Thursday, June 12, 2008

Shout at the Devil

The Action Mutant…
is the blood stain on the stage.


Shout at the Devil


review by Joe Burrows


Perspective:
It’s getting to the point now that if I were to die watching TV tomorrow, it would probably be while watching a Lee Marvin film. I still stand by the fact that every six months to a year or so, I find a new Marvin effort (well, new to me) that seems to have its own identity to it. This rainy day fare was no different…and it stars James Bond #3! But, Lee Marvin is a drunkard in this one, so some things never change.

The Plot, as it was:
Marvin stars as Flynn O’Flynn (no typo), an ivory poacher and all around drunken cad that cons an Englishman named Sebastian Oldsmith (Roger Moore) into helping him smuggle ivory past German forces in 1913 East Africa. Their partnership grows and even leads to Sebastian marrying O’Flynn’s daughter Rosa (Barbara Parkins), much to the soused O’Flynn’s initial dismay. However, the patrolling German commander Fleischer (Rene Kolldehoff) is a brutish prick that has had it out for O’Flynn for quite sometime. When WWI is declared, Fleischer storms O’Flynn’s estate and destroys nearly everything in sight. With revenge on their mind, Sebastian and the O’Flynns plan to storm Fleischer’s German battle cruiser and drive him straight to Hell…so he can shout….SHOUT AT THE DEVIL!

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
My “rainy day fare” comment wasn’t just written to fill space…Shout at the Devil is quite the entertaining “popcorn” movie. It’s definitely a work that is not here to win points for subtlety or political correctness. The humor is very broad and mainly consists of Marvin’s inebriated, foot-in-mouth act and Moore’s conflicting eruditeness. More than a few people may be turned off by some of the practices that are taken lightly here, which wouldn’t fly today (ivory hunting, slavery, portrayal of savages, etc.). However, if you can take the broadness and outright simplicity of the story and go with the grand scale action & goofy humor (like I did), you will enjoy this immensely. The oddball atmosphere matches up perfectly with Marvin’s sardonic adventurer, as the actor could do this act in his sleep. The same can be said for Moore’s idealistic playboy, as he makes everything look so effortless once again. Seriously, give these two some gin on the rocks and that’s your movie right there (one of the film’s better running jokes is O’Flynn’s quest for fame & fortune is really fueled by his alcoholism…hey, I told you this wasn’t a straight arrow story!). Ian Holm is also pretty fun as O’Flynn’s mute servant, as that role requires some great facials that Holm provides in spades. The baddies are your usual “we’re German but we speak perfect English to keep the plot going” type and Kolldehoff looks the epitome of the slimy foreign commander. Once the tragic events in the story happen, the film becomes more predictable and less fun as it goes toward a serviceable climax. As said before, SatD is not meant to be cerebral and when it hit’s the third act, you’re really just watching it spin its wheels until it reaches its conclusion. However, the first 2/3 is so odd and amusing that it’s easy to forgive the slight misstep and just go along with this old school adventurer fare.

Body Count/Violence: 59. Seeing that this was rated PG (a 1970s equivalent to a PG, that is…which is to say PG-13ish), one would expect a few violent moments and SatD doesn’t disappoint. Though there are more than a few after-the-fact corpses, a lot of them have been lynched, trampled, shot, skulls pressed against trees and stabbed. The rest are shot the old fashioned way, as well as blown up, speared, run down by cannon wheels, set on fire and even decapitated in a way that mirrors David Warner’s memorable demise in The Omen (though the camera cuts away upon impact). There are also plenty of elephants shot for their ivory, though none of their deaths are lingered upon. The most memorable set piece is the brawl between the two leads that has them crashing through railings and drywall galore.

Sexuality/Nudity: A few naturally endowed native types (think National Geographic) make intermittent appearances and their exposure is very brief at all times.

Language/Dialogue: Nothing strong but its funny to hear Marvin string together old time insults to hurl at people. My favorite is when he declares Sebastian a “rapist” after hearing his daughter is pregnant and then calling HER a “hussy” and a “trollop” when she declares it was consensual.

How bad was it?:
The critical response was more than a bit mixed, as it was trashed for being an overly simplistic yarn and praised for its action and old fashioned styling. Ebert gave it *** but admitted that it was “…a big, dumb, silly movie that’s impossible to dislike.”

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Shout at the Devil was produced by Hemdale Film Distributors Ltd. in England and released in America by American International on 11/20/76. This Peter Hunt (who also directed Marvin in the cult classic Death Hunt) helmed pic was shot in Malta & South Africa and budgeted at $7 million, which was considered steep at the time. No box office figures are available. Though the U.S version runs at 119 minutes, Encore Action recently showed it in its complete 147 minute cut.

Film: **1/2/*****
Entertainment value: ***1/2/*****

Copyright 2008 The Action Mutant.

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