6.5/10
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126 user 51 critic

Beat the Devil (1953)

On their way to Africa are a group of rogues who hope to get rich there, and a seemingly innocent British couple. They meet and things happen...

Director:

John Huston

Writers:

Claud Cockburn (based on the novel "Beat the Devil" by) (as James Helvick), Truman Capote (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Humphrey Bogart ... Billy Dannreuther
Jennifer Jones ... Mrs. Gwendolen Chelm
Gina Lollobrigida ... Maria Dannreuther
Robert Morley ... Peterson
Peter Lorre ... Julius O'Hara
Edward Underdown Edward Underdown ... Harry Chelm
Ivor Barnard ... Maj. Jack Ross
Marco Tulli Marco Tulli ... Ravello
Bernard Lee ... Insp. Jack Clayton
Mario Perrone Mario Perrone ... Purser on SS Nyanga
Giulio Donnini Giulio Donnini ... Administrator
Saro Urzì ... Captain of SS Nyanga (as Saro Urzi)
Juan de Landa ... Hispano-Suiza Driver (as Juan De Landa)
Aldo Silvani Aldo Silvani ... Charles - Restaurant Manager
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Storyline

A quartet of international crooks (Peterson, O'Hara, Ross and Ravello) are stranded in Italy whilst their steamer is being repaired. With them are the an English couple, the Dannreuthers. The 6 are headed for Africa, presumably to sell vacuum cleaners but all is not as it seems. They are joined by others who apparently have similar designs. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Europe, the Mediterranean, Africa ... This Was Their Road to Adventure and a Fabulous Fortune ... A Dangerous Band of Desperate Men Goaded on By Two Beautiful Women ... All of Them Out to Beat the Devil at His Own Game! See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

UK | Italy | USA

Language:

English | Italian

Release Date:

17 December 1953 (Italy) See more »

Also Known As:

Beat the Devil See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Either the writer or the director was playing an inside joke by naming two of the characters 'Chelm'. Chelm, in Yiddish folklore, refers to a village in eastern Europe that is ruled by the "wise fools". See more »

Goofs

The luggage rack on the back of the car that goes over the cliff is not the same as before it goes off the road. See more »

Quotes

O'Hara: Time. Time. What is time? Swiss manufacture it. French hoard it. Italians squander it. Americans say it is money. Hindus say it does not exist. Do you know what I say? I say time is a crook.
See more »

Alternate Versions

The original American release version was truncated and had scenes moved around, making a mess of the story line. The uncut version--released overseas by Romulus--was finally restored in the U.S. by Sony in 2016. See more »

Connections

Featured in Film Breaks: Matinée Idols (1999) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Odd...I call it odd
9 February 2009 | by blanche-2See all my reviews

The above is a line from "Black Widow" that I've always liked. I guess it was called to mind because "Beat the Devil" is a black comedy. Well, it's an odd comedy anyway.

The 1953 film had absolutely everything going for it, including Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollabrigida, Peter Lorre, Robert Morley, directed by John Huston with a screenplay by Truman Capote. What more could you ask for? I don't know, but something.

The story concerns crooks stuck in Italy while they wait for a steamer to be repaired that is to take them to Africa. There, they will buy land that has uranium on it, though no one knows that. They're allegedly selling vacuum cleaners. Also traveling on this steamer are a British woman (Jones) and her husband. He supposedly is landed gentry in England, but is he? The crooks wonder what he's up to, and the wife keeps changing her story.

There is a lot of humor to be had in this film - the situation is funny, the denouement is wonderful, there is some witty dialogue and there are clever situations that go on during the film that are amusing. The problem is that nobody cares.

The film, which looks like it cost about a dollar to make, is too disjointed, and there are long sections where nothing interesting happens.

One of the posters, who really liked the film, commented that people don't like it because the actors aren't going for laughs. Well, I'm not one of those people. Acting 101 says you don't go for laughs - you play the situation and the characters for real and the laughs happen. That doesn't mean, however, that you pace it like it's Long Days Journey. Bogart had wonderful timing no matter what, and it's evident here, particularly in the car scene on the way to the restaurant, where the character's glibness is apparent. The problem isn't in any person, it's in the direction. I don't believe Huston had a sense of comedy. He could be brilliant, but this was not his thing.

Still, "Beat the Devil" is worth seeing, but it's hard to keep your attention on it.


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