In The African Queen, Humphrey Bogart plays Charlie Allnut, a weathered and carefree steamboat captain who makes an impoverished living delivering shipments to tribal villages up and down the Ulanga-Bora river in Africa. When an invading German army, that’s “The Germans!” devastates one of his usual destinations, he’s obligated to help Rose Sayer, the sole surviving white person and sister of a local missionary, played by Katharine Hepburn. Now Charlie lived a simple life, with relatively few problems … that is, until he met the bitch that brought 99 problems with her. But hey, without that, we wouldn’t have a movie!
The 35mm color restoration of this film was emotive, bringing a lot of atmosphere to the wild African landscapes. At 105 minutes, the film pushes the boundaries of what one might reasonably be expected to put up with for so basic a narrative structure. Despite that, director John Huston moves things along smoothly, with a kind helping of tantalizingly composed frames that foreshadow and amuse.
The African Queen boasts classic Hollywood cinematography, legendary actors, quaint sexual innuendos, and that especially cute, Odd Couple kind of comedic interplay that comes from sticking two very dissimilar folks on a small, seafaring vessel.
- The African Queen (Huston 1951) @ Castro Theater