Bomba, the Jungle Boy

Primitive appeal - Bomba the Jungle Boy
Bomba the Jungle Boy was a gung-ho adventure series that briefly screened on Australian television in the late 1960s, although the episodes were in fact, cheaply made matinee B-grade feature films made in the late 40s and early 50s. Played by an athletic Johnny Sheffield, Bomba was a kind of teenage Tarzan, designed to appeal to adolescent boys and girls and for a guy who lived in the depths of the jungle, he was remarkably clean-cut.

Indeed, Sheffield had appeared as 'Boy' in eight Tarzan films with Johnny Weissmuller, the first being Tarzan Finds a Son! In the late 40s, the young actor, by then 18,  was signed up by Allied Artists for a series of Bomba films which were loosely based on a series of books written in the 20s and 30s by Roy Lockwood (a house name of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, which specialised in youth adventure tales and also pumped out the Nancy Drew mysteries).

Me Bomba...
Bomba and his teenage 'Jane', played by Peggy Ann Garner
In the first film, Bomba is discovered by a wildlife photographer and his daughter (a teenage  Jane substitute who ends up, naturally, in leopard print) deep in the jungles of Africa. We learn Bomba was raised by an elderly naturalist who is now dead and has learnt to fend for himself amid the perilous savagery of the jungle.

The series was filmed entirely in a sound studio but there's plenty of generic jungle footage and exotic bird calls, including the odd kookaburra, which of course is a native of Australia, not Africa.

Still, these jungle exploit series were made on a tight budget and not designed for scientific accuracy but rather, escapist fun and adventure for the young folk. Bomba was directed by master of the B series, the versatile Ford Beebe, who also wrote the screenplay. The series had a successful run but Saturday matinees and rip snorting chapter serials lost popularity as TV rose on the horizon and by the mid-fifties, Bomba had spent its course. There were 12 episodes in all, made between 1949 and 1955:

Bomba the Jungle Boy (1949)
Bomba on Panther Island (1949)
The Lost Volcano (1950)
The Hidden City (1950)
The Lion Hunters (1951)
Elephant Stampede (1951)
African Treasure (1952)
Bomba and the Jungle Girl (1952)
Safari Drums (1953)
The Golden Idol (1954)
Killer Leopard (1954)
Lord of the Jungle (1955)

Johnny Sheffield died from a heart attack in 2010, after falling from a ladder and according to his wife, he was a "jungle boy to the end". Unfortunately, as far as I know the movies are not available commercially, however thanks to the miracle of YouTube, a taste of the Bomba series can be experienced below.