The critically mauled 1981 Tarzan remake "Tarzan The Apeman" has been considered by many to be the worst Tarzan film ever made, but one thing is for sure it is certainly a fascinating curiosity piece for Tarzan fans. Although the film may not tell the Tarzan story like Edgar Rice Burroughs originally intended, it is nevertheless an interesting adaptation because it shifts the focus of the film from Tarzan to his beloved Jane. For some die-hard Tarzan fans this is what destroyed the film but for others, what can I say, Jane swinging around in a skimpy loin cloth on a vine, there will certainly never be another Tarzan film quite like it. Bo Derek, the pin-up girl of the 70's & 80's, fresh from her success in the Dudley Moore comedy "10" had the honour of becoming the new Jane.
Bo's husband, John Derek, directed "Tarzan The Apeman". After marrying Bo, the former 1950's teen idol, let acting take a back seat, so he could focus on his passion for photography and directing. John Derek went on to make four films with his wife, "Fantasies" (released in 1981 but shot in Greece in 1974 while Bo was only a teenager), "Tarzan The Apeman" (1981), "Bolero" (1984), and "Ghosts Can't Do It" (1990). "Tarzan The Apeman" is well photographed due to John Derek's expertise with a camera. The film is well known for its slow motion action sequences, the constant echo of Richard Harris' booming voice and of course a beautiful, scantily clad Bo Derek parading amongst waterfalls and beaches while a speechless Tarzan (Miles O'Keeffe) gapes in anticipation. Bo Derek and Richard Harris had previously worked together in the film "Orca: The Killer Whale" (1977), so this was to be their second on screen collaboration.
It is interesting to note that Miles O'Keeffe was not the original choice for Tarzan. Boxer/bodybuilder turned actor, Lee Canalito was originally chosen for the role of Tarzan after his appearance as Sylvester Stallone's brother in the wrestling flick "Paradise Alley". Rumour has it that Bo had him dismissed and opened the door for Miles O'Keeffe's introduction as the cinema's new jungle man. After his role as Tarzan, Miles established himself as an action hero and would go on to have a long career in b-grade action movies, most notably, portraying a Conan-like swordsman in a series of "Ator" adventure films. Despite some of its faults, John Derek's vision of "Tarzan The Apeman" still has enough going for it to keep you interested and it is certainly a unique entry in the long-running and ever-so-popular Tarzan genre.