Smoke and Fire


We watched THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER last night, with a tasty jug of Medford rum, in preparation for Film Club on Monday, and it certainly looks as if there’ll be plenty to say about it. One thing of interest was that this version (on the Masters of Cinema DVD) was about twenty minutes longer than the cut I’ve seen aired on Channel 4. So it was a first time for me, in a sense. Don’t know if the shorter version was the British release (it’s not a censorship job though), a re-release truncation for B-movie duty, or a relic from Leslie Halliwell’s tenure at Channel 4 — films were sometimes shortened for specific slots in those days, and Halliwell did not stint from butchering even his favourites (his praise of this movie may be what turned me on to it).

Anyway, one bit of good news is that the version on YouTube is the complete one.

I still want people to buy the DVD though, rather than watching it here. You can have one chapter, OK? Then you have to buy it. Actually, one advantage the short version has is it opens on Edward Arnold (8.58 into the chapter above!), and brings in Walter Huston almost immediately. And the film is alive in a special way when Huston’s around…

To reiterate for latecomers — on Monday we all meet up here and discuss the movie. Just like being down the pub.

8 Responses to “Smoke and Fire”

  1. Jack Womack Says:

    The film was cut by about twenty minutes after its release, though exactly when and exactly for what specific reason or reasons, I don’t know but I can only assume to pick up the pace — the restored opening does go on a bit. The cut footage reappeared for the first time, I think, in the 1990s laserdisc, though it had (as I recall) come from a 16mm print found somewhere in the midwest, and was in noticeably worse shape. The Criterion DVD’s print (again, I think) came from the director’s estate.

    One of my favorite movies, period, though I have periodically recast it with Henry Fonda and Olivia deHavilland as the young leads.

  2. I live in the Medford in question but sadly there’s neither rum nor a pub to speak of in the place these days; have to walk the other direction to find a suitable drinking spot.

    I’m still hoping to participate on Monday.

  3. from what I understand (and I can’t remember where I read this, so I might be making it up), the film was cut down in order to reduce it to 2nd feature length (running the gamut from A to B)

    I agree that the shortcut to Arnold/Huston is very effective (I probably watched the film 10 times in this form, before the restored versions began appearing during the 1990s–and I always forget that the movie begins differently now)

    I do like everything they put back into it though. Can’t wait for the discussion!


  4. Yes and the Criterion DVD was longer than their original laserdisc – Bruce Eder mentions that he had to revise his commentary at the beginning of his track over the film.

  5. Tony Williams Says:

    Jack is correct since the UK 16mm version going around in the 70s was also edited in the way he describes.

  6. It’ll be interesting to discuss those young lead actors — they’re definitely a weak point, but not one that seems to matter much. Perhaps they do more damage in the longer cut.

    That was a complete lie about the rum, though I see we have a half bottle of Demerara we should finish.

  7. But a GOOD lie!

  8. Oh yes, I insist on only the best quality lying here.

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