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"Sorry to be insisting, but I seem to have gone on a real crusade re "Beat the Devil". I didn't want to, I just wanted to buy a decent DVD version. O boy! There isn't any. And it's not only the quality that is lacking, its the content. All you get is the US recut of Huston's film (1954, 89', not 1953, 100'). It really changes the character of the movie. To the bad.
Check: Scene 1 should not be the flashback of the four crooks being marched off to the band - there is no reason to tell the plot as a flashback anyway. Spoils the whole layout. Scene 1 should be the following (censored in the US by the 50s - 50s, still sold today!!! - Censorship Board):Running Time: about 3'1 The Chelms, EU on the right, a walking stick in his right, JJ on the left, a basket over her left arm, walking towards you down a street. Camera first full shot, then moving in to half shot (waist upwards) , then half portrait (bust upwards). They are followed by a bunch of children, half seen behind their backs. A man they pass turns round to stare at them unpleasently. They turn round (towards each other).2 Portrait shot of six small boys looking very ugly, glaring at them. Mouth movements as if they were about to spit.3 The couple turns again, resuming their walk.EU: I must say I do resent the way these people stare at us. You'd think they might be going to spit.
JJ: (spits over her left shoulder)
EU: Gwendolen, dash it all!
JJ: Here, it's unlucky to have someone spit at you unless you spit first.
EU: What a filthy superstition,
JJ: (chants:) May yours be defiled!
EU: What's that about?
JJ: These people may be thinking of putting a curse on us, like ?may your grandmothers be defiled". That's why I say it first, just in case.
EU: Wherefrom do you get all this stuff?
JJ: My old Spanish nurse told me.
EU: Surely you don't believe it now. You were only a child then.
JJ: She wasn't a child. She was old.
EU: I only wonder why your parents left you in charge of such a dirty, ignorant woman.
JJ: They cared for nothing except to have me off their hands. I told you that. They'd have sold me on the slave market if they hadn't been afraid of the scandal. Besides my father was incompetent. I suppose he just didn't know how to contact the slave people.
EU: I don't believe a word of it. Probably they were very fond of you, really.
JJ: (making as if to spit again)
EU: Stop it, Gwendolen! Don't do it!
JJ: You'll be sorry if you run into bad luck just because you didn't take proper precautions. Suppose when we get to Africa there is a native raising and they are slaughtering all the Whites! (prepares to spit again)
JJ: If you don't let me spit I'll just feel like standing here in the street and screeming with terror!
EU: (looking to the left) Stop it, Gwendolen! Look: those men!
JJ: (looks to the left too)
EU: They might be fellow passengers.4 Morley, Marco Tulli, Peter Lorre descending down a street.Quite a difference, isn't it? Well, ask for the original!..."
Beware Laserlight cheapies
dw_seattle | Seattle, WA | 11/26/2000
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Terrific movie. My opinion of the DVD itself is what you're interested in, though.OK, apart from the Tony Curtis intro, this could have been a decent disc. The quality is about what you'd expect from a movie made ten years earlier, but that may be what we'll have to live with until Robert A. Harris decides to restore it.Unfortunately, the logo that Laserlight chose to put in the lower right corner, much like television stations can't resist doing these days, really ruins it. Not only does one not expect to have to put up with distractions like this on a disc that one pays for, but it shows up EVERY TEN MINUTES during the movie. It just shows how little class Laserlight has. You may as well tape it when it shows up on AMC."
Truman Capote and John Huston film a New Yorker cartoon
Zino Davidoff | Tokyo, Japan | 10/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Beat the Devil is a subtle comedy of manners. It's not a big Hollywood film, but a small independent (Bogart's own production company) that happens to have an amazing cast, is directed by one of the best (John Huston), with a Truman Capote screenplay. It's become one of my favorite off-beat films and can't recommend it enough.
