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Tag Archive: Bwana Devil


Bwana Devil A poster

The choice of subject matter for the first 3D was a good pick– the gruesome, real-life attacks on workers in Tsavo, Kenya from March through December of 1898 by a pair of lions.  The story that inspired director Arch Oboler’s 1952 adventure Bwana Devil would later be adapted as the 1996 film The Ghost and the Darkness starring Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer (as well as a lesser direct-to-video movie, Prey, in 2007).  Bwana Devil is now available via streaming on Amazon Prime.  It’s not shown in its original 3D format, but as we have suggested before here at borg.com, watching it via 3D glasses and an up-converted 3D television system will get you close to the original 3D presentation.

Robert Stack plays Bob Hayward, an ineffective chief engineer and leader of local tribes building a railway.  Stack’s performance reveals a frenzied and crazed character who makes nothing but bad decisions over the course of the story.  Nigel Bruce, in one of his final film roles, plays Dr. Angus MacLean, Hayward’s jovial friend and confidante.  All that can go wrong does.  Hayward isn’t up for the task of completing a railway across East Africa between Kenya and Uganda even before lions begin plucking off workers one by one.  His stupidity gets innocents killed from almost the opening scene to the last, from a cook he drags along from another town to a very young African child.

Bwana Devil how it works 3D

Bwana Devil has the feel of a live-action Jonny Quest, and it’s fun to see all these Teddy Roosevelt Hunter types doing their thing.  But it is also a cringeworthy look at British imperialism and the dominance of the local peoples that comes with it.  The Ghost and the Darkness handles these themes better.

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creature from black lagoon poster

Review by C.J. Bunce

Who is my favorite Universal Studios classic movie monster?  I have always answered The Creature from the Black Lagoon.  I first watched the web-footed and web-handed fellow with gills in 3D on local network television on one Friday night many years ago.  I am not sure cable TV was yet making its headway across the country, but the “creature feature” was something marketed for a few weeks over the summer.  The local CBS affiliate, if I recall correctly, teamed up with the local Hy-Vee grocery store to hand out those cardboard and vellum 3D glasses.  I knew early on that The Creature was the first and only one of the classic monsters filmed and shown in theaters in 3D back in 1954.  My trusty World Almanac told me it wasn’t the first 3D film released–that went to the African lion film Bwana Devil in 1952.

As part of my current quest to sample the best of 3D movies on Blu-ray, finding The Creature from the Black Lagoon on the very short list of released 3D films was a big win.  Back in 1997 in Seattle where basic DVDs were first released in a major U.S. market, I remember digging through a short box at the big Suncoast store but feeling similarly dismayed, until I noticed A Boy and His Dog among the early conversions to digital video.  The Creature is a great starting point for modern 3D, giving the current technology some historical context.

Creature in 3D

Thanks in large part to make-up guru Bud Westport’s incredible creature suit and mask, the film holds up as well as any modern classic.  In fact, viewing The Creature back to back with Predator 3D (reviewed here earlier this month), it’s surprising how similar the films are.  Take away the sci-fi intro to Predator and you have a jungle adventure with another otherworldly creature.  As with Predator 3D, the multi-layered jungle comes alive in The Creature, and the careful placement of actors onscreen gives a crystal clear dimensional image that doesn’t waver.  Better yet, you have to look hard to see The Creature’s air bubbles–mostly he swims for seemingly long stints underwater with no apparent breathing going on.  And let’s not forget both of these films are part of the horror genre–each character gets picked off one by one by the monster until only a few are left for a final life-or-death showdown.

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