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The African Queen (Blu-ray) Official AVSForum Review

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
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The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )

Film: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373699

Extras: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373699

Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )

76






Studio and Year: Paramount - 1951
MPAA Rating: NR
Feature running time: 105 minutes
Genre: Drama

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.33:1
Resolution: 1080p/24


Audio Format(s): English/French/Spanish Dolby Mono
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Katherine Hepburn, Robert Morley
Directed by: John Huston
Written by: James Agee & John Huston based upon the novel by C.S. Forester
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: March 23, 2010







"A cinematic gem gets a make over"



Film Synopsis:

At the start of World War 1, German imperial troops burn down Reverend Samuel Sayer’s mission in Africa. He is overtaken with disappointment and passes away. Shortly after his well-educated, snooty sister Rose Sayer (Hepburn) buries her brother, she must leave on the only available transport, a tired river steamboat 'The African Queen' manned by the ill-mannered bachelor, Charlie Allnut (Bogart). Together they embark on a long difficult journey, without any comfort. Rose grows determined to assist in the British war effort and presses Charlie until he finally agrees and together they steam up the Ulana encountering an enemy fort, raging rapids, bloodthirsty parasites and endlessly branching stream which always seem to lead them to what appear to be impenetrable swamps. Despite opposing personalities, the two grow closer to each other and ultimately carry out their plan to take out a German warship.



My Take:

attachment.php?attachmentid=170797&d=1269178136

As a film enthusiast I am embarrassed to admit that I have never seen The African Queen in its entirety. Seeing as this is its first foray to DVD/Blu-ray I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to see it looking its best in this meticulously restored presentation. Based upon the novel by C.S Forester it tells the harrowing journey of two very different people thrown together in a far away and untamed land during turbulent times. Charlie (Bogart) is gruff, unrefined, and enjoys the “hair of the dog” while Rosie is learned, cultured, and ministerial. The one thing that they seem to have in common is their sense of patriotism. A group of German Imperial soldiers enters the African village where Rose and her brother serve as missionaries, burn it down and herd the natives out. During the attack her brother is beaten, develops a fever and eventually dies. Charlie operates a beat up old steamer called The African Queen and frequents the island, bringing Rose and her brother mail and supplies. He had been by recently and warned them of the impending troubles and that it may be a while before he could return. Shortly after the burning of the village Charlie returns and finds Rose sitting amidst the ruins. He helps her bury her brother and the two set off in The African Queen hoping to avoid encounters with the German army. After the death of her brother Rose has a strong desire to strike back at the German Imperial troops. She confides in Charlie and he mentions that the Germans have a gunboat, the Louisa, which patrols a large lake downriver, effectively blocking any British counter-attacks. Rose comes up with a plan to convert the Queen into a torpedo boat, and sink the Louisa. Charlie points out that navigating the river would be suicidal: to reach the lake they would have to pass a German fort and negotiate several dangerous rapids. But Rose is insistent and eventually persuades him to go along with the plan. As Charlie and Rose traverse the dangers of the Ulana River they encounter a host of obstacles, including unpredictable weather, hordes of mosquitoes, blood sucking leeches, and German soldiers. While these were certainly obstacles they were expecting something else happened that they didn’t see coming. It is this that will see them through the toughest parts of their journey. IF they survive.

