Back in 1951 most films were still in black and white, even massively important ones like A Streetcar Named Desire (although, to be honest, that one would have lost a lot of atmosphere if it had been filmed in the era’s color). Even big-budget megafilms that would have been better in color had certain imitations. Bulky color cameras meant that taking them on location was a bit of a nightmare.
So imagine taking them to Uganda and the Congo.
The African Queen is one of those films that everyone’s heard of but that I, for one, hadn’t seen or really knew what it was about. I knew it starred Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, which are pretty much accepted as the greatest female and male Hollywood stars ever (and voted so by the AFI), so I was expecting to be blown apart by an acting tour-de-force.
The acting, as you can expect, was perfectly fine. Hepburn acted her role wonderfully and Bogart was Bogart (he might have been an utter-mega star, but as an actor, he always played Bogart). My wife found the love story very nice, and she enjoyed the chemistry between them.
Me? I loved watching the African countryside roll by as seen in period color. despite being set during a conflictive phase of the first world war, the feeling I got was one of peace and tranquility, and the color made the scenes more real than anything in black and white could ever manage. I loved that.
And then they blow up a ship, which is also a plus.
So it’s an enjoyable flick which can be watched by people with different tastes and enjoyed for different reasons. Sure, most modern audiences would be hard-pressed to give you a plot summary, (before watching it, I thought it would be an exploration film in which they used the ship to search out lost tribes and got attacked by cannibals), but it’s definitely worth watching.
And the acting? It doesn’t get in the way.
Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer whose latest novel also takes place in a jungle. It’s called Jungle Lab Terror, and it most certainly isn’t slow and peaceful. But if you enjoy a good action story with well-rounded characters and a setting that takes a life of its own, this one just might be for you. Here’s the Amazon link.