The Warner Archive is putting out two final releases of Gene Kelly’s films as single disc editions of The Devil Makes Three (1952) and 1950’s Black Hand. Although usually known for his singing and dancing efforts in more popular films, Kelly did his fair share of dramatic roles as well, although memories of most of them have faded into the mists of time.
Such is the case with these two films, though perhaps given the quality of the films this is understandable. The Devil Makes Three, the later of the two films is by far the better of the two even though the results are tepid. Here Kelly plays an American flyer who returns to Germany to thank a family who helped him when his plane crashed. Sadly he finds that they were killed-except one daughter (Pier Angeli)- in a subsequent air raid.
After a few missteps they fall in love, though the chemistry between them is limited. What she doesn’t tell them is that she has been pressured to support and work with a post war Nazi movement to continue the Reich.
It could have been a very intriguing plot, especially as so few movies deal effectively with the immediate post war German environment. However, it never really comes together and takes several false starts before gathering momentum. Gene Kelly is fairly good but Pier Angeli with her Italian background never seems to be able to become believable as a German.
But the true star here, and the reason for your interest in The Devil Makes Three, is the extensive location shooting. Much of the picture was shot amid the cratered and blasted remains of Salzburg and the footage gives a phenomenal insight into the condition of Germany in the immediate post war period. Even though the film was shot in the early 1950’s you get a sense for the massive project and the slow pace of rebuilding.
The earlier film, Black Hand, is somewhat more problematic. Here a miscast Kelly plays an Italian American who seeks to avenge the murder of his father by the Black Hand. As an added reason is protection for his new family, as he has brought his Italian (Teresa Celli) girlfriend back with him.
Kelly’s role in Black Hand is a fairly demanding one, and includes quite a bit of action- at least more than most Kelly fans would anticipate. He does an okay job but is surrounded with rather limited support and production values given that the film was made as a B picture by MGM. Some of the sets are rather weak, betraying the films “B” status.
Black Hand, though one of the earlier and more realistic mafia pictures- actually using the word mafia for starters add a hint of authenticity, really stumbles with a plot that never really gets to gather much momentum and leaves a sense of what could have been. Overall, Gene Kelly is no Bogart. Then again, Bogart’s singing and dancing isn’t the best.
Both discs are fairly pedestrian and standard for the WAC line. Both prints do show signs of age, but are extremely watchable. As usual, all WAC releases can be gotten either from them directly or from amazon.
Thanks as well to WAC, who kindly provided review copies of both discs.