Monday, November 20, 2006


Technically, this Hal Roach comedy is classified as a short subject, though at 45 minutes, it's a only a few minutes shy of a B-movie second feature of the era, and it apparently played some theaters as the first half of a double bill. It has been charged over the years with being offensive, but I don't think it's any worse than TO BE OR NOT TO BE or THE PRODUCERS--though, obviously done on the cheap, it's not nearly as well made or creative as those films. The Board of Directors of Hell has decided that Hitler would make a better Devil than the Devil himself (Alan Mowbray), but the Devil asks for the chance to go to earth and trick Hitler (Bobby Watson) into committing one good deed, rendering him unfit for the job. The Devil appears on Earth as Hitler's valet and joins Mussolini (Joe Devlin) and a Japanese dignitary named Sukiyaki (George E. Stone) as they try to outwit, double-cross and even kill Hitler. The good deed that Satan tries to arrange comes by way of freeing a young couple (Douglas Fowley and Marjorie Woodworth) from a concentration camp sentence. There's lots of slapstick and prancing and ethnic slurs and witless humor, and perhaps the first instance of a Hitler character saying some version of the phrase, "Heil myself!" Mowbray is a very colorless Satan; Watson, who made a living in the 40's playing Hitler in comedies and drama, is OK; Devlin and Stone, both experienced character actors, fare the best here, though Stone's over-the-top Japanese portrayal hasn't aged well. Not really a very good movie, but interesting from a cultural and historical perspective. [TCM]

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