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Amsel’s Lost Art: GREYSTOKE

I was saddened by the recent passing of British director Hugh Hudson, whose magnificent CHARIOTS OF FIRE swept the Oscars in early 1982. It’s a beautiful movie, sincerely made, though no doubt the magnificent Vangelis score was a major factor in securing the film’s enduring popularity and iconic status.

However, I always felt that Hudson’s follow up effort, 1984’s GREYSTOKE: THE LEGEND OF TARZAN LORD OF THE APES, was deserving of equal attention and acclaim. Lavishly produced, fiercely intelligent, daring and startlingly adult, it easily remains the best, most vividly ambitious "Tarzan" movie ever made. Strange that some people refer to it as a commercial flop, when actually it was a minor hit in a very crowded boxoffice marketplace. While the film received a number of excellent reviews and three Oscar nominations, I feel it’s long overdue for a re-appreciation. The production design, cinematography, and ape makeup effects are all stunning, and easily hold up after all these years.

The film’s poster featured a montage of photographs, with rather wordy copy that seemed to emphasize the pedigree and more mature tone of the production. But a number of illustrated poster concepts were also considered, including work by Richard Amsel:

While I’ve yet to find any color images, it’s fascinating to see some of Amsel’s early concept sketches. I particularly love the contrasting portraits of Christopher Lambert – featuring one as Tarzan, the other as John Clayton – which illustrate the character’s split persona of savagery and aristocracy. Not to mention that gorgeous, flowing hair!

You can also see some small thumbnail layout sketches, which show Amsel considered doing a montage of different story elements, similar to his work on RAIDERS and THE SHOOTIST.


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