I do a fair bit of movie watching, and I’ll admit that when the holidays come around, I sometimes suffer from movie fatigue. I love me some White Christmas, but I’ve seen it a slew of times, and sometimes I’m just not up to watch it again. And so I go searching elsewhere. I look for movies that I’ve missed out on. I check Top Ten lists–look to see what other people are watching for their holiday cheer. It’s how I came to my last blog post on this subject. But I’ve continued to be on the lookout for more since then, and last night I hit pay dirt.
I’ve seen We’re No Angels before. I’m sure of it. I remembered a fair bit while I was watching it, but what I’d completely forgotten was the fact that it’s very much a Christmas movie. A hilarious, dark comedy, Humphrey Bogart and Peter Ustinov starring, dyed in the wool Christmas movie. Did I mention it’s got Basil Rathbone in it, too? And it was directed by Michael Curtiz (of Casablanca fame. Oh yeah–and he directed another movie right before this one. White Christmas). I don’t know when I watched this movie before, but I do know I didn’t appreciate it for the gem that it was.
The plot is straightforward: three convicts (a conman and two murderers) escape from prison and plan on killing their way onto a ship to get back to France. They take temporary refuge in a store, where they’re all set to murder the shop keeper and pillage the store. And this is all happening on Christmas Eve.
Perfect set up for a heartwarming comedy, isn’t it?
The movie is pulled off by flat out great acting. Peter Ustinov in particular stands out. He’s a man who had a “slight disagreement with his wife” that led to him killing her. How in the world do you make a character like that charming and appealing? Usually the approach is to throw someone else up on the screen even viler than the main character. In this case, however, the approach is to make that character . . . charming and appealing. He’s hilarious the whole time. Quick witted, nice, perceptive. As I thought about it, it appears what they did was take a genial, genuinely nice person, and have part of his backstory be that he murdered his wife. It sounds like it wouldn’t work at all–but it does. Wonderfully.
I can’t say enough good things about this movie. Maybe part of it is because I saw in it a lot of what I’m trying to do in GET CUPID. Lovable criminals. Maybe I’m the perfect audience for this, but I don’t think I’m alone.
So if you’re like me–you’d seen the movie, but largely forgotten it–might I suggest you give it another go? I watched it on Amazon Prime, and it’s unfortunately not available on Netflix. You can rent the thing online for $3, though. If you’ve never seen it, you owe it to yourself to correct that problem. Am I right or am I right?