Gene Siskel Film Center Presents BEAT THE DEVIL Film Review – In the Pursuit of Riches

Gene Siskel Film Center Beat the Devil Review
The Original Film Poster from 1953

We are on a wild chase on who will get to the riches first! Director John Huston is directing. It's Beat the Devil, and will we?

Gene Siskel Film Center

The Gene Siskel Film Center in downtown Chicago is revisiting the past once again, with the 4k restoration of the 1953 classic movie, Beat the Devil. The 4k restoration brings with it, exclusive footage from the movie, restoring 5 minutes of footage hidden due to censors and nervous producers. Consisting of a cast of odd characters from the imaginative wife to the ex-Nazi turned crime member, this frazzled movie brings to the forefront, adventure, comedy and even romance.

Rag-Tag Group of Characters

Beat the Devil takes us back to the 1950’s with a rag tag group of characters all eyeing for a chance to make it big in Africa. We get to know the characters through the eyes of husband and wife duo, Harry (Edward Underdown) and Gwendolen Chelm (Jennifer Jones) as they meet Billy (Humphrey Bogart) and what he calls his “associates”. Coincidently, ALL these characters are all traveling to one place: East Africa, when they get news that their boat ride is delayed. With each character in the pursuit of riches, the question that drives the movie is, “Who will get to East Africa first?”

Beat the Devil is comprised of some well-known names— Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones and Gina Lollobridigda, just to name a few. We see an ex-wealthy American man, his wife, a group of criminals (one of whom is a Major and another a former Nazi), a proper Englishman and his “imaginative” wife. For those unfamiliar with this movie, you, like this reviewer may find it confusing trying to match each name with each character. Nonetheless, each character is so different from the other, through dialogue, actions and mannerisms that each make this movie an interesting view, leaving this writer wondering how each character will react with one another.

The Unusual Script Process

Unlike regular movies, the script for the movie was written on a day-to-day basis while the film was shooting. Creating an original script, director John Huston still didn’t think the script was enough.  He went so far as enlisting Truman Capote to help rewrite the script. What resulted from that day-to-day writing is Beat the Devil.

Music: Loud and Soft

This black-and-white movie mixes with it comedy, romance and adventure, through it’s music. Music was a foreshadower, in the sense that the music that would play gave this reviewer an idea of what would strike these characters and the music always helped to shape the tone and feel of each scene.

At times, trumpets roar on screen signaling trouble to come for our characters in contrast to other scenes when soft music plays in the background depicting a love affair. The trumpets playing before the impending trouble draw a sense of urgency and seriousness of the outcome of these characters, while the soft music in romance scenes bring a sense of peace and calm in a hectic, adventure-filled movie.

In one scene, Billy and Peterson ride in an car on an already narrow road. Crime leader, Peterson acts as the main source of dialogue through his demands to the driver, demanding he hurry up to ensure they get to their destination on time. Although there is some dialogue in the scene, much of the movie’s scene is moved along by the music. In the beginning of the scene, music acts as an optimistic element to the scene, with heroic music playing in the background. The music eventually builds up and up, before everything goes haywire, leading to more trouble for these two characters, their loved ones and associates. The music works in sync with the acting and script, adding another element of urgency and chaos.

Gene Siskel Film Center Beat the Devil Review
(L-R) Robert Morley, Ivor Barnard, Bernard Lee, Maro Tulli, Jennifer Jones, Humphrey Bogart and Gina Lollobrigida
Gene Siskel Film Center Beat the Devil Review
Robert Morley and Humphrey Bogart

It is important to note that because this movie was made in the 1950’s, in black-and-white, although restored, it is still a movie that makes references to Hitler and women’s place in the home. It was written and made 64 years ago!  The 4K restoration does a great job in reviving this 1953 movie class with quality and with  the extra 5 minutes.

This is not a film for romance enthusiasts. Although there is a touch of romance, what really drives this movie is the adventure and the quest for riches.

Gene Siskel Film Center Beat the Devil Review
Humphrey Bogart and Jennifer Jones
Gene Siskel Film Center Beat the Devil Review
Humphrey Bogart, Gina Lollobrigida and Edward Underdown
Gene Siskel Film Center Beat the Devil Review
Gina Lollbridigda and Bernard Lee


Jun 30th at 8pm; Jul 1st at 3pm; Jul 2nd at 7:45pm; Jul 3rd at 3pm; Jul 4th at 5pm & Jul 5th at 6pm


All Photos Courtesy of the Gene Siskel Film Center

For more information about tickets and the movie, visit the Gene Siskel Film Center.


Gene Siskel Film Center

164 N State St

Chicago, IL 60601


Full Price - $11

Members - $6

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