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nite_raynger

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31 out of 35 people found the following review useful:
Easy Breezy Dramedy!, 4 January 2003

Surprise! Satan Met a Lady is an easy breezy detective dramedy VERY LOOSELY based on the Dashiell Hammett Book, The Maltese Falcon. This book had been adapted for the film before (in 1931) and, more famously, after (1941), This version made its way to the silver screen in 1936, with Bette Davis in rare form in a comedic role. Warren William, who could be as suave as the similar and better known actor William Powell, plays it fast and loose as a detective out to settle a mystery-and maybe find himself very rich. This version of the Hammett tale has been sadly underrated due to the fact that many of its naysayers were suffering under a misapprehension concerning the tenor of the film. In their attempt to set it under the same microscope as its more famous remakes and premakes, many of the critics overlooked the simple truth that this is a light, comic bit of film fluff concocted to entertain a mid-Depression Era audience with its confection of comedy, mystery, and romance. It has none of the nihilistic brooding of the original book, nor the leering innuendo or virtuoso performances of the two other films. What it does provide is a diverting pastiche of one liners and clever story lines that keep its audience on the edge of their seat. Even if they're almost falling out of their seats for laughter, there's always a reason for the viewers to use (and not lose) their heads. I'd like to see most movies do that today (and at 76 minutes.)

The casting of the principal stars is first rate. There's always a glint of a coiled cobra in Warren Willliam's silver-tongued shamus. But most of the time he keeps his gun in his pocket and his tongue in his cheek. Even his name is a parody of the nickname for a detective. Bette Davis matches him line by line and sets the movie at its pace. she was still a young actress and everything she says and does is as real and as fresh as homebaked bread. Allison Skipworth makes a charming but sinister villianess. Arthur Treacher (hilarious as a thief with manners) and portly Porter Hall round off this mad quad of moneygrubbers all showing that not only is the love of money the root of all evil, it can also be very, very, funny. Like Arsenic and Old Lace and Beat The Devil, Satan Met a lady is one movie that was ahead of its time and, after more than 65 years, is still got plenty of zest and zing. A Thumbs up for Satan Met a Lady.