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Call Me Bwana

Bob Hope goes to Africa in a minor, mindless comedy.

Rod Lott July 6th, 2011

From the producers of the 007 franchise comes 1963's "Call Me Bwana," a harmless, near-pointless spy spoof starring, of all people, Bob Hope.


Its flimsiest of plots posits that a moon probe has accidentally crash-landed among the dangerous Ekele tribe in Africa, and the Americans need to nab it before it falls into the hands of another nation. The U.S. government calls upon Matthew Merriwether (Hope), a published expert on the continent who claims to have shaken hands with every tsetse fly there and whose book boasts of encounters with the "vicious spotted elephant."

Naturally, he's a fraud and has to bumble his way through the mission, relying on service-station maps of the jungle terrain, where he takes a shotgun to a tarantula and also finds himself in situations with lions, chimps, zebras, elephants and Arnold Palmer as himself, for an extended golfing sequence that's as in-jokey as any from a Hope vehicle.

Here, he once again plays his standard, likable skirt-chasing cad, this time allowing his little club to point him toward the curvy form of Anita Ekberg. How Swede she is, but they were better served by "Paris Holiday" five years earlier. The onscreen highlight between them is when she insists on sewing his torn trousers, not knowing she's doing so with a cyanide-tipped needle that would mean instant death. (The offscreen highlight between them suggests they've just boinked on live TV.)

For Hope's fans, all is well, assuming the slightly un-PC race jokes don't offend, but Abbott and Costello's "Africa Screams" did the animal slapstick better. —Rod Lott
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