In the late 1800’s Great Britain was building a railway between Uganda and the Kilindini Harbor at the Indian Ocean. Most of the workers were Indians brought to the area to do the work. At one point the railway was building a bridge over the Tsavo River in Kenya. In charge of the construction of the railway is Major Parkhurst (Ramsay Hill). Second in command is Bob Hayward (Robert Stack) whose father-in-law runs the railroad. Hayward is not happy being stuck in Africa. He would rather be back with his wife Alice (Barbara Britton). Hayward spends most of his time drinking and carousing.
Parkhurst is having problems with the workers. They insist there is a man eating lion running around camp and they are terrified. Parkhurst, who is a bit of a stuffed shirt, insists that there is no lion. He’s also not happy with Hayward’s conduct and complains to the camp’s doctor, Dr. Angus McLean (Nigel Bruce). Parkhurst decides to complain to Hayward’s father-in-law and so leaves camp to head back to Mumbai.
Workers begin dying from lion attacks and Hayward himself has seen the lion. Commissioner (Paul McVey) shows up to inform Hayward that Parkhurst died and that Hayward is now in charge of the construction of the railroad. The Commissioner is also there to hunt the lion but instead becomes a victim of it.
Eventually the workers leave in droves and construction of the railroad comes to a complete halt. Hayward goes to the local Masai tribe to ask for their help. They agree but when they try to hunt the lion they find out that there are two lions working together. Many of the warriors from the tribe are killed or maimed.
Word spreads about the lions. From Britain come three lion hunters, Sir William Drayton (John Dodsworth), Latham (Patrick Aherne) and Ballinger (Patrick O’Moore). Along with them is Hayward’s wife Alice. Even the game hunters are killed and there is no one left to face the maneaters except Hayward.
“Bwana Devil” was released in 1952 and was directed by Arch Oboler. It is a jungle adventure film. The movie’s main claim to fame is that it was the first 3-D movie made in color.
The film included a prologue that was written and directed by Robert Clampett. The prologue was an introduction to 3-D imaging and what it was all about. The characters used in the prologue to explain the 3-D process were actor Lloyd Nolan and the children's puppet characters Beany and Cecil. Beany and Cecil were created by Robert Clampett. The prologue was cut whenever the 2-D process was used in theaters that were not set up for 3-D.
There are parts of the movie that is back screen but the footage is new stock footage. When Arch Oboler went to Africa in 1948 to make audio recordings of natives for the film he met William D. Snyder. Snyder was a cameraman with his own industrial filmmaking company in Fargo, North Dakota. While traveling throughout Africa with Oboler Snyder shot the African footage used in the film.
The plot of the film was based on a true event. In the late 1800’s, while building the Uganda Railway, two lions attacked the workers. Between March and December 1898 many of the construction workers were killed. The lions were referred to as the Tsavo maneaters. The incident was also documented in a book “The Man-eaters of Tsavo” 1907 by Lt. Col. J. H. Patterson. Patterson was the British engineer who killed the animals. The story was also the plot of several movies including the film “The Ghost and the Darkness” 1996 starring Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer, “Killers of Kilimanjaro” 1959 and “Prey” 2007.