East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Down the Ulamba river

I am reading C.S. Forester’s The African Queen, the classic 1935 adventure story that in 1951 was turned into a movie by John Huston, featuring Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. I must have seen the film a thousand times, and it remains one of the all-time great romantic adventure films, but I had never read the original novel – nor was I particularly familiar with C.S. Forester’s other books. Sure, I saw a number of adaptations of his Hornblower stories, but I had never read any.

And I must say I am impressed by Forester’s narrative economy and skill in creating characters and bringing them alive on the page. The prose is lean and direct, the images vivid, and the psychology of the characters masterfully presented. The lot, with an almost total lack of artifice. This is entertainment, without any conceit or affectation, and yet it manages to be literature.
Really, I am surprised they don’t study this book in schools – and it really is a concise, fun master class in how to write an adventure story.

And the good news is, while I spent some of my hard-earned money for a copy of the novel, you can actually download an ebook edition for free, from this page.
I really recommend the novel – if you are a fan of the Bogart/Hepburn movie, doubly so.
And if you read it – or if you knew it already – tell me what you think of it in the comments.


The African Queen (1951)

The-african-queen-1-As I said, I rewatched John Huston’s The African Queen, from 1951.
And I’m pretty glad I did – because I’ve seen it so often that I knew the story almost by heart, and this time I concentrated on a number of details that, when I was younger, I missed.So, let’s do away with the plot.

So, let’s do away with the basic plot.
According to IMDb…

In Africa during WWI, a gin-swilling riverboat captain is persuaded by a strait-laced missionary to use his boat to attack an enemy warship.

Which is pretty straightforward.
The film – based on a book by C.S. Forester, is set in 1914 and it does involve the hare-brained plan cooked up by Rose Sayer (Katharine Hepburn) and Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart) to sink the Luisa, a German gunboat patrolling a lake 1The movie’s a great adventure yarn, a comedy, a drama, a love story. One of the greatest film of all time. Do they still make them like this? I doubt it. Continue reading

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Guilty Pleasures: Trailers from Hell

One of my guilty pleasures (and not so guilty, aftert all) is Trailers from Hell!, a video-blog of sorts in which famous genre directors, screenwriters and producers present the trailers of their favorite movies, providing an off-beat commentary in voiceover.


The brainchild of director Joe Dante, and with regular contributions by the likes of John Landis, Brian Trenchard-Smith, Guillermo Del Toro and many other personal idols of mine, this is one of the best programs about movies on the internet, and it is highly recommended. It’s one of the most refreshing, funny and intelligent ways to spend five minutes watching a video on Youtube. Continue reading