Bomba the Jungle Boy (1949) – reviewed by George

This Monogram picture, directed by Ford Beebe, was the first of a successful series of Bomba films, perfect for the Saturday morning kids’ show of that day. After making 8 movies as Tarzan’s son Boy, Johnny Sheffield made 12 Bomba movies. The character Bomba was taken from a popular series of books for boys, written by “Roy Rockwood”, apparently the name of a group of writers who contributed individual titles to the series.
Onslow Stevens and Peggy Ann Garner play a nature photographer and his young daughter shooting in Africa for the first time. They encounter Bomba, a young lad who is a teenaged Tarzan. Both Bomba and Tarzan are loners living with smaller primates (Tarzan with a chimpanzee, and Bomba with a monkey), speaking a kind of pidgin English, wearing fur loin cloths, and possessing a keen understanding of the nuances of the ecosystem they inhabit.
If DC could successfully sue Fawcett, because of the alleged similarity of Captain Marvel to Superman, and then not only stop Fawcett’s use of Captain Marvel, but co-opt the character into their own universe, calling him Shazam, then I really fail to see why the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate failed to sue over Bomba.
At any rate, for a movie that somewhat clumsily combines studio footage with actual shots of Africa (Actors standing in studio foliage: “Look over there!” – Cut to a flock of giraffes running), this is not as terrible as it could have been. The saving grace is Onslow Stevens, who plays the know-it-all visitor to Africa, who constantly wants the bearers to walk faster, the animals to be closer, his daughter to be more obedient, his friend Andy (Charles Irwin) who is leading the expedition to listen to what HE wants, despite Andy’s long experience, and the sun to rise and fall at his convenience for picture-taking. So his function is to demonstrate to the Saturday morning tribe in the theater that this kind of guy is worthy of contempt, thereby perhaps improving their own behavior. His performance is the best in the picture.
Actually, disliking him is most of the fun of the film. The rest of the fun is strictly for a  modern TV audience, and that is reading the captions. Twice Garner and Stevens mention the Bronx Zoo, and both times the caption reads “Brock Zoo”. Wildebeast becomes “wilder beasts”, and white rhino becomes “wild rhino”. And Andy delivers this line, “Lions are very ugly beasties to meet face-to-face.” And the caption reads, “… ugly beasties to meat face-to-face.”
Of the bearers, only two are credited: Smoki Whitfield as “Eli” and Martin Wilkins as “Mufti”. And because of the quality of most of the African footage, I wondered if it might be footage from one of Frank Buck’s trips, but I could find no source for the shots used.

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