Beat The Devil Movie Review

This understated comedy is often a love-it-or-hate-it affair with viewers, a very dry satire that often flies over the heads of its target (Bogart-style mysteries) and, just as often, its audience. Which just goes to show it's really difficult to spoof yourself, as Bogart proves when he plays the lead in Beat the Devil.

Essentially a revision of a dozen or so Bogie movies, all mashed together, Beat the Devil follows a group of miscreant adventurers on a quest to secure a parcel of land in Africa which is rich in uranium. Naturally, events and foes conspire against them, culminating in their arrest.

It's straightforward, and despite a few droll lines (courtesy of novel adapter Truman Capote), the movie just doesn't work as comedy. Sure, the satire's there, and if you pay close attention you can see Bogart, Peter Lorre, and the inspired Robert Morley quietly self-deprecating themselves. But none of this is particularly funny -- and much of it isn't even interesting to watch. You have to wonder what Capote and John Huston were thinking in trying to make a satire that didn't have any actual jokes.

Mel Brooks has been doing the same thing for a dozen years -- only he's been trying to be funny and simply failing at it.

Of greater curiosity is Eclectic DVD's The Humphrey Bogart Era, which features the film along with an episode of The Jack Benny Show also featuing Bogart in a rare comedy appearance. A second disc (a CD, not a DVD) is full of Bogie-era music from Lena Horne, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, and tons of other classic jazz, swing, and big band musicians. Fascinating, and quite a good idea at that.


Beat The Devil Rating

" Weak "

Rating: NR, 1953


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