The African Queen: Special Restoration Edition (Blu-ray) (1951)

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Released 6-Oct-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Audio Commentary-by cinematographer Jack Cardiff
Featurette-Embracing Chaos: Making The African Queen documentary
Biographies-Cast & Crew-Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, John Huston & Jack Cardi
Gallery-Poster-Poster & Lobby Cards
Gallery-Photo-Behind the Scenes
Theatrical Trailer-US trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1951
Running Time 104:37
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By John Huston
Studio
Distributor
Romulus
Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Humphrey Bogart
Katharine Hepburn
Robert Morley
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Alan Gray


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Linear PCM 48/24 2.0 mono (2304Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Restoration credits

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Plot Synopsis

     Normally, the purpose of writing a review is to provide the reader with a detailed synopsis of the merits of a film and its related contents on DVD or Blu-ray. In this case, The African Queen is a well-recognised classic film from director John Huston which stars two of the most famous actors of the 20th century, Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Therefore, there is no real need here to espouse this film's claim to being great, the only question that deserves consideration is how this version of The African Queen compares to the recent Paramount Unites States Region ALL release and the ITV Region B United Kingdom release of the film on Blu-ray. For a start, the video and audio quality of this special restoration edition is a massive improvement over the previous MRA Region 4 release which was reviewed in 2002 on this site here. Also, this Blu-ray version for Australian consumers, distributed by Beyond Home Entertainment, is a direct port of the Region B United Kingdom Region B released in September, 2010.

     Filmed on location in Uganda and the Congo, part of what makes this film great was shooting in the jungle in Africa, a rare occurrence for Hollywood films in the 1950s (although river shots were done in London using rear projection as African rivers were notorious for disease and Bogart's and Hepburn's health on the shoot could not be risked). The precedence for such a move came from director John Huston's insistence on making The Treasure of Sierra Madre on location in Mexico in 1948. Warner Brothers thought he was crazy, until the film was a critical and box-office hit. The success of this film eventually led John and James Woolf to finance the film under their company name, Romulus films. Legendary producer Sam Spiegel received official credit for producing this film and it was the last film he made with John Huston. He would later go on to make culturally significant films such as On The Waterfront with Elia Kazan and Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia with David Lean.

     Adapted from the 1935 novel of the same name by C.S. Forester, the movie adaptation is mainly faithful to the novel except for the ending and the transformation of Humphrey Bogart's character into a Canadian because he could not master the English cockney accent of the original character of Charlie Allnut from the book. For those of you who would like to read a more detailed plot summary follow this link...

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The Blu-ray takes up 31.65 gb of space, with the main presentation taking 21.01 gb. This is less than the US Paramount Blu-ray release, which has a higher bitrate also. The aspect ratio is 1:33:1. This is the original aspect ratio of The African Queen, as the film was shot just before the widescreen era first started in 1953.

     The video transfer uses a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC codec. The average bitrate of the film is 23.22 m/b per sec. The three-strip Technicolor process looks stunning in this video transfer. There are very minor compression artefacts and fine film grain consistent with the filming process used. Film artefacts, which were prevalent in the previous Region 4 DVD release, are no longer evident here at all!

     Subtitles are provided in English for the hard of hearing.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio transfer uses an uncompressed Linear PCM track which is much more dynamic than the Dolby Digital mono track used for the US Paramount Blu-ray release. The main audio track is a Linear PCM 2.0 mono 48kHz/24-bit in English encoded at 2304 kbps. The audio commentary uses a Linear PCM 2.0 48kHz/16-bit track encoded at 1536 kbps.

     Dialogue is clear and synchronised.

     Alan Gray's score is not orchestral and melodramatic as was usual for films of this era.

    Surround channel usage is limited to one channel via two front speakers. The subwoofer is not utilised on this soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Audio commentary by cinematographer Jack Cardiff

     This is the same audio commentary by cinematographer Jack Cardiff that was on the Region 2 Carlton DVD. Cardiff was famous for his Technicolor work with the Archers, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and as result was called upon as an expert to shoot on location in Africa with the heavy Technicolor cameras. Cardiff's commentary does contain some interesting behind-the-scenes anecdotes of the production, but it also contains many pauses. Despite this, it is still a useful testimony to the film's production.

Embracing Chaos: Making The African Queen documentary (59:19) (1:78:1/1080p)

     This documentary is also included on the Paramount US Blu-ray release. Film buffs such as Eric Lax, Laurence Grobel, William J. Mann, Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni, Rudy Behlmer and Richard Schickel provide comment on the history of the film. Actor Theodore Bikel and assistant director Guy Hamilton (famous for his work on later James Bond films) also provide first-hand accounts from making the film. Archival interviews are included for Huston, Cardiff, Hepburn, Bogart and his wife Lauren Bacall (who travelled with him to Africa). This is the type of documentary that a film this great deserves.

Biographies-Cast & Crew

     Biographies are given in a text-based format for Humphrey Bogart, Katherine Hepburn, John Huston and Jack Cardiff.

Posters & Lobby Cards gallery

     This is a 49 second slideshow demonstrating posters and lobby cards from the film.

Behind the Scenes picture gallery

     We get another slideshow showing behind-the scenes photos of the production. This show goes for 3:13.

US Theatrical Trailer (2:34) (1080i)

    This is the original American theatrical trailer.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Paramount Region All Blu-ray was released in February, 2009. It includes a sharper video transfer which takes up 30.65 gb of space and has an average bitrate of 38.80 m/b per sec. The audio transfer uses a compressed Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track encoded at 224 kbps. There are separate language options for English, French, Portuguese and Spanish which all use the same bitrate audio transfer. The lone extra is the documentary, Embracing Chaos: Making the African Queen. The commemorative box set includes an additional audio CD of the Lux Radio Theatre program which lasts 56:41.

     The ITV Region B United Kingdom Blu-ray release is identical to the Region B Australian release by Beyond Home Entertainment. The video transfer here is slightly weaker than the US version, with the main presentation taking 21.01 gb of space with an average bitrate of 23.22 m/b per sec. The audio transfer is much more dynamic than the US release with an uncompressed linear PCM 2.0 mono track used encoded at 2304 kbps. Extras are also more extensive on the ITV and Beyond Home Entertainment release.

     Ultimately, which version is better depends on your taste. The best visual transfer belongs to the US Paramount Blu-ray release whereas the best audio transfer and extras package belongs to the Region B UK and Australian Blu-ray editions.

Summary

    No matter what you prefer in terms of your Blu-ray likes and dislikes, there's no doubt the The African Queen on Blu-ray is a winner. Whether you prefer the Paramount US release or the Beyond Home Entertainment Australian one, you can't go much wrong in adding this to your Blu-ray collection, it's simply a must-have addition! Personally, I may just keep both editions (The US and Australian releases) myself!

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Monday, November 01, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 020), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Aspect Ratio - Matthew REPLY POSTED
No commentary on Blu-ray AQ - Ed Gauthier REPLY POSTED