Just like they sometimes do in movie theaters, I decided that for this column I would write a double feature. Cult films often had midnight runs and ran as double features.
Both Scorchy and Shout at the Devil qualify for the cult cinema arena.
Shout! Factory takes mystifyingly different approaches to these releases. Sometimes a company can get the release of DVDs and Blu-rays so right, you believe they've truly figured out how to get their audience what they want. Other times they mystify you.
Shout! and Timeless' releases of rare, cult television series like Peter Gunn, Dobie Gillis, Yancy Derringer, and Stony Burke — not to mention the upcoming Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman — give the fans who love those shows complete sets, and almost all those collections had extra features to go along with them. With Peter Gunn they gave us Henry Mancini's original soundtrack album; with Yancy and Stony they included many of the bumpers included with the episodes. The Dobie included an interview with Dwayne Hickman, with Maynard G. Krebs alongside Kookie of 77 Sunset Strip, among other extra delights.
So, then it is hard to comprehend why the company would release Shout at the Devil as a two-and-a-half hour cut when most releases — even in theaters in its original release here in the United States — cut somewhere in the neighborhood of a half-hour or more from the film and make no mention that this is a restored print of the film, released for the first time on Blu-ray, with a DVD copy included in the package.
Who was thinking what here?
Let the collectors — who may have been seeking this for years – know that Devil has finally arrived in a version with the longest running time I have ever seen listed?
Nah! Let's keep that a secret.
I never mentioned reviewing Shout at the Devil with Sarah De Bruin, who does promotion for Shout! Factory and has been so overly kind in answering questions whenever I've done a review for one of their releases. It wasn't until I learned about the existence of this release from reading Stuart Galbraith's review of Shout at the Devil on DVDTalk.com (http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/61750/shout-at-the-devil/?___rd=1) that I was interested in seeing a film I'd seen in the theaters in the 1970s, at which time it had been hacked apart.
Scorchy is another 1970s film, part of Shout's 4 Action Packed Movie Marathon – Volume 2 DVD set.
The new 4 movie collection from Shout! Seeing Scorchy so neutered, I couldn't even look at the other films right now, but if you there was some other film you liked, you can take a chance on this set. My thought, Shout!, is that you should go out, find a good, uncut, correct aspect ratio print of Scorchy, make sure people know upfront that that is what it is, and add an interview with Connie if you can manage it. I cannot see how such a release could not sell on a par with Shout at the Devil.
I first became aware of Scorchy from a provocative full page ad in Variety. This was when Variety was the entertainment newspaper king. You couldn't miss the image of Scorchy. There was the poster, showing a sexy Connie Stevens posing full length, long legs glistening enticingly up to her thigh, promising that her iconic TV character Cricket from Hawaiian Eye was all woman, and she wasn't hiding her sexuality any longer!
This is the original full page ad that appeared in Variety in the 1970s. Exactly what are we selling here, boys and girls, to get people into the movie theaters?
If there were any reason at all to see an exploitation film starring Connie Stevens, then this was it – a gift for all the fans who loved Connie singing classic romance and torch songs in nearly every episode of the private eye series. She got to sing about sex on the show, but she just didn't get to have sex.
I never saw Scorchy in a theater. I guess it didn't get enough distribution.
When I finally saw the film, I'm sure it was on VHS tape. It wasn't the best erotic thriller ever made, but Scorchy did deliver what the ad promised: Connie talking in sexually explicit terms, and doing nude scenes for the first time (maybe, as far as I know, the only time) on film.
Scenes you won't see if the version of Scorchy, now out in the 4 Action-Packed Movie Marathon- Volume 2. For my own personal taste, I'd rather view Connie than gore spilling from people's bodies. But hey! Maybe that's just me.
Scorchy is one of four films on the disc, and is the film I suspect a lot of cult fans were waiting for. The poster from Variety is included on the DVD cover and contains this great tag line: She's killed a man, been shot at, and made love twice already this evening…and the evening isn't even over yet.
Yeah, well don't get your hopes up, because unlike Shout at the Devil, where the DVD restored the scenes from which crude editing savaged nearly a half hour, with Scorchy, every shot of Connie talking in R rated language, or getting out of her clothes, is gone!
Not only that, this butchered print is not even in the correct aspect ratio.
Scorchy is attacked by bad guys. In the version now on DVD this scene is severely cut, and where it isn't, if you think that blacks in frame are smudgy here, it's worse on the print.
The movie's storyline wasn't much to begin with, but it's virtually incomprehensible here. You thought you were going to see Connie Stevens nude? Not here, you're not. See her making love twice? An 8:00 network show is more risqué than this.
