Saturday, August 29, 2015

237. The African Queen (1951)

Running Time: 105 minutes
Directed By: John Huston
Written By: James Agee, John Huston, from novel by C.S. Forester
Main Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Robert Morley, Peter Bull, Theodore Bikel
Click here to view the trailer


This marks my eleventh and last Humphrey Bogart movie from THE BOOK. If you've been paying attention from the beginning, you know that Humph' and I don't really mesh too well. I've been trying since watching Casablanca to find a favorite Bogey film, but when it comes to his movies, I always come up wanting more. Can his collaboration with Hepburn & Huston change my opinion? We'll see...

The plot of The African Queen is not too much unlike the plot of another BOOK movie I recently took in, Fitzcarraldo. While working as a missionary in Africa alongside her brother, Rev. Samuel Sayer (Morley), Rose Sayer (Hepburn) meets alcoholic boat captain of The African Queen, Charlie Allnut (Bogart). When Allnut brings news that war is breaking out in Europe and that the Germans are spreading as far south as their tiny African village, the Sayer's worry and Allnut makes plans to flee. Soon thereafter and as expected, German troops show up and run roughshod over the village where the sibling missionaries are staying. In a scuffle, Samuel gets cracked over the head with a rifle and later dies. Luckily, Allnut returns to check on the Sayer's, only to find out Samuel is dead and that he must take Rose with him. He assists in burying Samuel and the two shove off, in the ruddy, yet resilient African Queen. While reading a map, Rose gets the idea to escape down the Ulanga River, which eventually spills out into a larger lake downriver and freedom. Charlie, however, points out that navigating the Ulanga would be suicide, since not only would raging rapids stand in their way, but also notes that at the crest of the Ulanga River, a German gunboat named the Luise would intercept them, surely executing them for even contemplating escape. Rose rebuts with an idea to use gelatin and oxygen & hydrogen tanks aboard the African Queen to fashion torpedoes, which they'd then attach to the front of the boat and ram the Luise, blowing up both boats, but thus getting to safety. Allnut thinks her a loon for even suggesting it, but ultimately agrees to go along with the plan. Nearly the entire film takes place as the two navigate down the Ulanga, falling in love along the way.

I saw this once, many years ago and remembered liking it well enough to think that this may be the Bogey flick that finally gets my ultimate seal of approval. Sure, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre got a mild thumbs up, but still managed to fail in securing a TOP 20 spot. Well, unfortunately for Mt. Bogart, I didn't like the movie as much this go around. Sure, it was still a fine picture, a perfectly acceptable piece of filmmaking, but it sure didn't blow me away or anything. In a certain respect, the film reminded me of It Happened One Night. A guy and a girl who, at first, hate one another take a road trip (or in this case a boat trip) and ultimately fall in love. It, as I said above, also reminded me of Fitzcarraldo, in the boating aspect of it's story. I enjoyed those two pictures much more than this one. Just sayin'.

I will say though, that I liked Bogart in this more than I liked him in anything else. Here, he was just a regular guy, a tramp if you will. I never could get into the suave, debonair, cigarette smoking, greased back hair Bogey. It always seemed to cliche for me to actually buy into. I'd always seen cooler personas in film and was more of a Robert Mitchum kinda guy. For a while, it seemed like Bogey was typecast as the cool customer and here, he was anything but cool - kicking like a child overcome with a tantrum at his engine, making faces at hippos and becoming disgustingly drunk by a bottle of gin, followed by being one upped by a missionary, as she poured out all of his booze. I loved the back and forth between him and Hepburn ("Mr. Allnut?", "Yes, Miss?"). The two seemed to have a fine chemistry that, to my knowledge, they only shared in one other picture. I guess, I should take a moment to speak on John Huston as well, since this is my last of his movies too. This would be ninth Huston picture and probably the third or fourth best, behind such gems as The Asphalt Jungle, Prizzi's Honor and Fat City - all TOP 20 selections. I certainly would be more gung ho to check out the rest of Huston's filmography, as opposed to Bogart's. Call this an average picture for Huston & Hepburb and a winning picture for Bogart.

1. Angels with Dirty Faces
2. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
3. The African Queen
4. The Maltese Falcon
5. To Have and Have Not
6. The Big Sleep
7. In a Lonely Place
8. The Barefoot Contessa
9. Casablanca
10. High Sierra
11. Beat the Devil

1. The Asphalt Jungle
2. Fat City
3. Prizzi's Honor
4. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
5. The African Queen
6. The Maltese Falcon
7. The Dead
8. Beat the Devil
9. The Battle of San Pietro

RATING: 6.5/10  Not bad at all and certainly worth a look. Bogey has done a lot worse, as you can see. By the way, I drew up those lists based on pure memory alone and by NOT looking back at my reviews at all.


August 29, 2015  10:48pm


  1. Some fighting talk here Andrew.. You know I'mquite a Bogie fan, and you not liking Casablanca is up there with our opinions on 'Cat People' as causes for disagreement...
    But I've never been as blown away by African Queen as I should be. I mean, come on, it's his Oscar winning role ... and it had katherine Hepburn in it. Just what could be wrong? I don't know.. Nothing THAT bad, it's still a fine film, but whenever I haover over the Bogart section of my collection for something to watch, African Queen is fairly easy to brush past. I mean, not as quickly dismissed as - say - 'Left Hand of God'... but..
    Talking of rankings .. Good grief .. even 'Barefoot Contessa' comes out above Cassablance in your list .. Shudder.
    Anyway .. what about this one fails to fully ignite.. in my humble opinion? I guess it's the fairly simple naturre of the good guys / bad guys division, and the cliche of boy meets girl, they don't get on, but, hey, guess what they fall in Luuurrrve and all ends well. I mean, you have to admit that the ending of Casablanca (SPOILER ALERT) makes a great refreshing change...
    Oh, and It's in colour. Humprey Bogart films just shouldn't be in colour. It's not right.

    1. I've literally given Casablanca about five chances, as I've tried and tried to like it and rewatch it over the years and just can't seem to get the love that everyone else has for it. I just don't like Bogart, don't find Ingrid Bergman that infatuating and the plot is does absolutely nothing for me. Sorry, a big disagreement between us.

      Actually, I'd be open to rewatching Cat People, as, in retrospect, I feel I rated it particularly harshly.


SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #69: Re-Animator (1985)

Running Time: 105 minutes Directed By: Stuart Gordon Written By: Dennis Paoli, William Norris, Stuart Gordon, based on the story Her...