I remember watching “Call me Bwana” as a Sunday afternoon movie in my local TV market as a kid. It was the early 1980s and I was just becoming a big fan of the “Road to” movies that featured Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, so I thought this movie, which did not have Crosby, but did have Hope and exotic locals, would be right up my alley. I was very disappointed. It did not have the chemistry or zing of a “Road” film, nor was particularly well written. I noticed that the film got a re-released recently and I thought this would be a good opportunity to revisit the title and see if an older me could appreciate it more.
I am happy to say that yes, I can definitely appreciate the movie more now, but appreciate and enjoy are two different things sadly. Yes, I get a lot of the references that went over my head as a kid, but at the same time, the movie lacks the zing, the zazz, that would make other Hope films such classics.
The movie is cold war based and revolves around Hope trying to find a moon capsule that went off course in Africa before the Russians do. Not a bad idea, and add to that the film was put together by the people who did the Bond films and you should have a recipe for something, but the laughs are weak and Hope never really looked like he was all that into the film. I think the closing credits give you a good example of what you can expect from “Call Me Bwana”. If you can enjoy and site through these, this might be the film for you.
That doesn’t mean the film is without redemption, it does have a young Arnold Palmer in the film and it does capture that early 1960s cold war zeitgest. Still I cannot give the film a recommendation based on the merits of its quality, only on the basis of it being an oddity. An interesting one, but sadly just that.
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