Vintage Cable Box: Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, 1984


“Listen to me John. How many other white apes have you seen? You’re like me, not them. You have another family, far away, one you have never seen.”


Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, 1984 (Christopher Lambert), Warner Bros.

To those who cry over the perceived superiority of the White Male Colonialism as personified in Kipling, perhaps the easy mixture of pulp and science fiction and authors as diverse as Leigh Brackett and Mickey Spillane, I would argue the truest manifestation of that mentality is found in the pages of Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of the Tarzan franchise. These stories tell of a “jungle man”; raised from childhood by apes to become their “Lord”, if there could be such a thing. The franchise began in 1912 with Tarzan of the Apes and continued successfully until 1947 with Tarzan and the Foreign Legion. The stories were adapted into several lucrative movie series starring Johnny Wiessmeller, Buster Crabbe, and Herman Brix. The franchise enjoyed success in different formats including radio, television, and a couple of stage performances.

In 1981, Miles O’Keeffe portrayed the bare-chested “white ape” in John and Bo Derek’s Tarzan, the Ape Man, which seemed nothing more than a convenient excuse to have Bo wander about a jungle expanse either draped in wet shirts or topless.  The poster for the movie is an illustration of a half-naked Bo swinging on a vine.  Tarzan, the Ape Man was designed to be a fun, exploitation movie, but it was savaged by critics at the time for taking Burroughs’ exploitative source materal and making an exploitation movie with it.  How dare they?  A year later, work would begin on what the film’s producers would foolishly term, “the definitive adaptation” of Burroughs’ character.  Enter Robert Towne, who had been commissioned to write and direct the film.  Towne claimed he was fired from directing because of the financial failure of his interesting Personal Best, but I find his protestation dubious given his impetuous and destructive nature at the time.

Director Hugh Hudson was old-hat at English parlor drama; fresh from collecting Academy Awards for Chariots of Fire, Hudson would later direct the dreadful Revolution with Al Pacino. As a director, he has an unerring capacity for taking exciting, action-oriented source material and just completely draining the life out of it. He’s no slouch here. We have the orphaned child of privileged whites adopted by apes, elevated to god-hood, it seems because of his ability to walk upright and not drown when thrown into water. The child is a gifted mimic, learns their language and mannerisms, and provides food and protection. When a massacre leaves Belgian explorer Phillippe d’Arnot (an excellent Ian Holm) the lone survivor, he is rescued by John, the lonely Jungle Man (quasi-simian, soon-to-be immortal Christopher Lambert) and nursed back to health as d’Arnot puts the pieces together and tries to educate John on his privileged background. As such, in later scenes, d’Arnot is the only man John truly trusts and regards as family.

Phillippe d’Arnot brings John back to civilization, where he is tutored, dressed, fed, and fussed-over by the stuffy upper-class twits of his royal family.  He is thrown into the middle of ridiculous squabbles over descendancy and tutilege while romancing stuck-up hottie Jane (Andie MacDowell with Glenn Close’s affected vocals subbing for her obvious American Bad-Assery).  A later scene has John visiting a museum where he is horrified to see the treatment of his friend-animals, which, in my mind, recalls a similar scene in the Planet of the Apes television series, where ape leader Urko spots an ancient poster in a caved-in subway station depicting apes imprisoned in zoos. He really starts flinging it when his adopted ape father and family is captured and put on exhibition.  He frees his ape brethren and his “father” is gunned down after he sets up housekeeping in a tree with John.  Finally getting it through their heads that this particular white man is a fish out of water when he’s not picking nits off of other creatures, Phillippe and Jane decide to take him home where he doesn’t have to wear pants.


It sounds silly on paper, but despite the obvious artifice, Greystoke is great fun in between leaner moments of British neuroses and inbred stuttering.  Lambert is effective when he does not speak.  His low forehead and static gaze at the prospect of “civilization” reinforces the idea that his apes are all that resemble true nobility and that the white man is the real savage, yet it avoids the preachy qualities filmmakers embrace making movies today.  Towne, suffering the sting of his dismissal from the project, credited the script to his dog, pretentiously named P.H. Vazak.  His dog received an Academy Award nomination (to my knowledge, the only time) for best adapted screenplay, along with Sir Ralph Richardson, who died shortly after filming was completed.  Rick Baker’s ape makeup is truly stunning.

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month.  Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.


Vintage Cable Box: “10, 1979”


“Whenever Mrs. Kissel breaks wind, we beat the dog.”


