The African Queen

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John Huston made better, more powerful films than The African Queen, but none so universally beloved, on first appearance and over the decades since. In this adaptation of the C.S. Forester novel, Humphrey Bogart (who would win the best-actor Oscar®) and Katharine Hepburn costar as an unlikely pair thrown together in German East Africa during the First World War. He’s the gin-soaked skipper of what we might call the title character, a none-too-reliable steam launch chugging… More >>

The African Queen

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5 Comments
  1. good luck!..
    Rating: 1 / 5

  2. The story has been recounted here many times over, so I’ll just skip straight to my personal comments. I sat down to watch this movie with high expectations, seeing that it had, like certain other “classics”, been esteemed very highly by a number of people. To be honest, I’m not sure if it’s the just the improvements in scriptwriting and acting since when this movie was done (and also the risen demands), or if this movie split audiences already in the 1950s. In any case, I found the story pretty thin and contrived, and the acting somewhat awkward (this is partly due to the somewhat unnatural and rigid acting style of the 50s).

    Already during one of the first scenes, where Charlie sits at the dining table with Rosie and her brother, and Charlie’s stomach grumbles repeatedly (and with some hokey sound effect), each time followed by an uncomfortable glance from the other two, in a sense hinting that he wants food, I was wrapping my fingers around my eyes and shaking my head. It kinda reminded me of the sort of slapstick humor the Marx Brothers used to do for children in the 1930s, and I told myself that this can’t be a good sign – at least for a movie targeted at adults.

    The rest of the movie fortunately didn’t have any more scenes like that in it, but it nevertheless fell somewhat flat. The plot itself, as I previously mentioned, I found quite simplistic and contrived: Missionary and his sister’s African village – where the natives are stereotypically portrayed as two-dimensional unintelligent barbarians who have little importance of their own – gets burned down by Germans during WWI, and she escapes with a guy on a boat. Out of the blue, she has an “idea” to build a torpedo out of whatever is on board and use it to sink a German battleship, and she convinces the guy to let his boat be used for that purpose. The apparent hokeyness can be partly forgiven for a movie which is supposed to concentrate on character development and interaction rather than an intellectual plot. Unfortunately, that end didn’t hold up very well, either. The characters are developed quite clumsily, in sort of jerks and jumps, and in a pretty simplistic way. An example: At the beginning of the trip, Rosie looks down on Charlie as a crude and uncouth man, while Charlie sees Rosie as a complaining and uptight old maid; the characters are as different as night and day, and the conflict is evident. Later in the movie, without any significant romantic buildup, they suddenly fall in love for each other. No verbal fencing, no cat-and-mouse, no emotional play, no body language, no “moves”; nothing satisfying or even realistic. It just happens. At that point I got the feeling that I must have missed something. I watched part of the movie again to see if there was some development that I didn’t catch, but I simply couldn’t find any.

    What also struck me as odd is the certain implausibility of Bogart’s character, Charlie. He plays a wilderness-hardened heavy-drinking, partying type who knows how to take care of himself. Yet, when Rosie comes on board and there is obvious conflict between the characters, Charlie just lets himself be pretty much commanded around and goes along with demands to just take his boat anywhere she wants, blow it up (especially since it is both his livelihood and only property), and do what she wants with the stuff on board, such as throwing away boxfuls of his expensive liquor for no other reason than that she doesn’t like booze. It’s so unlikely and in conflict with the character that it just rubbed me the wrong way.

    The cinematography is OK, though, and the film and audio quality is generally pretty good for the era. Katharine Hepburn also does quite a convincing job as an uptight missionary, the sort who hasn’t really experienced much but secretly longs to.

