Sometimes all it takes is just one wrong decision to overturn a zillion-dollar dream.
In 1969 Jidrool Pictures, according to my exclusive Hollywood sources (they’ve excluded practically everybody), raised $75 million to break into the big time with what was intended to be the biggest, best, and most bodacious Tarzan movie ever–Tarzan’s Revenge. Loosely based on two great novels, David Copperfield by Charles Dickens and Tarzan at the Earth’s Core by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan’s Revenge would feature state-of-the-art special effects and a script to knock your socks off.
And best of all, they hired a truly gifted big-name actor to play the title role.
“He was a star!” explained ex-producer Monty Gavone. “Fiddler on the Roof! The Producers! Zero Mostel! He couldn’t miss!”
But as co-star Raquel Welch remembered it, “No matter what we did, it just wouldn’t work. Zero looked just awful in a loin cloth. He looked awful riding on a dinosaur. He looked even worse swinging through the trees on a vine. And his Tarzan ape-yell sounded like he was selling fish on some street corner in New York.”
One by one and two by two, the investors demanded their money back. The last straw was when Mostel accidentally shot himself with an arrow and then fell off the tree. The injuries weren’t serious, but they were serious enough to convince Mostel to quit. And by then the project had such dismal prospects that no one wanted to take his place in the role.
“Even Cecil Kellaway turned us down,” Ms. Welch recalled.
Today, the few surviving feet of footage (is that how you say it?) from Tarzan’s Revenge repose in a CIA vault, ready to be used against our country’s enemies.