What a wonderful film. Bogart and Hepburn are two of the most revered actors in cinematic history and their superlative performances in this movie are a testament to that. Both were nominated for Academy Awards, with Bogart winning for Best Actor. They had terrific onscreen chemistry which is one of the reasons this character driven story works so well. Its narrow focus revolves primarily around just the two of them which afforded them the chance to shine and shine they did. For Bogart this character was a departure from those he was accustomed to playing and he nailed it. Hepburn is captivating to watch and was a gifted actress capable of playing any role. The great John Huston helmed The African Queen and his brilliance as a director is on display throughout. It is interesting to see how a film such as this which has extremely limited reliance on effects and camera tricks came off so well. The use of miniatures and green (or yellow in this case) screens is pretty obvious but considering when this movie was made I didn’t think it was hokey or elementary. In 1951 independent filmmaking and shooting films primarily on location was rare. Many didn’t feel that a story such as this had the depth to be successfully adapted into a full length feature that anyone would care about. Guess again. While on the surface it may seem simple looking further reveals a delineated story of two souls destined to find one another by arriving from completely different paths that under any other circumstance would never have converged. It engages us by providing a bit of escapism through means of an adventurous tale of purpose, fortitude, acceptance, and romance (with light sprinklings of levity). These elements are interwoven through the wonderful performances by two Hollywood icons and the staunch vision of an incredible group of filmmakers determined to see it through. Six years ago Paramount undertook the task of digitally restoring this classic film. It has been meticulously restored using state-of-the-art 4K digital technology and the results are magnificent. Those that have been waiting for this beloved piece of American Cinema to come to DVD/Blu-ray have been rewarded with this excellent technical offering from Paramount.




Parental Guide:

This film isn’t rated but contains thematic material that would probably garner it a PG rating.






AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**


(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

Audio: 66



  • Dynamics: attachment.php?attachmentid=109943&d=1210373692

  • Low frequency extension: attachment.php?attachmentid=109943&d=1210373692

  • Surround Sound presentation: attachment.php?attachmentid=109943&d=1210373692

  • Clarity/Detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373699

  • Dialogue Reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373699


Video: 86


(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)


  • Resolution/Clarity: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Black level/Shadow detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109945&d=1210373692

  • Color reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373692

  • Fleshtones: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Compression: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373692
attachment.php?attachmentid=170798&d=1269178136

The African Queen comes to Blu-ray Disc from Paramount featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 39 mbps and lossy Dolby Digital Mono sound that has a constant bitrate of 224 kbps.

Originally shot in Technicolor The African Queen probably looked spectacular when it was released in theaters in the early 1950s. Over the years degradation and age took its toll on its elements and it suffered from washed out and debris laden imagery and a noisy soundtrack. I am happy to report that this newly restored presentation looks marvelous and yields sound quality that together probably rival its original theatrical elements. Colors are vivid with subtle tonal variation and clean rendering that draws out primaries such as the blue of Katherine Hepburn’s eyes, and allows them to sparkle. The range of colors is not particularly extensive but the earth tones which are its primary source look great. Facial textures and complexions are nicely delineated with warmth and lifelike tonality. Images are well detailed over the course of the film. This isn’t going to exhibit the type of razor sharp high gloss definition that we see from films today however the level of resolution is impressive for films of this age. There are minor fluctuations in sharpness and detail that appear related to the original photography and rarely infringe upon fidelity. Film grain is intact, and appears well preserved throughout the presentation. Blacks are stable with consistent contrast levels that draw out plenty of visible detail during light and dark segments. There are a handful of instances where this presentation puts it all together and looks terrific. One example occurs in Chapter 13 where Charlie and Rose are making their way through the mud/muck and reeds by chopping and pulling the African Queen by hand. This sequence has an excellent sense of dimensionality with rich contrast and discernible definition that leaves it looking incredible for a 60 year old film. The monaural soundtrack is presented in Dolby Mono and while it won’t knock your socks off I found it delivered the components of the original recording quite well. Overall quality is clean and primarily free of unwanted clicks, pops or background hiss. Dialogue intelligibility is excellent as it is never lost amidst the other sounds coming through the central channel. The raging water and storm sequences exhibit a broader dynamic quality that adds a bit more emphasis. As a whole the presentation sounds just slightly compressed but not at the expense of fidelity. Purists will appreciate the time and effort that went into maintaining the integrity of this great film’s original elements while restoring it. The result will allow those seeing it for the first time to experience it looking and sounding better than it ever has on home video. For those that recall seeing it during its theatrical run this high definition presentation on Blu-ray will be like a trip down memory lane (maybe even better). Kudos to Paramount on a job well done!



