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Joseph L. Mankiewicz
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>
If you're a classic film fan, you're going to come across this film sooner or later. And chances are, being a fan of how movies were made back in the day, you'll understand what these creative folks were going for.
It's a satire/spoof! It's not a blatant attack on movies of similar genres (a la Naked Gun), but a subtle one because THEY PLAY IT STRAIGHT. And therein lies the genius of this film. It's a satire that's played straight. Even though the actors, bless their hearts, seem like they're sometimes about to bust a seam speaking the lines, they are intentionally trying to be serious. Every cast member, especially Edward Underdown and Robert Morley (as Chelm and Peterson), understood and delivered their lines to perfection. "The men of this world most in need of a beating up are all so incredibly large..." Or something like that. Hell, Bogart just sat back and let the humor flow all around him. And good old Jennifer Jones. The old Selznick factory product finally gives a performance that's not artificial. What's amazing is that renowned Italian actress Gina Lollobridgia took part in this production. My theory is, she didn't know what the hell was going on. They gave her the script, told her to play it seriously, and didn't clue her in on the joke. There had not been a film made like this before, and there hasn't been one made since.
Perhaps this film has served a lesson to studios over the years. Sometimes, I think some of todays satire/spoofs do venture close to Beat the Devil ground (Zoolander), but none of them ever reach it for fear of the audience not getting it, as I understand most of Beat the Devils audience of 1954 did not get it. Imagine Mike Myers playing Austin Powers straight, and not trying to be funny in all the situations he's in. To me, that would be immensely more funny.
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