We're No Angels (1955)
March 13, 2023 10:37 AM - Subscribe

Three Devil's Island escapees hide out in the house of a kindly merchant and repay his kindness by helping him and his family out of several crises.

After breaking out of prison on Devil's Island, Joseph (Humphrey Bogart) and his two cohorts flee to a nearby town and hide in a shop run by kindhearted Felix (Leo G. Carroll) ; his wife, Amelie (Joan Bennett) ; and their daughter. The three men plan to rob the store and board a ship the next day, but they soon change their minds after sharing Christmas dinner with the family. When they learn of the family's financial troubles, the convicts decide instead to carry out a few good deeds.

Rob Williams: he humour in Stalag 17 did not survive as well as that in We’re No Angels. Humphrey Bogart was not renowned for his comedic performances but he proves here that he can actually get a laugh.

There’s no such mystery surrounding Peter Ustinov’s comedy chops and he is subtly amusing throughout the film. Aldo Ray and Leo G Carroll both manage to keep their humorous ends up. Even Basil Rathbone manages a few broad smiles as the pantomime villain André Trochard. Let me get something straight though. This is not a laugh out loud, rolling on the floor, making embarrassing puddles kind of comedy. I don’t know if it was when it first came out because this film is even older than I am! But what I will say is that it is gently amusing throughout.

Christina Wehner: “What was that?” was what I first wondered when I had completed watching it. I suspect that I am going to get into trouble if I try to analyze the film too closely. But purely on a superficial level, on the strength of it’s cast and script, We’re No Angels is both sentimental and somewhat darkly comedic and deliciously enjoyable. After all, how many angels kill the villain with a snake to bring peace and happiness to the heroes? I suppose that’s why they’re not really angels. I’m getting ahead of myself.

Cátia: Similarly to I'll Be Seeing You and Remember the Night, Christmas in We're No Angels has a transformative power over its main characters. Joseph, Albert and Jules begin the film with a sinister plan of slaying the Ducotels and stealing everything they have, but the warmth and gratitude they receive at the family's home on Christmas Eve instigates a change of heart. Isabelle tells the men that they are like the three angels on her favorite Christmas tree decoration and Mr. Ducotel even gives them some money, despite the financial setbacks that the family is going through. Touched by their actions, the convicts help the Ducotels make their store prosperous, while also getting rid of the two villains in story, who want to appropriate themselves of the family's business. Their methods may have been questionable, but it is the intention that counts.

posted by Carillon (2 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No real expectations when I started this movie, but it's really weird and fun. The scene where they debate and cut cards for who has to go warn Andre about the snake is solid. It's surprisingly dark with two deaths that are played essentially for laughs. Reminded of Arsenic and Old Lace a bit in the way death is treated. The last shot too with them each having halos, including Adolphe is pretty good, though from my understanding no one would ever volunteer to go back to Devil's Island.
posted by Carillon at 10:41 AM on March 13, 2023

Watched this lately as it was on a list of good but lesser known Christmas movies. Yep, surprisingly dark. Though the comedy around potential/past sexual assault is probably a lot more shocking now than it was at the time. Pretty watchable with acerbic humour. My ten year old kid said he was bored by it though, though he watched the whole thing without wandering off.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 6:02 AM on December 23, 2023 [1 favorite]

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