The African Queen
How can it be that this long-loved romantic adventure—a high point for Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn and director John Huston—is only now debuting on DVD? Answering that question might require hacking through a jungle of legal permissions, so let’s just thank Paramount for getting it right.
The 1951 classic, about a cantankerous boat captain (Bogart) and the stiff-backed missionary (Hepburn) who radicalizes him into political action, has never looked better. A full digital restoration results in golden hues and crisp edges. (Widescreen fanatics, be warned; the movie was shot in the squarish dimensions of older TV screens.) Yielding to Queen’s spell is tantamount to enjoying the charms of Casablanca, to which this is an equal.
Spring for the slightly pricey commemorative box set, packaged in a sturdy slipcase. A second audio disc includes the original radio play with Bogart and Greer Garson, a fine example of the lost art of immersive storytelling. Some snazzy lobby cards are tucked in, as are four duplicate Technicolor film cels.
But the real bonus here is a miniature reprint of Hepburn’s feisty 1987 memoir, The Making of “The African Queen,” or How I Went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind. In just over 125 pages, the forthright actor dishes on everyone involved (including herself) and still comes out smelling rosy.