calibre for a Tarzan film.
Director Robert Day made a number of other genre films, including two early British horror films The Haunted Strangler/Grip of the Strangler (1958) and Corridors of Blood (1962), as well as the British science-fiction film First Man Into Space (1959) and Hammer’s H. Rider Haggard adaptation She (1965). His other Tarzan films include – Tarzan the Magnificent (1960), Tarzan’s Three Challenges (1963), Tarzan and the Great River (1968) and Tarzan and the Jungle Boy (1968). The majority of Day’s work in the 1970s and beyond was in television, where he made a number of genre tv movies including Ritual of Evil (1970) and The Initiation of Sarah (1978).