At the start of the first World War, in the middle of Africa’s nowhere, a gin soaked riverboat captain is persuaded by a strong-willed missionary to go down river and face-off a German warship.
Giants of the silver screen delivering one giant of a movie. WW1, East Africa, after her brother is killed by invading German troops, Rose Sayer is reliant on gruff steamboat captain, Charlie Allnut, to ferry her safely out of harms way and back to civilisation. Trouble is is that they are poles apart in ideals and ways, she is a devoted missionary, he a hard drinking tough nut with a glint in his eye. Yet as they venture further down the river, an unlikely alliance is starting to form, both in personalities and a keenness to give it to the Germans! It's probably something of a given that The African Queen was starting with an advantage from the very first cry of action! Because to have Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn as your lead actors is not to be sniffed at, whilst also having John Huston directing is stacking the odds heavily in your favour. Thankfully history and time show us that all involved in this piece crafted a most delightful and exciting picture, yet it triumphs more as an intriguing picture than merely a meeting of Hollywood giants. Adapted by Huston and James Agee from the novel by C.S. Forester, it's believed that the original intention was to film it as an outright drama, but whether by star design or a going with the flow attitude, the picture turned out to be a drama fused with splices of humour, the kind where the tongue gets firmly stuck in the cheek. As character pieces go, The African Queen has few peers, especially in the pantheon of 50s cinema, then you add the excellent story to work from, with the location work in Congo and Uganda expertly utilised by Huston (clearly revelling in the mix) and his photographer, Jack Cardiff. Then there is that magical flow, just as The African Queen (the boat itself) is flowing down the river, so does the film effortlessly glide along without pretentious posturing, screaming out that this is as a humane a story as you are likely to witness again. Some cynical reviewers will point to the dated studio filmed segments as a reason why this film shouldn't be termed a classic amongst classics, but really it's only an issue if you want it to dim your appreciation of the splendour from every other frame. From Bogart and his wry or humorous expressions, to Hepburn and the art of acting prim, this is a pure joy and justly it deserves to make all those lists containing greatest films of all time. 10/10