Bwana Devil is a 1952 U.S. adventure B movie written, directed, and produced by Arch Oboler and stars Robert Stack, Barbara Britton, and Nigel Bruce. Bwana Devil is based on the true story of the Tsavo maneaters and filmed with the Natural Vision 3D system. The film is notable for sparking the first 3D film craze in the motion picture industry, as well as for being the first feature-length 3D film in color and the first 3D sound feature in English.
The advertising tagline was: The Miracle of the Age!!! A LION in your lap! A LOVER in your arms!
|Directed by||Arch Oboler|
|Written by||Arch Oboler|
|Music by||Gordon Jenkins|
|Edited by||John Hoffman|
|Box office||$5 million|
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.
The plot was based on a well-known historical event, that of the Tsavo maneaters, in which many workers building the Uganda Railway were killed by lions. These incidents were also the basis for the book The Man-eaters of Tsavo (1907), the story of the events as written by Lt. Col. J. H. Patterson, the British engineer who killed the animals. The story was also the basis for the film The Ghost and the Darkness (1996) with Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer.
By 1951 film attendance had fallen dramatically from 90 million in 1948 to 46 million. Television was seen as the culprit and Hollywood was looking for a way to lure audiences back. Cinerama had premiered on September 30, 1952 at the Broadway Theater in New York and was a success there, but its bulky and expensive three-projector system and huge curved screen were impractical, if not impossible, to duplicate in any but the largest theaters.
Former screenwriter Milton Gunzburg and his brother Julian thought they had a solution with their Natural Vision 3D film process. They shopped it around Hollywood. 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. Milton Gunzburg turned his focus to independent producers and demonstrated Natural Vision to Arch Oboler, producer and writer of the popular Lights Out radio show. Oboler was impressed enough to option it for his next film project.
Oboler said he had overheard Joseph Biroc and the camera crew talking about 3D while filming The Twonky and Oboler became interested.
Oboler announced the project in March 1952. He said it would be called Lion of Gulu and would include footage shot in Africa several years beforehand. Filming was to start in May. It was always going to be in National Vision.
Eventually Duff and Miller dropped out and were replaced by Robert Stack and Barbara Britton. The title of Oboler's film was changed to Bwana Devil in June 1952. (Oboler already announced he would make a second film in the format, Spear in the Sand with Lisa Howard.)
The film was shot in the San Fernando Valley.
The Paramount Ranch, now located in The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, sat in for an African savanna. There is now a hiking trail in the area named "The Bwana Trail" to denote the locations used in Bwana Devil. Authentic African footage shot by Arch Oboler in 1948 (in 2D) was incorporated into the film. Ansco Color film was used, instead of the more expensive and cumbersome Technicolor process.
Lloyd Nolan appeared in a prologue for the film.
The film premiered under the banner of "Arch Oboler Productions" on November 26, 1952 with a twin engagement at the Paramount Theaters in Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles.
As at all U.S. screenings of feature-length 3D films in the 1950s, the polarized light method was used and the audience wore 3D glasses with gray Polaroid filters. The anaglyph color filter method was only used for a few short films during these years. The two-strip Natural Vision projection system required making substantial alterations to a theater's projectors and providing its screen with a special non-depolarizing surface.
The film was a critical failure, but a runaway success with audiences. It opened in San Francisco on December 13, Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio on December 25, and New York on February 18, 1953. 
M.L. Gunzburg presents 3D, a short film produced by Bob Clampett and featuring Beany and Cecil, was screened preceding the film. Long thought lost, the short rejoined Bwana Devil for screenings at the Egyptian Theater in 2003 and 2006.
Natural Vision announced they would make 12 follow up films.
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 of the film after purchasing a share of it for $1,000,000 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 3D 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.
Life magazine photographer J. R. Eyerman took a series of photos of the audience wearing 3D glasses at the premiere. One of the photos was published as a full page in the magazine and has become iconic. It was also used as the cover of Life, The Second Decade, 1946–1955, a book published in conjunction with an exhibition of photographs from Life held at the International Center of Photography, New York. Another of the photos was used as a symbol of alienation under capitalism, for the American cover of Guy Debord's book The Society of the Spectacle (1973). The photo used for Debord's book shows the audience in "a virtually trance-like state of absorption, their faces grim, their lips pursed". However, in the one chosen by Life, "the spectators are laughing, their expressions of hilarity conveying the pleasure of an uproarious, active spectatorship." The Debord version is also flipped left to right and cropped.
