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It will leave you speechless...

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 21 April 2008 11:35 (A review of The Elephant Man (1980))

"I am not an elephant! I am not an animal! I am a human being! I am a man!"

Based on a true story, The Elephant Man is a drama that unconditionally blew me away.

The film is a dramatisation of the life of Englishman Joseph Merrick (Hurt), known as John in the film, who was born with a grotesque physical deformity. Due to the nature and severity of the man's malformation he is unfortunately condemned to a life as a circus freak as people profit by displaying him in a freak show.

But all this changes when a London surgeon named Frederick Treves (Hopkins) discovers John in a street freak show. Frederick notices that John is also suffering from severe injuries due to improper action on the part of his owner. To treat his injuries, John is moved to a London hospital where Frederick also studies John's anatomical structure.

But while John is in hospital it is discovered that although suffering from rigorous deformities, underneath he is in fact a highly intelligent man capable of discernable speech, cerebral thought and sensitivity. Frederick is determined to make sure John is never mistreated again and isn't looked upon as just a freak with a physically deformed face.

This altruistic act of compassion and benevolence alters John's life forever. The film was shot in grainy black and white. In many ways this style suits the film perfectly. The picture looks dated; almost like genuine footage shot during the turn-of-the-century in London. I couldn't fault anything that I saw on the screen. Everything was able to catch my eye. Costumes looked authentic and the sets create the desired atmosphere of 19th Century London.

The make-up was outstanding! Every time the character of John 'The Elephant Man' appears on screen you can't recognise actor John Hurt underneath the elaborate make-up. His face looks authentically deformed and helps the audience get engaged in the film a lot easier.

On the topic of the performance, though, I get goose-bumps at the thought. John Hurt was robbed of his Oscar. The man's performance was a textbook example of portraying a character perfectly. His character is so poignant and so powerful. The world around him is so malevolent and prejudiced due to his appearance and we feel his pain like it's actually happening to us. The first time he utters a word in character I was in tears. And I stayed like that for the whole movie. I cried like a baby. And the thought that it actually happened and there was a real man of such animalistic appearance...made me cry even harder.

Anthony Hopkins was the ideal choice for his character of a London surgeon. I couldn't fault him anywhere because he's always so focused on bringing life to his character.

Many will not recognise this work being under the cap of director David Lynch. The storytelling isn't as bizarre or unusual as the kind of movies he became famous for. Instead the film is told using straight-forward storytelling that sometimes uses peculiar imagery to convey the situation to the audience. These instances include montages utilising images of elephants that contrast to the title character's outward show. Editing was sublime in these certain instances.

Overall, The Elephant Man is a brilliant piece of filmmaking in every sense of the word. The film is powerful, moving and unfathomably astounding. I cried for most of the film's duration. You will too.

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Very funny and immensely entertaining!

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 21 April 2008 11:34 (A review of Duck Soup (1933))

"I got a good mind to join a club and beat you over the head with it."

The Marx Brothers have been fondly remembered for several of their timeless comedy productions. Similar to Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, their classic films are overflowing with terrific gags that are still hilarious even during the 21st Century.

On the topic of the best Marx Brothers picture many will agree that Duck Soup generally comes out on top. I strongly agree. Duck Soup was a massive failure at the box office when first released; despite this, I found the film to be excellent entertainment and one of the best classic comedies in cinematic history.

Be warned, though, that some might not find 30s humour to their liking. I absolutely adored the gags, but there will be some who disagree.

The country of Freedonia is in a financial mess. To save the country from bankruptcy a wealthy woman (Dumont) agrees to donate a large sum of money. But in return she requests that Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) takes charge of Freedonia. But mayhem erupts when Firefly takes charge; he is a stubborn, sadistic leader who refuses to play politics by the book.

To make matters worse, the country doesn't have a strong relationship with their neighbouring country Sylvania. The government of Sylvania decide to send agents in to recover top secret information (i.e. the country's war plans). When relationships worsen between Freedonia and Sylvania, Rufus declares war just for the hell of it.

