Beat the Devil (1954)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Comedy Thriller, Adventure Comedy, Parody/Spoof  |   Run Time - 100 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , Italy , United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Judd Blaise

Director John Huston and actor Humphrey Bogart, who had previously collaborated on classics ranging from The Maltese Falcon to The African Queen, teamed up for the last time on Beat the Devil, the least known and most unfairly underrated of their five joint efforts. An exquisitely dry comedy with a witty script by Truman Capote, the film finds subtle, absurdist laughs in the misadventures of Bogart's tough customer, who becomes involved in a complex scheme to gain control of a patch of uranium-rich land in Africa. Indeed, the humor is played with such a straight face that many critics have suggested that the film's first audiences did not realize they were watching a comedy, contributing to its box office failure. Audiences in later years, however, have revived interest in the film, fully appreciating its bounty of comic riches. In addition to the well-plotted, always unpredictable script, the production is bolstered by uniformly excellent performances. Bogart treats his usual romantic cynic role with a pleasingly light touch, and establishes superb chemistry with Jennifer Jones, who portrays the female half of a seemingly proper British couple who may not be everything they seem. Especially strong laughs are provided by a memorably colorful rogue's gallery of supporting villains and kooks, including an especially nervous Peter Lorre.