A quartet of international crooks -- Peterson, O'Hara, Ross and Ravello -- is stranded in Italy while their steamer is being repaired. With them are the Dannreuthers. The six are headed for Africa, presumably to sell vacuum cleaners but actually to buy land supposedly loaded with uranium. They are joined by others who apparently have similar designs.
Running Time: 89 Minutes
MPAA Ratings: PG
A screwball, wacky comedy that is played as straight as any film noir and is even funnier as a result. Five desperate and disparate men (Bogart, Lorre, Morley, Barnard, and Tulli) are out to garner control over East African land which they believe contains a rich uranium ore lode. Their scuzzy steamer is in port in Italy. Bogart is married to Gina (an odd choice for the role but she proves to be more than adept at the straight-faced comedy). The other four are their "business associates." Bogart and Gina meet another couple, Jones and Underdown. She's in a blonde wig and off-the-wall;he's a prig-and-a-half at first glance but in reality, he's a phony peer. Jones rattles on about her hubby's uranium holdings, all lies. The "associates" think they are being gulled by Bogart when it appears that Bogie is after Jones and Gina is hot for Underdown.
The boat leaves for Africa, then blows up. Seven survivors make it to shore and are taken in by a hostile group of Arabs. Their lives are saved when Bogart manages to charm the evil Arab police chief by promising the man an opportunity to meet his idol, Rita Hayworth. Underdown is supposed to have drowned and this causes Jones, a pathological liar, to tell the truth. The four villains are taken in by the Italian police, then Jones gets a telegram from her still-alive husband and is delighted to learn that Underdown made it to Africa and acquired the uranium-rich land the others yearned for.
"Beat The Devil" is one of Bogart's more unusual films. Scripted by none other than Truman Capote and John Huston, it is a very entertaining, offbeat noir satire (quite a description). Upon first viewing a lot of the humor may get lost, but view it a second time, and you can not help but laugh out loud at many of the jokes.
The cast is absolutely top notch. Bogart is perfect as Billy Dannreuther, a man who has a friend that will line him and his associates up with some land in Africa that is rich with uranium. It's always nice to see Bogie prove that he had a great sense of humor, and didn't mind poking fun at himself. Jennifer Jones, who, for some reason, always reminded me of Vivien Leigh (in "Streetcar")in this picture is terrific as Mrs. Chelm. But it is Robert Morley who steals the picture for me. Sometimes menacing, sometimes charming, he is a delight to watch.
Huston and Capote have done a great job of blending the different genres without letting them get all caught up in each other. I do wish that the final scene was written a little better, but the movie is still a lot of fun.
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