An evil businessman named Brightmore (Jan-Michael Vincent) abducts Cheetah the Chimpanzee from Africa and takes him back to Manhattan. It’s up to Cheetah’s best friend, Tarzan (Joe Lara), to rescue him. Tarzan goes to New York where he meets a cabbie named Jane (Kim Crosby) and her father, a tough private investigator named Archimedes (Tony Curtis). Tarzan is also briefly detained for being in the country illegally but he pulls the bars out of his cell window and escapes. Presumably, so does everyone else in the jail. Way to go, Tarzan.
Lisa and I discovered this playing on the Z-Living Channel last night and we watched it because it was either watch this or start binging the Police Academy films on Netflix. That’s what this damn pandemic is leading to. We know we’re probably going to have to watch the entire Police Academy franchise at some point but we’re trying to put it off. So, we watched Tarzan in Manhattan. Damn you, COVID-19!
It was bad. It was really, really bad. It was obviously meant to be a pilot for television series but I guess it didn’t happen. The timing was off. If Tarzan in Manhattan had been made in the 90s, it probably would have led to a syndicated series that would currently be airing on H&I, next to episodes of Renegade and Sheena. It came out in 1989, though, too early to cash in on the wave of syndicated crap that was unleashed after the success of Baywatch proved that you didn’t have to produce a quality show to find success in syndication. Because it came out too early, we were spared annual Tarzan in Manhattan conventions. Let that sink in and be happy.
Plus, it’s just really, really bad. Did I say that already? It’s true. There’s nothing consistent about Tarzan in Manhattan. It wants to be a comedy, it wants to be a drama. It wants to be an updated version of Tarzan but it still wants him to be confused by the modern world. The movie also doesn’t seem to know if Tarzan is famous or not. It seems like he must be because Brightmore went through a lot of trouble to kidnap his chimpanzee. But, in Manhattan, no one seems to know who he is. The movie also doesn’t get Tarzan’s famous jungle call right, either. This Tarzan just yells, without any special inflection to let the world know that he’s Tarzan. Instead of It’s like he’s not Tarzan at all. Jan-Michael Vincent and Tony Curtis both seem bored while Joe Lara has the right look for Tarzan but not much else to recommend him. The chimpanzee survives without being used to test makeup or whatever it was Brightmore was planning on doing with him so at least the movie has that going for it.