TARZAN AND THE VALLEY OF GOLD
By Fritz Leiber
From a Screenplay by Clair Huffaker
Clair Huffaker was one of the finest American writers to ever work in Hollywood. In 1965 he was hired by producer Sy Weintraub to write a new Tarzan film which would feature a modern sophisticated version of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s classic hero. It would be the first of three to star former football pro Mick Henry as the new, suave and debonair Ape Man. “Tarzan and the Valley of Gold” was released in the summer of 1966.
The plot has Tarzan flying to Mexico in answer to a summons from an old friend who works for the government. A treacherous villain, whose hobby is blowing people up, has located the whereabouts of a lost civilization and is going there at the head of his own private mercenary army. Tarzan’s job is to stop him and save the lost city of gold. Eschewing the previous Tarzan movies, Weintraub and Huffaker purposely ignored any references to Jane, Boy or any other trappings that had been added over the years. Trappings that had turned Burroughs savage champion into a middle-aged, family man as exciting as a bowl of porridge.
Henry not only looked the part as envisioned by readers, but this Tarzan was also intelligent, multi-lingual and resourceful. The movie moves at a fast clip and the action never stops. It remains one of our favorites. It wasn’t till years later that we discovered sci-fi writer Fritz Leiber had written a paperback novelization of the screenplay. It was the first authorized Tarzan novel by an author other Burroughs and was officially listed as the 25th book in the series. With only one printing, the book soon disappeared and became a unique literary treasure sought by many fans over the years. Now ERB, Inc. has produced a beautiful hardcover edition which features a gorgeous cover by Richard Hescox and three black and white interior illustrations by Douglas Klauba.
Known for his creation of the sword and sorcery characters Fathrd and Gray Mouser, Leiber took Huffaker’s lean tale and turned it into a full blown, detailed novel that in the end had very little resemblance to the actual movie. In the book most of the story takes place in the jungle of Brazil and is purposely adjusted to the Tarzan canon as written by Burroughs. Thus there are footnotes galore referring to past Burroughs books and the missus is mentioned, though never by name. Leiber even alludes to his hero’s supposed longevity as having to do with the supernatural.
Where Leiber’s story shines is his complete characterizations of all the principles from Tarzan to the villain Vinaro. No longer cookie-cutter Bond-like figures, each of them is fully realized adding great depth to the adventure. We’re even given Tarzan’s personal self-refection as he continually struggles with his duel natures; one civilized and the other a primitive beast. All in all, the book is truly something unique and a wonderful read. Thank you ERB, Inc. for rescuing it from the obscurity and giving all us Tarzan fans this beautiful edition.