10, 1979 (Dudley Moore), Orion Pictures

“I feel betrayed”, cries Dudley Moore’s character at his surprise birthday party. He may be frightened. He might be terrified at the prospect of being 42. While reconciling his lost youth with chipper, upbeat girlfriend Julie Andrews, he secretly covets the easy sexual power of his neighbors, whom leave the curtains open for him and his telescope to spy on their encounters. On his way from a brainstorming session with oversexed but adorable, velour-wearing homosexual collaborator Robert Webber, he locks eyes with lovely bride-to-be Bo Derek. Distracted, he slams his custom Rolls (with 8-track!) right into the front of a cop car, basically setting up a series of embarrassments, from banal to severe, for Moore’s fragile male ego.

Originally a writer (with partner Peter Cook, with whom he also appeared in The Wrong Box and Bedazzled) for Beyond The Fringe, Dudley Moore was a mainstay of 80’s screwball comedies, and 10 was his first collaboration with Blake Edwards. Moore and Edwards would later make the bigamist comedy, Micki & Maude. While specializing in portraying lovable drunks, Moore was also able to find sadness and desperation in his characters.

In talks with his analyst (a refreshing John Hancock), he reveals an inexplicable infatuation with Bo Derek. His insecurity is the result of frustration with middle age. Hancock indirectly encourages Moore’s pursuit of the girl. He cases the newlywed’s minister (Casey Adams) in an effort to gather information about her (while barely suppressing the urge to laugh his ass off at the minister’s inept songwriting skills). He arranges an appointment with Derek’s dentist father (Benson’s James Noble), who performs major oral surgery on him, hilariously causing Moore to go completely numb and unintelligible. He wanders into one of his neighbor’s naked orgy parties, to the ire of Andrews.


Moore follows Derek and her new husband (Sam “Flash Gordon” Jones!) to Mexico. He fantasizes about making love to Derek on the beach. He hooks up with a very lovely and neurotic Dee Wallace, but can’t quite bring himself to consummate his relationship with her, and in her vulnerable state, she blames herself. One day while sailing, he spots Derek’s husband, asleep in the ocean, and rescues him from certain death. With Derek’s husband in the hospital, she seeks out Moore to thank him. While initially charming and chaste, she reveals a casual attitude regarding sex. When she finally seduces Moore, he is turned off by her advances and seeks to correct his own obsessive behavior, by repairing his relationship with Andrews.

10 is a clever, intelligent, sexy comedy that is also surprisingly sweet, honest, and affectionate. It speaks to the objectification of women (and men) while digging deeper, past the notions of libido and ageism, into the psychological motivations and emotional yearnings of men and women. An enormously influential sex comedy for the next decade, very few movies would be able to repeat the movie’s formula and box office success.

This week marks the official start of Dudley Moore Month here at Vintage Cable Box. I had not realized, until now, how many of his movies I had seen (and loved). A gifted linguist, comedian, and musician, Dudley Moore passed away in 2002, and the world became a little less interesting.

“Englishmen who go to California never recover.”
Wilfred Sheed

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month. Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.

NEW PODCAST: “More Inappropriate Knock-Knock Jokes”



Tonight, we’re going to be talking about the 2014 documentary, “Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films”.

I just wanted to share this really funny, but accurate description of the movie, “The Wizard of Oz” from a newspaper, I don’t know how they let this slip through when it was printed, maybe it was the writer’s last day on the job and he decided to screw with the paper, but the description for the movie, as written is – “Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she meets and then teams up with three strangers to kill again.” Sounds like a Cannon movie! It’s brilliant.

It seems any curiosity from the eighties, any bit of nostalgia will be squeezed into a juice and distilled as a documentary. Cannon Films was more than a curiosity course. It was a symbol of rough and ready independent filmmaking, the combined talents of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, cousins who made movies in Israel, but they came to America with a dream!

Before the main titles, we get a couple of soundbites from the likes of Bo Derek and Richard Chamberlain and they are not speaking with much in the way of affection. They almost make Golan-Globus seem incompetent, but then the titles roll and we see that there is obvious homage to some of the posters, some of the design and also, Michael Dudikoff. It was good to see Dudikoff, and he looks great. He’s aged well.

Some of the actors speak of Golan and Globus with disdain; there’s this one actress who shrieks, “this is not what I signed up for!” She’s enraged. She signed on for a movie called “The Happy Hooker”, I’m sorry, what did you think you were signing on for? A kids movie? Apparently Golan and Globus were out of their minds for thinking that people liked sex and nudity in films.

There’s a nice little profile of director Michael Winner, whom I always enjoyed.   I watched a lot of Michael Winner films on Cable TV, but the actors and producers  that are being interviewed make him out to be a sadist, almost evil with his unusual demands, his sense of style.  I mean, speaking personally, as a filmmaker, he’s completely out of his mind.  “The Nightcomers”, “The Sentinel”, “Death Wish” and then his Cannon output, wow!  But they’re kind-of speaking ill of the dead a little.  He’s not around to defend himself.