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The African Queen(1951)
Charlie Allnut is the slovenly, gin-swilling captain of a tramp steamer called the African Queen, which ships supplies to small East African villages during World War I. Rose Sayer is the maiden-lady sister of a prim British missionary, Rev. Samuel Sayer. When Germans invade and Sayer dies, Allnut offers to take Rose back to civilization.
For more about The African Queen and the The African Queen Blu-ray release, see the The African Queen Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on July 11, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: John Huston (I)
Writers: C.S. Forester, James Agee, John Huston (I)
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Robert Morley, Peter Bull (I), Theodore Bikel, Walter Gotell
» See full cast & crew
The African Queen Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, July 11, 2012
Winner of Oscar Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, John Huston's "The African Queen" (1951) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors ITV Studios Home Entertainment. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer; audio commentary with cinematographer Jack Cardiff; outstanding in-depth look at the production history of the film; posters and lobby cards; and behind the scenes stills. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart) is a loner who lives on an old boat in East Africa. He makes ends meet by trading whatever the locals need. Occasionally, he would also deliver the mail to brother and sister English missionaries Rosie (Katharine Hepburn) and Samuel Sayer (Robert Morley). One day, while visiting the village where they live the Germans show up and seriously injure Samuel. When he dies, Charlie offers to take Rosie with him.
In the beginning, there is plenty of tension between Charlie and Rosie. For a while, she calls him "Mr. Allnut", while he calls her "Missus". Then, after she dumps his stash of gin in the river, and he shaves, the two warm up to each other. They also agree to sink Queen Louisa, a German ship patrolling the area right where the river and the ocean meet.
But to get to Queen Louisa Charlie and Rosie must travel down the Ulonga-Bora river - and this isn't easy. They have to pass by a German fort and various very dangerous rapids and survive Mother Nature's wrath. During the journey, Charlie and Rosie fall madly in love with each other.
John Huston's The African Queen is highly regarded by many, but its script is actually somewhat problematic. The story the film tells is hard to believe because, among other things, many of the dilemmas the two protagonist face during their journey are essentially solved with pure magic. Specifically during the second half, where the African Queen survives some incredibly dangerous looking rapids, it is next to impossible to take the film seriously.
The great chemistry between Bogart and Hepburn, however, basically makes the film work. Early on, in particular, there are a few sequences where the two argue and then hug and kiss that are simply terrific. The two exchange some quite witty one-liners as well.
Lensed by the great cinematographer Jack Cardiff, the film looks spectacular. Some of the best sequences in it were shot on location in Uganda and the Belgian Congo, while others were filmed in Isleworth Studios, London. The lush sequences from Uganda and the Belgian Congo very much remind about another terrific looking Technicolor film also from 1951, Jean Renoir's The River, which was shot on location in India.
The film is complimented by a very fine music score by Allan Gray, who is probably best known for his multiple collaborations with Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Stairway to Heaven). The main themes are particularly good, but are often overtaken by various nature sounds or the boat's noisy engine.
In 1952, The African Queen earned Bogart his one and only Academy Award. Hepburn was only nominated for one.
In 2009, The African Queen was restored in 4K by Paramount Pictures, in association with ITV Studios Global Entertainment. The restoration was supervised by Ron Smith, the then-current vice president of Restoration for Paramount Pictures. During the restoration, the film's legendary cinematographer was brought in as a consultant. He passed away on April 22, 2009.
The African Queen Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, John Huston's The African Queen arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors ITV Studios Home Entertainment.
The high-definition transfer uses the same impressive restoration of this beautiful Technicolor film which Paramount Pictures used for their Blu-ray release in the United States (see our review here). Detail and clarity are very impressive, both during close-ups and larger panoramic shots (see screencaptures #3 and 18), while color reproduction is solid. In fact, selected sequences look as impressive as some of the very best sequences from Jean Renoir's The River, another outstanding Technicolor film which was recently restored and is now available on Blu-ray in France. Furthermore, there are no traces of excessive denoising/degraining. Naturally, when projected the film has a wonderful and more importantly solid organic look. I specifically would like to mention the fact that the restoration has clearly stabilized the film as best as possible - there is no edge shimmer and problematic frame transitions. There are no sharpening corrections applied either. The only small issue I noticed with the presentation is an extremely light banding during a short sequences early into the film, but I was not distracted. Overall, however, this is a very impressive presentation that should please fans of the film. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The African Queen Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 2.0. For the record, ITV DVD have provided optional English SDH subtitles for main feature.
Unlike the American release, this release gets a lossless audio track which I am confident film purists will be very pleased with. In addition to the dialog being crisp and stable, and without problematic distortions and excessive hiss, the overall dynamic amplitude is also quite good. Allan Gray's score, in particular, gets a strong boost, with the various brass and flute solos adding quite a bit of flavor to the film. Additionally, the sound of the river, the boat engine, the birds chirping, and the pouring rain are all quite prominent when they need to be. All in all, there are undoubtedly obvious advantages with this lossless track.
The African Queen Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The African Queen Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The UK Blu-ray release of John Huston's The African Queen has two key advantages over the U.S. release - it comes with a good lossless audio track and a very strong audio commentary by the late Jack Cardiff. If you do not yet have this classic film in your libraries but have been wishing to get a copy, read our reviews for the two releases and see which one you like better. If you reside in a region-A territory, keep in mind that the UK Blu-ray release is Region-B "locked". HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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