BEAT THE DEVIL
Friday, July 30
PLUS POST-FILM COMPARISON REEL!
(1953, John Huston) “They’re desperate characters. Not one of them looked at my legs.” Suave Humphrey Bogart (“Fat Gut's my best friend, and I will not betray him cheaply”) and tea-and-crumpet-loving wife Gina Lollobrigida (“Emotionally, I am English”), en route to a “uranium deal” in East Africa – with “business associates” including Robert Morley and Peter Lorre – meet up with congenital liar Jennifer Jones – and then after there’s this shipwreck…
Dubbed “the birthplace of camp” by critic Dave Kehr, Beat the Devil was supposedly scripted by Capote as they went along: associate producer Jack Clayton told the cast that Huston preferred for them to receive their lines at the last minute, and Huston reportedly bought time for Capote to write by requiring complicated camera setups. Beyond the improvisatory writing, evenings during the shoot were filled with legendary parties that drew stars like Orson Welles and Ingrid Bergman to the Italian locations. (One raucous evening included a drunk Huston falling off a 40-foot cliff. He emerged unscathed.)
The anarchic spirit of the set was reflected in Devil’s original cut: it so baffled preview audiences at the time that it was instantly cut (by four minutes, including some censorship excisions) and re-edited, with an added Bogart narration turning the whole thing into a flashback – which made it all the more baffling. Seen for decades only in that mangled version – and in dismal bootleg copies yet – this new restoration went back to the original 35mm camera negative and other sources to re-create the unseen longer version.
Following the film, comparisons between the original cut and the re-edited version will be shown in a special feature created especially for Film Forum by Bruce Goldstein and William Hohauser.
Restored by Sony Pictures Entertainment in collaboration with The Film Foundation, with the support of RT Features and the Franco-American Cultural Fund. Audio restoration by Deluxe Media Audio Services. Image restoration by L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory