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Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984)

Approved | | Adventure, Drama | 30 March 1984 (USA)
A missing heir of respected Scottish family, raised in African jungles by animals, finally returns to his estate only to realize that difference between the two worlds is really significant.


Hugh Hudson


Edgar Rice Burroughs (novel), Robert Towne (as P.H. Vazak) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 13 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Ralph Richardson ... The Sixth Earl of Greystoke
Ian Holm ... Capitaine Phillippe D'Arnot
James Fox ... Lord Charles Esker
Christopher Lambert ... John Clayton / Tarzan, Lord of the Apes
Andie MacDowell ... Miss Jane Porter
Cheryl Campbell ... Lady Alice Clayton
Ian Charleson ... Jeffson Brown
Nigel Davenport ... Major Jack Downing
Nicholas Farrell ... Sir Hugh Belcher
Paul Geoffrey ... Lord John 'Jack' Clayton
Richard Griffiths ... Captain Billings
Hilton McRae Hilton McRae ... Willy
David Suchet ... Buller
Ravinder Ravinder ... Dean
John Wells John Wells ... Sir Evelyn Blount


A shipping disaster in the nineteenth century has stranded a man and woman in the wilds of Africa. The lady is pregnant, and gives birth to a son in their tree house. The mother dies soon afterwards. An ape enters the house and kills the father, and a female ape takes the tiny boy as a replacement for her own dead infant, and raises him as her son. Twenty years later, Captaine Phillippe D'Arnot discovers the man who thinks he is an ape. Evidence in the tree house leads him to believe that he is the direct descendant of the Earl of Greystoke, and thus takes it upon himself to return the man to civilization. Written by Murray Chapman <muzzle@cs.uq.oz.au>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


In 1886, following a shipwreck off the west coast of Africa, an infant child became part of a family of apes who raised and protected him. As he grew, he learned the laws of the Jungle and eventually claimed the title, Lord of the Apes. Yet, years later, when he was returned to civilization, he would remain uncertain as to which laws he should obey . . . Those of man . . . Or those of the jungle. Now the director of 'Chariots of Fire', captures this epic adventure of a man caught between two different worlds. See more »


Adventure | Drama


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »





English | French

Release Date:

30 March 1984 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Greystoke: The 7th Earl Lord John Clayton, Tarzan of the Apes See more »


Box Office


$30,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$6,517,732, 1 April 1984

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs



Sound Mix:

70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)| Dolby (35 mm prints)


Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Deep Roy played two other apes, Gorilla Kid and Thade's Niece, in Planet of the Apes (2001). See more »


The cognitive and speech centers of the brain shut down if they are not stimulated. After a certain age, Tarzan wouldn't have been able to say more than a few words, let alone learn two entire languages. See more »


Capitaine Phillippe D'Arnot: [Narrating] I sensed we had a long and difficult journey ahead of us. Perhaps weeks of waiting for a ship that will give us passage to England. I will try to teach John some rudimentary manners and a greater understanding of the language. Like a father, I am resolved to empower to him all that I can. But never, not even for a moment, do I doubt that to take him back, is a perilous undertaking.
Capitaine Phillippe D'Arnot: For John but also for his family.
See more »

