Monday, May 23, 2016

AFI Top 100, #17: "The African Queen" (1951)

Movie Stats:
Released 1951 (USA)
American & British, in English (some German & Swahili, mostly non-translated)
Director - John Huston
Stars - Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn

Plot Summary:
When English missionary Rose Sayer (Hepburn) is trapped in German-controlled eastern Africa at the outset of WWI, she talks Canadian mine worker Charlie Allnut (Bogart) into using his boat in an act of sabotage.


Bad Stuff:
It tried a little too hard in the beginning to depict the native Africans as inept (inability to sing) and savage (fighting over a discarded cigar butt), especially given that they were essentially non-existent for the rest of the film, so it wasn’t a plot point. Seemed spiteful to me, and made me uncomfortable.

There’s a strong element of the unbelievable throughout the whole film. It asks you to suspend a lot of disbelief. I was willing to do so until the final scene, when it relied too heavily on coincidence to allow our heroes to achieve their goal - just in time too! Cue eye rolling.

Good Stuff:
Bogart was amazing, so different from most of his roles. I thought he did an excellent job of imbuing his slightly dodgy character with enough good humor to make him sympathetic until he improved in general.

I enjoyed Rose’s pluckiness. “Oh, I’m trapped behind enemy lines, you say? And I can either hide and hopefully wait out the war or try to slip past the Germans and likely die in the process? I’ve come up with a third option. Let’s help out the war effort by sabotaging the enemy!” More guts than I would ever have, and while I know she’s fictional, I also know enough of history to know that people like her did exist.

It’s fun.

The Verdict:
I enjoyed it. It was nice to watch something fun for once. I saw it once when I was a kid, I don’t remember how old but younger than teens, and thought it was boring as all get out. That doesn’t surprise me, since it largely features the two same people in one mostly-static setting (a boat), people who seemed “old” to me at the time. I’ve always figured that I would like it better as an adult, and I did. There’s not a lot to it. It’s not deep or meaningful. It’s not groundbreaking (although perhaps some of the special effects were considered so in its time). It’s simply an enjoyable action flick featuring an interesting story and good acting, a nice palette cleanser after my recent movie outings, which included child molesters, psychopaths, and murder. This is a good one for you to put on during a lazy, rainy day.

I give it 3.75 stars.


Patricia said...

I greatly enjoyed this too, after being horribly scarred by the beginning (and shutting off the TV) as a child. The huts being burned really troubled me.

Someone wrote a book about the filming of this movie in Africa. It sounds interesting.

balyien said...

The village burning came out of nowhere, so I can see why that was very scary to you as a child!

I read some of the trivia on IMDB about the filming. It seems like it was a miserable experience.