The African Queen (1951)

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Released 22-Apr-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Gallery-Poster-Art
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1951
Running Time 100:30
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By John Huston
MRA Entertainment
Starring Humphrey Bogart
Katharine Hepburn
Robert Morley
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $19.95 Music Alan Gray

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

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Plot Synopsis

    This tale, adapted from the C.S. Foster novel The African Queen centres around the characters of Charlie Allnut (played by screen legend Humphrey Bogart), a crusty but kind hearted riverboat captain, and Rose Sayer (played by equal screen legend Katharine Hepburn), a prim and proper Christian missionary. Rose and her brother, the Reverend Samuel Sayer (Robert Morley) run a mission in East Africa near the Ulonga River. They serve the local native population with their gospel ministry and hold proper English style Sunday Services in their church where the natives attend and attempt to participate as best as they can in their own unique manner. But on this particular Sunday, The African Queen, a riverboat that serves the communities along the Ulonga River, makes her regular appearance and the whole village is in a frenzy of excitement and church is forgotten. The African Queen is the lifeline to the river communities, and she brings goods and mail on a regular basis. Despite the interruption to their regular Sunday Services, Rose and Rev. Samuel invite Charlie for lunch. There, the two missionaries learn of the German invasion of the area and the start of World War I in Europe. Not long after Charlie leaves the mission, the German army arrives. As they raze the mission and forcibly conscript the native men,  Reverend Samuel is struck by one of the invading Germans soldiers and is left badly injured. With his mission destroyed and his will to live gone, the Reverend passes away, leaving his sister on her own. Sometime later, Charlie returns to learn of the missionary's fate and takes Rose on the river to safety. As they begin their journey, Rose hatches a plan to exact revenge on the Germans that killed her brother.

    This cinema masterpiece was filmed on location in Africa by famed director John Huston (The Maltese Falcon: 1941, Casino Royale: 1967, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean: 1972, Prizzi's Honor: 1985) with Sam Speagle (using the pseudonym S.P. Eagle) on board as producer. This film stands as a classic because of the work of all its participants at almost every level. John Huston's idea to stray from C.S. Foster's novel and portray the characters in a light and humorous fashion instead of the straight manner of the novel works a treat. The on-screen charm between Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn adds a whole dimension to the story as two mismatched actors in these roles would have rendered this film unmemorable. The fact that this film was shot on location and not in some studio back lot also adds to the piece. The cast and crew reportedly suffered in the stifling African conditions with many becoming gravely ill. Huston and Bogart are said to have fought off any stomach bugs with regular drinking binges, much to the chagrin of Katharine Hepburn who later learned to live with their drunken practical jokes. A young writer named Peter Veirtel, who finished the screenplay when screenwriter James Agee suffered a heart attack, subsequently wrote a novel in 1955 called White Hunter, Black Heart, which was loosely based on the making of The African Queen and its director (named John Wilson in Peter Veirtel's book). This was made into a feature film in 1990 by actor/director Clint Eastwood  and serves as a behind-the-scenes look at The African Queen's director during the film's production.

    In the end, this film was nominated for 4 Academy Awards in 1951 including: Best Actor (Humphrey Bogart going on to win), Best Actress: Katharine Hepburn, Best Director: John Huston, and Best Screenplay: James Agee and John Huston. Despite the fact that some of the miniature and rear projection special effects look a bit dated, this film stands the test of time as a silver screen classic with two film greats in fine form.

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Transfer Quality


    Despite the classic status of this title, the transfer we have on offer is far from being up to the task.

    One major problem with this title is the fact that there are no time or chapter codes viewable on this disc. All references to specific times in regards to video or film artefacts have been done by this reviewer using a stopwatch. This being the case, please note that the times listed are approximate and should be within 1 or 2 seconds of the actual time. Unfortunately, the viewer has no way of determining just how much time has elapsed during the feature, nor is there any hint as to what chapter they may be on. This is despite the fact that there is a Chapter Selection menu on the disc with 12 Chapters listed with both chapter numbers and chapter titles. Using this menu is the only way the viewer can skip to a particular section of the film.

    The video transfer of this film to disc is quite ordinary and while it is much better than VHS, it comes nowhere near any sort of reference standard. This film is in need of serious restoration and unfortunately we do not get it here.