Duck Soup is a film filled with plenty of wonderful set pieces. The laughs just never get old. Said laughs are a combination of witty dialogue and wonderful physical humour. My favourite gag of the film will always be the mirror sequence. I died with laughter when I was watching that scene.

There are several other physical gags that I will always love but don't do much for advancing the plot. Not that I'm complaining, though. What makes this classic a whole lot better than recent comedies by modern comedians is that there was focus and attention on actually developing a discernable plot rather than focusing on the laughs. The Marx Brothers found the perfect balance of developing a good plot as well as a heavy concentration on the great humour. The plot isn't groundbreaking, but at least it's actually present.

I liked the energetic performances from everyone in the cast. The four Marx Brothers present in the film give it 100% (the final film that featured all four brothers). It's obvious that some of the more complicated gags had to be thoroughly rehearsed. This just goes to show how focused they were in the days preceding a heavy reliance on special effects or cutting corners.

Groucho was the real stand out for me in the movie. Don't get me wrong - they are all tremendously good - but my favourite was definitely Groucho. He was just so sharp and funny! As a confused politician, he nails it. The gags are staged very well thanks to both the cast and the great directing as well.

Overall, Duck Soup is a classic and a fantastic movie. It's funny and very entertaining. Proof that 1930's humour is still funny after all these years.

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Chaplin hits this one out of the park!

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 21 April 2008 11:33 (A review of City Lights (1931))

City Lights could be the best Charlie Chaplin film to date; this poignant, entertaining film is both funny and heart-warming. This film also marks one of Chaplin's last silent movies. It was a bold move to release a silent film when the day and age of silent movies had dissolved, but Chaplin's trademark character just wouldn't be as appealing with a voice.

City Lights is another tale of the trademark Chaplin character known as the Tramp. As the film opens, the Tramp (Chaplin) is revealed to be sleeping upon an important statue that is being unveiled to the public. After sparking a lot of protest by the people, the Tramp flees and runs into a beautiful blind girl (Cherrill) selling flowers.

After mistakenly giving the impression to said blind girl that he is wealthy, he frequently visits her and is determined to raise money for an operation that would cure her blindness. In the meantime, the Tramp saves a wealthy millionaire (Myers) from committing suicide. The millionaire is eternally grateful to the Tramp, but only recognises him whenever he's intoxicated. Every time the millionaire is sober, he cannot remember being grateful to the Tramp.

City Lights is a frequently hilarious film. For a silent movie the laughs are top notch. Some memorable gags here include a highly amusing boxing match, a set of gags that have the Tramp atop of a large statue and a very clever sequence during a party.

Chaplin expertly mixes a number of excellent gags with deep, tender moments that are truly moving. The final ambiguous encounter of the movie is has been lauded as one of the most memorable and moving moments in film comedy history.

Charlie Chaplin will always be the king of silent movie gags. His trademark costume, his cute walk and his amusing mannerisms have never been matched by any comedians after him. I am especially fond of the way he approaches every situation; never deeply concerned, and never runs out of ideas.

The sight gags are particularly exceptional in this film. And although it's a silent movie it still contains a massive plethora of great quality lines conveyed to the audience via title cards. Virginia Cherrill does an excellent job as a blind protagonist opposite Chaplin.

City Lights is nothing short of an utter masterpiece. It is a brilliantly conceived piece of film comedy that is told perfectly with two outstanding leading actors to carry the film throughout its running time. The entire film is a string of terrific laughs while still having a deep meaning underneath the surface.

It's simple: if you're a fan of Chaplin you'll love it. But if you're not fond of 30's slapstick humour or sight gags then it's not for you.

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Brilliant Chaplin stuff!

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 21 April 2008 11:32 (A review of The Great Dictator (1940))

"We've just discovered the most wonderful, the most marvelous poisinous gas. It will kill everybody."

Charlie Chaplin quickly became one of the greatest film comedians in cinema history. His films are constantly full of such witty satire, quirky characters and a mixed bag of hilarious gags.

