Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984)

greystoke the legend of tarzan lord of the apes poster 1984 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Good looking adaptation

Pacing is all over the place, rather open ended

Movie Info

Movie Name: Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes

Studio:  Warner Bros./Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc./WEA Records

Genre(s):  Drama

Release Date(s):  March 30, 1984

MPAA Rating:  PG

greystoke the legend of tarzan lord of the apes christopher lambert costume

I, Lord Greystoke…definitely not Tarzan

When Lord John Clayton (Paul Geoffrey) and his wife Alice (Cheryl Campbell) crash on the African coast, they find themselves fighting a losing battle for survival in the darkness of the jungle.  Their child is adopted by an ape and raised among the apes as their own…but Greystoke (Christopher Lambert) knows he is not like them.  When an exploration group is lost in the jungle, Captain Phillippe d’Arnot (Ian Holm) finds Greystoke and realizes his true origins.  Now, Greystoke is leaving the jungle for a world he has never known.

Directed by Hugh Hudson, Greystoke:  The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes is an adventure drama.  The film is an adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs 1914 serial Tarzan of the Apes which was first published in The All-Story (October 1912) and was adapted into a novel in 1914.  The film was released to positive reviews but a poor box office return.  It received Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Ralph Richardson), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Makeup.

I actually saw Greystoke in the theater.  I remember being everything from interested to scared to bored.  With so many versions of Tarzan (they don’t actually use the name Tarzan in the film), it feels like there is no need for every version…but this is one of the better ones.

greystoke the legend of tarzan lord of the apes christopher lambert andie macdowell

Are we going to make out or make an ’80s music video?

While there is a lot of time with the apes, the movie also spends a lot of time on the civilized world of Tarzan.  The contradiction of civilizations being more or just as animal as the jungle Tarzan grew up in is of course of a theme, but it could have been played up even more.  The movie also has a so-so romance between Tarzan and Jane (played by Andie MacDowell).  The film was originally intended to have a sequel or two, but since the movie failed, the film ends kind of abruptly and opened ended in theory.

The cast is good.  Christopher Lambert gives it all in the role.  He has a nice animal and dangerous feel which is necessary for the character.  He is joined by Ian Holm as a good guide to Tarzan in his civilized world while giving him moral direction.  Andie MacDowell is introduced in the film as Tarzan’s love interest Jane Porter though she is voiced by Glenn Close (MacDowell didn’t know her voice wasn’t used until post production).  James Fox has a small role as Jane’s love interest, and Ralph Richardson is a scene stealer as Tarzan’s grandfather who is quickly slipping away (the film was released after Richardson’s death).

greystoke the legend of tarzan lord of the apes ralph richardson christopher lambet

I’m that kooky grandpa that the apes all told you about!

The movie looks quite good.  It is of course by all practical effects by Rick Baker.  Baker made the apes not gorillas or chimpanzees (since they aren’t described as either) and the ape actors are also good.  The movie also has the challenge of being a period piece and the film visits the Victorian England.  The look and the style there is also well done.

There are tons of versions of Tarzan, and Tarzan will continue to be made and made again.  The story if done right is about the morals of man and the reality of civilization.  The movie does a decent job creating a film that asks some of these questions…but the challenge of having thoughts and ideas explored also kind of messes up the pacing.  Greystoke:  The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes succeeds and fails as it plods along.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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