When Bond yelled like Tarzan

Posted on December 27, 2013

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Surely one of the worst gags of the series: James Bond being chased by Kamal Kahn’s posse swings himself along the vines and yells like Tarzan. Come on!
Comic relief yes, but if “Octopussy” would be anymore relieved the film would let loose from the reel.

Weissmüller Johnny (Tarzan Escapes)The Tarzan yell has a great page on Wikipedia, actually so there’s no need for me to get too thorough. For those of you that don’t know about this fictional character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan is an Ape Man, a child brought up by apes in the jungle and becomes an adventure hero of books, films and comics, fighting off bad guys and snogging his Jane. One characteristic of Tarzan was to swing through the jungle on hanging vines and branches.

Tarzan was an early film star, made particularly famous by Johnny Weissmüller, a German-American swimmer and olympic gold medalist turned actor who portrayed Tarzan in a number of films in the 30’s and 40’s.
Weissmüller’s first Tarzan film “Tarzan the Ape Man” (1932) featured the now famous Tarzan yell. It was based on what Burroughs described in his books as simply “the victory cry of the bull ape.”
It is a strange affair that there seems to be some disagreement about the true origin of the yell. Weissmüller claims it’s his own voice. An Opera singer used by MGM studios called Lloyd Thomas Leech also claims that it his voice. Others claim that it is a mix of different voices and sounds being put together by the sound technincians at MGM.

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Still, it is not a natural yell.  It is a manipulated recording, as it reaches its centre point, it is reversed and played until the end. Such a sound clip is called a palindrome, i.e. if it is played in reverse, it sounds identical.

The Tarzan yell is featured in the gag-laden “Octopussy” starring Roger Moore as Bond, and I think it was Martin Grace who did the stunt swinging in the jungle.
Funnily enough the Tarzan yell featured in another 1983 blockbuster for comic relief: “The Return of the Jedi” when Chewbacca and a couple of ewoks are swinging on a vine. The film premiered about two weeks before “Octopussy” and I’d imagine fans of both franchises would raise an eyebrow about the inclusion of the Tarzan yell in both pictures.

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Posted in: Octopussy