Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Beat the Devil

Afrikan aarre / Skälmarnas marknad. GB/US/IT © 1953 Santana Pictures. P+D: John Huston. SC: Truman Capote, John Huston - based on the novel by James Helvick (= Claud Cockburn) (1951). DP: Oswald Morris. AD: Wilfred Shingleton. M: Franco Mannino. S: E. Law, George Stephenson. ED: Ralph Kemplen. LOC: Salerno (Italy).
    CAST: Humphrey Bogart (Billy Dannreuther), Jennifer Jones (Mrs. Gwendolen Chelm), Gina Lollobrigida (Maria Dannreuther), Robert Morley (Peterson), Peter Lorre (Julius O'Hara), Edward Underdown (Harry Chelm), Ivor Barnard (Maj. Jack Ross), Marco Tulli (Ravello), Bernard Lee (Insp. Jack Clayton), Mario Perrone (Purser on SS Nyanga), Saro Ursi (Captain of SS Nyanga). 89 min
    A vintage print with Finnish / Swedish subtitles viewed at Cinema Orion (Jennifer Jones in memoriam), Helsinki, 10 August 2010

Revisited John Huston's self-parody of his favourite themes such as the absurdity of the treasure hunt. Shot in Italy, Beat the Devil is a precursor to I soliti ignoti. The film is based on a succession of anti-climaxes. It starts in Salerno, the Mediterranean is crossed with SS Nyanga, the gang lands in a lifeboat, they are captured by an Egyptian official, and it all ends in Salerno again.

The bunch of inept crooks is interpreted by Robert Morley, Peter Lorre, Ivor Barnard, and Marco Tulli. Billy (Humphrey Bogart) is somehow caught with them although deeply suspicious.

The couples Dannreuther (Humphrey Bogart, Gina Lollobrigida) and Chelm (Edward Underdown, Jennifer Jones) are in a worldly partner-switching mode. Jennifer Jones as a blonde has a chance to relax between high profile assignments. She has fun with the comedy.

Familiar quotes: "they must be desperate characters... not one of them looked at my legs" (Jennifer Jones), "time is a crook" (Peter Lorre), Lorre's character's name O'Hara mispronounced as O'Horror...

Franco Mannino's beautiful music creates funny effects as it is so much above and beyond the mundane goings-on.

The vintage print shows signs of heavy duty wear. There are joins and some sound damage, but it is still watchable.

At times Bogart seems to imitate Huston's voice. The film ends with his (their) big laugh: "this is the end, The End".

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