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  Shout at the Devil Playing Battleships Gets Personal
Year: 1976
Director: Peter Hunt
Stars: Lee Marvin, Roger Moore, Barbara Parkins, Ian Holm, Reinhard Kolldehoff, Gernot Endemann, Karl Michael Vogler, Horst Janson, Gerard Paquis, Maurice Denham, Jean Kent, Heather Wright, George Coulouris, Renu Setna, Murray Melvin, Bernard Horsfall
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Action, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: The year is 1913 and the place is Zanzibar, where various nationalities have been attempting to gain the upper hand in the territory, including the British and the Germans. The latter have a mighty warship in the seas around the area, but at the moment the ivory poacher Flynn O'Flynn (Lee Marvin) is largely concerned with securing his haul and ensuring he can get it out of the country so he may gain a tidy profit. He thinks he needs assistance, or some kind of fall guy at any rate, so arranges for his manservant Mohammed (Ian Holm) to steal a visiting British gentleman's money and travel tickets to Australia. The gentleman is Sebastian Oldsmith (Roger Moore), but he might not be the pushover he appears...

Shout at the Devil began life as a Wilbur Smith bestseller, well, actually it began life as a true story of the early stages of World War I where the British tried to destroy a powerful German battleship, but that served as the basis for what was essentially a riproaring yarn of derring-do which owed plenty not so much to the British tradition of such adventures, but more the cinema of John Ford. Not simply in the casting of Marvin, who had worked with the American director at times, but in the whole tough yet humorous demeanour of the piece, complete with hard drinking, comedy brawling and Barbara Parkins as a Maureen O'Hara substitute.

She played Flynn's sensible daughter who eventually falls for Sebastian and vice versa, but before reached that point there was a lot of two-fisted diversions to take into account, and even afterwards there was a lot to take in; although often seen in a two hour version, there was one which lasted half an hour longer that the Brits got to see. Even at that length, there was possibly more than was necessary, as you had the measure of the characters fairly quickly and the sense of the filmmakers weighing the audience down into submission by including as much as the target viewer has read in the source was tending towards overkill, no matter how far the charms of the cast endured.

In fact, the more Marvin drank onscreen, the further you were reminded of his real life alcoholism which was not nearly as amusing, with tales of him getting so inebriated he got into a fistfight with Moore while filming; you'd like to think it played out in the same way as it does in the actual story, but it was likely more tawdry than that (though Sir Roger won). As if it was the law for any British action movie of this era, there were plenty of connections to the James Bond series here, not only in the star but behind the scenes as well with famed editor Peter Hunt at the helm, John Glen on second unit, even Derek Meddings doing the miniatures and Maurice Binder providing the title sequence (with no silhouettes of naked ladies - see? He had range) and so forth. Add to that Flynn calling Sebastian "Bassey" and there was another link, obviously a reference to the singer of three Bond themes.

Hmm, not sure about that last one. Anyway, the main plot sees a tit for tat played out by the newly teamed up on (just about) equal footing heroes and a German Commissioner, Fleischer (Reinhard Kolldehoff) who tries to kill them out of spite as much as anything else. Understandably put out by this, revenge is on the cards for Flynn and Sebastian, and for the first hour and a half this is presented with a sense of humour, but then there's a twist of surprising brutality and the tone turns unexpectedly grim, as if to say yeah, we were having fun but this place brings out the worst in everyone. This place being Africa, for Shout at the Devil was filmed in South Africa to much international outcry as the extreme right wing apartheid regime was offering cheap incentives to moviemakers right up until the time they were toppled. You may find this means the depiction of black Africans as either buffoons, conmen or savages a sticking point, and Ian Holm is blacked up as Flynn's mute sidekick (Rog gets in on the act, too), so that steel beneath the jovial surface is... uneasily interesting. Music by Maurice Jarre.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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