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Joseph L. Mankiewicz
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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 <email@example.com>
Hadn't seen this film in a long time and I'm glad to have caught it again. It's at the apex of black-and-white barely tongue-in-cheek comedies with a stellar cast that had a blast making the film.
Jennifer Jones, beautiful as always, seems barely able to stay inside her role, laughter threatening to break out at any moment. Humphrey Bogart has a recurrent quizzical "Am I really doing this?" expression.
Tied in with a gang of bumbling crooks seeking a fortune in uranium in Africa, illicitly of course, Bogart, married to a cute Gina Lollabrigida, falls in love with a faux English gentleman's wife as fast as his spouse goes for the supposed representative of the landed gentry. Of course cuddling and sweet words substitute for sex.
Robert Morley, always funny, is the putative leader of a gang that can't get their act together with Peter Lorre shedding his customary menacing stare for a busman's holiday as a gangster with a sense of humor.
The action ranges from beautiful Italy to a placid sea voyage aboard a rickety tub commanded by a rum-soaked moron whose Italian expletives are not understandable but who cares? The main characters, shipwrecked, wind up on an African shore where they're greeted by what today are embarrassingly stereotyped Arabs (I cringed at one of the European's comic invocation of Islam but then the movie has to be taken on its own terms and time, right?).
The resolution is lame - the characters all look ready to leave the set and get drunk before undertaking a new film. But this is one of the best spoofs of the noir genre and what makes it fly is the ensemble of first-rate actors in roles neatly the opposite of those they were usually seen performing.
Rent it! (Please)
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