US movie (1981). Disney. Pr Jerome Courtland. Exec pr Ron Miller. Dir Steven Hilliard Stern. Screenplay Mary Rodgers. Novelization The Devil and Max Devlin * (1980) by Robert Grossbach. Starring Susan Anspach (Penny Hart), Julie Budd (Stella Summers), Bill Cosby (Barney Satin), Elliott Gould (Max Devlin), Adam Rich (Toby Hart), Charles Schamata (Nelson). 95 mins. Colour.
Rotten landlord Devlin is run over by a bus and descends to Hell. There he is offered a deal by Barney, a suave Mephistopheles figure: Devlin will be returned to life for a probationary two months, during which time he must induce three youngsters to sell their Souls to the Devil for reasons of greed. Stella wants to be a rock star; Nelson wants to be a motocross champ; Toby wants a new father to marry his widowed mother. As Barney explains, Devlin can confer on each of his three "targets" magical properties so long as he remains within line-of-sight of them; through his conferred Talent of teleportation, Devlin somehow manages to become a Svengali to Stella, a successful manager to Nelson and a putative new spouse to Toby's mother Penny. Although he succeeds in getting the Contracts signed, he has in the process discovered decency, and so burns them. Hell rejects him on the basis that his new-found niceness might corrupt the rest of the establishment, and all ends happily.
TDAMD has much more bite than the average Disney comedy of its period, thanks to a witty script and the seeming ad libs of Gould and Cosby. This is a far better movie than generally reported – even the songs are good. [JG]