In WERE NO ANGLES, three convicts escape from Devil's Island and arrive at a nearby French colonial town. Their plan to steal supplies and clothing from the local store is ruined after they take a liking to the stores owner, especially his attractive daughter.
Audiences have always loved the spectacle of tough guys going soft and gooey, and We're No Angels
adds the extra sweetener of Yuletide to its mix. The action takes place on Devil's Island, the tropical backwater where the notorious French prison was located. Three convicts, played by Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Ray, and Peter Ustinov, have escaped, and wait only for a ship to leave the next day. In the meantime, they become involved in the financial woes of an island shopkeeper (Leo G. Carroll) and his wife (Joan Bennett) and daughter, whose business is in danger from a rich, nasty relative (Basil Rathbone). Despite the threat of black comedy, especially in the form of a poisonous viper (which Ray carries around in a demure bamboo case), broad cuteness tends to rule the day. While it's not on the list of essential Bogart performances, Bogie does seem to be enjoying himself, and the puckish Ustinov savors his lines like a cow chewing grass. The stage origins of the scenario are all too obvious, and probably contribute to the pokey pacing (Michael Curtiz, who guided Bogart in Casablanca
, was perhaps not the ideal choice for this kind of winsome comedy). This 1955 film looks good in comparison to the loose, labored 1989 remake with Robert De Niro and Sean Penn. --Robert Horton