Humphrey Bogart was no angel in "The African Queen," but over the years, deterioration of the original film did strange things to the images of Hollywood's golden age tough guy and co-star Katherine Hepburn.
"There was this halo effect around the character and other items throughout the whole movie -- giving this soft, milky image the filmmakers never intended," Ron Smith, the vice president of restoration at Paramount Pictures, told PopcornBiz. "You'd see it the most around people's face. You'd say something looks a little soft."
Soft? Milky? Bogey?
All is right in the world as the 1951 classic has been fully restored to its original grandeur, following a complete overhaul overseen by Smith. The restored film was re-released on DVD and Blu-ray this week.
The process, which took a year, started with a scan of the camera's original prints and an electronic restoration at a special facility on Warner's lot in Burbank. There were painstaking efforts in the process as experts addressed first the sweeping problems, before moving on to minute blemishes.
"In problem sections you go frame-by-frame," says Smith. "And there were a lot of problem sections."
Making the cleaning process more problematic still was that "The African Queen" was shot as a three-strip negative.
"We essentially restored three films," says Smith. The sound was restored to take out the pops, hisses and crackles.
So how does the final product look?
"It's stunning," says Smith.
Long live the "Queen."