    This title is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and as would be expected, there is no 16x9 enhancement.

    Despite its age, the print of this film is reasonably sharp. That said, this is an unrestored print and as such, there are some issues with exposure and clarity at times. This, however, seems due to the condition of the print and not its commitment to disc. Considering the print's age, shadow detail is as good as can be expected and at times is quite clear. Low level noise is kept at bay throughout the feature.

    The colour presented here is fairly vibrant and bright during most of the feature with the following exception: there seems to be some colour fading during some portions of this title with the colour fading to a yellow-tinged (almost sepia at times) hue, then back again to full colour. This is most evident during the first portion of the feature, from 8:30 and then from time to time throughout the movie.

    Film to video artefacts are fortunately few here with all the usual suspects mostly absent. MPEG artefacts are nowhere to be seen and aliasing is no problem. The main standout issue with this title are the many film artefacts. These litter the screen from the onset and are omnipresent throughout the film. These consist mostly of white nicks and spots and the occasional hair. Grain is also visible, though not to a distracting extent.

    There are no subtitles on this disc.

    While this disc is single layered, there is a title change from Title 4 to Title 5 (the only viewable code on this disc as chapter and time codes are not viewable) at 56:30 which separates the first half of the film from the second. Once past Title 4, you cannot skip (rewind) back past that point. The only way to access a point in Title 4 is to use the Chapter Selection menu.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The quality of the audio transfer mirrors the quality of the video transfer. Along with the various artefacts displayed in the video transfer, there are quite a few audio artefacts to be heard during this feature. The main audio problem with this title are the many clicks and pops that can be heard during the movie. Examples of these can be heard at 6:15, 10:22 and 16:48 although this list could be much longer.

    There is only one audio track on this DVD, that being in English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    The dialogue quality is fine with no major problems, and dialogue was always easy to understand.

    Audio sync for the most part was spot-on with the exception being at 4:10 where some of the dialogue is out of sync.

    The soundtrack for this title was composed by Alan Gray, and is a horn and strings oriented score. Instead of being in the grand sweeping style of many classic films, the score is in more of a comical and jovial vein. Despite its dated sound, the score does work and is in keeping with the mood and style of the picture.

    As the sound is in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, there is no surround activity with this title. The subwoofer is also silent during the movie.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    After start up and the distributor's logos, we are presented with the Main Menu, which pixelates onto the screen from blocks to full resolution. The wallpaper of the Main Menu is the same as the title's DVD cover, which is a collage of the lobby posters that were used to promote this film and are presented in full as a feature. Three spears (as in the thrown kind) come in from right of screen and "thud" (audio included) mid screen. Above these spears are our three menu choices. These are:     Apart from the "thud" of the spears, which is in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, the menus are silent. There is no 16x9 enhancement.


    This menu gives you the 12 chapters on this disc with their titles. Once again, you can only select chapters from this menu, as there are no viewable chapter codes on the disc. A lobby card serves as the wallpaper for this menu. The menu is silent and there is no 16x9 enhancement.

Movie Art

    This feature offers you a choice of 8 lobby card images that were used in the promotion of this feature in its theatrical run. The menu features small images of all 8 lobby cards which can be selected  individually to be viewed full screen. You can also select the Play All feature which will rotate through all eight images with each on screen for 6 seconds. During this feature, there is no audio and the menu and images are not 16x9 enhanced.

R4 vs R1

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

   Once again we in R4 have been denied extras that are available elsewhere. Our main region of envy is actually not R1, where this title has yet to be released, but rather R2 UK. The list of extras available there is extensive and include:

    It appears that the only extra that we in R4 get that is the same as the R2 UK version is the Lobby Card section of the Stills Gallery. The version of choice is most certainly R2 UK.


    The video is viewable, though the print suffers from too many film artefacts and is in need of serious restoration.

    The audio is listenable, though it suffers from clicks and pops throughout and, as the video transfer, is in need of serious restoration.

    The extras are almost non existent on this disc.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Sean Bradford (There is no bio.)
Monday, May 06, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic A300-MU, using S-Video output
DisplayHitachi CP-L750W LCD Projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V2090
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
I thought this was a Fox film? - cztery REPLY POSTED
R3 - penguin (there is no bio)