Bradley Mark "Brad" Shepherd (born 1 February 1961 in Sydney, New South Wales) is an Australian rock musician. Shepherd is a guitarist, singer-songwriter and harmonica player; he has performed with several bands, especially the Hoodoo Gurus.Fort Ti
Fort Ti is a 1953 American 3-D Western film directed by William Castle, and starring George Montgomery and Joan Vohs. Written by Robert E. Kent, the film is the first Western to be released in 3-D and the first 3-D feature to be released in Technicolor by a major studio. Fort Ti was produced by Esskay Pictures Corporation, and was distributed by Columbia Pictures in the United States.The film is set in 1759 at Fort Ticonderoga during the French and Indian War.House of Wax (1953 film)
House of Wax is a 1953 American color 3-D slasher film, about a disfigured sculptor who repopulates his destroyed wax museum by murdering people and using their wax-coated corpses as displays. Directed by Andre DeToth and starring Vincent Price, it is a remake of Warner Bros.' Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933). It premiered in New York on April 10, 1953 and began a general release on April 25, 1953.
House of Wax was the first color 3-D feature from a major American studio and premiered just two days after the Columbia Pictures film Man in the Dark, the first major-studio black-and-white 3-D feature. It was also the first 3-D film with stereophonic sound to be presented in a regular theater.
In 1971, it was widely re-released to theaters in 3-D, with a full advertising campaign. Newly-struck prints of the film in Chris Condon's single-strip StereoVision 3-D format were used. Another major re-release occurred during the 3-D boom of the early 1980s. In 2005, Warner Bros. released a new film also called House of Wax, but its plot is very different from the two earlier films'. It received largely negative reviews from critics.
In 2014, the film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress, and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.Hypnotic Hick
Hypnotic Hick is the 50th animated cartoon short subject in the Woody Woodpecker series. Released theatrically on September 26, 1953, the film was produced by Walter Lantz Productions and distributed by Universal International. It was Universal Pictures' first animated project released in 3D.J. R. Eyerman
J.R. Wharton Eyerman (9 October 1906—4 December 1985) was an American photographer and photojournalist.John Henry Patterson (author)
Lieutenant-Colonel John Henry Patterson, (10 November 1867 – 18 June 1947), known as J. H. Patterson, was a British soldier, hunter, author and Christian Zionist, best known for his book The Man-Eaters of Tsavo (1907), which details his experiences while building a railway bridge over the Tsavo river in British East Africa (now Kenya) in 1898–99. The book has inspired three Hollywood films – Bwana Devil (1952), Killers of Kilimanjaro (1959) and The Ghost and the Darkness (1996) in which he was portrayed by Val Kilmer.
In the First World War, Patterson was the commander of the Jewish Legion, "the first Jewish fighting force in nearly two millennia", and has been described as the godfather of the modern Israel Defense Forces.Joseph Biroc
Joseph Francis Biroc, A.S.C. (February 12, 1903 – September 7, 1996) was an American Academy Award-winning cinematographer. He was born in New York City and began working in films at the Paragon Studios in Fort Lee, New Jersey. After working there for approximately six years, he moved to Los Angeles. Once in Southern California, Biroc worked at the RKO Pictures movie studio. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, and filmed the Liberation of Paris in August 1944. In 1950, Biroc left RKO Pictures and freelanced on projects at various studios. In addition to his film work, which included It's a Wonderful Life (1946) and The Flight of the Phoenix (1965), Biroc worked on various television series, including the Adventures of Superman and Wonder Woman.
Biroc frequently collaborated with film director Robert Aldrich.Mark Kingsmill
Mark Adrian Kingsmill (born 4 December 1956) is an Australian rock musician. He has drummed with several bands including the Hitmen (1979–84), New Christs (1983–84), the Screaming Tribesmen (1984) and Hoodoo Gurus (1984–98, 2003–15). He is the older brother of Richard Kingsmill, music director and presenter on Triple J.Milton Gunzburg
Milton Lowell Gunzburg (1910 – April 6, 1991) was an American journalist and screenwriter. Gunzburg developed the Natural Vision stereoscopic 3-D system.Nigel Bruce
William Nigel Ernle Bruce (4 February 1895 – 8 October 1953) was a British character actor on stage and screen. He was best known for his portrayal of Dr. Watson in a series of films and in the radio series The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (starring Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes). Bruce is also remembered for his roles in the Alfred Hitchcock films Rebecca and Suspicion.Polarized 3D system
A polarized 3D system uses polarization glasses to create the illusion of three-dimensional images by restricting the light that reaches each eye (an example of stereoscopy).
