The African Queen (1951) Directed by John Huston. With Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn.
Filmed mainly between Africa and Middlesex, England (you can really see the joins) – The African Queen is a romantic adventure film that seen sixty-one years later, plays as much a testimony to the advancement of filming techniques and editing, as it does a sweet natured charmer.
The story is about as simple they come. It’s September 1914 and World War I is in progress. After a merciless German attack on a defenceless African village, unlikely companions Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn set sail aboard ‘The African Queen’ armed with makeshift torpedos down an unnavigable African river in the name of the British navy to exact revenge on a German warship
While bad editing and shoddy sixty-one year old rear projection work threaten to completely drown any sense of tension, the film is saved by the charismatic Bogart whose screen charm is as strong and evident as it was back at Ricks Cafe Americain. As Charlie Allnut, a rugged Bogart clearly delights in sparring with Hepburn who plays a straight-laced Christian missionary. In turn, Hepburn’s steely eyed performance makes her the perfect screen opponent for Bogart’s easy charms and the film is at it’s very best during its moments of banter between its two stars.
An underlying achievement of the film is the way in which it succeeds in making the creaky old vessel itself a character in the film. Somehow, the boat takes on the role of guardian angel for our central pair and its stubbornness and insistence on doing its job gives it a welcome sense of personality.
So, while a long way from perfection and suffering in parts for it’s age, The African Queen, like the boat itself is nevertheless a heart-warming and charming adventurer with enough star quality to see it through its ageing technical flaws. 3.5/5