Bwana Devil

Bwana Devil

Infobox Film
name = Bwana Devil (1952)

caption = Original film poster for United Artists release of "Bwana Devil"
director = Arch Oboler
producer = Producer:
Arch Oboler
Associate producer:
Sidney W. Pink
writer = Arch Oboler
starring = Robert Stack
Barbara Britton
Nigel Bruce
Ramsay Hill
Paul McVey
music = Gordon Jenkins
cinematography = Joseph F. Biroc
editing = John Hoffman
distributor = Limited release:
Arch Oboler Productions
General release:
United Artists
released = flagicon|USA November 30, 1952
runtime = 79 min.
country = USA
language = English
budget = US$ 400,000
preceded_by =
followed_by =
amg_id = 1:86338
imdb_id = 0044462

"Bwana Devil" is a 1952 drama based on the true story of the Tsavo maneaters. It was written, directed, and produced by Arch Oboler, and is considered the first color, American 3-D feature. It started the 3-D boom in the US film making industry from 1952 to 1954. It stars Robert Stack, Barbara Britton and Nigel Bruce.

The film's tagline was: "The Miracle of the Age!!! A LION in your lap! A LOVER in your arms!"


The film is set in British East Africa in the early 20th century. Thousands of workers are building the Uganda Railway, Africa's first railroad, and intense heat and sickness make it a formidable task. Two men in charge of the mission are Jack Hayward and Dr. Angus Ross. A pair of man-eating lions are on the loose and completely disrupt the undertaking. Hayward desperately attempts to overcome the situation but the slaughter continues.

Britain sends three big-game hunters to kill the lions. With them comes Jack's wife. After the game hunters are killed by the lions, Jack sets out once and for all to kill them. A grim battle between Jack and the lions endangers both Jack and his wife. Jack kills the lions and proves he is not a weakling.


Natural Vision

It was 1951 and theatre attendance had down-spiralled from 90 million in 1948 to 46 million a few years later. TV was the culprit and Hollywood was looking for a way to lure audiences back. Cinerama had premiered September 30, 1952 at the Broadway Theatre in New York and was packing them in but its bulky and expensive three camera system was impractical if not impossible to duplicate in all but the largest theatres.

One time screen writer Milton Gunzburg and brother Julian thought they had a solution with their Natural Vision 3-D film process. They shopped it around Hollywood with little or no interest. 20th Century Fox was focusing on the introduction of CinemaScope, and had no interest in another new process. Both Columbia and Paramount passed it up. Only John Arnold, who headed the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer camera department, was impressed enough to convince MGM to take an option on it but they quickly let the option lapse.

Natural Vision appeared to be dead and the Gunzburgs were back to square one until a meeting with Arch Oboler changed the history of films.


Milton Gunzburg turned his focus to independent producers and demonstrated Natural Vision to Arch Oboler, producer and writer of radio's popular Lights Out show, who was impressed enough to option it for his next film project, "The Lions of Gulu". Oboler and co-producer Sid Pink scrapped 10 days of footage and started over using the Natural Vision process.

The film was based on a well-known historical event, that of the Tsavo maneaters, in which many workers building the Uganda Railway were killed. The incident was also the basis for "The Man-eaters of Tsavo", an adventure yarn written and published in 1907 by Lt. Col. J.H. Patterson, the Great White Hunter who dispatched the animals.

The Paramount Ranch, now located in The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, sat in for an African savanna. There is a now a hiking trail in the area named "The Bwana Trail" to denote the locations used in "Bwana Devil".

Authentic Africa footage previously lensed by Arch Oboler in 1948 (in 2-D) was incorporated into the film. Ansco color film was used instead of the more expensive and cumbersome Technicolor process.

The film premiered under the banner of "Arch Oboler Productions" On November 26, 1952 at the Paramount Theatres in Hollywood and Los Angeles. The film was a critical failure but a runaway success with audiences. Premieres followed in San Francisco on December 13, Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio openings on December 25 and New York on February 18, 1953.

United Artists bought the rights to "Bwana Devil" from "Arch Oboler Productions" for $500,000 and a share of the profits and began a wide release of the film in March as a "United Artists" film. A lawsuit followed, in which producer Edward L. Alperson Jr. claimed that he was part owner in the film after purchasing a part of it for $1 Million USD. The courts decided in Oboler's favor, as Alperson's claim was unsubstantiated and "under the table."

The other major studios reacted by releasing their own 3-D films. Warner Brothers optioned the Natural Vision process for "House of Wax". It premiered on April 10, 1953 and was advertised as "the first 3-D release by a major studio". In truth, Columbia had trumped them by two days with their release of "Man in the Dark" on April 8, 1953.


* [ Bosley Crowther of the New York Times] said it was "a clumsy try at an African adventure film, photographed in very poor color in what appear to be the California hills".
* [ Variety] summed up the process: "This novelty feature boasts of being the first full-length film in Natural Vision 3-D. Although adding backsides to usually flat actors and depth to landscapes, the 3-D technique still needs further technical advances."
*Time magazine called it a "dog".
*Hollis Alpert of The Saturday Review wrote, “It is the worst movie in my rather faltering memory, and my hangover from it was so painful that I immediately went to see a two-dimensional movie for relief. The polarization process darkened the image so that everything seems to be happening in late afternoon on a cloudy day. Nigel Bruce will either loom up before you or look like a puppet.


* [ Bwana Devil played at the Second World 3-D Film Expo] on September 13th, 2006 in two strip polarized 3-D at the [ Egyptian Theater] in Hollywood, Ca.
*The film has not been released on VHS or DVD.
*The film occasionally shows on the [ AMC] cablevison channel.

External links

*imdb title|id=0044462|title=Bwana Devil

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Bwana Devil — Filmdaten Deutscher Titel: Bwana, der Teufel Originaltitel: Bwana Devil Produktionsland: USA Erscheinungsjahr: 1951 Länge: 85 Minuten Originalsprache: Englisch …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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