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MSU Cinema International Previews Fall 2022 Season, Presents "Beat the Devil" This Week

 MSU Cinema International presents "Beat the Devil" on Thursday, August 25th, and Saturday, August 27th.
MSU Cinema International presents "Beat the Devil" on Thursday, August 25th, and Saturday, August 27th.

Murray State's Cinema International returns this week for its Fall 2022 season. Austin Carter speaks to program director Dr. Thérèse St. Paul and MSU professor of English and film Dr. Andrew Black ahead of the series' first screening of the 1953 film Beat the Devil.

Beat the Devil, starring Humphrey Bogart and Gina Lollobrigida, is a cult classic, Black explains. "When it came out, a lot of people didn't get it, despite the fact that it starred Humphrey Bogart. It had a pretty big budget for the time. It has this grand international setting, but a lot of people didn't get it at the time."

"Over the next ten years, people started to discover this movie and see that it is a strange—but funny and odd—movie that felt like it was ahead of its time. It's directed by John Huston, who had worked with Humphrey Bogart before on movies like The Maltese Falcon and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. But when he did this one with Bogart, they really were kind of figuring it out as they go along. That's what gives the movie a very weird and quirky energy that was uncommon for movies of the 1940s and 50s."

Not only was it strange for viewers to see Humphrey Bogart in a role opposite to the tough, resourceful heroes he was known for playing. But the plot also seems to ramble, Black says, with "crazy characters getting involved. It feels more like a series of episodes pieced together like a puzzle that doesn't work out. I think that's what makes it interesting and gives it so much energy."

Beat the Devil was originally based on a "pretty straightforward book," Black continues. "It was based on a more typical hero international. Truman Capote got involved as a writer—a great novelist and nonfiction writer—and he added this really strange character to it. There's a saying, 'too many cooks in the kitchen,' and I think that one of the movie's strengths is that it has so many dynamic personalities involved."

"It's this dry humor where everybody's trying to play it straight," Dr. St. Paul adds. "It's definitely a spoof and satire of the genre and also political satire. It's '53, so you have to remember the content. Post-war, capitalism, corruption—everybody's corrupt in this movie. There's a message there; it's kind of subdued."

"Huston probably wanted this, so people who wanted the message would get it," she continues. "And those that don't need the message or don't want to wouldn't. There's some really good lines. Very good lines. I picked one up that Humphrey Bogart says: 'Fat Gut's my best friend, and I will not betray him cheaply.' That kind of says it. So, maybe viewing it more than once is necessary to catch all these lines."

MSU Cinema International will present Beat the Devil on Thursday, August 25th, in the Barkley Room and Saturday, August 27th, in the Curris Center Theater. Both screenings are located on the third floor of the Curris Center and are free and open to the public.

St. Paul also previewed upcoming screenings in the Cinema International season, including Victoria and Abdul, Mr. Pig, and Network. St. Paul says the theme around this year's season is "searching."

"It seems like a lot of the characters, maybe not all of the movies, but they're searching for something. Whether it's on the road, for meaning to life, identity, purpose. I think that's the theme of this semester."

For more information on MSU Cinema International, including how to donate to the program, visit its website.

Austin Carter is a Murray State grad and has been involved with WKMS since he was in high school. Over the years he has been a producer for WKMS and has hosted several music shows, but now calls Morning Edition his home each weekday morning.
Melanie Davis-McAfee graduated from Murray State University in 2018 with a BA in Music Business. She has been working for WKMS as a Music and Operations Assistant since 2017. Melanie hosts the late-night alternative show Alien Lanes, Fridays at 11 pm with co-host Tim Peyton. She also produces Rick Nance's Kitchen Sink and Datebook and writes Sounds Good stories for the web.
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