With The Great Dictator I feel that Chaplin has really excelled himself. Although not nearly as good as Modern Times, this addition to Chaplin's résumé is one that is still remembered as one of the greatest achievements in cinema history.

The Great Dictator is a film that spoofs Adolf Hitler and his stance against the Jews that eventually initiated the Second World War. Naturally, the film was a very bold move for its time. While in pre-production no-one ever thought that it would actually be made. A year later the film was in the can and ready for release. The film met with a mixed critical reaction but was a big commercial success.

Many will find Chaplin's style of humour quite hilarious but others may not. It depends on your taste. With The Great Dictator there's a host of purely brilliant gags ranging from sight gags, slapstick gags or just witty dialogue. Heck, I even found it hilarious when Chaplin was doing actions that were accompanied by specially synchronised music. Oh, and a very special mention to the hilariously clever title cards at the beginning of the movie that already had me laughing.

But what I found to be even more genius was that even with scenes of drama as opposed to humour, the film makes an impact. And for this reason it is groundbreaking. Chaplin's speech delivered towards the end of the movie was an especially brave move on the part of the filmmakers. It's qualities like these that we never find in modern comedies like something starring Jim Carrey or Adam Sandler. Unlike these two men, Chaplin's productions are actually brilliant because they take a chance. While still being mighty entertaining in terms of side-splitting gags, he actually delivers a potent message through the films he created.

The Great Dictator is the story of a young Jewish barber (Chaplin) who loses his memory after crashing a plane (that he was riding in upside down) during World War I. When he returns home he's admitted to an asylum. But after escaping the asylum he is unaware of the dictator named Adenoid Hynkel (also played by Chaplin) who has implemented laws against the Jews. He is also unaware of the stormtroopers at Hynkel's command who are persecuting Jews due to his policies and beliefs.

Chaplin plays duel roles here, and does so extremely well. Despite having moustaches for both characters he is capable of showing distinction between the two. He's an exceptionally talented actor who can have the audience laughing by means of physical gags or just a spoken line.

Amongst the memorable scenes we have the dictator playing with a balloon globe, the dictator struggling to look superior to his rival, and a very amusing scene during which barber chairs are elevated to quite enormous lengths. However my only complaint would be the film's length. All the better gags are at the beginning of the film unfortunately and it feels a bit overlong, running at about 2 hours. But even despite the length, the film moves at a brisk pace and is highly entertaining (and essential) viewing.

A very important production. The film also marks Chaplin's first full sound feature.

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Hilarious, brilliant, unforgettable!

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 21 April 2008 11:31 (A review of The Apartment (1960))

"When you're in love with a married man you shouldn't wear mascara."

Writer/director Billy Wilder expertly amalgamates comedy and drama in the critically acclaimed film The Apartment; a screen gem that is still remembered among the greatest films of all time.

For a dated romantic comedy this film is still immensely impressive in terms of innovative ideas, classic story and a vast array of fantastic laughs.

C.C. Baxter (Lemmon) is a regular guy with a steady job of an insurance clerk. He works with thousands of other employees and needs to stand out in order to get a promotion. But Baxter figures out the secret to success when he begins renting out his apartment to four powerful men in the company. These men schedule to borrow his apartment for the day, or the night, to use it for their extramarital affairs. What follows is a series of promotions as Baxter moves his way up the corporate ladder.

But trouble arises when he starts renting his apartment to his boss (MacMurray) who is dating elevator girl Fran (MacLaine). Fran is the girl of Baxter's dreams and he falls for her when she's in a state of emotional distress.

Like Billy Wilder's previous films, The Apartment is brilliant because of the great concepts and the fantastic screenplay (that Wilder penned himself). The dialogue is fascinating, and the filmmaking is engaging. With each new scene, Wilder is able to keep the audience's attention who await the next scene with baited breath.

Because each scene is so well crafted, the attention of the audience is never thrown. I found myself completely immersed in the drama and laughs that make this film so exceptional. It may be dated and many decades old, but the film still remains as one of the all-time classic romantic comedies and one of the best films ever made.

