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90 of 95 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2004
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.
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101 of 109 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2000
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.
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59 of 63 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2001
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.
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2009
ONE STAR is for the poor transfer. Take my word for it - buying this so called "remastered" classic film is a waste of money. I opted for this more expensive edition thinking I'd get a decent print. Instead, it was of such poor quality - constantly breaking up, and at time completely stopping, I gave up watching. An old copy I have from TV is far superior.
Amazon should be ashamed they listed this item for sale.
Go for the cheaper version - I doubt it could be worse.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2000
I love this film so much. I bought one low-priced VHS copy on awhim and was pleasantly surprised to say the least. I thought the filmwas truly phenomenal! I then bought one of the DVD editions. 6 months later, I bought another. This low-priced DVD, as with all the other versions I own, is a travesty in terms of picture and sound quality (visible film print scratches, muddy blacks, gray whites, distant audio, audio pops, blurry images, overall lacking of detail throughout). I keep buying them hoping that someone will finally give this great film its proper due by finding a good negative and transferring it properly. No such luck as of yet (This might be due to the fact that the rights to this film may be shared by more than one distributor). Anyway, somewhere in existence there is a higher-priced VHS that looks much better than the "bargain" DVD's or VHS editions. I've seen it in a friend's personal video collection (...). This (...) film is a must-see. Why else would I keep buying it?
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
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.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2003
BEAT THE DEVIL is a very funny movie which retains its subtle charm even after many viewings, It reminds me of the MALTESE FALCON not only because of the similarity of some of the characters but also because of the likeness of the screenplays. Both films essentially focus on a treasure hunt with an array of buffoons vying for the prize. Humphrey Bogart's characters seem to be about the only really normal people in either movie. While it is definitely considered to be a comedy, BEAT THE DEVIL is also not a bad adventure story. Most of the subdued action takes place on shore while the assorted crooks and cutthroats are waiting for a leaky old ship to take them to Africa.
The cast includes Humphrey Bogart, Robert Morley, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollobrigida, Peter Lorre, Ivor Barnard and Edward Underwood.
John Huston was the director and Truman Capote contributed heavily to the screenwriting after the filming began in Italy.Truly a ton of Hollywood talent was assembled for this one movie in a relatively charming location.
It is no wonder that the movie is standing the test of time and is now enjoying a revival of sorts with even a minor cult following.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2002
Thought I'd just let some of the fans of this movie know that there is an excellent (and inexpensive) DVD copy of this movie put out by a company called Front Row Entertainment Inc. Sure maybe it's not digitally restored and all that other stuff that some of the bigger studios have done with some movies, but I found this copy consistantly clear, with good sound and no jumps or scratches. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and highly recommend this copy. I have also tried other DVD titles from this distributer and was surprised at the excellent quality.....check them won't be disappointed.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 2011
I'd been looking for a watchable print of "Beat the Devil" for a long time. I finally found this version, from DigiCom TV, which the reviews on Amazon said was good. The cover graphics scream "cheapie!," but the image quality of the movie itself is quite good, the sound quality is mostly good (some distortion in one section, but still listenable) and it doesn't have any of the branding overlays of some other cheapie companies. All in all, the quality of this version is on par with some films from Warners -- pretty good indeed.

The film itself is absolutely hilarious. It's on Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" list for very good reason.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
You'd think that "Beat the Devil" would be far better known than it is, since it was one of the last movies that Humphrey Bogart did before his untimely death. Maybe that's because Bacall wasn't in it, or maybe it was just too quirky for the masses -- a funny, wry noir-satire, with a gang of rather inept criminals.

Billy Dannreuther (Bogart) is part of a motley group planning to go to Africa, where a friend can help them illegally claim uranium. But trouble arrives: stuffy Harry Chelm (Edward Underdown) and his very imaginative wife Gwen (Jennifer Jones) arrive, and soon they're flirting with Billy and his sensual wife Maria (Gina Lollabrigida).

Even worse, Gwen's "exaggeration" habit is making the gang distrust Billy, thinking that he's withholding information from them. He isn't, of course. But all the personal plots and distrust come to a boil when everyone boards the ship, and Harry reveals that he knows everything about their uranium plot. Now Billy has to save himself and his friends, without Harry being bumped off...

"Beat the Devil" is an all-around satire -- it mocks grabby criminals, pathological liars, stodgy Brits, romance movies, crime capers, and even second-rate boats ("Of course, the captain is drunk!"). In fact, there's very little about this movie that doesn't poke fun at itself, or at the movies of the time.

And since it was adapted by John Huston and Truman Capote, you know that it's being witty as it makes fun. It languidly builds up in a sunny, ruined city where people plot and flirt, and then starts to boil when they get on board the boat. But even engine failures manage to be entertaining when Harry wrecks the oil pump while trying to fix it.

The cast is skilled in that under-the-radar way: Bogart plays a slightly more offbeat version of his noir characters, and Jennifer Jones is hilarious as the ditzy, chattery English girl. Peter Lorre and Robert Morley are also quite good as Bogie's pals, and Underdown plays the insensitive, straight-arrow dunce perfectly. You'll constantly want to smack him.

As for editions, pretty much none of them are "good" per se. They havne't been cleaned up or restored. But the best one I've seen is Diamond Entertainment's, which has a steady picture and soundtrack, and no splices, crackling, or so on. It's slightly fuzzy as for details, but not so that it isn't watchable or enjoyable.

Though not as respected as it deserves, "Beat the Devil" is a little gem of a Bogart movie, with a witty, satirical script and lots of wild twists. Definitely a keeper.
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