Bomba the Jungle Boy

While we are still on the subject of jungle heroes – after my very last article, we now take a look at the ‘Bomba’ films made by Monogram Studios from 1949 onwards – with Johnny Sheffield

The series of films is based on the character created by Roy Rockwood – BELOW we can see what is said to be an original first edition of one of his ‘Bomba’ books

I am surprised that this First Edition BELOW carries quite a hefty price tag

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After playing the role of Boy in eight Tarzan films, the now teen-aged Johnny Sheffield moved into the title role in a jungle series of his own. The first of this series …1949’s Bomba, the Jungle Boy.

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Our story begins with the father / daughter photographers George (Onslow Stevens) and Patricia (Peggy Ann Garner) Harland on a safari in the jungles of Africa. George is anxious to get photos that no one has ever taken before. In fact, he’s quite impatient with their local guide, Andy Barnes (Charles Irwin) for not showing them anything exciting.

Pat, on the other hand, is excited to be taking it all in. However, one day as they head for the mysterious Great Rift, Pat and her guide are separated from the rest of the group.

They are set on by a hungry leopard and the guide is killed, but before the leopard can turn on Pat, out of the jungle, swinging on a vine comes Bomba who promptly fights off the animal.

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At first, both Pat and Bomba, are a bit unsure of each other.

Bomba does have a grasp of English, so the two can at least converse.

Bomba takes Pat back to his little corner of the jungle where she builds herself a little hut to sleep in, dons her own leopard skin attire, and swims with Bomba in the river.

Meanwhile, her father is determined to track down the jungle boy and kill him for running off with his daughter.

Unfortunately, a swarm of locusts and a tribe of vicious lion worshipping hunters and other adventure for the two don’t help

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The Bomba series was produced by Monogram Pictures, which was quite definitely a low budget studio.

Ford Beebe LEFT with Nancy Hale and Johnny Sheffield, directing the Bomba Film ‘Lord of the Jungle’ in 1955
By this time – 1955 – Ford Beebe’s career in films was close to an end but he holds a special place in Hollywood Film History
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The film was directed by Ford Beebe who had been a writer but who had turned successfully to directing mainly B films including these Bomba ones.

I have read that Johnny Sheffield admired the way he did his job – he said that he would read the story ( maybe even write it ) and then shoot the film in sequence straight from his memory. So he had very few re-takes – if any. Alfred Hitchcock admired the way he was able to bring his films in so economically.

One Comment I saw was this from someone who knew and had worked with Ford Beebe :-

He was the toughest man, physically, I have ever known . . . He wrote his own scripts, directed them and played the character lead in most of them. Then when he washed up for the day and the rest went home, he’d go in the cutting room and cut and title until 2 or 3 a.m., then go in the office and sleep on the floor ’til the janitor woke him up, go home, have breakfast and be back on the stage before the cast showed up. This was not something he did once in a while. It was the way he worked all the time.

He was certainly a big name in directing at a budget level – and I do feel that given the chance he could have done something really special. I think of William Witney and Byron Haskin who directed at what would be considered a ‘low level’ but when given the chance – and these two were – would meet the challenge and meet it well.

I think Ford Beebe would have done too.

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Later titles in the Bomba series include ‘Lord of the Jungle’  Elephant Stampede and Killer Leopard.

The one film in the series that I know best – having seen it as a child is Bomba and The Hidden City’ which me and my brother loved. So exciting for us at that time – and filmed in the African Jungle – which it wasn’t but so what !!

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