Jack Lemmon has a very appealing on screen persona. He successfully absorbs the complete attention of the audience. He plays his character so that we can empathise with him and care more about his situation. Shirley MacLaine is another fantastic addition to the cast. Like Lemmon, she is very alluring and can get the audience to care about her at the drop of a hat. There are some scenes in particular that showcase some sublime acting from MacLaine. Fred MacMurray was also very, very good as the snobby boss.

All the supporting cast were excellent as well, including some intriguing performances from people as Lemmon's neighbours and colleagues.

Some may pass up the chance to view classic romantic comedies such as these because of how old they are and they'd prefer new rubbish like an Adam Sandler film. If this be the case, you're missing out on an extremely good quality film.

The Apartment is classic in every sense of the word: classic formulaic story, classic stylish performances, classic clever screenplay. Winner of 5 Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Writing.

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Epitome of classic filmmaking.

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 21 April 2008 11:29 (A review of The Maltese Falcon (1941))

"The stuff that dreams are made of..."

The Maltese Falcon is a classic, enthralling thriller and the definitive film version of Dashiell Hammett's unforgettable novel. Adapted by John Huston (who also directed), the film marks the big break of actor Humphrey Bogart who went on to star in such beloved classics as Casablanca and The African Queen.

John Huston's The Maltese Falcon is a film that has become an all-time classic, and is still considered one of the greatest movies at all time.

Humphrey Bogart plays a private detective named Sam Spade. When his partner is killed under mysterious circumstances, Sam soon becomes mixed up in a murderous hunt for a valuable statuette that has been described as "the stuff dreams are made of". The fabled treasure, known as The Maltese Falcon, is one of its kind and its current whereabouts is unknown.

This sizzling thriller moves at an invigorating pace and is carried by an abundance of magnificent performances. Aside from Bogart, whose performance was outstanding, there is a host of remarkable supporting players including Mary Astor, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet.

For a crime thriller, the script was surprisingly excellent. The dialogue was fascinating, with plot twists established exceptionally well. Due to the film's plot twists and unexpected turns, it improves with each new screening. But the film is strictly for those who are looking for intelligent dialogue as opposed to no-brainer crime films we see far too much of in this day and age.

At just about every level, The Maltese Falcon has memorable things to offer. Bogart is frequently charismatic and is able to engage the audience who hang off every word that comes out of his mouth. His character is extremely well conceived, and executed with style by one of the most loved actors of all time.

And who could forget Peter Lorre? Lorre is undoubtedly among the best actors in the film. He creates a great atmosphere and a memorable character.

The Maltese Falcon is a film that has been regarded as being one the greatest films of all time. So what makes the film so great? An unbelievably fascinating story, great performances, an inspirational directorial debut by John Huston and the lightening pace that makes the film remarkable entertainment. My only complaint rests in the lack of chemistry between Mary Astor and Bogart, and the complex story that is a little hard to comprehend at times. But of course, even despite these flaws the film is still a far superior to any crime films we see in the recent contemporary age of cinema. No-one will ever be able to match the sheer genius of this classic masterpiece.

The Maltese Falcon may not be in the league of Casablanca or many other Bogart movies, but it still stands the test of time. Recommended.

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Classic stuff! Highly recommended!!

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 21 April 2008 11:28 (A review of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948))

"Conscience. What a thing. If you believe you got a conscience it'll pester you to death. But if you don't believe you got one, what could it do t'ya? Makes me sick, all this talking and fussing about nonsense."

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a riveting classic adventure tale that made a huge impression on global cinema. Even though it's over 60 years old the film holds a major influence on the way adventure films have been made to this day.

Many will wonder what makes the film so special. For me it was a great way to spend two hours because it was highly entertaining, fascinating and has a high sense of excitement. Then underneath the surface we have a great underlying message about human nature and the lust for greed.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a tale set in 1920s Mexico. Two poor men named Dobbs (Bogart) and Curtin (Holt) are desperate for a pay check and will do anything to strike wealth. Lucky for them they run into an old codger named Howard (played by director John Huston's dad Walter) who endlessly drones on about mining for gold and knowing the spot where one can find gold worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

And so the three men set out into the mountains for a spot of gold prospering after pooling together their funds to purchase all necessary equipment. During their adventure they encounter bandits and Indians but none of these threaten them as much as something they never anticipated - human nature and greed.

