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The African Queen (Commemorative Box Set)
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At the start of World War 1, German imperial troops burn down Reverend Samuel Sayer's mission in Africa. He is overtaken with disappointment and passes away. Shortly after his well-educated, snooty sister Rose Sayer (Hepburn) buries her brother, she must leave on the only available transport, a tired river steamboat 'The African Queen' manned by the ill-mannered bachelor, Charlie Allnut (Bogart). Together they embark on a long difficult journey, without any comfort. Rose grows determined to assist in the British war effort and presses Charlie until he finally agrees and together they steam up the Ulana encountering an enemy fort, raging rapids, bloodthirsty parasites and endlessly branching stream which always seem to lead them to what appear to be impenetrable swamps. Despite opposing personalities, the two grow closer to each other and ultimately carry out their plan to take out a German warship.
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All in all, great picture quality but average sound quality makes this a little bit of a mixed bag although this is the best version of the film that is currently out there.
The laserdisc was followed by no other home video release for 15 years. Hollywood is an industry that likes to double and triple-dip movie releases on DVD and someone has lost a fortune on this classic which should have been released over 10 years ago. I think even a bare bones release on DVD using the laserdisc transfer would have been acceptable while the film was being restored and remastered.
One of the reasons for this delay is the unique history of the way The African Queen was financed. The film was an independent production released in 1951 at a time when the studio system was teetering over the cliff and in its final years. John Huston had the clout to finance an independent production, especially with Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn as co-stars. Based on the 1935 novel by C.S. Forester, the property was once owned by Columbia and later Warner Bros. and that's probably were Huston first became interested. Sam Spiegel purchased the film rights and financed the movie. He would later work with David Lean on Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia. The film would eventually be distributed by United Artists and go on to win a well deserved Oscar for Humphrey Bogart.
The production is well documented in the Hepburn memoir and the 1953 novel by Peter Viertel, White Hunter, Black Heart. The book is a thinly veiled retelling of the making of The African Queen while filming in Africa. This book was made into a terrific 1990 movie directed by and starring Clint Eastwood and makes a great companion to The African Queen. Viertel, a friend of Huston, went on location in Africa to work on the screenplay after original writer James Agee had a heart attack. Viertel's biggest contribution was the climax of the story.
The new DVD and Blu-Ray comes with an excellent one-hour documentary, Embracing the Chaos: Making the African Queen. The commemorative box set includes a CD of the 1952 Lux Radio Theater broadcast with Bogart reprising his part from the movie, a set of mini lobby cards, a mini copy of the Hepburn memoir and a Senitype card with four 35mm frames of the restored Technicolor film used to remaster the DVD and Blu-ray. No trailer and I would have enjoyed an audio commentary, but at least the movie is finally out for home viewing. The African Queen looks better than I've ever seen it in the theater on TV or previous home video incarnations.White Hunter, Black HeartWhite Hunter Black Heart (Ws Dub Sub Dol Ecoa)The Making of the African Queen Or How I Went to Africa With Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My MindThe African Queen: 1400 Headwords (Oxford Bookworms Library)
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