Tuesday, October 14, 2014

268. Beat the Devil (1953)

Running Time: 93 minutes
Directed By: John Huston
Written By: Truman Capote, John Huston, from novel by James Helvick
Main Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollbrigida, Robert Morley, Peter Lorre


Some may recall from my "The Man from Laramie" review that I'd tried to start this one last week to no avail. The appearance of Bogart probably didn't do me any favors either, as I just don't care for the man and would gladly be done with his movies once and for all if it wasn't for my obsession with lists. Anyway, lets get on with it, shall we...

Even THE BOOK can't seem to recall the plot as it states that the film "has something to do with uranium rights in Africa". If the people who adored the movie enough to include it as one the 1001 muse see movies can't be bothered to remember what it's about, why the hell should I care? However, I'm too much of a perfectionist to gloss over the details of the plot and I'll do my best to recall them here. I will say I had a hard time settling into this one and thus, I found my mind wandering easily. Once Bogey and the crew started going off about uranium and a boat to Africa, I couldn't have possibly cared less about the outcome. Billy Dannreuther (Bogart - when the last name is said onscreen, it sounds like Dan Rather - which I found amusing) leads a motley crew of thieves and con-men as they plot to take a boat to Africa where a land rich in uranium deposits is going to be put up for auction. With this privileged information, they'll buy the land cheap and reap the benefits. Before they can set sail, however, they're informed of a problem with the boat which threatens to keep them docked for no more than two weeks, no less than a day. While waiting, Billy and his wife, Maria (Lollbrigida) meet Harry Chelm and his wife, Gwendolyn (Jones). The two basically act as swingers, taking all of ten minutes of screen time to swap partners, with Billy and Gwen falling in love and Maria having eyes for Mr. Chelm, who is obsessed with the fact that he can't find his hot water bottle. Eventually the crew DO set sail for Africa, but chaos ensues. I hate to be sassy, but if you want better details, you'll have to suffer through it yourself.

As per usual, lets start with what I liked about the movie and segue into what I didn't. I liked Edward Underdown and Robert Morley....now then....the bad...

Everything else. The end...

Just kidding...

I DID indeed enjoy the efforts of both Robert Morley (who played one of Bogart's heathens) and Edward Underdown (who may have given me a new favorite word with his use of the term roustabout). They were both fine and honestly, too good for this huge pile of tripe. THE BOOK makes it sound like it was the collaboration of many great minds that earned this movie it's spot. Truman Capote on as the writer, Steven Sondheim as the "clap boy", Huston in the director's chair and Bogart starring and bankrolling seem to be the only reason this movie is recognized and therefore forced upon yours truly. I just don't find Bogart to be a good actor, does that make me a bad person? Trust me, I've tired my darndest! I wanted to like him in The Big Sleep and hell, I even went into my original viewing of Casablanca (so many years ago) wanting to come out of it a certified movie snob. However, it's just not in the cards for me and Bogey. I find him to be playing the exact same character each and every time he's onscreen. He's a tough guy, a rebel, no family, lots of friends. He always knows who to call in a favor to, he always gets the girl and dammit, he always makes me roll my eyes. I just don't like the guy. If my calculations are correct, I have one and only one movie left starring old Humph and it's "The African Queen" - which means, one last shot for Bogey to impress.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand - Beat the Devil. Like I said, I just couldn't settle in and in the end, this has to be considered one of the worst movies I've seen in a long time. I just couldn't wait for the end to come, so that I could shut it off and get back to watching The Simpsons. The plot was senseless and honestly, not enough meat & potatoes to even make for a worthy film. You know, you'd expect more from the collaboration of John Huston and Truman Capote. The supporting cast is the best thing about this movie, but the bad news is they're forced to play second fiddle to the Bogey. The women do fine jobs too, but seem to be in place more for eye candy than for their talents. I simply don't know what else to say, other than this was a complete loss for me and I'm glad to be done with it, review and all.

RATING: 1/10  I know that seems harsh, but even saying '2' seems too much to me. That's how much I disliked it. I will do my best to remember Robert Morley and Edward Underdown though.


October 14, 2014  5:25pm


  1. Let's continue to agree..
    We've been through this before .. I like Bogart in films .. and, at his best, he is a highlight in several of my'most rated' films.. (Which, yes, includes Casablanca).
    But .. and I sort of hinted this was coming.. this one.. For the life of me, why this slipped into the book, I've no idea. Even I was bored by it .. with all the clowning about and trying to be funny as incompetent crooks sort of thing.
    There are MUCH better films with Bogart in.. he is much better in much lesser roles..
    'Black Legion'.. a decidedly lesser film.. but much for worthwhile for inclusion that this...
    As you mention, maybe all that 'Hey guys, lets get lots of Celeb names involved to boost the impact' stuff?
    Not quite as low as 1, but not far off. I mean 1 is down there with Dog Star man and .. I forget it's name.. one of those experimentals.. the one where some students just get drunk.. and .. "hey guys this is a fun idea.. .. show a rape .. rape is such a giggle ya know"

    1. Boy, what was that one called? It was the Andy Warhol one - his supposed interpretation of 'A Clockwork Orange'. This will drive me nuts, I'll have to look it up...

      I agree that 1 ratings should be saved for those REALLY bad occasions, but I found absolutely no redeeming qualities here and a 1 seemed fair. I also found the DVD quality of the movie to be hideous, with clear tracking problems throughout...

    2. It was VINYL! God awful film...

  2. Not the one I was thinking of.. but Vinyl will do as an example.
    Hey, for another list, I had to do 'Chelsea Girls'.. about 3 / 4 hours long. It's done on a split screen.. so you can watch two sets of people be mind numbingly boring at the same time.
    To my huge relief, on youtube, someone had messed with it and made it split screen - 4 ways.. so over in half the time. result.

    1. The concept of that actually sounds interesting....but "mind numbingly boring" is a turn off for sure...


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