Before 'Saturday Night Live' There Was 'Tarzoon: Shame of the Jungle'
The 1975 Tarzan parody Tarzoon: Shame of the Jungle opens with, in order, a scene of animal rape and/or necrophilia, a violent dig at Disney’s The Jungle Book, and a horribly racist depiction of an African person. And then it gets worse. Or I guess “better,” if you’re the type of person with a decoy porn folder filled with embarrassing but mostly forgivable stuff (like Gadget from Rescue Rangers) to distract from the really weird stuff that you’re into (like Zipper from Rescue Rangers only with like … dicks instead of wings.) If this paragraph is already creeping you out, then you better bail out right snow cause it’s only going to get Weirder with a capital W for “Where is your god now?!”
Originally a French/Belgian production, this movie had actually been sued TWICE by the estate of Edgar Rice Burroughs, whose entire argument was probably just them pointing at the film with both middle fingers.
We’re going to get to the film’s plot in a minute but first, let’s clarify one thing. The French and English versions of Tarzoon aren’t the same movie. The latter was actually recut and edited into a somewhat new story by Anne Beatts and Michael O'Donoghue, the two people who basically created Saturday Night Live. O'Donoghue was actually both the series’ first head writer and the first performer to have a line on the show. There’s probably a “head writer” and “blowjob” joke in here, but looking for it would take away precious time from talking about this bizarre porno, so let’s get to it.
After failing to satisfy his girlfriend June in bed, the titular Shame (oh yeah, there actually is no character named “Tarzoon” anywhere in the movie, but please ration your WTFs carefully; you’re gonna need ‘em) is kicked out of the house while June has sex with his pet chimp. Then four uncut, sentient penises come in, have sex with June, and kidnap her so that the evil Queen Bazonga can steal her hair and look pretty when she takes over the world. This is where most scripts would end with “The Aristocrats!” and everyone in the writers’ room would have a laugh over the gag screenplay that someone obviously wrote on enough coke to kill John Belushi. But Tarzoon keeps going for well over 40 minutes after that. And at one point introduces John Belushi.
Yup, Belushi actually has a cameo in this film as a frat boy traveling through Africa on his way to Wisconsin. Also appearing in the cast are other future SNL legends: Bill “Nobody Will Believe I Did This Movie” Murray, together with his brother Brian Doyle-Murray. Voicing TWO additional characters is Mr. Jamie Lee Curtis himself Christopher Guest, who I desperately want to remind you is an honest-to-God British Lord, titled the “5th Baron Haden-Guest.” That guy stars in a movie where the main villainess has 14 breasts (at least it confirms our theory that multi-boobs in movies are often the mark of a villain.)
The most WTF casting of all, though, is Shame himself, who’s voiced in the English version by Johnny Weissmuller Jr., son of THE Johnny Weissmuller, five-time Olympic gold medalist who also played Tarzan in all those live-action MGM movies.
He also suffered a series of strokes shortly after Tarzoon came out. Probably just a coincidence, though.
How the hell did they get so many celebrities aboard a really raunchy cartoon porn film?
Well, the simple answer is that most of the cast simply wasn’t famous at the time. Also, in the ‘70s, adult animated films were all the rage, thanks to movies like Fritz the Cat. But while Fritz actually had a message about the culture and the political zeitgeist of its times, Tarzoon seems to exist mostly to offend … which makes perfect sense given that it’s essentially an early SNL production. You're gonna have to pretend we’re an elderly relative you were forced to visit in a nursing home by your mom for this revelation but … SNL actually used to be pretty edgy and risqué (also funny and, hey, DON’T YOU ROLL YOUR EYES AT US! IT WAS!) Maybe not on the same level as Tarzoon, but, at its core, not really that far from it.
Does it make Tarzoon good? No. Have you already started watching it instead of finishing this article? Yup. Meaning we can safely get this off our chests: Gadget from Rescue Rangers can still get it.
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Top Image: International Harmony