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DVD Review: The Shout (1978)

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The Shout (1978)

Directed by Jerzy Skolimowski

DVD: The Shout (1978)The Shout is a 1978 film based on story written by Robert Graves. Alan Bates stars as a dangerously loud-mouthed traveller whose presence forces a wedge between husband and wife Anthony and Rachel Fielding.

Anthony (John Hurt) is a musician, but the music he produces is rather unusual. No musical instruments are involved in the process, instead he records sounds: a bee in a bottle, marbles on a tray, a violin bow drawn across a sardine can. Strange, noises indeed and even stranger music, but it seems to keep him amused. Anthony also helps out at the village church by occasionally playing the organ when the regular organist is unavailable. But while the vicar is preaching Anthony is busy exchanging glances with the cobbler's wife and passing covert signals to her, after which she makes an early exit, presumably so that she can get to their rendezvous in plenty of time.

Alan Bates and Tim Curry in The ShoutRachel (Susannah York) is blissfully unaware that her husband is banging away at the cobbler's wife, possibly because she doesn't accompany him to church, but more probably just because she is a trusting soul who cannot see Anthony for the heel that he is.

The film begins by showing an array of people arriving at a mental hospital, to attend a cricket match that is taking place in the grounds. Anthony is playing, so Rachel drives him there and then leaves. Tim Curry (of Rocky Horror Picture Show fame) is also in attendance. He takes the part of Robert Graves, but Graves doesn't get to pick up the bat, instead he is given the job of keeping score and placed in a hut with the rather unusual Charles Crossley. The doctor who is in charge of the game tells Graves that Crossley is an extraordinary man, who is incredibly well read and claims to have travelled all over the world. Graves enquires why Crossley is at the hospital and the doctor replies that he is not exactly normal. Crossley believes that his soul has been shattered into four pieces.

Cricket MatchWhile the two men are keeping score, Crossley decides to tell Graves his story and the scene changes to a windswept beech where Anthony and Rachel fielding are lying together in the sand. They both wake up suddenly though, and realize they have just shared the same dream: an aborigine in a long tailed coat was running towards them, carrying a bone in his hand. When they get up to go Rachel discovers that a buckle is missing from one of her sandals.

Later that day Anthony has to play the organ for the Sunday service and while he is inside the church, starring at the cobbler's wife, someone lets down the tires on his bike. I thought it was probably the cobbler, but I was wrong.

Scary AborigineWhile Anthony is busy pumping up his tyres a stranger in a long, black coat tries to engage him in conversation, but Anthony wants none of it (the conversation) because he will be getting none of it (the cobblers wife) if he hangs around talking all day, so he makes his excuses and leaves.

When Anthony eventually arrives home, he finds the man in the black coat sitting beside his gate. The stranger explains that he has been on a walking holiday for a few days and hasn't eaten for the last two of them. He identifies himself as Charles Crossley and asks if he can invite himself to lunch.

Crossley proves to be a strange dinner companion. He explains to his hosts that he used to have an aboriginal wife when he lived in Australia. When asked if he had any children, he replies "None that survived." Apparently, under aboriginal law, a parent has the right to kill their children within a few weeks of their birth, and Crossley chose to exercise this right because he knew that he would leave them some day. This is such a shocking revelation that Rachel scrapes her lunch into the bin and leaves the room. She and Anthony have never been able have children. "I'm sorry if I upset your wife," Crossley says, but somehow he does not look it.

A little while later, when Crossley faints at the table, Anthony takes him up to the spare bedroom, which is rather hospitable of him bearing in mind that Crossley is a stranger and could not be more stranger if he tried.

Susannah York and John Hurt in The Shout (1978)Once Crossley is in the house it proves rather hard to shift him and it is not long before he is trying to continue the strange conversation he began at the church. All about the soul and how it can be transferred to a tree or a stone for safekeeping. He even informs Anthony that an aboriginal Shaman could kill just be pointing a bone at their victim, or even sneak up on them, while they were sleeping, remove a kidney from their slumbering body, clean off the protective fat around it, and then replace it—all without waking them. Crossley assures Anthony that death would occur in just a few days.

Anthony does not believe any of this, but then Crossley tells him something interesting. He says that a Shaman taught him how to perform the Terror Shout. It took him eighteen years to perfect the skill and it kills instantly. Anthony is still sceptical, but agrees to accompany Crossley to the beach the following morning, for a demonstration. He does however take the precaution of taking the self professed loudmouth's advice and blocks up his ears. It is a good job too because, even with his ears blocked, the shout renders him unconscious. It also kills every seagull within earshot, along with several sheep and their shepherd.

Alan Bates and John Hurt in the 1978 film The ShoutAfter such a powerful demonstration, Anthony is even keener to be rid of his guest. Rachel, however, is not, and seems to be suddenly strangely taken with Crossley. Perhaps it isn't so strange though, because Crossley has the missing buckle from her sandal and he has used it to perform some kind of strange Australian magic on her. He has decided to force Anthony out and take Rachel and the cottage for himself.

Towards the end of the film Anthony is less than impressed when his guest announces that he and Rachel will be going to bed (again) and he decides to do something about the situation. Remembering a previous conversation with Crossley, Anthony rushes to the beach—while his wife is rushing towards the bedroom—and searches the sand for stones until he finds the one that contains the soul of his guest. Then, while Crossley is banging away at Rachel, Anthony takes off his shoe and does some banging of his own—on the stone.

Alan Bates, looking slightly menacing, in the 1978 film The ShoutThe Shout is a strange film, based on a strange story. It is also very good and it makes a refreshing change from modern horror films. There are no special effects to speak of in The Shout, the story carries itself  all right without them and it would be impossible for me to fault the cast; they are all excellent. It is Alan Bates, though, who steals the show. His portrayal of Crossley is first-rate. Crossley comes across as being as intelligent as he is dangerous.

DVD: The Shout (1978)

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If you like a lot of blood and gore in your horror films, this one will be a disappointment to you, because there is none at all. The Shout works more on a psychological level and is the sort of film that remains in your memory for a long time after watching it. If you are the sort of person who enjoys a well crafted tale, you will probably enjoy this one, I certainly did.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Runtime: 83 mins
Certificate: 15 (UK)


 Alan Bates         ...  Charles Crossley
 Susannah York   ...  Rachel Fielding
 John Hurt           ...  Anthony Fielding
 Robert Stephens  ...  Medical Man

 Tim Curry           ...  Robert Graves
 Julian Hough        ...  Vicar
 John Rees            ...  Inspector

 Jim Broadbent      ...  Fielder who puts hand in cowpat
 Susan Wooldridge ...  Harriet
 Nick Stringer        ...  Cobbler
 Carol Drinkwater  ...  Wife


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