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On Christmas Eve, 1895, on French-controlled Devil's Island, where trustees of the penal colony are allowed to roam free, three escaped convicts¿swindler Joseph and murderers Albert and Jules¿plot ways to board a Paris-bound ship anchored offshore. Penniless and still wearing their prison garb, the convicts are approached by Arnaud, the ship's young medical officer, who asks for directions. While chatting with Arnaud, Jules, a former safecracker, picks his pockets and inadvertently steals a letter addressed to Felix Ducotel, the local general store proprietor. The three decide to deliver the letter, and rob the store, and are delighted when the absent-minded, kindly Felix assumes they are convict laborers and hires them to fix his leaky roof. Once on the roof, the convicts eavesdrop on Felix and his wife Amelie as they discuss Felix's cousin, Andre Trochard, the store's owner. Amelie despises Andre for using his wealth to control the financially strapped Felix and threatening to fire him if the store fails to show a profit. Amelie also bemoans the fact that their impressionable eighteen-year-old daughter Isabelle is in love with Paul, Andre's nephew and heir, who lives in Paris with his uncle, as she knows that Andre will never approve the match. When Isabelle asks her father about the still unopened letter, Felix realizes it is from Andre and panics. After reading that Andre has been quarantined on the ship and is demanding that Felix secure his release, Felix scurries to the dock. Isabelle then reads the letter and faints. Seeing her prostrate, the convicts jump down from the roof and also read the letter. The men explain to a bemused Amelie that Isabelle fainted upon reading Andre's announcement that Paul is to marry the daughter of a rich business acquaintance. While young Albert carries the unconscious Isabelle to her room, Joseph blithely talks a bald man into buying an expensive comb and brush set from the store and inspects Felix's account books. Although Jules and Albert begin to question their plan to rob and kill the Ducotels, Joseph insists they need money to escape. Joseph proceeds to sell an expensive coat for Felix, and Felix and Amelie, touched by the convicts' apparent concern, invite them for Christmas Eve dinner. Joseph then dashes out and steals a turkey and other items for the meal, while Albert, who was jailed for killing his uncle over money, encourages Isabelle not to give up on Paul. Buoyed by Albert's flattery, Isabelle tells the convicts they are like the three angels on her favorite Christmas tree decoration. That night after dinner, a grateful Felix gives the men some cash, and Albert and Jules again wonder if they can go through with their plan. Just then, Andre and Paul show up, having been released from the ship, and Andre declares that he has come to inspect Felix's books and check the store's inventory. Before retiring, the snide and suspicious Andre also tells Felix that Isabelle, who he assumes is after his money, cannot marry Paul. After lying to Andre that the store is making money, Joseph begs Felix to allow him to fix the books to show a profit. Felix is about to agree when Andre reappears, demanding to check the books that night. Although Joseph and Jules are now ready to give up and leave, Albert convinces them to stay to help Isabelle with Paul. Joseph forges a note from Paul to Isabelle, begging her to meet him in the garden, then he and Jules cajole Paul into talking to her. Isabelle tries to convince Paul to defy his uncle and marry her, but as soon as Andre catches them together and orders Paul to look at Felix's books, the spineless Paul acquiesces. Infuriated by Andre's accusations and bullying, the convicts conduct a mock trial, and Joseph condemns Andre to death. Joseph immediately changes his mind, but just then, Andre bursts in, yelling about missing store inventory. Andre grabs a decorative box he believes Albert has stolen and retreats to his bedroom, dismissing Albert's warning that the box contains his poisonous pet viper Adolphe. Feeling that fate has intervened, the convicts make no further moves until morning. The next day, after entering Andre's bedroom and finding him dead from a snake bite, Joseph forges a will leaving half of Andre's estate to Felix and tries to get various family members to discover the body. At the same time, Albert and Jules search all over for the now missing Adolphe. Paul finally finds his uncle's body and, barely hiding his glee, burns Joseph's forged will, thereby assuring he will inherit everything. Paul then returns to his uncle's room and is bitten by Adolphe, who was hiding in Andre's pocket. The convicts escort the dying Paul to the summer house, where he is later discovered by Isabelle. At that moment, officer Arnaud, representing the board of health, arrives, having been summoned by Amelie and Felix. After making sure that Isabelle and the handsome Arnaud meet, the convicts steal some suits and bid the Ducotels farewell. At the dock, however, they realize they have become a little too "angelic" to escape, conclude they would soon be caught any way and head back to prison.