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USA 1954
Directed by
John Huston
92 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Beat The Devil

Scripted by Huston and Truman Capote, Beat The Devil is an entertaining caper comedy about a quartet of small-time crooks and fortune-hunters, played by Robert Morley, Peter Lorre, Ivor Bernard and Marco Tulli who, under the guidance of middle-man (Humphrey Bogart), are heading to Africa to snare some uranium-rich land. Along the way they encounter an upper-class Englishman (Edward Underdown) and his kooky wife (Jennifer Jones).

Based on a book of the same name by James Helvick, Capote is credited with shifting the tone of the original script from straightforward adventure story to tongue-in-cheek farce although maverick director Huston was evidently out to have fun. The film did not do well critically or commercially in its day and there are good grounds for claiming that its offbeat, insouciantly worldly humour was ahead of its time. Indeed it wasn't until the 1960s largely thanks to the Nouvelle Vague reappraisal of American film that it gained an audience.

If it tends to come unravelled in the later stages with some throwaway plotting, for the most part it is amusing with many witty lines and a great bunch of characters. Morley is wonderful as the ingratiatingly smug tub of lard, Petersen, whilst Underdown and Jones make a delicious pairing, and Ivor Bernard makes a memorable minor character as "The Galloping Major", a sociopathic hitman. Then there the always watchable Bogey and, somewhat oddly, Gina Lollobrigida is thrown into the mix as his Anglophile wife. The original UK release was 100 minutes.




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