Beat the Devil is a 1953 film directed by John Huston. The screenplay was written by Huston and Truman Capote, loosely based upon a novel of the same name by British journalist Claud Cockburn, writing under the pseudonym James Helvick. It was intended by Huston as a parody of The Maltese Falcon (1941), also directed by Huston, and films of the same genre.
The script, which was written on a day-to-day basis as the film was being shot, concerns the adventures of a motley crew of swindlers and ne’er-do-wells trying to lay claim to land rich in uranium deposits in Kenya as they wait in a small Italian port to travel aboard an ill-fated tramp steamer en route to Mombasa. The cast includes Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollobrigida, Robert Morley, Peter Lorre and Bernard Lee.
This movie does not easily fit into the standard set of film categories; it has variously been classified as a “thriller,” a “comedy,” a “drama,” a “crime” and a “romance” movie. It is a parody of the Film Noir style that Huston himself had pioneered.
A quartet of international crooks—Peterson, O’Hara, Ross and Ravello—are stranded in Italy while their steamer is being repaired. With them are the Dannreuthers. The six are headed for Africa, ostensibly to sell vacuum cleaners but actually to buy land supposedly loaded with uranium. They are joined by others who apparently have similar designs.
Beat the Devil
Directed by John Huston
Produced by John Huston
Screenplay by John Huston, Truman Capote
Based on Beat the Devil (1951) by Claud Cockburn (as James Helvick)
Starring Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollobrigida, Peter Lorre, Robert Morley, Edward Underdown, Ivor Barnard, Marco Tulli, Bernard Lee, Saro Urzì
Music by Franco Mannino
Cinematography Oswald Morris
Edited by Ralph Kemplen
Production company Romulus Films, Santana Pictures
Distributed by British Lion Films (UK), United Artists (USA)
Release dates November 24, 1953
Running time 89 min.
Country United Kingdom