Something you just don’t see much of anymore is the small river steamer. Most river travel today is done with large barges for business, or motorboats for pleasure. Even the human-powered whitewater rafting is done mainly as an outdoor adventure. And yet, there are still areas of the world that rely on these modes of transportation, even if the journey may be dangerous or the integrity of the boat itself is brought into question. Sometimes the situation dictates that river travel must be taken. Perhaps the terrain is impassable by vehicles or is so densely packed with trees that landing a plane would be impossible. What if you need to get away quickly? What if you need to get in stealthily? This week’s two movies examine the hazards and adventures of traveling on the river.
The African Queen
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 105 minutes / 1.75 hours
It seems that sometimes taking a small river steamer is the last resort. Especially when the ride could be more dangerous than the alternatives. Of course, when the alternatives disappear, all that’s left is the junker tub that can barely stay afloat. Some might argue that traveling on a river is relaxing and low stress. Well, that entirely depends on the river. While you don’t need to exert much effort to move forward, you certainly don’t have any control over your course. The battle comes with the struggle against nature as it hurtles you wherever it sees fit. Just remember, not all boats are designed to go down rapids.
In German-infested Africa during World War I, Rose Sayer (Katherine Hepburn) needs a way to get out. After her brother was killed by said Germans, the pious missionary only has one way to escape: a river boat by the name of “African Queen.” However, this boat is owned and piloted by the local drunk, Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart). Her decision now is merely to choose the lesser of two evils. As the two conflicting personalities board the boat and head downstream, they must overcome sudden maintenance issues as well as the force of the river itself. And yet, how far do they need to travel to really escape the influence of the Germans? Is going out to sea going to allow them to really escape?
Length: 153 minutes / 2.55 hours
While Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” was not set during the Vietnam War, it still gives a disturbing look into the psyche of man through a trip upstream on a river boat. The interesting difference between going upstream and downstream in a river boat is that when you’re going downstream, you have an understanding of what lies before you. Usually, civilization lives downstream, whereas chaos and the unknown lie at the origin of rivers. Where The African Queen ran from chaos, Apocalypse Now! runs full steam ahead toward it.
Captain Benjamin Willard (Martin Sheen) has just been given a mission to take out rogue Green Beret, Colonel Walter Kurtz (Marlon Brando). Of course, in order to get to Col. Kurtz, Capt. Willard needs to stealthily head upstream into Cambodia, instead of taking the “burn it all” stance of Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore (Robert Duvall). The trip to take down Col. Kurtz, who has set himself up as a tribal god over some of the locals, is fraught with the dangers of an untamed jungle, as well as the untamed human mind. Using the boat to penetrate the jungle is both a trip upstream and a descent into madness. Can Capt. Willard complete his mission without also succumbing to the very forces that caused Col. Kurtz to go mad in the first place?
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 river boat adventures