Beat the Devil (1953)

Beat the Devil (1953), co-written, produced and directed by John Huston.

Stranded in Italy, a motley but dangerous group of swindlers are trying to make their way to Africa to pull off some sort of uranium mining scam. They make almost no progress on that (should have stayed in Italy) and spend more energy on mutual suspicion and romance with some British tourists.

Beautifully photographed with occasionally witty bits, but otherwise a slack, meandering plot, being written a day at a time as it was being made. Truman Capote was co-author of the screenplay. Bogart was unhappy: "Only phonies like it".

Said to be a satire on Huston's own The Maltese Falcon (1941), told from the scoundrels' point of view. Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre return from that film. Second of eight films cinematographer Oswald Morris did with Huston.

I need to read something about the director. In my review of The African Queen (1951) I wondered if he hadn't been influenced by Powell & Pressburger. Now I'll add Carol Reed.

Filmed in Italy.

The Blu-ray is a BD-R without copy protection, the first I remember getting, rented from ClassicFlix. Image quality is generally poor, with light gray black levels. Now and then we get a glimpse of hidef detail, but mostly it's like an average DVD. The title is in the public domain and I don't know how much care the film elements have received. Maybe "Film Detective Restored Classics" actually did some restoration, but there is a lot of visible film damage.

Later: Twilight Time had a limited edition Blu-ray with a better image and a commentary track by Nick Redman, Julie Kirgo and Lem Dobbs.

My thumbnails are from the earlier Blu-ray.