The African Queen (9/27/12)

The African QueenMovie Two Hundred Nineteen

In The African Queen, when fighting breaks out in Africa during World War I, a boat captain and a missionary take the treacherous path down the river.

Charlie (Humphrey Bogart), the Canadian captain of a small steamboat named The African Queen travels up and down the Ulanga river delivering supplies and mail. After a stop in the village of Kungdu visiting with missionarie siblings Samuel (Robert Morley) and Rose Sayer (Katharine Hepburn), Charlie notifies them that German troops were on the move. Soon after, Germans attack and Samuel dies from fever. Charlie comes back and helps Rose bury her brother and the two take off down the dangerous river towards the lake, where the German gunboat, Queen Louisa, is stationed. While Charlie and Rose are very different and can’t seem to stand each other, their travels bring them closer together as they plot to blow up the Louisa.

The African Queen was new to me and I honestly wasn’t quire sure what to expect. I figured there would be a little action, a little romance, a fair bit of drama, maybe a few laughs smattered throughout and in all those regards, The African Queen delivers. Bogart and Hepburn both deliver terrific performances and have on-screen chemistry that admittedly took me a bit by surprise. When I think of Bogart, I immediately think of the smooth, charming Rick in Casablanca and here, Bogart plays almost the exact opposite. Hepburn’s role is more inline with my own view of her, for whatever that may be worth.

Since I watched The African Queen on the big screen, I was perhaps privy to some of the less charming side of the 60 year old special effects. During some of the more harrowing white water portions of the river ride, a scale model of the African Queen was clearly used and during one of the later scenes the model they used for poor Bogart looked like it was made out of a lump of clay and was wildly disproportionate to the rest of the vessel. Then again, there is a scene with leeches that actually looked like real leeches, so there’s that.

By the end of The African Queen I was totally rooting for unlikely duo to prevail and all the blemishes of the dated special effects only added to lighter sides of the film. I am a bit surprised at how under the radar this film seems to be since it is a lot of fun and even though the story has been done in various ways over the years, The African Queen is still special enough for first time viewers like myself.

I give it 4 Humphrey Bogart’s embarrassing hippo impressions out of 5.


Rotten Tomatoes


29 responses to “The African Queen (9/27/12)

  1. Yet another classic I need to see. I think I saw part of this in a film class (or I might have been thinking of another Humphrey Bogart movie), and really enjoyed it. Nice review.

    • I kind of think I had caught parts of it on TV at one point but it seemed new to me. You should try to catch this one – Thanks!

  2. I have never seen this movie, but my father must have seen it a million times (not exageratting! 🙂 I should pick it up and see it, because I hear what a classic it was. You also just reviewed another of my dad’s favorites, “Bridge on the River Kwai”…again seen a million times. If you next review “In Harm’s Way” it will be downright creepy! 🙂

  3. Great review. I’ll try to check this one out 😉

    “the model they used for poor Bogart looked like it was made out of a lump of clay and was wildly disproportionate to the rest of the vessel”

    LOL, I just pictured it.

  4. John Huston is one of my heroes, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is on my Top 10 favorite movies of all-time list. Having said that, I simply like The African Queen. I saw it once, not too long ago. And while there are memorable moments, I remember being put off by the special effects (unlike the effects found in Huston’s later, outstanding production of Moby Dick, 1956). Although I regularly revisit Huston’s oeuvre, it’s highly unlikely I’ll revisit this title. But it’s definitely something worth seeing for those who haven’t. Once again, good review, Andy.

    • Definitely agreed that it’s not Huston’s strongest, especially when compared to Sierra Madre or Moby Dick, I still really enjoyed it. I went into the film not looking for a masterpiece but just to have a good time and I did – even in spite of the effects.

  5. Pingback: My September Movies Round-Up | Andy Watches Movies

  6. The African Queen has been a favorite of mine for years. Another interesting film to watch about the African Queen is White Hunter Black Heart which is about Huston and the prelude to filming the movie. Eastwood makes a very passable Huston and while he doesn’t ‘sound’ like him, he has his speech pattern down pat. If you get a chance (after you’ve reached your goal) you might just give it a watch. I may have to review it, now that I think about it. Great review mate. 🙂

      • It’s definitely worth a look. Katherine Hepburn questioned the validity of the events depicted in the film, but I know that it is a very thinly disguised fictional account of what happened. I read Hepburn’s own account of what filming was like and I think the film is not too far off the mark. Let me know what you think of it. cheers mate!

  7. Wow, they just don’t make ’em like this anymore and KH and HB have unbeatable chemistry. Best line: “Nature,” says Rose, “is what we’re put on earth to rise above!” Keep up the classics!

  8. I enjoy The African Queen, too–it’s definitely the chemistry between Bogart and Hepburn that makes the movie. Hepburn’s book about the making of the film was interesting, as I recall.

  9. It’s funny, but I never really am interested in seeing Humphrey Bogart, yet he’s terrific in “Casablanca,” “Key Largo” and especially “The African Queen,” where he gets to show a comedic side to his usual gruff demeanor.

    Regarding the special effects, with older movies sometimes you just have to pretend to unsee things that would be considered sub-middle school level today. Though there are times when the effects are surprisingly effective.

    I would love to see this film on the big screen. I’m sure that was quite an enjoyable experience. It’s too bad more classics aren’t made available in theaters.

    • It’s weird because I never get excited to see films of his either, but afterwards I’m always thinking that he does such a tremendous job.

      I was able to look past most of the effects but I did chuckle at the parts I mentioned. There’s a distinct line between effects just being old and simply being poor.

      Chalk up one more reason why I want to open my own theater – to present films like this as they were meant to be seen.

  10. I really love The African Queen. They had such chemistry. I though it held up well considering. Some classics just don’t hold up and feel boring but not this one! I’ve actually seen it twice! (A rarity for me.)


  11. Great write up. I loved this when I saw it recently. You’re so right that it’s under the radar – it certainly deserves to more fame that it seems to have. Bogart and Hepburn made me laugh so much!

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