It was while on a stock-footage expedition to Kenya in 1948 that famed radio personality and burgeoning filmmaker Arch Oboler first became intrigued by J.H. Patterson’s novel, The Man-Eaters of Tsavo, which recounted the tale of two lions that wreaked havoc on a railway construction crew. Soon determined to turn this harrowing tale into a movie, it was Oboler’s cameraman on the same expedition, William Snyder, who suggested that, when he did, he should shoot it in a new process called Natural Vision; an improved technique in the rapidly evolving 3-D process. But when no studios showed interest in his pet project, Oboler set out to make it on his own, with the majority of the financing coming from star Robert Stack’s mother. And, using the stock-footage they’d already shot in Kenya to flesh it out, the majority of the film was shot on the Paramount ranch. And when it was finished, with fingers crossed, Bwana Devil was released, with a hope and a pair of tinted glasses that a curious audience would come and see.
It was famed film exploitationeer Sidney Pink (of Reptilicus and The Angry Red Planet infamy), who had earlier salvaged Oboler’s post-apocalyptic flick Five, that coined A Lion in Your Lap … A Lover in Your Arms… for the ad campaign. It worked beautifully, and after United Artists saw how much money Bwana Devil was raking in, despite an almost universal critical drubbing, took over the distribution. And, when the receipts kept on rolling, Bwana Devil triggered an avalanche of other 3-D films over the next couple of years to cash in.
Bwana Devil (1952) Gulu Productions :: United Artists / P: Arch Oboler / AP: Sidney W. Pink / D: Arch Oboler / W: Arch Oboler / C: Joseph F. Biroc / E: John Hoffman / M: Gordon Jenkins / S: Robert Stack, Barbara Britton, Nigel Bruce, Ramsay Hill