Watch Beat the Devil
- 1 hr 29 min
Beat the Devil is a 1953 adventure comedy film that marked the second collaboration between director John Huston and actor Humphrey Bogart after their classical noir masterpiece, The Maltese Falcon. The film also features a star-studded cast, including Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollobrigida, Peter Lorre, and Robert Morley. With a runtime of 1 hour and 29 minutes, Beat the Devil is a gorgeous black and white movie that still retains its charm and wit till today.
Set in the fictional town of Ruffano in Italy, the film recounts the misadventures of a motley crew of characters who unite in a curious plot to gain control of uranium-rich land in East Africa. Billy Dannreuther (Bogart) is an American adventurer who, along with his wife Maria (Jones), tampers with the barometer of his sailing vessel in hopes of fooling the ship's captain and his wife (Morley and Lollobrigida), leading to their arrest by the Italian police. But things soon turn sour as they all end up on the same cruise ship, en route to East Africa, with a handful of others - Mr. Peterson (Edward Underdown), a stuffy British lawyer, O'Hara (Lorre), a seemingly shady individual who served time in jail, and Chelm (Ivor Barnard), a German businessman who seems to have a hidden agenda.
As they embark on this journey, Billy tries to convince the others to join him in a plot to take over a uranium mine in Africa by buying it at auction at an incredibly low price. But as the plot thickens, alliances shift, and everyone seems to have a secret agenda. Billy's wife Maria is involved with Peterson, and Chelm has a mysterious connection to a group of Arabs who are also keen on purchasing the mine. O'Hara is perhaps the only one who seems to have nothing to gain from the plot and is happy to play mischief and stir up trouble along the way.
Beat the Devil is unique in that it is a parody of the adventure movie genre that was popular at the time. The narrative is less concerned with the plot's morality and more with the eccentricities of its characters. The film often breaks the fourth wall, with Bogart's star power and charisma serving to keep the audience on their toes. The dialogue is snappy and full of one-liners, with Huston's trademark dry humor being evident throughout.
The film's cinematography is top-notch, with crisp black and white images that capture the actors' emotions flawlessly. The variety of landscapes, ranging from a bustling Italian city to a barren African desert, is stunning. As the story progresses, the tone of the film shifts from light-hearted to suspenseful, with the final scenes resembling a whodunit as the characters' various plots are revealed in a twist ending.
Beat the Devil is most notable for its cast, which comprises several Golden Age Hollywood icons. Humphrey Bogart is at his charming best, managing to balance his role as a criminal mastermind with his signature tough-guy persona. Jennifer Jones is radiant as Maria, adding depth to the film's romantic subplot. Gina Lollobrigida brings a sultry touch to her portrayal of Mrs. Gwendolen Chelm, with her character's true intentions being one of the story's biggest mysteries. Peter Lorre is delightful as always, evoking his trademark creepy charm, while Robert Morley steals the show with his portrayal of an eccentric, bumbling British gentleman.
Overall, Beat the Devil is a witty, entertaining romp that stands the test of time. Director John Huston masterfully blends elements of adventure, comedy, and suspense into a cohesive and enjoyable movie. The acting is top-notch, the cinematography beautiful, and the story is full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing right till the end. While the film may have gone under the radar upon its initial release, it has since gained a cult following, and it is not hard to see why.
Beat the Devil is a 1953 action movie with a runtime of 1 hour and 29 minutes. It has received moderate reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.4.