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Shout at the Devil(1976)
During World War One an English poacher, an American adventurer and the latter's attractive young daughter, set out to destroy a German battle-cruiser which is awaiting repairs in an inlet just off Zanzibar.
For more about Shout at the Devil and the Shout at the Devil Blu-ray release, see Shout at the Devil Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on September 26, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Lee Marvin, Roger Moore, Barbara Parkins, Ian Holm, Karl Michael Vogler, Reinhard Kolldehoff
Director: Peter R. Hunt
» See full cast & crew
Shout at the Devil Blu-ray Review
Two men who would be king play battleship for real.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, September 26, 2013
Lee Marvin made the perhaps unfortunate decision to star in a musical, the oft-derided but actually quite enjoyable 1969 romp Paint Your Wagon, based on a by then quite old Lerner and Loewe (My Fair Lady, Camelot, Gigi) stage outing which Alan Jay Lerner rather radically retooled for its cinema incarnation. Marvin portrayed a drunken gold prospector named Ben Rumson, and he stumbled through the film alternately shouting and fighting with various folks, as well as stopping occasionally to "sing". Rather surprisingly, Marvin's rendition of "Wandrin' Star" actually charted in the United Kingdom, which may or may not be more than ample payback for any market share inequities we suffered on this side of the pond due to The British Invasion. Marvin's career of course took a huge left turn with Cat Ballou, but unfortunately that meant that more than once in his post-Ballou filmography he was called upon to portray inebriates who, yes, stumble and fight quite a bit. Shout at the Devil finds Marvin once again rather resolutely in this rut, but at least the film has absolutely no singing "moments" for Marvin. In fact, Marvin's character of Flynn O'Flynn could almost be thought of as Ben Rumson: The Next Generation. Like Rumson, O'Flynn is a man on the make, out to plunder the environment for a quick buck, and downing copious amounts of hooch in the process. This time the source of riches is not gold but ivory (the film includes several disturbing shotsŚ no pun intendedŚof elephants being killed, though there are disclaimers both before and after the film insisting that "not one animal was harmed in the making of this motion picture"). It's pre-World War I time frame actually ends up making the bulk of this fairly long outing ultimately turn into a combined revenge fantasy combined with a kind of The African Queen-esque adventure to find and destroy a German battleship.
Shout at the Devil is, rather like many of the characters Marvin played (especially in his later career), larger than life and more than a bit unsteady on its feet. Evidently basedŚextremely looselyŚon actual historical events, the story wends through a number of detours and sidebars before finally settling down on a vengeance drama wrapped within an adventure motif at the start of World War I. Before it gets to the point, however, the film spends a lot of time developing its focal characters and putting them through a number of perhaps unlikely situations. We are introduced to hard drinking Flynn (Lee Marvin) and his native assistant Mohammed (Ian Holm), who are looking for a mark to get them back into German occupied East Africa so that they continue their ivory poaching ways. That mark conveniently shows up in the form of natty Britisher Sebastian Oldsmith (Roger Moore), who soon finds himself at the mercy of Flynn when Flynn has Mohammed sneak into Oldsmith's hotel room at nightŚwhile Oldsmith is there sleepingŚto steal Oldsmith's passport and money.
Flynn then "miraculously" shows up to get Oldsmith out of his predicament of not being able to leave (not to mention not being able to pay his hotel bill), and an unlikely partnership is forged. Flynn and Oldsmith then journey to East Africa, where they almost immediately raise the ire of a local German official named Fleischer (Reinhard Koldehoff). Fleischer interrupts a major ivory foraging expedition (which includes some very disturbing footage of elephants being shot and killed), wounding Flynn and killing several African natives in the process. Oldsmith manages to rescue Flynn shortly before he's consumed by a rather vicious (and extremely) large crocodile (or is it an alligator in Africa?).