Bonus Features:


  • (HD) Embracing chaos: Making The African Queen - This hour long and comprehensive documentary takes a look back at the production with commentary about the cast, the challenges of the filming locations and how the spectacular cinematography impacted the industry overall. Includes on-camera interviews with notable Hollywood icons, critics and crew members from the film including Martin Scorsese, Tony Huston, Richard Schickel and more, plus never-before-seen archival images and home movie footage provided by the estate of cinematographer Jack Cardiff.
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Final Thoughts:

The African Queen truly is a cinematic gem. Seeing it now for the first time reminds of why I love my job as a reviewer. It exposes me to wonderful films such as this that allow me the opportunity to connect with American Classics from a generation ago. Paramount has painstakingly restored The African Queen and the results are well worth the 6 years it took. Debuting for the first time on DVD and Blu-ray, this high definition presentation looks marvelous. The film’s original elements appear intact and yield image and sound quality that probably rival its theatrical presentation. Fans are in for a real treat and can look forward to a whole new experience thanks to this excellent Blu-ray offering from Paramount. Highly recommended!









attachment.php?attachmentid=109949&d=1210373731






Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews





Reference Review System:


JVC DLA-RS20 1080p High Definition Front Projector (Calibrated by Jeff Meier)
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Anthem AVM50v THX Ultra 2 Preamp/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo BDP-83 Universal disc/Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Oppo 970HD universal disc DVD Player (480i HDMI)
Philips TSU9400 Pro Series Touch Panel Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" Series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Furman SPR-20i Stable Power Regulator
Wireworld, VizionWare, Audioquest, Best Deal Cables - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package
post #2 of 27
Great to see that you were able to review a classic film Ralph instead of so many new lousy releases. For me, my only concern with this release is how dialog intelligibility would be with an old mono track. It's great to hear from someone I highly respect that this is not a an issue. Bring on Tueday!

Thanks,
Tom
post #3 of 27
This is awesome! A couple years ago, my brother and I took some time to watch classic films that we'd never seen before and I loved every minute of it. It helped me discover the greatness of Cary Grant and also allowed me to put Lawrence of Arabia at the top of my list as the quintessential "epic" masterpiece.

I've heard of the African Queen but have never seen it. As much as I enjoy all of Ralph's reviews,this may be the one that ends up being my favorite....can't wait to see this film!!
post #4 of 27
Nice review.
Thanks.

Mike
post #5 of 27
I am 46 years old and remember seeing this at a very young age with my father. I can't wait for this to come out on Tuesday and get my father over to watch it with me. Thanks for the great review.

John
post #6 of 27
Thanks Ralph! I have vague memories of seeing it on television many years ago. Thanks to your review, this is going to be my next purchase.

Ben
post #7 of 27
I'm a big sucka for extra's/commentaries. To bad this one is so light on it. Mustbuy regardless and in time I will get it.
post #8 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Chosen One View Post

I'm a big sucka for extra's/commentaries. To bad this one is so light on it. Mustbuy regardless and in time I will get it.

There is a commemorative box set...

Link

"Fully Restored using state-of-the-art restoration process
Includes all-new hour long making of feature with never-before-seen images and commentary
Collectible packaging highlighting Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn Second disc with the original Lux radio broadcast of The African Queen starring Humphrey Bogart and Greer Garson (Audio CD)
Reproduction of Katharine Hepburn's out-of-print published memoir: The Making of The African Queen or How I Went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind
Collectible Senitype®: a four film frame card illustrating the Technicolor® process
8 images inspired by original theatrical lobby cards"
post #9 of 27
it's been an epic wait for this to come to the US on dvd and bd, but the wait is finally over!
these are the releases that make all the money I have spent on blu-ray totally worth it, and I can only hope and pray that we will see many more such releases as the blu-ray becomes even more mainstream in the years ahead.
I am slightly baffled why Paramount would expend all this effort into such a glorious restoration and then fail to give the release lossless audio.
I know many people will say it wouldn't have made much of a difference, but with the audio already less than stellar to begin with, wouldn't you want to at least give it the benefit of a lossless encode?
just a very unfortunate decision imo.
Anyway, with the T.A.M.I. rock movie also coming out on dvd Tuesday, it is truly an historic release day.
post #10 of 27
Is it stupid that I think they should have presented the original mono soundtrack in lossless form?