What's not to like? Quite a bit if you read some of the disgruntled reviews below! But don't be dissuaded, it's a gem. And remember, Pauline Kael was a huge fan of this movie; if she's a reviewer you trust, that might be enough for you.
Other reviewers have outlined the plot so I won't go into that, and in any case, that's not the reason to watch this movie. The plot's certainly as good as any amusing Hitchcock film, with its MacGuffin and several surprising twists and comic suspense subplots unraveling throughout.
There are subtleties to Beat the Devil that apparently escape many reviewers, who perhaps wanted another formulaic 'noir' classic or some kind of slapstick laff-fest. If you like New Yorker cartoons, you'll likely enjoy this movie as much as I do: I've watched this movie at least 5 times and still love it.
Beat the Devil escapes categorization, except to say that it's a brilliant comic screenplay performed with skill and insight by several of the best actors of the 50s. Robert Morley is sublimely funny, and brings out the best in Peter Lorre and the other criminals in the gang.
Jennifer Jones is sexy and charming in her role as a compulsive liar, as is her classic and earnestly doltish husband. They reek naive British charm and are marvelous together, providing a poignant tension in contrast to the gang of conniving scoundrels.
Bogart himself has one foot in each boat, and much of the film revolves around the conflict he suffers in this double life, playing each off the other. As in most Bogie flicks, he's hilariously dry and sly, with lollapalooza actress Gina Lollobrigida playing his scheming wife. Everyone's on the make except Harry Chelm, Jennifer Jones' character's husband.
There isn't the passion of a Bogie/Bacall film, and it's not the classic noir we all love with Bogart, so don't be disappointed.
One word of warning: Beat the Devil slipped into the public domain, so the DVDs on the market are of varying quality. The one I have is ok, but only just... it's like watching an old movie, with herky jerky pops and cuts and some noise. It doesn't bother me that much though, and emphasizes the 'rare find' quality if you're feeling charitable. If you're a digital maniac, you'll be better served watching something Criterion's had its way with.
Beat the Devil is one of the most unusual 50s movies I can think of, and I don't normally watch any movie as often as I've watched this one. With the possible exception of other Bogart classics."
Very poor technical production
Wm W. Richardson | Sherman, Texas USA | 12/20/2001
(1 out of 5 stars)
"This version (LaserLight) is awful. There is no effort to fix any of the scratches in the film, and a logo for "Delta" appears periodically in the lower right suggesting that this film was simply taped off the air and dumped on a DVD."
Very Off Beat and Very Unexpected
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 02/08/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Humphrey Bogart heads a superior cast in this tale of a gang of swindlers who seek to covertly purchase African lands rich in uranium--but this is not the tough film noir you might expect: the script by director John Huston and Truman Capote upends the tale to create one of the most wry and wicked comedies going, and a remarkably fine cast follows suit with a host of eccentric performances.Although Bogart does not look his best (this film was made toward the end of his life), he offers an understated yet very witty performance as Billy Dannreuther, the man the crooks hire to make the land purchase. His leading ladies, bombshell Gina Lollobrigida and an unexpectedly blonde Jennifer Jones, are equally effective in the roles of Bogart's cheerfully pragmatic wife and the pathological liar with whom Bogart becomes romantically entangled. But the big news in this film is the supporting cast. Robert Morley, Peter Lorre, Ivor Barnard, and Marco Tulli give drop-dead-funny performances as the largely incompetent foursome behind the landsnatch scheme; Edward Underdown (as Jones' long suffering husband) is simply the most completely ludicrous Brit to hit the screen since 1930s screwball comedy; and all the cameo players nail their roles to perfection.It would be unforgivable to give away too much of the story, but suffice to say that one wrong turn leads to another. But the film never overplays its hand, maintaining a low key tone that sets off the wickedly funny script to delightful effect. Some viewers may not get the joke--much of BEAT THE DEVIL requires the ability to appreciate covert humor--but those who do will find the movie bears repeat viewing. Recommended."