The Devil and Max Devlin is a Disney motion picture released by Buena Vista Distribution Company, directed by Steven Hilliard Stern and released in early 1981, starring Elliott Gould, Bill Cosby, and Susan Anspach. Gould praised this film in interviews as the finest he ever did (along with the other Disney film The Last Flight of Noah's Ark). It was considered to be controversial material for a Disney film at the time because of the subject matter and the fact that Bill Cosby was featured as a character of evil. It was also the first Disney film to actually contain swearing (not just religious connotations) such as "damn" and an unfinished "son of a b****". This film was one of three films that influenced the creation of Touchstone Pictures and Hollywood Pictures to make movies for mature audiences. The film was released by Anchor Bay Entertainment on DVD in November 2000.
Max Devlin (Elliott Gould) is a shady landlord of a rundown tenement who is rather jaded and callous toward his fellow man. One day while chasing an errant tenant, he is run over by a bus and killed. He descends into hell (which resembles a corporate business) and meets the Devil's chief henchman Barney Satin (read: Satan) (Bill Cosby). He is told of his life of sin and the fact that he is doomed. However, he is given a chance to save himself by convincing three other people, a teenage nerd, a young boy and an aspiring singer to sell their souls in exchange. He returns to earth and begins his frantic quest.
Along the way, he discovers his innate decency, the fact that he really was not so bad all along. He falls in love with the boy's mother and they plan to marry. Eventually, through various methods, he obtains all three signatures on the fatal contract (which, after signing, prompts them to sense Max's hellish alliance). However, on his wedding day, Satin appears and tells him he will take these chosen ones right now rather than let them live natural lives. Max is horrified and enraged by this and prepares to tear up the contracts. In the film's most intense scene, Satin appears in full devil regalia and screams at Max of his terrible fate of torment in Hell if he burns the contracts. Max does so anyway, to sacrifice himself for the three souls, and suddenly realizes he is living again. His kind, unselfish act has deemed him unfit for hell. The last scene shows Max looking upward (as a reference to Heaven) and saying "Thank you very much".
- Elliott Gould as Max Devlin
- Bill Cosby as Barney Satin
- Susan Anspach as Penny Hart
- Adam Rich as Toby Hart
- Julie Budd as Stella Summers
- Sonny Shroyer as Big Billy Hunniker
- David Knell as Nerve Nordlinger
- Chuck Shamata as Jerry Nadler
- Deborah Baltzell as Heidi
- Ronnie Schell as Greg Weems
- Jeannie Wilson as Laverne Hunniker
- Stanley Brock as The Counterman
- Ted Zeigler as Mr. Billings
- Vic Dunlop as Brian
- Reggie Nalder as Chairman of Devil's Council