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Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Devil's Disciple (1959)

It's 1777 and the British army is fighting the American rebels. A pious preacher (Burt Lancaster) attempts not to take sides while a black sheep and rebel (Kirk Douglas) from the village taunts him. But when British soldiers come to arrest the minister, the rebel does something astonishing. Directed by Guy Hamilton (GOLDFINGER) and based on the 1897 George Bernard Shaw play but with some substantial changes from Shaw's text. For example, in the play, once Douglas's character inherits the family home after his father dies, he kicks his mother out of the house. To make Douglas's character more sympathetic, she leaves voluntarily while he implores her to stay. In the film, Lancaster's character is given some action scenes including a brawl with a British Captain as he attempts to blow up casks of gun powder. But the changes aside, it's fairly entertaining and performed well (with one exception) especially Laurence Olivier's General Burgoyne who effortlessly puts the movie in his pocket. The one exception is a miscast Lancaster. One has to admire him for tackling challenging roles that are beyond his ken like COME BACK LITTLE SHEBA, THE ROSE TATTOO and here. The next year he would fare much better playing a different kind of preacher. The excellent score is by Richard Rodney Bennett. With Janette Scott, Harry Andrews, Eva La Gallienne, Basil Sydney, Mervyn Johns and Allan Cuthbertson.

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