    All in all, I’d probably recommend this mostly to children and young teenagers as an adventure movie with a “clean” story, but adults might want to look elsewhere for something more intellectually or emotionally stimulating.
    Rating: 2 / 5

  3. I just recently had the opportunity to watch ‘African Queen’ and found it quite interesting…for many reasons. Firstly, it was quite long…almost seven thousand two hundred seconds! How do makers of such long movies expect us not to get antsy and all fidgety? I managed to keep myself busy while watching by drinking coffee. The second point I’d like to make about this movie is that it is apparently set in some other country…and at some other period of time. I mean, can’t we be a little more realistic if we’re going to go to all the trouble of making long movies that we have to drink coffee while watching to keep from being fidgety? Where was it set? Africa…a country real far away full of people with much better tans than us and some white people who keep either getting killed or seem to want to kill each other. How realistic is that? I digress. The story is this; some guy with a steam-powered bass boat who delivers mail and supplies and drinks too much and acts the same way in every movie he’s in stops at a mission (which is sort of a church summer camp in the middle of nowhere where they try to convince the natives that worshipping sticks and mud is bad unless it’s in the shape of a cross) with some bad news for the church folks within (Brother something or another and Sister Kenny, I think). It seems world war one has broken out. Where do they get this stuff? Well, they politely invite him in for lunch, sit awkwardly exchanging pleasantries while Mister All-nut farts and blames it on the dog. He leaves but returns later when he realizes he forgot his pager and finds the mission in a shambles on account of the war going on. Brother something or another is dying and Sister Kenny decides to leave with All-nut on his steam powered bass boat and for the rest of the movie they steam all over Africa getting shot at and Mr. All-nut gets falling down drunk a lot because Sister Kenny is so ugly and has PMS and is way to enfatuated with god. She dumps his hooch overboard and he falls in love with her. Right. Luckily the end is close by…they tow the bass boat through leech infested water, make some home made torpedoes (it gets even better) then get married on the enemy ship they later torpedo inadvertently! Man, I must admit, I couldn’t have made a better version if I’d dug up the starring cast, brought them back to life and filmed the entire thing in Africa with my camcorder and got all the blank tapes and camcorder batteries I could use for free. I mean, it looks almost real and the special effects…wow! And Bogart looks almost life-like.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  4. I watched the African Queen in social studies in 7th grade. It was Ok. I liked the whole idea. I know this will sound stupid but i didnt like the way that Rosie woman smiled.
    But in general, the movie was OK.
    Rating: 4 / 5

  5. The film opens at a tropical forest (bird calls) in German East Africa, September 1914. There is a missionary chapel in a village where the minister and his sister lead the congregation in a song. (Some don’t look too religious to me.) A small steamboat approaches. [Is it too small to carry much cargo?] A brawl outside attracts the men from the chapel. The captain isn’t too silent. [Can a minister be promoted if he marries wealth?] The war will delay the mail. Enemy aliens can be imprisoned. [The captain’s opinions seem anachronistic.] German troops arrive to burn the village and disperse the people. Samuel is shocked by the events and dies. The captain explains why they must flee the German forces. [Why are English missionaries in German lands?]

    Rose has plans to fight for Britain! Charlie goes along with her plan. [Believable?] The personal interactions keep the story going. The boat travels down the white-water rapids. Can gin purify river water? [Is this product placement? Is the film too talky?] There is danger is going down the river. Shots are fired at them. There is another perilous passage through rocks. They repair the mechanical problem. [This pads out the story.] Bugs are plentiful by the river bank. Will they get lost? Are there leeches? Will the boat get stuck in the mud? A heavy rain raises the river and lifts the boat, they drift into the lake. [Does the film drag here?]

    The presence of the gunboat is a new hazard. Can they attack the ‘Louise’? [Believable?] Is their attack suicidal even in the dark? They are caught in a forbidden zone. The penalty is death for spies. But there is an accident! There is a happy ending, mission accomplished.

    This seems like a low budget film with two big stars to carry the story. Charlie is Canadian because Bogie doesn’t do accents, unlike Kate. I wonder how this follows the novel or real history?

    Rating: 2 / 5

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