Call Me Bwana (1963)

Article 4375 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-23-2013
Directed by Gordon Douglas
Featuring Bob Hope, Anita Ekberg, Edie Adams
Country: UK
What it is: Safari comedy

When a moon capsule returns to Earth bringing vital information, it goes off course and lands in an African jungle. The US government recruits a noted African explorer to retrieve the capsule, unaware that the explorer is actually a fraud who was basing his exploits on his uncle’s diaries. Russian spies are also after the capsule…

You know, if you’re going to make a Double-Stuffed Safari-O, you’re probably better off going with a comedy than a straight adventure story; there’s more of a chance of finding ways to spice up the long middle safari section of the movie that way. Unfortunately, Bob Hope movies were at their weakest during the sixties, and the laughs are in short supply here; though he’s playing a typical Bob Hope character, the joke lines are mostly tired and predictable. For me, the best moment here involves a momentary but deft take on tarantula attack cliches; the moment I like least is when the movie parlays what should have been a quick cameo by Arnold Palmer into an extended series of “golfing in the jungle” gags while making inside jokes about the “Road” movies, which would have handled this gag better. Overall, it’s a pretty predictable and uninspired rehash of jungle cliches.

As far as the fantastic content goes, this is another movie for which my only source is the Lentz guide. Some of the selections in that guide are questionable, but I wonder if he might be on target here; I know that unmanned moon landings had already been made by this time, but I’m not aware if any of those landings had resulted in a successful return of the capsule back to Earth, as happens here. Some of the gags involving the capsule near the end of the movie certainly seem fantastic enough, so I think it’s possible the movie might qualify as marginal science fiction.

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