The Shout (1978) (blu-ray film review).

The titular shout is an Australian aborigine way of killing someone by simply…er…shouting a weird scream. When the nomadic stranger, Crossley (actor Alan Bates), enters the lives of couple Anthony and Rachel Fielding (actors John Hurt and Susannah York), he intrigues Anthony for a demonstration of a voice that can kill. I should point out that Anthony is a sound specialist-cum-composer hence his original intrigue. Out amongst the sand dunes, Anthony, with wax in his ears, gets his wish and although he survives, the local sheep population and, unknown to him initially, a shepherd, doesn’t. In fact, nothing within the vicinity survives.


Where originally Anthony was tolerant and Rachel wasn’t, especially after Crossley revealed over dinner that he had killed his own children in the outback because he knew they couldn’t survive when he left and it was an aborigine custom. However, after the use of the voice, Rachel is won over although doesn’t know why. Crossely is using his aborigine magic and using objects in a more voodoo way to subvert the couple before leaving.

Anthony is asked to play the organ music at the shepherd’s funeral and returns to find Crossley has returned and making no secret that he wants to bed Rachel. Anthony, meanwhile find the stones in the dunes and shatters them, breaking Crossley’s magic.

I’m still trying to figure out what the cricket match is about but it does give an opportunity to see a very young Tim Curry acting. It’s drawn together at the end by showing Crossley is at the asylum and becomes a victim of his own magic.

This film is in many respects a slow art film, matching itself to how real life was back in 1978. I have to confess that I learnt more about the plot by watching the trailer.

The audio commentary is from film critics Steve Jones and Kim Newman who initially focus on its writer Robert Graves more than the film. They do think ‘The Shout’ is an important film solely because of Alan Bates being in it. They also explain the significance of the cricket scenes taking part at an asylum and where the story was related, even if it doesn’t feel that way and that things aren’t quite what they seem. Newman leads the way with the details about the cast with Jones supplementing about the mood of the film.

Producer Jerry Thomas is interviewed about the start of his career and getting this film off the ground with the desert and beach scenes filmed in Devon.
‘The Shout’ is very much a British film and I agree with Newman and Jones about whether or not a foreign audience would understand it, let alone how we would perceive it. However, as the blu-ray is region B, I doubt that is the audience it is intended for. Beware of strangers who make claims about their powers, let alone demonstrate them.

GF Willmetts

September 2014
(region B blu-ray: pub: Network. 1 blu-ray 86 minute film with extras. Price: £ 14.99 (UK). Cat: 7957088)
cast: Alan Bates, Susannah York, John Hurt and Robert Stephens
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