It's funny... when I started prepping this article this morning, I thought this would be the big film nerd news of the day.
It should excite anyone who loves classic Hollywood, though, since "The African Queen" has long been one of the highest-profile titles to never get a release on DVD or BluRay. The film is one of the most beloved in the careers of Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn, and one of those films that has always been beloved, that always shows up in conversations about the golden age of studio filmmaking.
Although I'm not a big fan of treating any list as sacrosanct, the AFI 100 serves as a general list of films that are mainstream and well-regarded, and of the 100 titles on that list, only one was yet to make an appearance on
What's really exciting to me is that Paramount Home Entertainment seems to have followed the lead of Warner Bros. in how they've been handling some of their classics like "Wizard Of Oz" and "Gone With The Wind," and they've gone the distance to produce a 4K transfer under the direct supervision of Jack Cardiff. That's important because the original film poses a number of challenges in terms of visual presentation. It was a Technicolor film that was shot on soundstages and on location, and there have always been notable differences between the two when looking at earlier transfers on VHS or TV. It seems like this is finally an opportunity to fine-tune the transfer into something that really glows.
Here are the details from the press release that PHE sent out this morning:
Filled with adventure, drama, humor and romance, the epic and enduring cinematic classic THE AFRICAN QUEEN will finally make its way home when it debuts on DVD and Blu-ray for the first time ever on March 23, 2010 from Paramount Home Entertainment. Meticulously restored using state-of-the-art 4K digital technology, THE AFRICAN QUEEN will now be available for a new generation to appreciate and for long-time fans to see again, as if for the first time. Legendary director John Huston’s treasured romantic adventure stars the incomparable Humphrey Bogart as hard-drinking boat captain Charlie Allnut—a role that won him his only Academy Award® (Best Actor, 1951)—and renowned actress Katharine Hepburn as missionary Rose Sayer in a tale of two disparate people thrown together by fate and drawn together by love.
A six-year journey filled with challenges nearly as difficult as those faced by Rose and Charlie, the restoration process began at the source: Romulus Films—one of the film’s original production companies—provided access to the original three-strip negative at a London facility where the film was carefully scanned and digitized. The separate elements were then transferred to Los Angeles and painstakingly recombined and inspected frame by frame to ensure that every detail aligned and that any dirt and scratches were removed.
To ensure that the restored picture matched the filmmakers’ original vision, Paramount arranged a screening of an MPAA archive print for the film’s original cinematographer, Academy Award® winner Jack Cardiff*, whose comments were recorded live during the screening. That same archival print was later screened alongside the newly restored version so that the restoration team could ensure that all of Cardiff’s notes had been addressed. The result is a vibrant, warm picture that reverentially recreates the film as it was originally meant to be seen.
See? Good news. And thankfully we only have to wait until March to see the film.
Color me thrilled.
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