Shake Hands With The Devil (1959)

Imdb Ranking 6.8

Dublin 1921, a city at war. Often in its turbulent history the men of Ireland had risen to fight for their freedom only to be crushed. This was the year of total war. It was also the year of the Black and Tans, the army assembled to replace the British regulars who had lost their taste for the suppression of men in search of their freedom.

In 1921 Dublin, the IRA battles the Black & Tans who were brought in from England to keep down potential revolutionaries. The movie opens with Irish-American Kerry O'Shea (Don Murray) at a cemetery laying down a wreath on his parents' graves. There is a funeral procession and then the Black and Tans come bursting on the scene. The pall bearers drop the coffin and rifles come out when it breaks. The troops round up some of the men but when an officer questions Kerry he tells him that a lady who has just joined him is a friend of the family.

Kerry is studying medicine at the College of Surgeons and the next day some of the students know what he had done. His friend Paddy Nolan congratulates him and tries to get him to join the cause. Kerry fought during World War I and has had enough of fighting. The professor for their class is Sean Lenihan (James Cagney).

We find out that Kerry's father had been an IRA leader and had been shot and killed. That is when his mother went to America. When an IRA man on a bike throws a bomb at an army truck, he is shot. When Kerry goes out to help the man, Paddy goes out to drag Kerry out of harm's way but Paddy is shot by the army. When Kerry goes to help Paddy a soldier tries to shoot him and Kerry hits him with a rifle and carries Paddy away. Kerry brings him in to a house and Paddy sends the girl there to get Professor Lenihan. Sean operated but Paddy still died.

Sean brings Kerry back to the IRA headquarters where they are mostly working on guns. Sean gives Kerry two choices: join or get out of Ireland. Kerry says that he has done all the killing he intends to do. Sean brings him in to see the General (Michael Redgrave) who knew his father. They bring Kerry down to the coast to wait for a boat.

An IRA man breaks out of prison and they try to sneak him out in the trunk of Lady Fitzhugh's car, but a dog scratches at the trunk and they kill the man. When the soldiers enter the pub where the IRA man and Kerry are, Terrence O'Brien (Richard Harris' first movie role) drops a gun and Kerry tries to hide it. Kerry is arrested and then beaten while he is interrogated.

Sean and some of the men dress up as Tans and go to the army headquarters and pretend to be picking up a prisoner. Once they get in they pull out their guns and rescue Kerry. The boat in now there for Kerry to leave, but now he doesn't want to go. He will have to "Shake Hands with the Devil", once in, never out.

When the elderly Lady Fitzhugh is put on trail she is in the midst of a hunger strike. She asks "What is an English judge doing in an Irish court?" She is sentenced to two tears in jail. The IRA then plan to kidnap the daughter, Jennifer Curtis, of an English official to use as a hostage to exchange for Lady Fitzhugh. While escaping the hostage is wounded.

The Tans find out about Sean and come in to the College of Surgery to arrest him. They agree to wait until the operation he is performing is over. They wheel Sean out under the operating table and he escapes.

The General (based on Michael Collins) then gives Sean what he thinks is good news. Downing Street has offered peace with honor. They can become a free state with dominion status. "Is that what we have been fighting for?" Sean asks. The General says that "both sides must bend a little. We'll be ruling ourselves at last after seven hundred years." Sean says: "But still tied to England's apron strings. That's not peace. That's surrender." The General says: "That's a start. The Republic will come later." Sean says: "I warn you. Five men out of ten men in the Republican army will spit on peace at those terms. If you sign that treaty it will be Irishman against Irishman. civil war, bloodier than this one."

After some more arguing the General said: "What good is a republic if there is no one left to enjoy it? How much longer can we wade through the blood of our own countrymen?" Sean stalks out an angry man.

Kerry and Jennifer begin to fall for each other. Meanwhile Sean plans an operation to kill the officer who worked over Kerry. Even though the peace treaty is pending, he doesn't want it to end, not on these terms. On the mission something goes wrong and people on both sides are killed.

When Kerry gets back to headquarters he finds out the truce is to be signed the next day. The General comes in and says "By dawn the fight will be over." The General tells one of the men to return Ms. Curtis to her father and he walks off to begin his journey to England. Later they get a message that Lady Fitzhugh has died.

Sean goes to Jennifer and hands her a Bible. He tells the men "We have no choice." Kerry arrives and is determined to stop him. As Sean is about to execute her, Kerry arrives and is forced to shoot Sean down.

A very good movie that showed how easy it was to get dragged in to the troubles. It also showed the dilemma that Michael Collins faced. Very good acting in a well done, very interesting movie.