Saturday, January 1, 2011
Day 1: The African Queen (1951)
Unrated, 1 hr. 45 min. Directed by: John Huston. Release Date: December 23, 1951. DVD Release Date: July 9, 2004.
Those of you who know me personally know that I lost my dad last summer. This was one of his favorite movies, one that he recommended I watch all the time. It was a recommendation which I ignored while he was alive, largely because it wasn't widely available for home viewing on any video format. What he didn't know was that I've been trying to get him a copy of this movie for about three years. The African Queen was released on DVD in March, and I ordered a copy with the plans to give it to my dad for Father's Day.
Unfortunately, my dad passed away before I could give this to him, but I just couldn't return the DVD, and it's been living on my nightstand for about eight months now. When I decided to start this blog, the first movie that came to mind was this unopened DVD. Somehow it seemed a fitting start.
I love historical epics, and while The African Queen would have been only barely a period piece when it was released in theaters, for me it was certainly an epic equal to some of the historical pieces that have been released in the past few years. In many ways, this movie has a "feel" to it that is like Gone With the Wind, even though the stories of the films have little in common.
If classic movies of the 40s and 50s have a consistent problem, for me it's that there's usually all this high drama and nothing to lighten the mood. The African Queen runs high on drama, but there are plenty of other things in the story line to brighten things up and to give the feeling that this was intended to be more family friendly fare. If nothing else, this movie and its characters have… chutzpah. It takes some stones to try taking on a gunship in an old riverboat with jury rigged, homemade torpedoes.
It was also a bit refreshing watching a cast that is on the screen because of their talent rather than what they looked like in states of undress. Let's face it, neither of these two would have been actors in the modern era, despite the fact that they'd perform circles around the majority of people we have in films today.
If I have a complaint, it's the same complaint I have about most films that take place in Africa, but are filmed by Americans who have never been there. Having lived in Africa myself, I know things like you don't hear elephants in deep forest, that if a lion is making noise, nothing else is, and that even monkeys shut up on occasion. At least the monkey track here seemed to be made by monkeys from Africa. Outbreak didn't get that right.