The Video Vacuum (thevideovacuum) wrote,
The Video Vacuum
thevideovacuum

THE AFRICAN QUEEN (1951) ****

As much as I love Turner Classic Movies and seeing so many great movies on TV, the truth is a lot of them really deserve to be seen on the big screen. I’ve always been a casual Humphrey Bogart fan, but after seeing two of his films in the theater in back to back weeks, it’s easy to see what makes him so great. And in those two weeks I’ve come to realize the small screen does him a great injustice. With his big craggily cheeks and ghostly eyes, Bogey has a face that was made for the big screen.

I never saw The African Queen until the other night when my local theater had a special screening of it. Whenever I saw clips or stills from the movie, I always pictured it in my mind as your average love story. Boy was I wrong. This movie is awesome.

Yes, the film is a love story, but it’s one between two of the most unlikely and eccentric characters ever seen on the screen. What’s refreshing about the film is that director John Huston puts absolutely zero amount of schmaltz and sentiment into the story. The performances are so natural and there is so much chemistry between them that you actually feel like you’re watching two oddballs falling in love.

There is also a crazy streak in this movie a mile wide. Just listen to the plot. After Germans kill her brother, missionary Katharine Hepburn gets drunkard boat captain Humphrey Bogart to take her down the river. But she doesn’t want a jungle cruise, she’s looking for payback. Hepburn ropes Bogey into a crazed scheme to sink a German ship using homemade torpedoes. He goes along with her because he feels sorry for her, but once she gets a taste of excitement and danger, she wants more. Bogey slowly begins to like her, then love her, and eventually helps her on her harebrained plot.

I love the way Bogey goes from curious bystander to full-fledged conspirator in this. Hepburn’s performance would do that to just about anyone. I’ve never been a fan of hers, but she is amazing in this movie. From the wild-eyed looks she gives when they go over the rapids to the way she dotes on Bogey, everything she does in this movie is enchanting. And the scene where she goes from calling him “Mr. Allnut” to “Dear” is awesome.

You know, Bogey continues to impress me. The scene where he’s dragging the boat through thick brush while getting covered with leeches is especially memorable. Then when he gets out of the boat and pulls them all off, he confides in her that there’s nothing he hates more than leeches. Once he pulls all of those little buggers off, he goes BACK into the water and does it all over again. But while he’s in the water pulling the boat, he’s got this little look on his face that says, “Yeah… she’s worth it.”

I also loved the ending of the film. It’s note-perfect. I won’t spoil it for you, but sufficed to say Bogey and Kate love each other so much that they never really seem aware of the danger they’re in. Even when faced with being hanged, they still keep up their witty repartee. In short, this is a perfect movie and I’m ever so glad I got to see it for the first time on the big screen.

Tags: a, comedy, drama
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