The African Queen (1951)
|Year Of Production||1951|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||John Huston|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (448Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes|
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.
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.
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.
|Surround Channel Use|
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:
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.
|DVD||Panasonic A300-MU, using S-Video output|
|Display||Hitachi CP-L750W LCD Projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||VAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)|