The 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival (Thursday, 4.6 thru Sunday, 4.9) announced its schedule today, but somebody on the staff screwed up as far as their 4.7 showing of John Huston‘s Beat The Devil is concerned.
The 1953 black-and-white release is showing on Friday, April 7, at 11:15 am. A restored 94-minute version of this initially misunderstood camp classic, recovered and refined by Sony’s Grover Crisp, was screened at the annual Reel Thing symposium on 8.19.16. In keeping with the TCM festival’s longstanding tradition of showing recent restorations, Crisp told me this morning that the 94-minute version will indeed screen on 4.7. And yet the TCM Classic Film Festival website not only says the running time will be 89 minutes (the length of the somewhat faded and bleachy public-domain version that’s been playing on TV for decades) but fails to mention Crisp’s restoration. Brilliant!
The restored version played at Manhattan’s Film Forum last February.
Crisp said he hasn’t been told when his 94-minute version will be made available via HD streaming or Bluray.
Sony has a history of disregarding Crisp’s classic film restorations. They waited until October 2013 to release HD streaming and Bluray versions of Crisp’s restored From Here To Eternity, even though the first screening of Crisp’s version happened at the Academy in the fall of ’09.
Last Friday night (8.19) an extended cut of John Huston‘s Beat The Devil (’53) was screened at a tech symposium called “The Reel Thing,” which is co-sponsored and partly organized (or something like that) by the Association of Moving Image Archivists. The event happened between 8.18 and 8.20 at Hollywood’s Linwood Dunn theatre.
The 2016 “Reel Thing” program page says that this new Beat The Devil, which is currently available in truncated form at 89 minutes, was “restored by Sony Pictures” — i.e., by Sony archive honcho Grover Crisp — “in collaboration with The Film Foundation to the original, uncensored version.”
Crisp reports that the extended version runs 94 minutes.
An IMDB Beat The Devil page titled “alternate versions” states the following: “There are supposedly two edits of the film. One is described as a ‘butchered’ short version; the other as longer but with better storyline and continuity. The longer version is also listed as either elusive or practically impossible to get.”
A Beat The Devil restoration naturally means that a Bluray will be released down the road. Which is great news, I’m sure, for the 1250 to 1300 classic film fanatics worldwide who are sure to buy a copy.
Universal and The Film Foundation’s remastered One-Eyed Jacks was screened at The Reel Thing on Thursday, 8.18. Universal’s Peter Schade introduced. Criterion’s new high-def upgrade of McCabe and Mrs. Miller was screened at The Reel Thing on Thursday night. The Criterion Collection’s Lee Kline and Karen Stetler offered commentary.
The Reel Thing symposium was curated by Grover Crisp and Michael Friend.
Update: The following is from a DVD Talk report on the Beat The Devil screening by freelance correspondent Dary Teetzwl:
“Grover Crisp said they had put off the restoration for years, trying to locate better-quality materials, especially the original neg. Finally deciding to work with what they had, they began evaluating their elements and discovered that what they thought was a dupe negative contained about 60% of the original neg. They also borrowed a fine grain from Romulus in England, hoping that they might be able to use it for some sections where they did not have the original neg. It turned out to be in excellent condition — and was an alternate, uncensored version of the film!
“All the public domain versions of Beat the Devil that have been circulating have been of a shorter, re-cut/censored version [i.e., 89 minutes]. Interesting point: Grover insists the film is NOT in the public domain.
“The differences between the two versions of Beat the Devil:
“1. The uncut version is told chronologically. The re-cut version uses a flashback structure and adds some Humphrey Bogart narration.
“2. The uncut version opens with a new scene of Jennifer Jones and Edward Underdown walking through the streets of the small Italian port town. The dialogue sets up some of Jones’ flakiness.
“3. About 18 minutes into the film there is a scene of Jones and Bogart talking outside, and Jones playfully accuses Bogart of making a pass at her. We then dissolve to a short scene of Gina Lollobrigida bringing the ailing Underdown some tea, which ends abruptly as we dissolve back to Bogart and Jones. In the uncut version, the first scene between Bogart and Jones goes on slightly longer. We see them walking off and then reveal Peter Lorre shadowing them. We then cut to the Lollobrigida tea scene, which is now a little longer. We see her lean in to give Underdown the tea tray, her bosom coming very close to his face as he turns away awkwardly. We then cut back to Bogie and Jones.
“4. The re-cut version takes a shot of the ship’s captain yelling angrily from later in the film, flops it and inserts it into the scene of the characters boarding the ship.
“5. In the scene where Bogart cons the Rita Hayworth-loving Arab policeman with the claims that he knows the actress personally, we see in the uncut version a pin-up of Hayworth in a racy swimsuit. A casual viewer might think she’s nude. The re-cut version darkens the whole upper right corner of the screen, creating the effect of a shadow that conceals the pin-up.
“There may be a couple other small differences, but those are the major ones. The restoration looked and sounded great; it would be nice if we could get a Criterion or Twilight Time release.”