This classic tale is one high adventure film that you won't want to miss. It delivers a sense of true adventure; making the experience exhilarating and a whole heap of fun. But what really makes this one unlike all other adventure films is its subconscious message about how easily mankind can be corrupted and manipulated by the thought of money.

Some of the scenes throughout the movie during which characters quarrel over the gold is spellbinding. Because of the fantastic characters we can easily find ourselves engaged in what's going on for the film's two hour period.

And what was imperative for this to work? It's simple - the extraordinary performances from everyone in the cast. Humphrey Bogart was already an established star and was raking in lots of money. Especially after The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca this man was extremely distinguished amongst the thousands of other actors working at the time. Bogey's portrayal was captivating and brilliant. He got his role perfected in no time. He seemed like a gruff, poor beggar at the beginning of the movie. And by the end we get the sense of what occurred after he got his hands on such a large amount of gold. His lust for wealth got the better of him, and Bogart gets his character across in a stunning way.

Walter Huston, father to director John Huston, finally received an Oscar as the aging gold prospector. Clearly there are little flaws to find in his character. Tim Holt was only known for trashy B-Grade flicks up until he got his big break here. He is always so focused, and so dissimilar to the other two protagonists. With this in mind, each of the three title characters are so divergent.

John Huston both wrote and directed the film himself. He was without question the perfect man for the job. He excelled himself, and I liked this film better than The Maltese Falcon which is also among the screen greats.

Above all this, the cinematography is what sold the film for me. Each location was brilliant and looked completely gorgeous on the big screen. The use of such dense bush and the sense of isolation totally blew me away.

But wait - there's more. Just when you think things couldn't get any better, I also found the invigorating score by Max Steiner to be the perfect way to top it all off. I don't think there are any flaws to be pointed out in this classic production. Quotable lines, great messages about humanity and just all round inspiring filmmaking.

The Treasure of Sierra Madre is a phenomenal achievement and will forever be a movie that stands the test of time. It's groundbreaking, exciting and adventurous. Quite simply if you've never seen this classic cinematic gem then you have no idea what you're missing out on.

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Why can't I give it 0/10?!

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 21 April 2008 11:27 (A review of Adam Evil (2004))

The filmmakers must have been on some kind of drug to think producing this pile of rubbish was a bright idea. When I heard the title it sounded like a take on the Adam & Eve story which captured my interest. Then when I read the synopsis I was proved wrong, but still found this an interesting premise for a movie. Upon viewing it...I detract everything I previously thought about it.

The film was dull, clichéd, horrible and almost painful to watch. Not much of a plot, really, just a group of teenagers go to a camp-ground, they're warned about murders that occurred there a few months ago (Surprised?), they start partying and then a murderer starts killing all the teens.

Now, back up, anyone think this sounds like Friday The 13th 200: Jason Gets A Makeover or something? God, the cinematography was hopeless and the acting was pathetic.

Each actor sounded contrived and appalling; breathing absolutely nothing into an already lifeless script. Needless to say the script was one of the worst piles of rubbish to get the green light in a very long time.

I appreciate the fact that it's probably meant to be B-grade and shoddy...but this is just plain inexcusable not to mention highly demoralising. Lots of unnecessary violence, profanity and filthy dialogue are all that make up the script. And none of the lines sounded natural at all, especially when the actors spewed all their lines out on camera in such an artificial way.

It must take a director really devoid of any talent to get involved with this crap. I can't waste anymore of my time warning you, but if you must watch this film I suggest you watch it with a heap of mates while accompanied by nibblies, pizza and fizzy drinks as you will enjoy ripping it off. Adam & Evil is nothing more than a film to watch plainly for the prospect of having a good laugh at how dreadful it is.

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Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 21 April 2008 11:25 (A review of Æon Flux (2005))

"I had a family once, I had a life. Now all I have is a mission."

