Harryhausen meets Caravaggio: Tarzan in 3D


OK, you’ll have to allow me this little detour into teenage obsession. When I was about ten, my parents bought me a View-Master with a 3-reel set of Tarzan of the Apes. Being the dreamer that I was – and still am, I suppose – I just loved to get lost inside those stereoscopic images, and I’ve looked at them so often that they must have left a questionable imprint on my young brain. The lush, nightmarish tableaux struck a nerve in me. All that muscle, the big hairy apes, plus a Jane outfit so tight that I kept expecting it to burst open… Let’s be honest: This was nothing less than a sexual awakening.

Unfortunately, I lended my View-Master reels out to a friend, who lost them when he moved to another house. Since then, all I had left was my memory of them. Enter the Internet… More than twenty years later, I googled the words “Tarzan view master” and guess what? There they were: All 21 images collected on a single webpage, captions included! As soon as I discovered this link, a wide grin appeared on my face. Too bad the pictures looked a tad fuzzy, I thought. Then it occurred to me that they were perhaps fuzzy for a reason. I grabbed the red-and-green glasses that came with my son’s Spy Kids 3D DVD (no recommendation), and yes sir: Glorious 3D! A lot of detail, sense of depth and color information got lost in the translation to cyberspace, but this 36-year-old kid is grateful nonetheless.


There’s something about this artwork (a combination of miniatures, clay models and matte paintings?) that I still find incredibly appealing. It’s the sensuous mixture of realism and artifice, kitsch and craft, romance and savagery; the melodramatic poses; the chiaroscuro (some of the lighting is pure Caravaggio); the meticulous staging. This is what Ray Harryhausen‘s wet dreams should look like.

Go get your 3D glasses (I know you saved them in a drawer somewhere) and have a look yourself. Do any of you recognize this View-Master set? Is there someone who can tell me more about who made it, and how? Which animation studio will have the guts to produce a CGI-feature that looks as awesome as this?


11 Responses to Harryhausen meets Caravaggio: Tarzan in 3D

  1. Syb says:

    Peet, seen the pictures with 3d glasses on. Great!
    I can imagine how it would be to see this as a ten year old boy and be reminded of that period of your life.
    But why don’t you buy this one at ebay to share it with your sons:
    …or this one:

  2. Peet says:

    Good one, Syb! I guess even memories are for sale.

    To tell the truth, I haven’t even got a View-Master anymore. And the ones I’ve looked through in the stores recently give me a headache.

  3. Benoit Racine says:

    Peet, not only do I own several copies of this Trazan View-master package (which I never had as a kid – but I must admit I think it’s the absolute masterpiece of my collection) but I also have collected a few viewers that offer a much bigger image than the regular viewers. I suggest you visit this site : http://www.3dstereo.com/ for all your 3D needs.

    Benoit Racine

  4. Amy says:

    Hey! These were some of my favorite reels too. Oh, how I ogled the teenage Tarzan when I was but four years old myself. ViewMaster Tarzan: my first crush. These images have totally affected what kind of guy I find sexy. They may also have influenced my career in puppetry. The colors are amazing and every shot is full of action. The models are sexy, undeniably, but these reels also contained more violence than I had ever seen before. I remember thinking, ‘Wow. Tarzan is totally choking that guy. That guy is choking to death. Tarzan is killing him. Whoah, no way.’ It made me think about when good guys do bad things. A huge impact on my very early childhood, I am so glad these images are online.

  5. LaMont says:

    Interesting and what is to be recognized as a Montyne. Montyne created this work in the early 1960’s. The models are made of a poly-resin material, some stand four feet high, others varied depending on the depth Montyne wanted, or better yet, the illusion of depth he was creating. All the back drops are paintings. The water scenes are made in fiberglass. The drama was created by Montyne’s knowledge in light. This great artist created all the scenes and also filmed them, working long hours to accomplish this much enjoyed work. Visit http://www.montyne.com, tell a friend, and learn about one of americas greatest artist, Montyne.
    By the way, this is to all of you who have said so many wonderful things about this work, THANK YOU. There are no true words to express how we feel about this appreciation…

    L. Sudbury
    son of montyne

  6. cynthia says:

    I watched Montyne create these scenes. Later in life I went into the vault at Sawyers View Master to look for the transparencies. Did I find them???
    Was he the only artist ever to sculpt an entire set of scenes???

  7. Kosta says:

    Hi Peet

    Thank you for posting the Tarzan view master article. The Tarzan reel had a profound impact in my life and until today I’ve yet to see something visually as strong. I googled it and came to your site. I’m glad that other people were also touched by this view master sensation. I was about 7 years old when my parents bought it for me (I’m 44 years old now) in South Africa. I’m a filmmaker now and I’d like to think that it was one of the reasons that I took this direction in my life. I lost my reel many years ago and haven’t seen these images for over 35 years. Glad I found them on the net! Thanks again.

  8. Peet says:

    Hi everyone,

    This blog has been defunct for quite some time (I’ve moved to the domain http://www.directorama.net), but this post keeps attracting comments! I’m very intrigued by what Cynthia claims and pleased to hear that Kosta, Amy and Benoit share my affection for these reels (in fact, Benoit and I have had some correspondence about it).

    Kosta: It’s especially nice to hear that I played a part in getting you back in touch with one of your key inspirations. I’m a filmmaker myself, so I know how valuable this can be.

    LaMont/Mr. Sudbury: Thanks for clearing up this mystery. I’ve checked the website you referred to and am in awe of Montyne’s work and fascinating life story. A worthy subject for an in-depth documentary, I’d say. I’ve tried to email you before, but somehow my message must have failed to reach you. Your father was a brilliant artist and I long to see more of his work.

    Meanwhile, I bought myself a new Tarzan set on Ebay, as well as a proper viewer. It was wonderful to see these images the way they were meant to be seen, and needless to say, my boys were impressed.

    Thanks again,

  9. kosta says:

    Hi Peet

    It was wonderful to find out about the artist, Montyne. Fascinating! For many years I never new how those images were created but now I know. Thanks again!

  10. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time
    a comment is added I get four e-mails with the same comment.

    Is there any way you can remove people from that service?
    Thanks a lot!

  11. Hayden says:

    Hi colleagues, how is the whole thing, and what you desire to say about this piece of writing,
    in my view its genuinely awesome in support of me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: