skip navigation
Bwana Devil

Bwana Devil(1952)

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here

Remind Me

TCMDb Archive MaterialsView all archives (1)


powered by AFI

In Kenya in 1898, the British are busy building the first railroad through Africa with a group of East Indian laborers, led by British major Parkhurst, when the project is suddenly halted after the workers, fueled by rumors of two man-eating lions nearby, refuse to continue. Parkhurst's engineer, Robert Hayward, who has made a habit of failing, joined the expedition through the influence of his father-in-law, railroad financier Conway, and wants as little responsibility as possible. However, when Parkhurst dies of a scorpion bite, Rob is forced to assume leadership. Along with his best friend, Scottish doctor Angus "Doc" Maclean, Rob tries to assuage the workers' fears by hunting the lions, but returns from his safari empty-handed and discovers that the cook has been mauled by the lions. All night, Rob watches over the body in the hope that the lions will return, but when one finally does, the other lion attacks his assistant. Rob and Doc bury the body in secret to stave off mass panic. The commissioner, who has heard about the lion problem, visits and orders the workers to construct a trap. That night, the commissioner triumphantly shoots a trapped animal, but soon realizes that it is only a hyena. Minutes later, the lions kill another worker. The commissioner insists the lions must be tracked through the jungle, and, after Rob refuses to leave his team, takes off alone. As the workers grow more frightened, Rob, who is now desperate to make this project his one success, obsesses over the lions. He stays up all night waiting for them, but as the sun rises, a native races over to inform him that the commissioner has been killed by the lions. The workers then pack up and begin to march out of the camp. Rob tries to stop them but cannot, until a lion atacks their leader, who, before dying, asks Rob to take care of his people. Rob and Doc then visit the local Masai tribesmen, who are renowned for their lion-hunting abilities. The Africans surround one lion with spears but it breaks loose and kills some of their warriors. The Indians watch mournfully as the tribe buries its dead. Meanwhile, the government in London has learned about the lion problem and, fearing the loss of money and prestige, sends three world-class hunters to help. While waiting, Rob builds a fire around the camp, but the lions continue to kill and, tragically, a malaria attack breaks out. Finally, hunter Sir William Drake arrives with two friends and, shockingly, Rob's wife Alice. The newlyweds have not seen each other for eight months, and Rob is loathe to admit to his wife that he is failing here, just as he did in London. Alice, however, proclaims her continued love for him, and they fall into each other's arms. In their passion they fail to notice that outside, the lions are attacking Doc, the three hunters and Rob's servant. The next morning, they discover each man's body. Although Alice begs Rob to leave with her, he refuses, so she insists on staying with him. Over the next days, she takes on the care of Rob's servant's orphaned child Mukosi. Soon, the Masai visit to inform Rob that they now believe him to be a devil, because the lions have attacked their chief. Rob orders them to leave and spends the night patrolling the camp despondently. When Alice's charge wanders into the jungle the next day, they both search for him. They finally find Mukosi's body near a lion, and Alice becomes crazed but calms down after Rob shoots the animal. They then notice the other lion nearby, and Rob hides Alice behind a rock before screaming at the lion to attack him. When he tries to shoot the animal, his gun jams, but at the last moment, he fixes the gun and shoots it. Then, seeing that the beast is still alive, Rob calls it a devil and clubs it to death with his rifle. With his mission finally a success, Rob embraces Alice.