Sy Weintraub's run as TARZAN producer was a strange, mixed bag. When he took over, he continued to "upgrading" of the series, and did so by finally ditching the Weismuller dialogue and having the first "educated" Tarzan since Herman Brix. TARZAN'S GREATEST ADVENTURE, as someone online suggested, also feels quite a few years ahead of its time, a lot more "serious" and "gritty", almost as if it were made in the 70's or 80's. The odd thing is, he kept Gordon Scott (who'd already done 3 features and a TV pilot), rather than re-casting and starting fresh. The effect is that Scott appears, between the earlier features, the TV pilot, and the Weintraub films, to be playing 3 different versions of the same character. In addition to improving his diction, between films his look somehow changed just enough to make him seem a lot TOUGHER. All of a sudden, he's not "Muscle Beach Tarzan" anymore-- he's someone you DON'T wanna mess with!
Scott did 2 films-- one with Anthony Qualye & Sean Connery as the baddies, the other, TARZAN THE MAGNIFICENT, with John Carridine & Jock Mahoney as the baddies. Carridine had probably one of his biggest roles ever in this one, and also plays possibly the NASTIEST S.O.B. of his entire career! Mahoney, who'd been passed over as Tarzan way back when Weismuller stepped down (I used to think it was when Barker did, but this was even earlier), had starred as THE RANGE RIDER on TV. I wonder how his western fans reacted to seeing him play such a VISCIOUS baddie?
Now this is where it gets real strange. Weintraub kept Scott when he took over, instead of recasting the part where it would seem to make sense. His first 2 films were very successful. So it's at this point, after 2 successful films, that Weintraub decided-- okay, NOW he wants to recast, to have a "new look" for the ape man. Does this seem NUTS???
Weintraub actually had villain Sean Connery in mind for the role... but he'd already signed for DR. NO. So, his 2nd villain became his 2nd choice-- Mahoney! 13 years late, Mahoney finally took over the part. I thought he was fantastic. Scott may have a more impressive physique, but Mahoney is the better actor. Physically, he most reminds me of Herman Brix, but character-wise, he most reminds me of an older, tougher Ron Ely. (Gordon Scott, who was very agreeable to depart the role, went to Europe, and amazingly enough, had even more success doing "barbarian" movies! What a guy.)
Mahoney did 2 films-- both set outside of Africa-- TARZAN GOES TO INDIA and TARZAN'S THREE CHALLENGES. I liked both films... but on the 2nd one, he got some tropical illness, lost about 40-50 pounds while continuing the shoot the film, and afterward, took a year-and-a-half to recover. Scott might still have been doing these if not for Weintraub's decision... now, Weintraub had to recast AGAIN!
Going back (more or less) to the "Scott" style of physique, he next cast Mike Henry. While several previous Tarzans had been swimmer, Henry was a football player. It showed, too, as one of his favorite "moves" in fight scenes closely resembled a football "tackle". He did look, as many have said, as if he stepped out of a Frank Frazetta painting... but compared to Scott or Mahoney, his Tarzan didn't seem quite as intelligent. Somehow, his personality didn't quite fit. Even so, he did 3 films-- back-to-back! 2 of them, ...VALLEY OF GOLD and ...THE GREAT RIVER, took place in Central and South America (Mexico and Brazil, respectively). Only ...THE JUNGLE BOY took place in Africa (though it was filmed in Brazil-- go figure). The first 2 of these had him in regular clothes at the start of the stories, before switiching to loin cloth (and a VERY skimpy loin-cloth, too!). ...VALLEY OF GOLD in particular was promoted as "James Bond of the Jungle", with Tarzan being wrongly described as an "agent" (clearly by people who never actually watched the film).
The idea was to do 3 films in quick succession, followed by a TV series, and release the films during the summer months between TV seasons. But this went wrong when Henry contracted illnesses and injuries in his 2nd & 3rd films, then sued Weintraub for endangering his health! So at the last minute, he was replaced with Ron Ely, who, in my view, turned out to be a big improvement, as he was possibly the best actor to ever play the part. It just got very odd when, after each of the 2 TV seasons, one of the Mike Henry films was released. I can remember sitting in a theatre back in 1968, seeing the promo for ...JUNGLE BOY, and saying, "That's not the real Tarzan!"
Now here's the other part that must have been confusing. In ...GOES TO INDIA, he teams with a young Indian boy named Jai, who was bossy and obnoxious for most of the plot. In ...VALLEY OF GOLD, his young co-star was Manuel Padilla Jr., as "Ramel", a boy from the hidden valley. The follow-up, ...GREAT RIVER, had Padilla return, this time as "Pepe", the sidekick of the river-boat captain. In ...JUNGLE BOY, they had Steve Bond (who later went on to be a soap star in the 80's, as well as appearing in an Andy Sidaris flick) as Erik, a boy who was lost in the jungle for 6 years after his father died in an accident. The TV series had Padilla playing a 3rd role, "Jai", who started out as an orphan living at "The Settlement", but who, after the first 13 episodes, apparently was adopted by Tarzan, and begin to live with him in the jungle, and also dress like him.
You'd almost have thought a story like ...JUNGLE BOY could or should have been the introduction for Tarzan to have a kid sidekick, but "Erik" went back to civilization. And fans of the Tv series must have thought it was odd to see the kid who played "Jai" in a different role (and with a different Tarzan) when ...GREAT RIVER came out in '67.
Adding to the confusion (at least online) is the number of other "feature films" listed which seem to have been released before, during and after the Mike Henry films, all of which were really Ron Ely 2-parter re-edited into features.
The only logical, sensible way to watch these, is to see all 3 Mike Henry films first, as a set, THEN watch the TV series. Even though, really, it's clear they're playing 2 DIFFERENT versions of the same character-- and not just because of the difference in actors.