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In 1921 Dublin, the IRA battles the "Black & Tans," special British forces given to harsh measures. Irish-American medical student Kerry O'Shea hopes to stay aloof, but saving a wounded friend gets him outlawed, and inexorably drawn into the rebel organization...under his former professor Sean Lenihan, who has "shaken hands with the devil" and begun to think of fighting as an end in itself. Complications arise when Kerry falls for a beautiful English hostage, and the British offer a peace treaty that is not enough to satisfy Lenihan. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
On receiving the script, James Cagney said " A trip to Ireland and a plum role...unbeatable! ". See more »
Toward the end of the movie, Jimmy Cagney throws a hand grenade under the British armored car, but the subsequent explosion emanates from inside the vehicle on the upper side, while the undercarriage is completely unscathed. See more »
Shake Hands with the Devil is directed by Michael Anderson and adapted to screenplay by Marian Spitzer from the novel written by Rearden Conner. It stars James Cagney, Don Murray, Dana Wynter, Glynis Johns, Michael Redgrave and Sybil Thorndike. Music is by William Alywyn and cinematography by Erwin Hillier.
It's 1920s Dublin, Ireland, and the Irish Republican Army are at war with the British Black & Tans. Into the conflict comes Irish American Kerry O'Shea (Murray), who in spite of being apolitical is drawn into darker waters as the violence rages. Complications arise when a hostage situation unfurls, all while the strings are being pulled by the IRA's fearsome commandant, Sean Lenihan (Cagney), who wants Kerry under his wing.
It has always been a tricky subject to film, the so called Irish Troubles, for too many film makers have either been ignorant of the facts in the name of good cinema, or so fuelled by other motives it's difficult to get on side with such one sided venom. Michael Anderson's film, whilst itself harbouring dubious political material, deserves plaudits for trying to come at the topic from both sides, embracing the complexities of the issues and never shying away from the violence that tore through parts of Ireland. Even if it ends up being a little confused as to its aims.
Filmed on location predominantly in Dublin, there's almighty strength in the cinematography of Hillier (The Mark of Cain/Chase a Crooked Shadow). The night time shots of damp cobbled streets and gaslights are ethereal, while in daytime the lush landscapes are imposing yet still giving off a depressing hue. On the acting front it's Cagney who dominates, in one of his craziest and most crafty roles, he's a Vesuvius who darts between being the honourable cause man, to that of a psychotic who doesn't believe peace is a viable option. Strong support comes from Wynter and Johns.
Political hot-pot with wrought emotion, and action scenes that impact as Cagney does his stuff, Shake Hands with the Devil leaves a mark. 7/10
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