Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Outside the Box

Tarzan's Three Challenges was the second movie with Jock Mahoney as the star, the first being Tarzan Goes to India. Odd, that Mahoney never got to do a Tarzan picture in Africa -- no Cheetah, and nary a Jane. He was the oldest guy to ever get the role, at forty-four. A former stuntman who specialized in high dives and swimming gags, he was pretty fit.

Challenges was a so-so script, and the basic plot was: A(n obviously Tibetan) boy ruler is challenged by his grown, evil uncle for the throne. Somebody decides to send to Africa to get Tarzan to stand in for the boy, and we're off ...

The filming was made difficult by the fact that Mahoney developed dysentery, caught dengue fever, and pneumonia that made him lose major poundage during the shooting, going from 220 to 175, so he's somewhat skinny in half the shots. Woody Strode, who played the bad guy, was in much better shape physically to look at, though you have to give Mahoney credit for being able to move at all given how sick he was. Here's the wiki.

Jocko was a tough guy. And, so I have been told, not the nicest fellow to be around even when he was feeling well. (His step-daughter by the by, is Sally Field. The Flying Nun, Norma Rae, Brothers & Sisters.)

The movie was shot in Thailand, and the real star was the scenery. The set-up had an archery contest, one of strength, and a question to test wisdom, and when these were done, the bad guy invokes a complicated fourth challenge that involves a lot of frenetic activity and ends in a sword fight on a rope net over pots of boiling oil.

They shoot arrows. The strength test is the movie poster above. The wisdom test ... ah. Here we come to the point of this article.

It has been more than forty-five years since I've seen the picture, so I'm constructing this entirely from memory. Tarzan is being questioned by the Buddhist monks. And the query is something like this: "After an arduous ten thousand mile journey, you meet your enemy. What is the first thing of which you will want to be certain at this meeting?"

And Tarzan's answer was in this vein: "That it was my enemy who made the journey ..."

Now, the question has to be properly framed to get this kind of answer, and I'm sure the writer tweaked it to make it so, but the notion of a smart comeback that end-ran the query was what demonstrated Tarzan's "wisdom." (Why he flew all the way from Africa to do this makes you wonder how wise he was, but, hey, he's Tarzan, and he don't take no shit from nobody. Twenty hours in a noisy prop plane to risk getting killed? Nothing, a slow day for the ape-man. Bundalo! Ungawah!)

A variation on this was done not too long ago in a martial arts 'zine. Picture shows one guy doing a two-handed front choke on another guy, and the question is, "What would you do in this situation?"

The answer, of course, depends on which of the two guys you are. Most readers automatically assume the defensive role and start thinking about how to break the choke.

A very few would just look at the picture and say, "Hey, finish choking him out and go home ..."

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