To present stereoscopic images and films, two images are projected superimposed onto the same screen or display through different polarizing filters. The viewer wears low-cost eyeglasses which contain a pair of different polarizing filters. As each filter passes only that light which is similarly polarized and blocks the light polarized in the opposite direction, each eye sees a different image. This is used to produce a three-dimensional effect by projecting the same scene into both eyes, but depicted from slightly different perspectives. Multiple people can view the stereoscopic images at the same time.Providence Performing Arts Center
The Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) (formerly Loew's State Theatre and Palace Concert Theater) is a multi-use theater located at 220 Weybosset Street in Providence, Rhode Island. The building was built as a movie palace by the Loews Theatres chain and opened in 1928. PPAC contains over 3,000 seats and hosts touring Broadway shows, concerts, plays and films.Robert Stack
Robert Stack (born Charles Langford Modini Stack, January 13, 1919 – May 14, 2003) was an American actor, sportsman, and television host. In addition to acting in more than 40 feature films, he starred in the landmark ABC-TV television series The Untouchables (1959–1963), for which he won the 1960 Emmy Award for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series, and later hosted/narrated true crime series Unsolved Mysteries (1987–2002). He was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the film Written on the Wind (1956).September Storm
September Storm is a 1960 American adventure film directed by Byron Haskin and starring Joanne Dru and Mark Stevens.Filmed in 3-D and DeLuxe Color and presented in CinemaScope, it is notable as the only U.S. feature film made in 3-D between Revenge of the Creature, which was released in the spring of 1955 and marked the end of the 1950s 3-D movie fad in the U.S., and The Bubble, which premiered in late 1966 and introduced the economical "over-and-under" single-strip format used by most of the 3-D films of the 1970s and 1980s.
Like the feature-length 3-D films of the 1950s when they were originally released, it was projected by the polarized light method and viewed through gray Polaroid filters in viewers which, according to the film's poster, were "scientifically designed by master craftsmen!" Most theaters, however, presented it "flat", in 2-D.
Although it is widely believed to have been filmed in Stereovision, Bob Furmanek, who oversaw the 2016 restoration, says this is a myth. It was shot full-frame with the original NaturalVision cameras used on Bwana Devil. The center of the image was then extracted to create a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, in the manner of the then-current Superscope process. Unfortunately, it was poorly done, resulting in a large number of badly-framed shots; for example, the scene with the Flamenco dancers has a huge amount of headroom while their feet are cut off.
Both September Storm and 3-D in general were roundly dismissed by influential critic Bosley Crowther in his New York Times review.Sidney W. Pink
Sidney W. Pink (March 16, 1916 – October 12, 2002) was an American movie producer and occasional director. He has been called the father of feature-length 3-D movies. He is also noted for producing early spaghetti westerns and low-budget science-fiction films, and for his role in actor Dustin Hoffman's transition from stage to screen.Spooks (1953 film)
Spooks! is a 1953 short film directed by Jules White and starring American slapstick comedy team The Three Stooges (Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Shemp Howard). It is the 148th short film released by Columbia Pictures starring the comedians, who released 190 short films for the studio between 1934 and 1959.The French Line
The French Line is a 1953 American musical film starring Jane Russell made by RKO Radio Pictures, directed by Lloyd Bacon and produced by Edmund Grainger, with Howard Hughes as executive producer. The screenplay was by Mary Loos and Richard Sale, based on a story by Matty Kemp and Isabel Dawn. It was filmed in three strip technicolor and Dual strip polarized 3D during what many consider 3-D film's "golden era" of 1952-1954.
Gilbert Roland co-stars and Kim Novak makes her first film appearance.The Twonky
The Twonky is a 1953 independently made American black-and-white science fiction/comedy film, produced by A.D. Nast, Jr., Arch Oboler, and Sidney Pink, written and directed by Arch Oboler, that stars Hans Conried, Gloria Blondell, Billy Lynn, and Edwin Max. The film was distributed by United Artists.Top Banana (film)
Top Banana is a 1954 musical film based on the musical of the same name, starring Phil Silvers, and featuring Rose Marie, Judy Lynn, Jack Albertson and Joey Faye, all of whom reprised their roles from the Broadway production of the musical.The film was shot in 3-D but was released by United Artists "flat".
Films produced by Sidney W. Pink