Alternate Versions

In 1992, an "Extended Version" was released to home video by Warner, and this version runs six minutes longer than the original release. The Extended Version videos feature the following:
  • An overture of John Scott's main orchestral themes, which runs for about 01:40.
  • Immediately following the Warner Brothers logo is a reinserted prologue with the great apes. The scene opens with a master shot of the African jungle from a bird's-eye view, complete with smoking volcano in the distance, rolling storm clouds, and the caption "EQUATORIAL WEST AFRICA 1885". During this sequence, there is a storm and the volcano gushes lava, causing the apes to go into turmoil. The tribe's oldest ape, Silverbeard, calls the warning to the others and they all rush to shelter from the rain, etc. Kala, nursing her infant baby, seems reluctant to go. Silverbeard roughly tries to get her to move, accidentally(?) causing the death of the little ape, as it falls from Kala's grip and plummets to the rocks below. Kala sees her child die and howls with anguish, ending the scene with a fade-out to black. The next shot is the original opening, with one change: a new caption: "SCOTLAND. TEN MONTHS EARLIER." This whole jungle prologue clocks in at about 01:45, and serves as a bookend for the film, as the film now ends on practically the same shot as it opens, but at the end of the film the scene shows a peaceful view of the jungle.
  • After Lord Clayton leaves Greystoke for his tropical journey, and the scene shifts to the African coast, a reprinted (which means this shot now exists TWICE in the sequence) shot of the shipwreck (post-accident) now replaces the original shot, which was a beautiful, wide master of the whole coast where the ship has crashed, looking in from the ocean.
  • Once Capitaine D'Arnot and Tarzan reach civilization (the "edge of the world") and rest at Buller's inn, another whole sequence has been reinserted. After D'Arnot shows Tarzan fire, the sequence cuts to about an hour later, when D'Arnot attempts to arrange a charter for passage to England. We meet the rest of the gang in the bar, which includes a pointed acknowledgment that Captain Billings ("It's not my fault, don't blame me") from Lord Clayton's shipwreck IS among them, and has been for some time. D'Arnot explains he has no money for the arrangement but can promise an I.O.U., which sets the whole gang at the bar off. They accuse D'Arnot and Tarzan of possibly being escaped convicts and threaten the D'Arnot with violence. Tarzan pounces on the attackers, roaring like a panther, and starts a fire with an oil lamp (showing that he does understand fire's danger). Everyone flees the inn, which is soon completely ablaze. Amid the chaos, D'Arnot and Tarzan escape in a canoe. The scene then cuts to the original versions long shot, in daytime, of D'Arnot rowing down the river with Tarzan. The entire sequence features some repeated music scoring cues, and extra music not heard in the original. As the sequence ends, we hear D'Arnot add, in voice-over: "I sense that we have a long and difficult journey ahead of us; perhaps weeks of waiting for a ship that will give us passage to England. I will try to teach John some rudimentary manners and a greater understanding of the language. Like a father, I am resolved to impart to him all that I can, but never, not even for a moment, do I doubt that to take him back is a perilous undertaking...for John, but also for his family." The voice-over narration concludes after the fade-out on Africa and over the shot of the Greystoke estate, in Scotland. Note: in the original theatrical release, the inn sequence ends before any major hint that D'Arnot and Tarzan could be in danger, and cuts directly to them rowing down the river. The original voice-over narration from D'Arnot: "And so began John's education of the world he had just entered. I was determined to teach him as much as I possibly could, but never for a moment did I doubt that to bring him back would be a perilous undertaking...for John, and also for his family." This original narration ended just as the African landscape fades to black. The newly inserted sequence runs about 03:15.
See more »


Version of Tarzan (2003) See more »


Chanson de Matin
Music by Edward Elgar (as Sir Edward Elgar)
See more »

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User Reviews

Starts out great, but...
23 April 2012 | by Leofwine_dracaSee all my reviews

A bit of an oddity, this: a few years ago I read through the original Burroughs novel and was eager to find out how this adaptation held up. The answer is that it follows the story in the book extremely closely – especially in the first half – depicting events with a kind of vicious believability that's miles away from the chest-beating, vine-swinging Tarzans of old.

It's not entirely accurate – there's far less of that grisly business involving the hostile tribesmen – but what I saw, I liked. The apes are played by men in pretty convincing suits, and watching Tarzan growing up to become lord of the jungle is a lot of fun. In addition to that, the film plays an ace in the casting of Ian Holm as the Belgian captain who 'civilises' Tarzan. Holm gives a subtle, mannered, quite excellent performance, one that's filled with emotion and is the best in the entire movie.

That's not to say that Christopher Lambert, as the title character, is bad. It's a memorable debut turn, carefully judged and entirely physical. He gets the movements and mannerisms of a jungle-born man just right, which is why it's a shame that the ridiculous decision was made to rub him over with animal noises. If he's angry, a lion's roar comes out of his mouth, etc. The filmmakers rely on such things a lot, especially in the second half, and it's a real shame.

That's not the only problem with the second half. Once the action shifts to England, the pacing slows right down and the film feels devoid of incident. Andie MacDowell is fairly uninteresting in playing an insipid Jane, and even a final, unexpectedly touching turn from Ralph Richardson fails to liven things up. As I remember, this part of the film deviates quite substantially from the book, and it suffers for it. Basically we get an hour of Tarzan wandering around his mansion and it's all rather depressing. It's a shame, because earlier on a great deal of effort was made to bring those jungle scenes to life, and it all fizzles out at the end.

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