Director – William Thiele, Screenplay – Roy Chanslor & Carroll Young, Story – Young, Producer – Sol Lesser, Photography (b&w) – Harry Wild, Music – Paul Sawtell, Production Design – Harry Horner. Production Company – RKO Radio Pictures
Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan), Johnny Sheffield (Boy), Frances Gifford (Zandra), Stanley Ridges (Colonel von Reichart), Philip Van Zandt (Lieutenant Schmidt), Pedro de Cordoba (Oman)
Nazis parachute into the jungle, invading the city of Palandria and enslaving its population in order to mine valuable minerals. Zandra, the daughter of Palandria’s ruler, escapes and goes to ask Tarzan’s aid, but Tarzan refuses to become involved. However, when Cheeta purloins a piece of radio equipment and the German soldiers take Boy captive in their search for it, Tarzan is forced to take sides and join the conflict.
Tarzan Triumphs was the seventh of the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films. (See below for other titles). After the previous entry Tarzan’s New York Adventure (1942), Maureen O’Sullivan, the original Jane, had become sick of the role and finally quit the series. Mindful of the public outcry that happened when they tried to kill Jane off in Tarzan Finds a Son (1939), the producers were not so bold this time and merely wrote her out of the action – her absence here and in the next film Tarzan’s Desert Mystery (1943) would be explained by respectively saying that she was away in England visiting her sick mother and that she had gone off to help the Allied war effort. In her place here, they cast Frances Gifford who had come to fame playing the original jungle heroine Nyoka Meredith in the classic Republic serial Jungle Girl (1941). In the interim, the series had also moved studio from MGM, where all the other films had been made, to set up jungle backlot at RKO Radio Pictures.
The novelty that Tarzan Triumphs offers is that at the time it was made by the US was in the midst of World War II – and as a result, it is filled with some laughable anti-Nazi propaganda. Interestingly, director William Thiele was an Austrian expatriate who fled to America from the Nazi regime in the mid-1930s. Perhaps reflective of Thiele’s personal anti-Nazi stance, Tarzan comes to echo the US political position on the War – that of initial non-involvement when the Nazis started invading other countries and only becoming involved when the attack came close to home. It is quite a political film in that much is made of Tarzan learning the errors of his isolationist ways. To this end, Tarzan is bent somewhat out of shape as a character – he initially refuses to become involved in helping the beleaguered people of Palandria after they are invaded by the Nazis (something that one finds hard to believe the Weissmuller Tarzan would do upon any other occasion if it were say White Hunters invading the jungle or enslaving a native tribe), and when he is eventually persuaded to join in, does so with a good deal of enthusiastic bloodshed (again something that seems out of character) and the classic cry of “Now, Tarzan make war!” There is much caricatured B-movie villainy, including one comic scene where Cheeta starts chattering on the radio and it is assumed by the Nazis to be the Führer on the other 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’s Desert Mystery (1943), Tarzan and the Amazons (1945), Tarzan and the Leopard Woman (1946), Tarzan and the Huntress (1947) and Tarzan and the Mermaids (1948).