Wednesday, 6 August 2014

That's Rogertainment! Rogisode 6:
Shout At The Devil

Roger Moore's first war film came in 1976, courtesy of his director on Gold, Peter Hunt. There are few things that will persuade me to watch a war film short of the threat of physical violence, but the presence of Sir Rodge and the knowledge that Hunt was behind the camera convinced me to have a go on this one. And I'm glad I did, because for at least an hour it's a rip-snortingly entertaining Boys' Own adventure, with Rodge on top form against a permanently shitfaced (both in character and in person) Lee Marvin.

Moore plays English aristocrat (obviously) Sebastian Oldsmith (obviously), who, within minutes of the film's opening, is Shanghaied into helping Lee Marvin's booze-soaked rogue Flynn O'Flynn ("rhymes with gin") poach ivory from German-owned land in pre-WWI East Africa. It's the beginning of a hilarious on-screen partnership and a roaringly fun hour of nonsense as Oldsmith and Flynn try to strike it rich, which includes such ethically sound scenes as Roger Moore blasting elephants to death and dressing as a German tax-collector (in an incredible helmet) while attempting to steal money from an African village tribe. The culmination of all these japes is a truly award-worthy scrap between the leads, with Rodge insisting on Queensbury rules of boxing and Marvin failing to stay on his feet for more than five seconds at a time.
An hour in, World War I inconveniently breaks out, signalling a turn for the surprisingly dark in what has so far been exactly what you'd hope an hour in Moore and Marvin's company would be like. The film loses momentum, becoming a rote revenge flick with one-dimensional German villains, and the only high point is seeing Roger Moore in a ridiculous flying helmet. Conversely, its nadir is reached when he blacks up in order to go undercover to plant a bomb. It's a relief that the scene isn't played for laughs, but it doesn't help a film which already has dozens of black actors without a single line of dialogue between them (unless you count "EUUAAARRGGHH!!" when they get shot). Don't even get me started on Ian Holm, who spends the entire film mute and in brownface as Flynn's dogsbody Mohammed.
Oh Roger. Roger Roger Roger Roger Roger.

Indefensible racism aside, Peter Hunt's direction, and in particular his editing, keep everything moving at a fair lick and with a keen eye on the inherent LOLs of the first half. And in terms of Rogertainment, this is one of Rodge's best. His chemistry with Marvin is palpable, and he skillfully mines the comedy without resorting too much to British stereotypes. Gloriously, it's mere minutes before his shirt is open to the waist, where it stays for most of the film; this is becoming a thing I've noticed from watching a lot of Roger Moore films, so at least I can die knowing I've achieved something in life. I'm also a big fan of the scene in which Lee Marvin is menaced by a ludicrously unconvincing crocodile (complete with gloved fingers and thumbs); I half expected it to open up and Rodge to clamber out of it, but sadly it was not to be.

A film of two halves then: one terrific, one standard (and a bit racist), and a splendid bit of Rogertainment for everyone out there who enjoys watching The Greatest Living Englishman in action. So on behalf of both of you, I hereby award Shout At The Devil a Rogerating of four Rogers.
Join me again next time, when I wonder out loud what kind of circumstances led me to a point in my life where I would write words like "a Rogerating of four Rogers" as a matter of course.

More Rogertainment here, if you're man enough.

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