Aeon Flux is really quite dreadful; nothing more than a no-brainer sci-fi live-action flick based on the animated TV series.

First of all, the style and atmosphere are terribly artificial. There's far too much CGI and digitally expanded sets that detract highly from the overall film value. As a result of this heavy reliance on CGI we can't get engaged in the film at all. The characters are all horribly conceived but executed worse. The actors are all terribly wooden not to mention lifeless and unexciting. And for the final nail in the coffin, the film is so awfully predictable beyond belief!

Aeon Flux is a sci-fi film set 400 years into the future subsequent to 99% of the world's population being wiped out by a virus. The only survivors live in a society with a corrupt government. A group of rebels called 'The Monicans' attempt to overthrow the government and put an end to this corruption of the highest level that has gone on too long. Then when one of their soldiers named Aeon Flux (Theron) is sent to assassinate the chairmen named Trevor Goodchild (Csokas) she discovers a whole new mystery.

The only thing that holds this rubbish together would be the action scenes that are tame but mildly entertaining. There are guns aplenty as well as many characters that do nothing more than showcase their acrobatic skills in front of the camera.

Charlize Theron is an actress I usually admire, but unfortunately here she's emotionless, dull, lifeless and just plain terrible. It would take a long time to mention all the members of the cast I was disappointed with, but I think it goes without saying that even the extras couldn't bring anything good to the table. The direction was very empty, and the atmosphere filled with CGI only made it increasingly hollow. The music didn't add anything more to the movie.

Aeon Flux had the potential to be the decade's The Fifth Element but unfortunately it screwed up every opportunity it had. There is no wonder that it took me so long to finally finish watching this film. It's even more two dimensional than the cartoon! And hence, I kept getting increasingly embarrassed to watch the movie and it continued watching it another day. Boy, I wish I never decided to give this film a shot. My advice, and I suggest you take it: Avoid!

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Classic in every sense of the word.

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 21 April 2008 11:22 (A review of The African Queen (1951))

"Well I ain't sorry for you no more, ya crazy, psalm-singing, skinny old maid!"

By this time in his career, John Huston was already established as a capable filmmaker who had previously helmed such classics as The Maltese Falcon and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. And of course, Huston could only call one man to fill the title role: Humphrey Bogart. The African Queen is deservedly an incredible classic that rightfully sits amongst the greatest films of all time. Films like these can still be thoroughly enjoyed even during the time of modern cinema.

Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn make a magnificent screen couple in this dazzling, exciting adventure film set during World War I. Bogart is Charlie Allnut; an aging alcoholic who lives in the forests of Africa and owns a boat called The African Queen. As Charlie arrives at a small African village he discovers that the Germans had attacked recently; capturing many of the Africans that resided there. Charlie agrees to take a woman missionary named Rose (Hepburn) under his wing to ensure her survival for the duration of the war. Although the two have their bitter differences, they travel in The African Queen downstream with hope of sinking a German ship that would assist the allies in winning the war. Predictably, the two fall in love during their unique river adventure.

The African Queen was widely acclaimed by both critics and audiences upon release, and is still a much loved classic to this very day. It's a shame that many moviegoers overlook this movie due to its age because quite frankly this film is superior to a lot of rubbish produced by Hollywood in this day and age. Humphrey Bogart delivers another critically acclaimed performance as the aging sea captain. This is most certainly a change on his usual character; instead of being charismatic and charming, Bogart is an alcoholic with a short temper and doesn't care much for his surroundings. Katherine Hepburn was a remarkable companion for Bogey in this one. Because she is so sophisticated and a real lady, it was quite hilarious at times because Bogey's character is the complete opposite.

John Huston's directing is superb as always. He is able to utilise such gorgeous locations to make the viewer really feel in the centre of the dense jungle. The atmosphere is very genuine and very colourful. On top of all this, some great visuals are accompanied by a pleasant score. The script was exceptionally written and contains some very naturalistic dialogue.

The African Queen scores as a highly enjoyable adventure film that was filmed beautifully on location in Africa. Highly recommended!

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