Trailer-blazers! #2: The Shout (1978)

Alan Bates in The Shout

Alan Bates in The Shout

Trailer-blazers! look at some of the more unique trailers created for films in the Park Circus catalogue. In this edition, Jonathan Melville gives his thoughts on 1978’s The Shout.

“Greater than the frightening power of exorcism, more mystifying than any omen of reincarnation.” The opening to the trailer for Jerzy Skolimowski’s 1978 film, The Shout, doesn’t mess around when it comes to giving viewers a taste of what’s to come.

Told in flashback from the sidelines of a typically English cricket match in the grounds of a not-so-typical mental institution, the film focuses on Charles Crossley (Alan Bates), a mysterious stranger who arrives in a small coastal village and introduces himself to Anthony (John Hurt) and his wife, Rachel (Susannah York).

Having invited himself to stay in the couple’s home, Crossley begins to exert his influence over Rachel while convincing Anthony that he can kill a man with the use of a Shout, a skill learnt during his many years in the Australian outback.

The trailer shows a glimpse of Crossley’s Shout – sheep falling down dead, Anthony tumbling down a sand dune – and his power over Rachel as he steals one of her possessions before she becomes one of his.

We also catch a glimpse of the great Robert Stephens and a young Tim Curry, who both play small but important roles in the film, but most of the 2 minutes 48 is filled with Bates as the imposing-yet-charming Crossley (though he’s not quite so imposing when we see him in his underpants for some the picture).

Polish director Skolimowski, who has recently undergone reappraisal thanks to the re-release of previously thought lost Deep End (1970), took as the basis of his script a 20 page short story by Robert Graves (I, Claudius). Along with co-writer, Michal Austin, Skolimowski retained the framing of Graves’ story, in which the story is being told by Crossley himself, though whether we can find a man in an asylum a trustworthy narrator is debatable.

The trailer successfully captures the tone of the finished film, and, while it’s not quite the “soul shattering experience” that it promises, Bates/Hurt combination is a potent one. The label of horror film may have been attached to The Shout, but viewers of a sensitive disposition shouldn’t expect blood and guts galore.

Skolimowski prefers psychological terror over physical and his visuals are more subtle than overt, with mirrors and reflections ever-present. There’s also a question hanging over who we should be siding with for much of the film, the potent Crossley or the ineffectual Anthony. Neither man is particularly likeable and both indulge in bouts of adultery, hardly your typical screen hero and villain.

Nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 1978 Cannes Film Festival and receiving the Grand Prize of the Jury in a tie with Marco Ferreri’s Bye Bye Monkey, The Shout certainly didn’t go unnoticed, and its upcoming screenings in both Vienna and Taiwan point to a possible reassessment à la Deep End.

Here’s hoping it not long before more film fans hear The Shout in cinemas around the globe.

Find out if The Shout is being screened near you in the next four weeks by visiting www.backincinemas.com.

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