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Bomba and the Jungle Girl

Bomba and the Jungle Girl(1952)

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Bomba and the Jungle Girl (1952)

Monogram producer Walter Mirisch's first solo efforts were the micro-budgeted films noirs Fall Guy (1947) and I Wouldn't Be in Your Shoes (1948). Searching for something that might catch on commercially, Mirisch set his mind on Roy Rockwood's series of juvenile books from the 1920s about an adolescent raised in the African wild, Bomba the Jungle Boy. When young Johnny Sheffield outgrew his role as 'Boy' in MGM's Tarzan series opposite Johnny Weissmuller, Mirisch signed him to star in what became the first of twelve 'Bomba' features spread out over six years. Filmed on small sets and clocking in at a sleek seventy minutes apiece, the Bomba movies employed many black actors in speaking roles. The labyrinthine storyline of the eighth installment Bomba and the Jungle Girl (1952) tasks the barely literate young hero to learn the fate of his birth parents, only to discover that they were murdered by a corrupt native chief. Bomba meets young Linda Ward (Karen Sharpe) and her father (Walter Sande), a government agent, and together they clash with the chief's warrior daughter, Boru (Suzette Harbin). The refreshingly assertive 'jungle girl' Karen Sharpe eventually married producer-director Stanley Kramer, while the 'native villainess' Suzette Harbin was a popular dancer and showgirl noted for entertaining G.I.s on USO tours. Just in his mid-twenties, Johnny Sheffield's film career ended with the Bomba series. He filmed a pilot for a jungle-themed television show, but it did not find a sponsor.

By Glenn Erickson

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