Reviews

From Heart of Darkness to All Out War: 'Shout at the Devil'

Colonel Flynn O'Flynn (Lee Marvin) shouting at the devil

Shout at the Devil is big, bombastic, occasionally silly, often explosive and never boring fun that, quite simply, doesn’t make a whole devil of a lot of sense.


Shout at the Devil

Subtitle: English
Director: Peter Hunt
Cast: Lee Marvin, Roger Moore, Ian Holm, Barbara Perkins, Rene Kolldehoff
Length: 149 Minutes
Studio: American International Pictures
Year: 1976
Distributor: Shout! Factory
MPAA Rating: PG
Release date: 2013-10-08
Website

A lot of the distracting fun in Shout at the Devil comes from the film’s star, the tough-as-granite Lee Marvin, who is at his goofiest since Paint your Wagon. Marvin plays Irish American roughneck Flynn Patrick O’Flynn, who cons Roger Moore’s Sebastian “Bassy” Oldsmith into accompanying him on an ivory poaching run that goes South in a New York minute. What starts as a jaunt up the river in German-controlled East Africa for ivory soon runs the duo afoul of the nasty and cowardly German Commander Herman Fleischer (Reinhard “Rene” Kolldehoff), who dogs their escapades at almost every turn and ultimately creates a serious vendetta.

As much as Fleischer is a valid foil for O’Flynn and Oldsmith, so are O’Flynn and Oldsmith for each other. Marvin and Moore maintained such a classic chemistry in this pulpy action / adventure that they follow each other’s lead step-by-step, whether undertaking a silly misadventure, engaging in a drunken fistfight (which must be seen to be believed) or fighting side-by-side in a deadly-serious gunfight, they’re always in lock-step and two sides of the same coin, even and especially when at odds with each other.

Shout at the Devil can be every bit as farcical as any of Roger Moore’s James Bond films, and Lee Marvin’s characterization of O’Flynn is every bit as absurdly fun as anything he did in Cat Ballou or Paint Your Wagon, but at the flip of an invisible switch both Shout at the Devil and its stars take a turn for the incredibly dark.

In Shout at the Devil, Paint Your Wagon's Lee Marvin easily and disturbingly morphs into The Big Red One's Lee Marvin, while Cannoball Run Roger Moore is replaced by the coldly (if righteously) violent Roger Moore from The Man with the Golden Gun. Moore’s Oldsmith is generally an unwitting participant in violence and exploitation of any kind, except when his love interest Rosa O’Flynn (daughter of the elder O’Flynn, played by Barbara Perkins) is threatened, however when pushed in the right direction his benevolence is gone and there is nothing he won’t do for revenge.

Indeed, there's an underlying darkness to the entire affair, even when the direction of Peter R. Hunt and the score of Maurice Jarre place certain scenes firmly in the “wild caper” category. Although pre-World War I (and thus, decades before the rise of the Nazi and World War II), there is a cold, colonialism to the German military shown here. This is, of course, set against the backdrop of the occupation of East Africa and the exploitation of the natives for manual labor, mercenaries and servants.

Accordingly, when firefights break out among the opposing European (or European descended) bosses, almost invariably, it's a native African who is caught in the crossfire even, and especially, when it's another conscripted native African pulling the trigger at the behest of a German, American or English command. As the “yarn” unspools, we witness scenes of exploitation, casual murder, cannon fodder and even infanticide before the film (uncomfortably) takes on a little more of its playful tone. By the time the film gets back there, the enlightened audience probably no longer feels like they’re watching a comedy.

For all the ugliness we see in this film, there's also a great deal of beauty to look at. Shot on location in Malta and South Africa, the Cinematography of Michael Reed drinks in every bit of the countryside and uses sunlight to add a golden hue to both the most terrifying and the most lighthearted scenes. A perilous ambush and gunfight may still cause the viewer to reach for the pause button to take in the postcard-worthy forest, green hills and blue sky and to see the amazing technical skill that went into this large cast and prop setup. A humorously slapstick fistfight still manages to impress the viewer as the sun sets behind Moore’s head, creating an accidental and ironic halo.

Moore and Marvin's fistfight

While not quite an “epic”, the special effects tend to match the cinematography for impact and the 1080p Blu-Ray transfer captures both beautifully, showing off all the attributes and revealing very few true flaws (the film was released in 1976, so the special effects may not stand up to the best CGI offerings, but for the time they worked quite well). For all the impressive visuals and sounds on the feature itself, the bonus features here are minimal to the point of near bare-bones. There is no trailer, promotional materials or commentary here, only a short still gallery.

The film itself still stands up as a hell of a lot of fun with some very good acting from the leads as well as Perkins and Ian Holm (as Mohammed the silent but violent assistant to O’Flynn). Shout at the Devil is also a great adventure with lots of explosions and intrigue and hints of war. However, the way colonialism and other sensitive issues are handled in this film shows that there is a big difference between even the attitudes of 1976 and the present. Further underlying the changes in attitudes is the fact that this violent, often bloody and even disturbing film made it to United States theatres with a PG rating.

6

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image