The Devil at 4 O’Clock

DevilAt4OclockSuggested by Brad Nelson • A seaplane lands on the island of Talua to unload three criminals. When an earthquake and volcanic eruption strike Talua, Father Doonan (Spencer Tracy) persuades Harry (Frank Sinatra) to parachute with him into the mountains on a daring rescue to an isolated hospital.
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5 Responses to The Devil at 4 O’Clock

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Maybe this is where Irwin Allen got his inspiration for disaster films. Although this is not an all-star cast as with those films (or TV movies), it has stars…two of the biggest: Spencer Tracy and Frank Sinatra.

    The Devil at 4 O’Clock is, somewhat regrettably, of made-for-TV quality. This is a very simple plot with cardboard cutout characters, including Tracy as the priest whose has lost his faith and takes to the bottle. Sinatra is the criminal who we know isn’t as bad as his rough exterior. And his two criminal cohorts eventually, and predictably, become near saints, moved by the plight of the leper children.

    Still, this is a picture that moves you briskly from scene to scene and never drags. The earthquake and volcanic eruption come. The pumice-like characters and plot are given the weight of granite by Tracy and Sinatra. Kerwin Matthews is completely forgettable as the new priest who is to be Tracy’s replacement and has hitched a ride with the plane taking the criminals to their jail in Tahiti. I guess Dean Jones wasn’t available. The part was made for his style.

    But it all works in a low-budget iconic sort of way. No big surprises here. And the realism, I guess, of the priest who has lost his faith is carried very well by Tracy. This is no soul-searching dark role of depth. It’s just the smell of booze on his breath and a resigned “futility of it all.” But the mere presence of Tracy saying the lines gives them a weight beyond their face value.

    Although simple, that is also the movie’s strength. It’s fairly straightforward and that just somehow works.

  2. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Sinatra is the criminal who we know isn’t as bad as his rough exterior.

    If you like movies with “good” criminals, I suggest “We’re No Angels”. I find it a very funny movie.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Yes, a surprisingly adroit film. But what would you expect from the director of Casablanca? This is certainly a more fleshed-out three-criminals film. And obviously more of a comedy than a drama. It’s a solid movie. And no Bogart fan should miss it.

  3. Timothy Lane says:

    A nice movie, one I’ve seen a few times (including once back in the 1960s). One could call it a buddy film, given that Sinatra’s character, having received a pardon, chooses to go back and die with the priest — after making sure the orphans all made it onto the ship carrying everyone away from meeting “the devil at 4 o’clock”.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      It’s certainly a picture about a deep change in character taking place. I may need to screen “The Miracle of the Bells.” I don’t suppose this is a very good film. I’m sure I’ve seen it before but I don’t remember much about it. But it’s Frank.

      My favorite movie of this type is “Going My Way.” The sequel (sort of), “The Bells of St. Mary’s,” is another favorite. Some would dismiss it as schmaltz. But what’s so bad at erring in this direction, especially considering the soul-sucking fare that is typical of today’s movies?

      That gives me an idea. We should have a Schmaltz-a-Thon…maybe a seminar featuring essays of our favorite schmaltz.

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