When World War I had scarce begun
The Germans were superior
In Africa’s interior,
Where they assumed that they had won.
Their killing spree makes natives flee
Away from the Ulanga stream
And from a missionary team,
Two British siblings, scared but free.
The foes’ control does take its toll
On Samuel, who gets sick and goes
To God and leaves his sister Rose,
Who hates the Germans as a whole.
And yet Rose soon receives a boon
When Charlie Allnut joins the scene
Aboard his boat the African Queen
And rescues her that afternoon.
This British pair are quite aware
They’re in unfriendly territory,
But their steamboat’s inventory
Gives to Rose a plan to share.
Rose tells her host what matters most
Is, in this land of tropic beauty,
To do their patriotic duty,
And fight the Germans near the coast.
Her forceful vote is to devote
The ship to be a bomb of sorts,
In hopes their crazy mission thwarts
The Queen Louisa, a big gunboat.
Though Allnut doubts what she’s about,
He does agree to aid her quest,
And, with some coaxing, he is pressed
To sail down by a risky route.
They steam on fast and sail right past
The German guns at Shona’s fort
With minor damage to report,
And, after that, are not harassed.
The next speed bump for them to trump
Is rapids, three whitewater falls,
And, by the end, the paddle stalls,
Which throws their plan into a slump.
While they are stayed to fix a blade,
A romance clearly has begun.
The rapids turned out to be fun,
And they grow close in their crusade.
They next get stuck within some muck
Around the river’s delta mouth,
And their whole enterprise goes south,
As they are lost and out of luck.
A quick downpour saves them before
They meet their end, so Charlie then
Creates their planned torpedo when
They’re ready to engage the war.
Their plan embarks that night, but hark!
Their launch becomes a big mistake;
A storm blows up upon the lake
And sinks the Queen in rain and dark.
Charlie, then Rose are saved by foes
Aboard the target ship Louisa.
So Rose decides to quickly seize a
Chance to tell, so someone knows.
The girl’s harangue confirms they’ll hang.
The couple beg the captain to
First marry them before they do;
They then are ready, but then BANG!
The sunken Queen does intervene.
The two ships luckily collide,
And their bomb strikes Louisa’s side
And helps them get away unseen.
As Rose had vowed, they stood unbowed,
Prepared to die, but each survives
And they both plan to share their lives,
Now having done their country proud.
The African Queen is a wartime adventure starring Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart in roles perfectly suited for them. While I like Katherine Hepburn on the whole, I’m not a big fan of Bogie, finding his typical presence so “iconic” that it’s rather boring. But his performance as Charlie Allnut here is out of type, rough and uncouth but still attempting to be a gentleman in his own way. Perhaps that’s why he won his only Oscar for The African Queen.
The two’s romance is well-handled, developing gradually from initial distant uneasiness to excited camaraderie as they share in the toils of their trek. I also admire the difficulties endured by the cast and crew as they withstood sickness and much difficulty shooting many parts of the film on location in central Africa. While the climax involving the African Queen’s “vengeance” of sorts is different from the ending of the book on which the film is based, I actually think it was a nice touch that helped compress several events, such as the couple’s marriage and the sinking of the Queen Louisa. Still, as with many old movies from the 1950s and earlier, I thought the film ended rather abruptly and could have used some additional scene, perhaps of Rose and Charlie making it to shore.
All in all, while it’s not quite as exciting as a description makes it sound, The African Queen nonetheless offers a wonderful blend of humor, action, and romance that the whole family can enjoy.
Best line: (the Louisa’s captain as he marries Rose and Charlie) “By the authority vested in me by Kaiser William II, I pronounce you man and wife. Proceed with the execution.”
Visual Effects: 3
TOTAL: 30 out of 60
Tomorrow: #307: The Horse Whisperer
© 2014 S. G. Liput