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Film / Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes

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"Half of me is the Earl of Greystoke. The other half is wild."

Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes is a 1984 movie inspired by the Tarzan novels. It was directed by Hugh Hudson (Chariots of Fire) from a screenplay by Robert Towne (Chinatown) and starred Christopher Lambert in the title role.

It tells the story of John Clayton, the heir to the Earl of Greystoke, who is born in the jungle where his parents are marooned, and raised by apes after his parents die. As an adult, he is discovered by the explorer Philippe D'Arnot (Ian Holm) and returned to England and his remaining family, led by his grandfather the Earl (Ralph Richardson). This version of the story is less about swashbuckling jungle adventures and more about exploring his difficulties adjusting to the ways of human civilization.

Notably, the name "Tarzan" is never actually spoken at any point in the movie.


This movie provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Heroism: In contrast to the minor antagonist that Tublat was, Silverbeard never shows a dislike for his adoptive son and actually defends him against White Eyes whereas it is doubtful Tublat ever would have defended Tarzan against Kerchak.
  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • In the novels, D'Arnot's given name is Paul; in this film, it is Philippe.
    • Tublat's name is changed to Silverbeard and Kerchak is renamed White Eyes.
  • Adaptation Species Change: The lioness, named Sabor in the original novel, is changed into a panther that kills Droopy Ears, Tarzan's ape friend when he is a child.
  • Alan Smithee: Robert Towne was originally set to direct the film as well as write the screenplay; after Hugh Hudson took over the project, Towne had his name taken off the screenplay as a protest, and instead it is credited to "P. H. Vazak", Towne's dog. Consequently, P. H. Vazak is the only dog ever to have been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
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  • And Starring: "And Introducing Christopher Lambert and Andie Mac Dowell" in the initial credits.
  • Decomposite Character: Despite the Adaptational Heroism, Silverbeard takes the role of pursuing Kala and ultimately resulting in the death of their natural offspring. Kerchak, White Eyes in the film, had that role in the original novel.
  • Demoted to Extra: The Tribe of Mbonga are not nearly as prominent as they are in the original novel. Kulonga kills Kala, Tarzan kills Kulonga, the tribe attacks D'Arnot's group and that is it.
  • Downer Ending: John and Jane are forced apart, as she can't survive in his world and he can't survive in hers. He returns to the jungle, leaving her behind. At the time, there were plans for a sequel that would reunite the main characters and presumably end on a brighter note, but the first movie didn't do well enough for it to get greenlit.
  • I Am A Humanitarian: The cannibal tribe. D'Arnot even says something along the lines of "Dinner has arrived" being a better translation of what they are saying when the expedition from the British Museum comes across them.
  • Killer Gorilla: They are actually the fictional Mangani but Silverbeard does kill John Clayton and White Eyes is actually the most aggressive of the ape tribe.
  • Same Language Dub: All Andie MacDowell's lines as Jane were redubbed by Glenn Close. Reports vary as to why this was considered necessary, with some saying that the inexperienced MacDowell's performance was considered inadequate, while others say that the director just didn't think her accent fit the character.
  • Shield Surf: Granddad, the 6th Earl, reminisces about surfing on a silver tray down the stairs in his castle when he was a wee lad. Grown a bit senile, he attempts it once again during a party, with unfortunate consequences.


Example of: