Cult Movie: Bogart classic The African Queen sails on in style in pristine new 4K restoration

Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn's chemistry sizzles in The African Queen
Ralph McLean

The African Queen

THERE are a multitude of reasons to love The African Queen. For a start, John Huston's masterful 1951 adaptation of the CS Forrester novel won Humphrey Bogart his only Oscar.

Bogart's turn as the gin swilling, rough and ready captain of a tramp steamer is an undeniable highlight in an acting career creaking under the weight of such moments and Huston's direction of the ebbing and flowing story of an unlikely couple forced to sail together down a dangerous East African river after the outbreak of World War I is note perfect throughout.

There's also the small matter of the sizzling on screen chemistry between Bogart and his stunning co-star Katherine Hepburn to consider as well. Rarely have a couple combined on celluloid with such obvious spark and crackle. There's a wholly unforced natural quality at play in their scenes that is electrifying to watch.

More than anything though, it's simply a cracking romantic adventure the like of which you rarely get to see and enjoy on the silver screen. Watch it again, via the recently reissued limited edition release from Eureka Entertainment, and you are reminded of that innate magic in just about every frame: a lush looking beauty of a film it cruises along with the kind of effortless class you simply don't see in cinema today.

Hepburn is Rose Sayer, the prim and proper sister of a British missionary, played by the great Robert Morley. When invading Germans raze her village to the ground and kill her brother, the roguish Charlie Allnut (Bogie) offers to take her back to civilisation on his battered old steamer The African Queen. Left with little option, she agrees – and so begins the journey of a lifetime.

Superficially at least, the two make unlikely travelling companions for the hazardous journey ahead: she can't stand his slovenly, drunken ways and he thinks she's a judgmental and aloof old spinster. Before long though, their natural dislike of each other develops into love as they come to lean on each other as they try to survive their perilous journey and hatch a seemingly preposterous but essential plan to destroy a German gunboat.

A sumptuous experience shot through with a rich colour palette and stunning vistas, it's a gripping old-school adventure that charms and engages from the first moment until the last. Hepburn looks so in the zone it feels as if her entire career has been leading up to this moment and Bogie milks every scene like the grizzled old pro he was.

This lush and lovingly curated special edition offers up a 60-page bound collector's book featuring fresh and insightful writing on the film and a whole flotilla of exciting extras that include audio commentary from master cinematographer Jack Cardiff, an hour long documentary Embracing Chaos: Making The African Queen and an interview with film historian Neil Sinyard.

Presented in a pristine new 4K restoration print and packaged in an elegant hardbound slipcase, this is the perfect way to celebrate one of cinema's best looking films and greatest ever adventures.

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