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Sunday, March 29, 2015

"All That Money Can Buy" (1941)

This little-known film is almost unclassifiable, a sui generis fantasy/film noir mashup. Also known as "The Devil and Daniel Webster" and taken from a story by Stephen Vincent BenĂ©t of the same name, it comes from the same propulsive creativity in Hollywood studio filmmaking that birthed "Citizen Kane" in the same year. James Craig is a 19th Century farmer with a streak of bad luck and failing crops. Enter the Devil himself, Walter Huston as "Mr. Scratch", who offers Craig a life and fortune too good to pass up...only--you guessed it--he has to sign over a little thing called his soul. The only person to turn to is a wily politician and lawyer, Daniel Webster (the blustery Edward Arnold), who just might outwit the evil conniver in a fantasy court of law. Each scene and frame of the entire piece is filled with artistry and masterful direction. Kudos to director William Dieterle for helming a one-of-a-kind cinematic treat. Look for that "Cat People" vixen Simone Simon as the Devil's femme fatale luring Craig to his possible doom.


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