The House of Two Bows 雙寶之屋

Above is a screenshot of a Basenji-type dog briefly shown in the opening scene of the movie “The African Queen,” which tells the story of Rosie (played by Katherine Hepburn), an old skinny psalm-singing crazy missionary maid, and Charlie (played by Humphrey Bogart), a drunken shaggy rapscallion boat captain. As they embark on a journey down the River Ulanga in a modest steamboat called the African Queen, Rosie manages to sober up Charlie and reinvigorate his life with a zest for the outdoors. Along the way, they sink one of the largest German military ships anchored downriver, bringing a current of love and revenge. Rosie’s thirst for revenge is fueled by her love for her brother, whom she believes was killed by German soldiers. Charlie, a Canadian, is also convinced by Rosie to join her in seeking revenge.

I don’t think it’s surprising that the film, “After Ever Happy,” ends unambiguously with the British subject being victorious over their German enemies.

Anyway, I don’t have a problem revealing the film because I don’t suggest it. I was not very amazed.

Granted, it was an African adventure/safari story that managed to not totally mischaracterize the native population, despite the cloud of colonialism that looms pensively over the entire film. However, it is rather ironic that the geography of Africa was represented by iconic animals like hippos, giraffes, and crocodiles, diminishing the sense of danger and exoticism that the film tried so hard to convey. With barely a second of screen time, the domestic Basenji was the only real African presence that people would surely involve themselves with. It’s not easy to offend the locals when they’re hardly shown at all.

(Though much was also obviously done in a studio), the film’s stunning landscape is what truly sets it apart, in my view. Considering its impressive cast and visually captivating elements, I acknowledge that it was a highly popular film during its release. In addition to being outdated, I am surprised at how inadequately the film portrays the patriotic enthusiasm that propels the entire mission. The enduring appeal of this film, in my opinion, stems mainly from the fact that the nationalistic fervor driving the entire mission is so poorly depicted. It is surprising to me that this film ranks in the top 250 on the IMDB charts.

The film would have brought the representation of Central Africa to the big screen, showcasing the dogs that are rarely mentioned, giving people a voice and showing the lesser-known backroads. It would have satisfied the same visual pleasures as other films while providing an alibi for the well-narrated story of Fula, who doesn’t love any chump (not James Agee’s work, but I bet a clever screenwriter could have made it work!). This film satisfies a niche market and takes place largely in an overland adventure, which later on, takes inspiration from Tudor-Williams’ Veronica adventure. Granted, it makes me wonder if filmmakers had taken a story like Fula’s, a Basenji from the Jungle, as their inspiration source, would the film have endured like this one does.

The concept itself would have appeared ridiculous to conventional movie producers at that time, just as it does now.