Why bother restoring the audio, only to put it in Dolby Digital? I realize this isn't the latest blockbuster with a dynamic 5.1 soundtrack, but any audio can stand to shine its brightest uncompressed. And it's one of the perks available exclusively to Blu-ray. You'd be dumbfounded if they put 480p video the main feature, so why a lossy soundtrack?

It couldn't possibly take up that much space. It's mono for goodness sakes.
post #11 of 27
Loved this movie...loved the review.....got to see it several times as the "second movie" in the good old days of one screen theater.....they would have the latest flick and then have a "second feature", usually a film that had been around.....I can not remember what movie African Queen was paired with, however...

When Patton came out, I saw the movie twice and the second feature both times was Casablanca

How many can remember those days of the "double feature" at the one screen moviehouse???????

To this day and that, I can still remember the leach scene....and Bogart's reaction was a mirror image of my own...get them off....ohuuuuuu
post #12 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ABBN View Post

Is it stupid that I think they should have presented the original mono soundtrack in lossless form?

Why bother restoring the audio, only to put it in Dolby Digital? I realize this isn't the latest blockbuster with a dynamic 5.1 soundtrack, but any audio can stand to shine its brightest uncompressed. And it's one of the perks available exclusively to Blu-ray. You'd be dumbfounded if they put 480p video the main feature, so why a lossy soundtrack?

It couldn't possibly take up that much space. It's mono for goodness sakes.

Greetings,

While I can appreciate this perspective I would very much prefer that this discussion not spill over into this review thread. There is already a thread going on regarding this in the Blu-ray software forum for anyone wishing to contribute their thoughts on the matter.
post #13 of 27
One of my parents all time favorite movies, I'd love for them to get see it in Blu-ray but I'm not sure their eyesight could tell the difference anymore.

Great review!
post #14 of 27
This is one of my all time favourite Classic movies.

I remember seeing it when I was very young.
Bogart and Hepburn, you can't go wrong.

Very few modern movies are able to hold my interest or make such a lasting impression on me.
That special commemorative edition is definitely at the top of the Must Get List.

Thanks for the link Mike.

Bring on the Classics!
post #15 of 27
Ralph, I noticed that the video aspect is 1.33:1. Reading your review I saw that some pictures are not in 1.33:1 video aspect like the one below your video rating and the one beside your Final Thoughts. Does it mean that it was restored with different video aspect or if it is only snapshoot from other media?

PS: Excellent review btw...
post #16 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by lardo View Post

Ralph, I noticed that the video aspect is 1.33:1. Reading your review I saw that some pictures are not in 1.33:1 video aspect like the one below your video rating and the one beside your Final Thoughts. Does it mean that it was restored with different video aspect or if it is only snapshoot from other media?

PS: Excellent review btw...

Greetings,

lardo, the AR is 1.33:1. Those pics came from Paramounts press site. I am not sure of their origin/source.

Regards,
post #17 of 27
Pardon my ignorance but how does a Mono soundtrack movie get 2 1/2 stars for "Surround Sound Presentation"?
post #18 of 27
Great review of a great film.
Just one small point: her name is spelled Katharine Hepburn. She cared about that.
post #19 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DPWN View Post

Pardon my ignorance but how does a Mono soundtrack movie get 2 1/2 stars for "Surround Sound Presentation"?

Greetings,

I automatically rate monoural tracks at 50% (or 2.5) since I don't have a system specifically designed for the fair rating of tracks that don't have surround sound.


Regards,
post #20 of 27
Thanks for a great review...this is another for my collection.
post #21 of 27
It should be on my front porch when I get home but no time to watch till Sunday .

I just hope we continue to get great catalog.

Art
post #22 of 27
I've been waiting for years for this to come to disc in the US. I have to watch it tonight.

larry
post #23 of 27
I still have my laserdisc boxed set of the African Queen. Wouldn't let it go until the film came out in DVD (it never did) and Blu-Ray (yes!). African Queen is one of the reasons I love movies.
post #24 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by amarkow View Post

I still have my laserdisc boxed set of the African Queen. Wouldn't let it go until the film came out in DVD (it never did) and Blu-Ray (yes!). African Queen is one of the reasons I love movies.

