War films come and go, with many different plots and styles, but they all share a similar aesthetic, for the most part. Not so with The African Queen, which I would technically classify as a war film, as World War I plays a heavy part in the plot, though by the end the romantic angle takes over in order to finish that end of the story. Directed by John Huston, The African Queen features Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart in the role that would finally win him his only Academy Award.
The film is very up-front with what it’s got; it introduces plot elements and hands out innocuous dialogue that you know for certain is going to come in play later on, and while the film may be rather telegraphed it still manages a good ride through for the casual viewer. The film is a lot dirtier and grungier than you’d expect a Hollywood picture to be; whether they did this intentionally to represent what they thought Africa was like at that time or it was just a byproduct I can’t be certain of, but it does make for some good art direction. This doesn’t seem like a Huston picture at first glance; it’s a lot more rugged, and works itself down to the elbows, but when you wipe the dirt off and take a good look inside, this is a Huston picture in all the right ways. I had a small leap of joy when the name of cinematographer Jack Cardiff popped up on the screen, and indeed the film’s lush, colorful tapestry of the African nature was a constant selling point for the whole film. Another thing I noticed was the music, and it was hard not to; it was so intrusive at times that it rode the line of breaking the immersion factor, but I still found it to be quaintly charming.
This is another one that will make you question as to why it’s on the list, but still have you appreciating the film for what it is: a good film. Everyone involved had by this point in their careers figured out how to do what they were doing, and their experience shows a lot in this film. Plus, you can never go wrong with Bogey, and it saddens me to think that I am either at or very near the end of his career appearances on the list. This was an enjoyable escapade, and if you’ve got some extra time, this certainly isn’t a bad way to waste it.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10