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A quartet of international crooks -- Peterson, O'Hara, Ross and Ravello -- is stranded in Italy while their steamer is being repaired. With them are the Dannreuthers. The six are headed for Africa, presumably to sell vacuum cleaners but actually to buy land supposedly loaded with uranium. They are joined by others who apparently have similar designs. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Either the writer or the director was playing an inside joke by naming two of the characters 'Chelm'. Chelm, in Yiddish folklore, refers to a village in eastern Europe that is ruled by the "wise fools". See more »
When the boat arrives at shore and the group come out of the sea, Billy walks after Peterson and stops just behind him. In the next shot, shown from the front, Billy appears on the left side of Peterson. See more »
Humphrey Bogart heads a superior cast in this tale of a gang of swindlers who seek to covertly purchase African lands rich in uranium--but this is not the tough film noir you might expect: the script by director John Huston and Truman Capote upends the tale to create one of the most wry and wicked comedies going, and a remarkably fine cast follows suit with a host of eccentric performances.
Although Bogart does not look his best (this film was made toward the end of his life), he offers an understated yet very witty performance as Billy Dannreuther, the man the crooks hire to make the land purchase. His leading ladies, bombshell Gina Lollobrigida and an unexpectedly blonde Jennifer Jones, are equally effective in the roles of Bogart's cheerfully pragmatic wife and the pathological liar with whom Bogart becomes romantically entangled. But the big news in this film is the supporting cast. Robert Morley, Peter Lorre, Ivor Barnard, and Marco Tulli give drop-dead-funny performances as the largely incompetent foursome behind the landsnatch scheme; Edward Underdown (as Jones' long suffering husband) is simply the most completely ludicrous Brit to hit the screen since 1930s screwball comedy; and all the cameo players nail their roles to perfection.
It would be unforgivable to give away too much of the story, but suffice to say that one wrong turn leads to another. The film never overplays its hand, maintaining a low key tone that sets off the wickedly funny script to delightful effect. Some viewers may not get the joke--much of BEAT THE DEVIL requires the ability to appreciate covert humor--but those who do will find the movie bears repeat viewing. Recommended.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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