The Shout review

After a few token appearances, mostly on television in the 1960s (The Adventures of the Terrible Ten, Wandjina Magic, The Magic Boomerang and Skippy the Bush Kangaroo), it wasn’t until the 1970s that Australian-themed drama began to make an impact with a more universal audience. Using as their premise the mystical nature of aboriginal culture and the stark landscape of the Outback, movies such as Walkabout (1971) and Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) gave birth to a whole new Antipodean fantasy film genre.

The 1978 film version of The Shout, based on a short story by Robert Graves, also steeps itself in aboriginal myth, even though its central characters never stray any further than the desolate sand dunes of North Devon. A location not lost on the filmmakers, who manage to cleverly disguise this familiar West Country landscape to the point where it looks every bit as wild and expansive as the Australian Outback itself.

Disarmingly, what at first appears to be a simple cricket match between the staff and patients of a psychiatric hospital leads to a terrifying climax involving the supernatural. As the match progresses an inmate called Crossley (Alan Bates) relates to visitor Robert Graves (Tim Curry), the story of a mysterious stranger whose impact on the lives of a childless couple, Anthony and Rachel Fielding (played by John Hurt and Susannah York), leads to tragic consequences.

It would be wrong to try and read too much logic into this strange tale, which has been faithfully adapted for the screen under the directorship of Jerzy Skolimowski, but the intriguing storyline and Bates’s charismatic performance as both the stranger and Crossley prove overwhelmingly compelling.

In the story, the stranger explains to the Fieldings that after spending 18 years with an aborigine tribe he is now the keeper of an ancient ritual called the ‘terror shout’. A powerful sound which has the ability to kill any living thing within earshot. But this supernatural force is just one piece of a psychological jigsaw puzzle that involves infanticide, sexual possessiveness and spiritual weakness.

Given its bizarre subject matter, The Shout could easily be described as a psychological horror film. Surrealistic in nature, its meandering storyline and unrelated imagery certainly puts it on a par with movies like Don’t Look Now and The Wicker Man.

Picture: This Network Blu-ray release benefits from an impressive 1.85:1-framed high-definition transfer. The hospital grounds set aside for the cricket match first seen in Chapter 1 are a beautiful rain-washed pastel green, while the North Devon sand dunes in Chapter 7 look suitably bleak against a slate-coloured sky. Flesh tones are good and the detail is sharp.
Picture rating: 4/5

Audio: The LPCM 2.0 mix teases throughout with the sounds of the seashore. Hushed vocals contrast well with the ear-splitting moment in which we hear the terror shout for the first time (Chapter 7) and the anguished cries of the psychiatric patients during the thunderstorm (Chapter 12).
Audio rating: 3.5/5

Extras: The disc includes a 90-minute interview with the film’s producer Jeremy Thomas, who provides a fascinating insight into how the movie was made, the reception it got on release and how its art house pretensions saw it nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 1978 Cannes Film Festival.

Stephen Jones and Kim Newman are also on hand to supply a voice over and, as you’d expect, from two movie historians of their calibre there are some interesting tidbits to share.

A theatrical trailer, the first two-minutes of the movie (minus the credits) and an image gallery round off the extras.
Extras rating: 3/5

We say: The Shout certainly won’t appeal to everyone, but there’s no doubt that fans of this type of genre movie will find something of value.

The Shout, Network, Region B BD, £15 Approx