Monday, August 15, 2011

Movie Monday: Shout At The Devil

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This week's movie is the action/adventure drama/comedy Shout At The Devil!

I had barely heard of this movie until it was recommended to me, so when I looked it up I was pleasantly surprised: Lee Marvin and Roger Moore ("my" James Bond) in one movie together? Netflix WI don't fail me now!

Truth be told: I had originally planned to talk about Dario Agento's Inferno, a film I had never seen before, for this week's Movie Monday post. I tried getting through it, but I was a little bored and wondering whether I should keep going. Then I got to a sequence involving some nutjob and a bag of cats, and even though some of it was clearly faked, there was enough real footage of cats not being treated very kindly that I got disgusted and turned it off.

That left me a new movie to find, so I jumped at Shout at the Devil when it was suggested. So what's the first thing they show you in the movie? This title card:
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...man, what is it with movies and animals this week?!? Let's just hope this title card is telling the truth.

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Shout at the Devil opens in Zanzibar, with American expatriate Flynn O'Flynn (Lee Marvin) trying to make a deal with a local bigwig El Kelb (played by George Coulouris, who played Walter Thatcher in Citizen Kane!). Flynn is desperate and sweaty, and when its suggested he needs some sort of patsy to bring off his plan to smuggle ivory, he spots a suitable rube getting right off the boat: an English gentleman named Sebastian Oldsmith, played by Roger Moore:
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Sebastian's money and passport are stolen from his hotel room, which ruins his planned trip to Australia. "Luckily" for him, Flynn is there to overhear Sebastian's distress, and offers to help him out:
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Sebastian goes on the ivory-poaching trip with Flynn, which partly takes place on German-occupied land, which gets them in dutch with a German military commander named Fleisher. These initial action scenes are well-staged and full of old time movie brio, with the tone swinging between broad comedy and tense action, like when Flynn ends up in a river and is chased by an alligator:
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They get into several more scrapes, with Marvin and Moore making a good pair: two movie stars evenly matched. Marvin in particular is swinging for the fences, with a broad comedic performance, while Moore is his typical British stiff-upper-lip guy, polite and debonair even while shooting and killing animals and people.

They end up on an island where Flynn has an estate, run by his daughter Rosa (Barbara Perkins). She is none-too-pleased to see the old man:
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Rosa and Sebastian fall in love after Rosa helps bring him back to health. At first this is kept from Flynn, and when he discovers it Marvin practically makes the film 3D with an over-the-top angry speech, veins popping and eyes bulging:
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Things take a grim turn in the movie when WWI breaks out, and Fleisher sets his sighs on Flynn's estate, burning it to the ground, attacking Rosa, and killing her and Sebastian's infant child. This sequence is quite difficult to watch, and plays with racial stereotypes so loosely that it's more than a little troubling: a bunch of Portuguese soldiers grab Rosa, and there's a series of quick close-ups of their grinning, evil faces shrouded in darkness as Rosa screams for help.

The next day, Flynn, Rosa, and Sebastian set out to get revenge:
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Our trio is eventually recruited by the British to sabotage Fleisher's ship, The Blücher, which is undergoing repairs up river. You'd think this would be leading to the film's final sequence, but there's a lot more: a scene with Moore climbing into a plane and getting horribly wounded when it crashes:
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...not to mention a long action scene involving some cannons that tear loose from their straps and go barreling down a hill, dragging one German soldier to his death and decapitating some locals when pieces of metal get loose and go flying. Overall, a pretty brutal sequence, even if the gore isn't explicit:
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Finally, Flynn and Sebastian sneak aboard The Blücher (with Moore in black face, no less!) and set explosives. In the meantime, Rosa is captured by the Germans and brought on board, which means they have to sneak back on to rescue her! Whew!

I won't get into the details of the final scene; suffice it to say it doesn't disappoint. Moore as Sebastian gets to be more nasty and violent than he was James Bond:
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BLAM!


All in all, I enjoyed Shout at the Devil quite a bit. Tonally its all over the place, from Marvin's Groucho Marx-esque name and pop-eyed performance, to the scene with Rosa and Fleisher, which is terrifying. And I didn't even mention Ian Holm is in the movie, playing Flynn's mute manservant Mohammad, who gets all sorts of physical comedy bits to do.

At two and a half hours long, Shout at the Devil is overstuffed with characters, settings, plot turns, and more. At the same time, that's one of the reasons I liked it: its a big, sprawling mess of a movie, with multiple ambitions, the kind Hollywood really doesn't make anymore. It reminded me a lot of John Huston's The Man Who Would Be King, released the previous year. That film is much classier and high-brow than this one, but in some ways that makes Shout at the Devil more fun!


This week's film was suggested by my pal Dan O'Connor. Thanks Dan!

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