As Flynn, Oldsmith and Mohammed attempt to make their escape in a rickety ethnic sailboat known as a dhow, Fleischer shows up with a German battleship and proves that he is in this case a triumphant Goliath against their helpless David. However, Flynn is not an easy man to keep down (unless he's had too much to drink), and the tables turn somewhat with another scheme which gives the "heroes" some sizable loot but which only serves to further enrage Fleischer. At this point the film moves into a protracted subplot where Flynn and Oldsmith take refuge in Flynn's Out of Africa-esque farm, where the next major character, Flynn's headstrong daughter Rosa (Barbara Parkins), is finally introduced.
The historical accuracy in this section of the film is somewhat suspect, positing a role for Portugal and Portuguese occupied territory (including the area where Flynn's spread is) that is evidently not true. But that's probably small potatoes in what turns out to be an interesting, if hyperbolic, final act where Fleischer shows up yet again to wreak havoc on Flynn, as well as Rosa and Oldsmith, who have married and given birth to a baby daughter. This is actually where all the loose threads of this quite long (close to two and a half hours) film finally are woven together and the emotional connections which have very slowly been formulating finally congeal into a viscerally exciting finale. Without revealing too much, Fleischer's near mad exploits deal a very personal blow to Flynn and the now married Oldsmiths, and once they're recruited to help find and take out Fleischer's battleship, the game is on.
Shout at the Devil is probably too long and too convoluted for its own good, but at the same time it's the kind of rousing "historical" adventure story that at that point (1976) wasn't really being exploited that much anymore, save for fitful entries like 1975's The Man Who Would Be King. The film might have been better served had it jettisoned the whole opening sequence featuring the ivory poaching, but for those with the stomach to see those scenes, there are valuable character bits added into the mix which help to develop interest in the kind of weird partnership forged by Flynn and Oldsmith. Peter R. Hunt stages things with workmanlike efficiency, and the performances are quite winning, even with regard to the over the top antics of Kolldehoff as Fleischer. The meaning of the title of the film isn't revealed until very near the end of the film, a perhaps fitting indication that a little patience will go a long way toward making Shout at the Devil a more than reasonably entertaining experience.
Shout at the Devil Blu-ray, Video Quality
Shout at the Devil is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of (appropriately) Shout! Factory's imprint Timeless Media Group with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1. This is a really nice looking transfer that nonetheless raises one question for me: the image is sharp and well detailed, and colors, while perhaps just slightly skewed toward the ruddy red side of things at times, are very robust, and yet there is only very minimal, extremely fine, grain in evidence. Could this have possibly been sourced from a negative? If not, the IP utilized was in extremely good condition, for even without an abundance of grain, the image here has none of the waxiness or smeared quality one usually associates with DNR. If DNR has been employed here, it's been done rather artfully, as fine detail remains quite good, especially in close-ups. The image is stable throughout this presentation, and while some midrange and wide shots look a bit on the fuzzy side, overall this transfer is nicely sharp and precise.
Shout at the Devil Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Shout at the Devil features lossless DTS-HD Master Audio Mono audio (presented via DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0) which presents the film's boisterous sound mix with a good deal of verve, albeit without much depth. Dialogue is very clean and easy to hear, and the film's score (by Maurice Jarre) is exuberant and distortion free. The action sequences, which include some explosions and lots of gunfire, give this film quite a bit of dynamic range.
Shout at the Devil Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Shout at the Devil Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Shout at the Devil is too long and takes too many detours in its early going, but ultimately it's a fun, rousing ride that offers Marvin yet another chance to play a lovable drunk and Moore the opportunity to engage in his patented brand of suave action. Parkins, who for whatever reason never seemed to be able to forge much of a big screen career, is really excellent, and quite moving, as Rosa. This little remembered minor gem should be enjoyed by anyone who, armed with a little patience to get through the film's cumbersome running time, likes films tinged with a bit of history (whether accurately presented or not) in exotic locales. Recommended.
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