[Film Review] The African Queen (1951)

the African Queen 1951 poster

Title: The African Queen
Year: 1951
Country: UK, USA
Language: English, German, Swahili
Genre: Adventure, Romance, War
Director: John Huston
James Agee
John Huston
C.S. Forester
Music: Allan Gray
Cinematography: Jack Cardiff
Humphrey Bogart
Katharine Hepburn
Robert Morley
Peter Bull
Theodore Bikel
Walter Gotell
Rating: 7.1/10

The African Queen 1951

John Huston marshals two Hollywood juggernauts (Bogart and Hepburn) in an African cruise on a riverboat (named THE AFRICAN QUEEN) set under the dawn of WWI, with the outlandish aim to torpedo a German dreadnought as a suicide attack.

Opening up with close-up shots perusing indigenous dwellers out of exoticism, with an accompanying carol of psalm conducted by Rev. Samuel Sayer (Morley) and his sister Rose (Hepburn) in the 1st Methodist Church in Kungdu, which reeks of condescending Pharisaism since none of the locals have a clue of what they are parroting, and the unhealthy allusion of them to a bunch of predators when the boat owner Charlie’s (Bogart) unfinished cigarette is up for grabs doesn’t ameliorate the revulsion albeit its intention of being funny, nevertheless Bogart’s belly is just as musical as his singing.

Luckily soon we embark on an adventure strictly includes only Rose and Charlie, it’s never too late to fall in love, after the initial distinction around Rose’s starry-eyed strategy, the flame of romance is kindled during a perilous passage with rapids. The thrill of riding the waves must stir up an old maiden’s passion, the two-hander between Bogart and Hepburn is tremendously entertaining to watch, Bogart plays against his usual detached sangfroid, totally unreserved as a down-to-earth ilk, it is quite refreshing to know this role capped him an Oscar statue, when he imitates a roaring hippopotamus, the joy is tangible and it is a precious moment for Bogart’s screen image; Hepburn is at the top of her game as well, her appellation to Charlie changed from Mr. Allnut to dear is handled with a heartwarming vignette, and she is also the trailblazer who pioneers a progressive view as a fearless woman, challenges Bogart to the final assail gallantly meanwhile her tender moment with the man she loved is truly touching. The film is also a taxing endeavor in a physical sense, frowzily dressed under the sizzler, all the river turbulence they have to endure (although it is too dangerous to be shoot live on-set, the post-produced and recreated effect is just passable), slogging through the reed-rampant water area by trawling the boat manually, not to mention the fake mosquitoes and leeches (most of the crew were under the weather during the shooting).

Near the coda, Houston deftly injects some gallows humor into their capture by the German navy, but the final twist is merely ludicrous, the capsize is exerted with a slapdash hurry, anyway, it is a genuine romantic exploit can woo a massive fun-seeking, love-hankering viewers plus many non-German patriots and for Huston and his team, it was a lavish hunt for novelty paid by the company and the inception of a long-standing friendship between Lauren Bacall and Katharine Hepburn.

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