Starring Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollabrigida, Peter Lorre, Robert Morley, Bernard Lee, Edward Underdown
Silly. Uneven. Unfocused.
O’Hara: Time. Time. What is time? Swiss manufacture it. French hoard it. Italians squander it. Americans say it is money. Hindus say it does not exist. Do you know what I say? I say time is a crook.
Billed as a spoof of the director-star’s earlier success, The Maltese Falcon, Beat the Devil seems to me, not a spoof but an incompetent retelling. With John Huston directing, Humphrey Bogart starring, and Truman Capote writing, somehow Beat the Devil still manages to be a stinker. Bogart is Billy Danreuther mixed up with a gang of crooks on their way to Africa. Biding their time, things grow complicated when Billy and his wife, Maria (Lollabrigida), fall in with a British couple, the Chelms (Jones and Underdown). A great spoof to me should still operate within the genre or story its spoofing. Young Frankenstein, for example, is broad and silly, but it also tells a fun story. Same with Shrek or The Incredibles or Scream or The Princess Bride. Beat the Devil is a film made by people who clearly didn’t know where they were going. Its following describe it as “campy” but it’s not campy enough in my estimation. It’s more like a thriller that couldn’t be bothered to take itself seriously.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-