“The Devil’s Disciple” (1959 Film on DVD)

With the passing of screen legend Kirk Douglas, it is time to go back and dust off his many classics including Spartacus, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, The Vikings, Lust for Life, Paths of Glory, and so many more hits from the golden age of film. Hence, last evening I went back and watched an olde favorite I once saw with my Dad on an early 1960ish CBC Winnipeg tv late movies show, a fun adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s The Devil’s Disciple, co-produced by co-star-friend of Douglas, the late Burt Lancaster, with whom Douglas co-starred several times.

It is set in the American Revolution and representing the foppish British is Laurence Olivier while Lancaster plays a moral serious-minded minister, and Douglas a scene-stealing jocular rebel-scallywag, a role the latter always played well in his various other roles, too. It is pure pleasure to see these three famed actors interact and play off each other; this at a time when memorable screen acting was still commonplace before the CGI era. Director Guy Hamilton, of James Bond fame, also does a nice job on pacing and controlling the ironic plot and scenes.

The humor is light, mainly verbal, and ironic all the way through, true to Shaw’s original play. The result is a different, but successful adaptation with some unique, naive animated transitions to punctuate changing scenes. Originally back when I was 11 or so, I was impressed by Douglas’s rogueish performance and the many years since then have not diminished the pleasures of watching him being ‘bad’. The Devil’s Disciple remains a nice, clean-fun, ironic, black-and-white entertainment.

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