Same here. But I did get an import on dvd about a year ago. Still have the LD and the extras that are now being offered on a special North American release edition on dvd andblu-ray.

Oh, I should mention that I picked up the regular blu-ray edition this morning at Walmart for $22.83 Canadian. Can't wait to pop it in my player and fire up the BenQ.
post #25 of 27
Saw the BD last night. Spot on the Review. A great film and excellent transfer (yeah I know about the sound, and some of the special effects in this days of special effects are very dated, but I still loved the film)....and as I said before,....

the leach scene still gives me the shakes....
post #26 of 27
So glad I watched this film! I had never heard of it before Ralph’s mention of the restoration process. (Thanks Ralph) I decided to give it a shot.

I have to say, after about 1 hour through the movie, I didn’t like it all that much. The music was a little cheesy, the story really wasn’t going anywhere, and I grew tired of the same dramatic chord they played every time something suspenseful was supposed to be happening.

Once Charlie and Rose were stuck together on the boat, things began to get better and better. The romance played off at just the right tempo, and had me clapping by the end of the movie. I liked how Rose was able to get Charlie to accomplish things he never thought possible, and how she had an innocent trust that it could be done. Also, this film has a nostalgic, good, almost innocent feeling.

Both Bogart and Hepburn did great in their roles, and went to far lengths to make this film feel realistic.

I see why this movie was a classic, and by the end, my wife and I were both very happy to have watched it. Recommended.

Regarding the picture quality, it was a top notch restoration, but you can’t fix the old special effects of that era. Contrast was excellent, and color balance was wonderfully restored. However, I actually enjoyed watching this film more on my Samsung plasma than my 1080UB projector and 106” screen. The large screen showed too many of the flaws, and the mono soundtrack just didn’t feel right on a nice home theater system. We watched the last 45 minutes of the movie on our plasma the second day. We enjoyed the nice punchy, detailed picture, and the 4:3 format didn’t bother me as much either. The mono soundtrack felt right also, being that a TV is typically outputting similar sound anyway.

Sound was nice and clear, and I appreciated the clear dialogue, but still, it was mono.

PQ 4 out of 5, SQ 3 out of 5, Film 4 out of 5.

Dan
post #27 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by stereomandan View Post

So glad I watched this film! I had never heard of it before Ralph's mention of the restoration process. (Thanks Ralph) I decided to give it a shot.

I have to say, after about 1 hour through the movie, I didn't like it all that much. The music was a little cheesy, the story really wasn't going anywhere, and I grew tired of the same dramatic chord they played every time something suspenseful was supposed to be happening.

Once Charlie and Rose were stuck together on the boat, things began to get better and better. The romance played off at just the right tempo, and had me clapping by the end of the movie. I liked how Rose was able to get Charlie to accomplish things he never thought possible, and how she had an innocent trust that it could be done. Also, this film has a nostalgic, good, almost innocent feeling.

Both Bogart and Hepburn did great in their roles, and went to far lengths to make this film feel realistic.

I see why this movie was a classic, and by the end, my wife and I were both very happy to have watched it. Recommended.

Regarding the picture quality, it was a top notch restoration, but you can't fix the old special effects of that era. Contrast was excellent, and color balance was wonderfully restored. However, I actually enjoyed watching this film more on my Samsung plasma than my 1080UB projector and 106 screen. The large screen showed too many of the flaws, and the mono soundtrack just didn't feel right on a nice home theater system. We watched the last 45 minutes of the movie on our plasma the second day. We enjoyed the nice punchy, detailed picture, and the 4:3 format didn't bother me as much either. The mono soundtrack felt right also, being that a TV is typically outputting similar sound anyway.

Sound was nice and clear, and I appreciated the clear dialogue, but still, it was mono.

PQ 4 out of 5, SQ 3 out of 5, Film 4 out of 5.

Dan

Greetings,

Thanks for sharing Dan!

Regards,
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