Sometimes, it is worth it. The wait, that horrible expanse of passing time that seems to purposefully thwart your best intentions, often ends up delivering nothing but disappointment, or worse, the prospect of what could have been vs. the undeniable junk you wind up with in the end. But in this case, the inexplicable lack of reasonable excuse, the seeming decades of rumor and regret, the notion that somewhere, in a studio substrata somewhere, a bean counter and a preservationist were battling for future release supremacy, has truly made it all the more worthwhile. After persistent hints at a possible remaster and release, The African Queen is finally available in a pristine new DVD and Blu-ray release and, as suggested, the end result more than makes up for the years of delay.
For many film fans, this was the Holy Grail, the hallowed motion picture project which saw seminal star Humphrey Bogart win his only Oscar. This was the movie which brought together classic cinema giants Katherine Hepburn and director John Huston, each forging what would be a middle-aged masterpiece. No studio wanted to touch the film, Warners sitting on the rights for more than ten years, and when producer Sam Spiegel finally found financing in England, he saw many of the Tinseltown majors turn their noses up in distribution disinterest. Thus we had one of the industry first A-list independents. There was even some wrangling about the ending, Huston in favor of maintaining the original novel’s downbeat, defeatist ideals. Booked passage to the fabled continent itself and a sense of real adventure guaranteed that the entire experience would be unlike any other film of the ‘50s.