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The Devil at 4 O'Clock (1961)

A crusty, eccentric priest recruits three reluctant convicts to help him rescue a children's leper colony from a Pacific island menaced by a smoldering volcano.


(as Mervyn Le Roy)


(screenplay), (novel)

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1 nomination. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jacques (as Jean Pierre Aumont)
Marcel (as Gregoire Aslan)
Alexander Scourby ...
The Governor
Camille (as Barbara Luna)
Bernie Hamilton ...
Doctor Wexler
Louis Merrill ...
Aristide Giraud
Tom Middleton ...
Paul, Co-pilot
Ann Duggan ...
Louis Mercier ...


Three convicts enroute to Tahiti are put to work at a children's leper hospital when their plane makes an unexpected stop on another island. There, Father Perreau is to get off and replace Father Doonan, who's been relieved of his duties by the cardinal. Once on the island, things get out of control when the volcano decides to erupt, and the Governor orders an evacuation. The convicts, priests and leper children are all on top of the island and have no sure way to get down and off to safety. All must work together if any are to survive. Written by AzRanger <Ranger273@azrangers.org>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


They jumped into hell to save part of heaven. See more »


Approved | See all certifications »





Release Date:

18 October 1961 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Teufel kommt um vier  »

Filming Locations:



Box Office


$5,721,786 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$4,550,000, 31 December 1961
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)


(Eastman Color)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This picture features a natural disaster: a volcano. Director Mervyn LeRoy's classic earlier film The Wizard of Oz (1939) also featured a natural disaster: a tornado. See more »


In the scenes in the village during one eruption, the ground splits. The trench into which the loose soil falls to create this effect can be seen even before the dirt disappears. See more »


Father Matthew Doonan: I'll bet you were a sweet little altar boy.
Harry: Weren't we all?
See more »


Featured in The Sopranos: Another Toothpick (2001) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

The Island Went Krakatoa On Them
24 October 2006 | by See all my reviews

I've always been of the firm belief that it is not possible to do a bad film in the South Pacific. Just the cinematography alone is a guarantee for me to enjoy it and you will enjoy The Devil at 4 O'Clock for that reason alone if nothing else.

It's entirely possible that Spencer Tracy and Frank Sinatra agreed to do the film for a vacation to Hawaii and who could blame them. But in fact with Mervyn Leroy directing, the two of them starred in a very nice story about a priest losing and regaining his faith.

Spencer Tracy is in his fourth and final film as a priest. He was sent many years ago to this tropical paradise under French colonial administration. It's a lush green place with a very large volcano.

Tracy also saw a need for a children's hospital for lepers which was still prevalent among the population. The other islanders didn't share his vision to put it mildly. Their own callousness drove him from his faith and started him drinking and doing other sins.

Anyway he's being recalled and a new priest, Kerwin Matthews, is being sent to replace him on the island and in the hospital which is located halfway up the volcano slope. Arriving on the same plane for layover are three convicts, Frank Sinatra, Bernie Hamilton, and Gregoire Aslan, who are bound for prison in Tahiti.

Wouldn't you know it, the volcano erupts and the only men who are able to help Tracy with the hospital patients and staff getting them down the mountain and evacuated are the three convicts.

It's quite a journey, all of the people involved discover hidden wellsprings of character.

Of course the two stars have great roles. There's enough of the hipster Sinatra there to recognize, but he too is transformed by the experience. This maybe the only film where he plays someone who is actually from where old Blue Eyes was born in real life, Hudson County, New Jersey.

Spencer Tracy had stopped playing traditional leading men long before this. He had an aversion to make up in general and was the least vain of leading male stars about growing old. Tracy's face and the sincerity with which he speaks his lines keep his performance from becoming maudlin. He has a powerful moving scene comforting the dying Bernie Hamilton and renewing his own lapsed Catholicism.

The only thing I fault The Devil at 4 O'Clock for is that Humphrey Bogart did not live long enough to do the part Sinatra did. Tracy and Bogey were a great mutual admiration society and way back in 1931 they did a film for John Ford, Up the River, which was Tracy's screen debut and Bogey's second film. They never got to work together again, but became great friends and Tracy was a frequent visitor along with Katharine Hepburn to Bogart when he was dying.

As good as Sinatra was, this part was made for Humphrey Bogart. I have a feeling had he lived with a bit of rewriting, this could have been their joint co-starring vehicle.

What a classic that would have been.

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