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DEVIL’S DISCIPLE, THE (director: Guy Hamilton; screenwriters: Roland Kibbee/John Dighton/based on the play by George Bernard Shaw; cinematographer: Jack Hildyard; editor: Alan Osbiston; music: RichardRodney Bennett; cast: Burt Lancaster (Anthony Anderson), Kirk Douglas (Richard Dudgeon), Laurence Olivier (Gen. Burgoyne), Janette Scott (Judith Anderson), Eva LeGallienne (Mrs. Dudgeon), Neil McCallum (Christopher Dudgeon), Mervyn Johns (Rev. Maindeck Parshotter), David Horne (William), Jenny Jones (Essie), Erik Chitty (Titus), Basil Sydney (Lawyer Hawkins), Harry Andrews (Major Swindon), George Rose (British Sergeant; Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Harold Hecht; United Artists; 1959)
It’s a work that the author disliked so much, he dismissed it.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Based on the biting satirical play by the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. It’s a work that the author disliked so much, he dismissed it. It lampoons certain American Revolutionary events and some bumbling Englishmen who were involved in losing a colony. Director Guy Hamilton (“Funeral in Berlin”/”Goldfinger”/”Battle of Britain”), who took over thedirectorial reins from Alexander Mackendrick after he got the ax mid-way through for going for the action and not the Shaw wit, gets some good things going from this patchy comical historical production (like a spot on performance by Laurence Olivier). But the star-studded cast can never get thisRevolutionary War-based play to be more than a satisfactory venture despite their noble efforts.

The story takes place in Springtown, New Hampshire, in 1777. British troops move in from Canada under the leadership of Gen. John “Gentlemanly Johnny” Burgoyne (Laurence Olivier). The locals do not resist, even when Burgoyne hangs in public a local leader named Timothy Dudgeon for treason. Then the man’s estranged wildman son Richard Dudgeon (Kirk Douglas), who embraces his public image of the ‘devil’s disciple,’ returns to the area and vows revenge. After burying dad, whom he cut down from hanging despite British orders to leave him as an example to others, the family lawyer (Basil Sydney) informs him that his dad left him the entire estate. This dismays his dour mom (Eva LeGallienne) and younger brother (Neil McCallum), who both move out. Anthony Anderson (Burt Lancaster) is the Dudgeon family pastor, located in a nearby village in Websterbridge, who is unwilling at first to join up with Richard’s rebellion because of his pacifist beliefs and he’s also afraid that his pretty wife Janette Scott (Judith Anderson) is falling in love with the young virile rebel.But as events change through the bumbling tyrannical activities of Major Swindon (Harry Andrews), unnecessarily continuing to harass the colonists, the peace-loving parson decides to join the revolution and becomes a firebrand rebel who explodes the British ammunition that’s stored. When the rebels challenge Burgoyne’s weakened forces and through the incompetency of the British War Office General Howe doesn’t receive the message he’s needed to support Burgoyne with troops and supplies, Burgoyne is forced to retreat.

Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster’s independent companies produced and filmed it entirely in England.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”