Movie Review: The African Queen (1951)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1951 romance movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn.

Synopsis: At the outbreak of World War I, German soldiers destroy the African village of Kungdu, rounding up the villagers as drafted soldiers and indirectly causing the death of missionary Samuel Sayer. Sam's sister, Rose, still grieving from the loss, joins riverboat captain Charlie Allnut on his boat, the African Queen. She later convinces him to continue down river and help her get revenge on the Germans by using the African Queen to sink one of their gunboats.


This is a movie I have attempted to watch on several different occasions but, for a variety of reasons, never seemed to make it much beyond the opening credits. However, I had yesterday afternoon off and, since the house was empty and it was too cold for me to complete the outdoor projects I had planned to do, I decided to attempt to watch this again. I succeeded. But, to be honest, my opinion of the movie was a bit mixed.

I'll start out by saying I did like the combination of Bogart and Hepburn in the two starring roles. They had a pretty awesome chemistry and their on-screen romance was very believable, both when they became a couple and when they couldn't stand each other.

I also thought the overall plot was enjoyable. I'm not a huge romance movie fan. But, a tale of two unlikely lovers traveling on a dangerous river in Africa on what was potentially a suicide mission was definitely intriguing. If nothing else, it was better than some of the cookie-cutter romantic comedies that are produced today and seem to be almost identical to each other.

I think my biggest disappointment with this movie was the lack of action. They were in the middle of an African jungle with German soldiers (at least according to Bogart's Charlie Allnut character) who would love to get their hands on the African Queen. Yet, despite this, there really wasn't much in terms of danger or excitement. In fact, other than the (too short) white water rapid scenes, I think the most intense moment in this movie was them trying to get away from the mosquitoes.

I also wasn't a huge fan of the ending, mostly because it ended up being kind of predictable. Just ask my daughter. I was telling her exactly what was going to happen long before it did. And, again, up until that point, I hadn't even seen much beyond the opening credits. It was still an OK ending. But, it would have been better with a little less predictability.

Final Opinion

It was a halfway decent romance movie with two very talented stars. However, given the location and the circumstances that brought them together, I do think the film could have used a little more action and suspense.

My Grade: B

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Updated: 12/15/2016, StevenHelmer
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Veronica on 12/16/2016

I never watched it as child as when it came on my dad would say,
" Not this again. " and switch channels .

I watched it when I got married and left home. It made me laugh because I was thinking of Dad but the relationship between Hepburn and Bogart is beautifully constructed. They don't have actors of their like nowadays.

frankbeswick on 12/15/2016

I am old enough to have seen the film, but not old enough to have really regarded it as anything other than a golden oldie!

In the early 1960s this film was oft on television, repeated in the Christmas season. It is not primarily an action movie, but an ordeal movie. It is all about Bogart's masculinity that comes out in his endurance. The ending is violent, but that provides the exciting action which is not found in the rest of the film.

judy on 12/15/2016

I've seen this movie a couple times & really like it but I have to agree with your review...

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