Tarzak Against the Leopard Men (1964)

The title on screen was Tarzak Against the Leopards Men which understandably caused me some concern. I imagined I was going to be subjected to a poor Italian Tarzan rip-off where actors would try not to giggle whenever they were calling the main character Tarzak and talking about those pesky Leopards Men. Of course the biggest question was whether Tarzak would be sharing his treehouse with Janek and Cheetak.

I had nothing to worry about though since the title was obviously tacked on by some English language film distributor who apparently wasn’t that well-versed in English. Director Carlo Veo though not terribly prolific (he also made the Tarzan-inspired flick For a Handful of Gold the next year and only a few others), clearly had his hand on the pulse of early 1960s Italian strongman movies because this wasn’t really a substandard Tarzan movie so much as a substandard Maciste movie.

So it is that instead of a lean mean animal-loving, jungle calling dude named Tarzak we got the permed and beefy Zoltak (Ralph Hudson, clearly showing the difference between guys named Ralph and Rock) who hung out with his native male companion just waiting to respond to roadside assistance calls from white scientists who are driving through Africa.

Though Zoltak is one of our most obscure muscle studs, those of us starved for the sorts of heroes who prance around in loincloths, glistening from their sweaty tests of strength, and who spend a little bit of time chained up because they’re too busy laughing at the Leopard Men to notice the hidden pit right in front of them, will leave the film with our hunk hunger completely satiated!

While the film takes a bit of time to get going what with its insistence on showing us the scientists driving through the bush, getting one of their VW trucks stuck in the mud and babbling about getting it unstuck in the morning and then showing us the internal power struggle of the Leopard Men, once the sexy blonde Kitty goes for a swim and a gator attacks, it’s Zoltak time!

One of the things I liked about Zoltak (besides his overwhelming Great White Manliness of course) is how laid back he was. He jumps in the river and starts playing grab ass with the prop gator that clearly wasn’t capable of moving on its own, meaning Zoltak was doing double duty in selling the fight for us, and the scientists start shooting at him and the gator! But he’s still in good humor when he finally gives up trying to make the gator look like it’s alive and gets out of the river to greet the scientists.

They try to offer him a gift for saving Kitty which he very politely declines. What was this gift? A gun! I know! I’m laughing just like you and Zoltak are! He’s nice about it and says he doesn’t use firearms, but you can tell he just wants to unleash his jacked up arms in their direction and say, “what do I need that puny thing for when I’ve already got the two biggest guns in the jungle!”

By why brag when you can just showcase them by moving on to the big truck pull event? Seeing that his work is done, Zoltak shows how out of touch he is with local jungle politics by advising the group to go ahead and take the shortcut through Leopard Men territory because they don’t kill the white men anymore.

If Zoltak was more like Tarzan and spent some time learning to talk to the animals instead of doing non-stop curls and dips, he might have known that a new chief was in charge of the Leopard Men and his foreign policy was to kill Whitey! But honestly, who cares about any of that when you’re rocking pumped pecs and gargantuan gluts?

It all works out though because once Zoltak hears gunshots, he immediately determines that the scientists are in trouble and need to be rescued! It’s a pretty easy invasion for Zoltak and his boyfriend and you can tell that Zoltak is hankering to get in some more rescue reps because he makes a second trip back to save some natives, too! You can argue that Zoltak is pretty dimwitted when he gets captured while laughing at the Leopard Men, but all that does is facilitate him breaking out of chains and iron and even better than that, go undercover as the village witch doctor! Now who’s the dimwit screaming and sinking in quicksand, evil chieftain!

Truly, this Zoltak is a legend! But what is the story behind the legend? Who is he really? How did he come to live in the jungle? How did he and his roommate meet? And how far does he travel to hit the gym every morning?

Some things are simply too wondrous to be ruined by the truth! Can anyone explain why a sunset is beautiful? Or why cheese fries taste so good? As Zoltak so moronically puts it after the scientists whine that they have no proof about their adventures with Zoltak because their camera is destroyed, “that’s all the better. This way Zoltak remains a legend and legend is often easier to accept than reality.” Though one has to wonder if “legend” in his native jungle tongue means something different than in English what with his juiced up Will Ferrell appearance and rather thin list of not-so-derring do. (Pushing a car out of the mud? Really? What’s next? Helping a friend move or driving someone to the airport?)

© 2018 MonsterHunter

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