Three convicts escape from Devil's Island and arrive at a nearby French colonial town. Initially they plan to steal supplies and clothing from the local store, but they take a liking to the store owner's family (more specifically his attractive daughter) and decide to stay and help them overcome many difficulties.
Humphrey Bogart ... Joseph
Aldo Ray ... Albert
Peter Ustinov ... Jules
Joan Bennett ... Amelie Ducotel
Basil Rathbone ... Andre Trochard
Leo G. Carroll ... Felix Ducotel
John Baer ... Paul Trochard
Gloria Talbott ... Isabelle Ducotel
Lea Penman ... Mme. Parole
John Smith ... Medical Officer Arnaud
Director: Michael Curtiz
Codecs: DivX 5 / MP3
This is one of the best comedies ever and one of my all-time favorites. I must have seen it a dozen or more times. The cast is perfect and Bogart shows he has a great talent for comedy. Rathbone plays the deliciously evil antagonist Cousin Andre, perfect in his role as the villain you love to hate which he pulls off with his usual deadpan style (has he ever played the good guy in any role?) Ustinov and Ray are perfect sidekicks for Bogart, their comedic style completely complements his. Carroll is perfect as the bumbling husband of the shop the convicts descend upon, initially planning on robbing him. I found the movie had all the necessary elements for a great side-splitting comedy along with some tender moments to show a contrast in the characters involved.
I recently had a chance to see the film again and it's just as enjoyable as ever. This light-hearted, if somewhat criminal, comedy is warming, family film with an evil streak. It's absolutely fascinating to watch Bogart in a light comedy role, and to see a young(er) Peter Ustinov as a wife-murdering safe-cracker with a heart. And throw in great (if typical) performances by Basil Rathbone and Leo G. Carroll to boot.
But in my mind, the three biggest stars in this film are playwright Albert Hussens, screenwriter Ranald MacDougall, and above all, a surprisingly masterful performance by Aldo Ray. Ray treads the line between being dumb, lovable, trite thug and being a brutal, sociopathic criminal with great resolve. In the end it is his smoothly delivered lines that one remembers above all else.
As for the dialogue, it too treads lines. This is a film for the entire family, yes. But it does have it's randier moments, and all of them are done in such a way that children will not understand the full implications of them (if they do you have no one to blame but yourself). This translates into a "something for everyone" type of film.
Consider the casting for the three leads in "We're No Angels" - Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov and Aldo Ray. It doesn't seem to work on paper, but in this film, the trio have such a comedic rapport that the film winds up a delight. The setting is Christmas Day 1895, and all three are escaped convicts from Devil's Island with the notion of returning to Paris aboard a ship anchored in Cayenne harbor.
What starts out as a casual afternoon to steal some money and kill some time, turns into a mission for the amiable villains. They spot a likely target, the shop of proprietors Felix and Amelie Ducotel (Leo G. Carroll and Joan Bennett). Offering their help to fix the shop's roof, they eavesdrop their way into the lives and hearts of their hosts, which also includes daughter Isabelle (Gloria Talbott).
Leo G. Carroll plays his role along the same lines as his Topper character, amiable but somewhat bumbling. It's no wonder the shop makes no money; Bogart's observation - "I got ten years for a better set of books than this".
To create just the right amount of tension, Felix Ducotel's cousin Andre Trochard (Basil Rathbone) arrives to take stock of the business, and can find no better fun than to spend Christmas Day going over the books. In tow is his nephew Paul (John Baer), for whom Isabelle has nursed a year long crush. In a mock trial, the criminal trio find Andre guilty and leave it to their pet snake Adolph to carry out the sentence.
"We're no Angels" is one of those rare films in which you find yourself rooting for the bad guys. The one liners are brilliant, and shared equally among the three rogues. With deadpan delivery, Ustinov's Character Jules lovingly refers to the Ducotel's - "People like that, how can you cut their throats?".
At film's end, the strain of playing it straight with the Ducotel's causes the convicts to reevaluate their plans; it would be much easier to return to prison where they can feel more at home. The dapper trio sport halos as they make their way back, with one more for good measure for Adolph. This is not your typical Christmas movie fare, but I can understand how it could wind up on your list of holiday favorites.
* Continuity: After Isabelle sets the table for Christmas dinner, the dinner plates change positions.
* Continuity: When Andre is talking to Felix and Joseph, his left arm is stretched. In the next shot it is folded and leant on his hip.
* Continuity: After Jules makes Paul to enter in the Uncle Andre's bedroom, he takes the gramophone amplifier and makes a sound with it to announce to his friends that the body will be found, then puts it on the table upside down. Later in the film, the gramophone appears perfectly tidied.
* Continuity: When Albert carries the tar paper out on the roof he is seen putting it down twice.