The clothes that Connie is dressed in as an undercover cop are just terrible: shapeless, frilly, frothing pants suits that are not flattering to this beautiful woman. The only thing left for viewers to enjoy in this film is William Smith
as the go-to bad guy of the mid-1970s. This being the '70s, though, Connie and William Smith don't really get to tangle; they just get to run around each other without doing much.
Lobby cards with Connie Stevens in the poster pose. Note the difference in how Connie is costumed in the film version. Who was thinking what here exactly?
The print is not even named Scorchy, but something almost generic, nor is Connie referred to as Scorchy.
I was so disappointed in how this DVD set had neutered Scorchy that I haven't even looked at the other films. You're on your own there.
Connie Stevens steps in the shower in Scorchy, but mysteriously she's suddenly taking a TV show shower. We didn't cool Scorchy to ice.
It's my opinion Shout! should have released Scorchy singly as they did Shout at the Devil.
There are a lot of Connie Stevens fans still out there, and if they'd had an interview with Connie (if she hasn't banished the film from her memory), I suspect there would have been as many viewers buying Scorchy as there are for Roger Moore and Lee Marvin playing odd couple playmates in Africa during the beginning stages of the First World War in Shout at the Devil.
Okay, it is almost as if there is a bipolar release platform for these two films: Shout at the Devil does not have any mention that this is the most complete, uncut version of this film on DVD and Blu-ray; Scorchy does not tell any buyer that this is a choppily, hacked-up print. The cover actually states that this is an R-rated film. Not this version, kiddies!
Thus, my first analogy of the bipolar nature — just in the way these two films are offered to the public.
Now, the second allusion of a bipolar nature is to Shout at the Devil itself. The movie runs two-and-a-half hours in this version. It teams Roger Moore and Lee Marvin with director Peter Hunt, who directed one of my favorite James Bond films, On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
I still have this album today. If only I could somehow make a CD of it, I'd actually listen to it. You would think that with Robert Conrad as one of the stars of Hawaiian Eye that it would be the most action packed of the Warner Private Eye series of the late 1950s, but no, that distinction probably goes to Bourbon Street Beat. The New Orleans setting favored more noirish filming and plots. Hawaiian Eye favored adulterous affairs in the hot sunshine of the beaches. These private eye series (especially 77 Sunset Strip) would be on Warners DVD Archives, I suspect, if there weren't music clearance issues. What's an episode of Hawaiian Eye without Connie Stevens singing a classic torch song about lost love? But she never gets to have sex.
The film is paced quickly, especially in its first half hour. Lee Marvin plays another celluloid drunk, this one older and not anywhere nearly as funny as the part he played in Cat Ballou, in which he co-starred with Jane Fonda and Dobie Gillis himself, Dwayne Hickman. The setting of Shout is Africa just before the start of World War I. The main plot is that Marvin dupes a travelling Roger Moore by stealing his money and then duping him into a river trip deep in the country.
Different imperial nations have felt it is their due to take command of various parts of Africa and to treat the people born there as if their lives are nothing but to be used in servitude to them. Our heroes here are supposedly cute elephant poachers gunning down the animals and disturbing the local German head guy, who has natives bowing at his feet.
The Blu-ray cover art for Shout at the Devil. Plenty of room to use a major selling point: noting that the film is uncut.
Moore and Marvin bicker and banter, break up and make up, and everything moves at a pretty fast clip, almost airily, until the film suddenly becomes dark and ugly: elephants fall and their deaths shake the earth.
The black people with Lee Marvin are lynched, hanging from tree limbs, reminiscent of lines from the Billie Holliday song "Strange Fruit".
No one seems to notice the killings. Or to mourn the deaths.
It's quickly back to fun and games after the lynchings until something violent happens later on to one of the white people, and then suddenly Shout at the Devil is a tragedy.
And thus, the bipolar extremes of Devil: broad acting and shenanigans juxtaposed with bloodshed and brutality.
A montage of images from Shout at the Devil.
The beginning of the film has a statement that it takes place in a different time; from our time-frame, the film itself is adrift in time, when often the death of characters who aren't white aren't valued.
This is not a film ahead of the curve.
The fact that the film was shot partly on location in South Africa during Apartheid only intensifies the fact.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Some people are going to be pissed off that I've written about this. Sorry. That callousness of attitude is inherent in the film and too often white writers never seem to see it, or mention it.
Don, why the hell did you have to bring any of this up? Damn you!
There have been some comparisons of Shout at the Devil with The African Queen. If only…
The African Queen does take place in Africa during the First World War, but it is as much a character study of two people whose lives are alien to each other as it is about the War. There is a surety in the performances, a charming and unique chemistry between Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart.
Shout at the Devil does use a lot of
the behind-the-scenes creative people from the Bond films, but the sheer polish, the extraordinary images and action sequences of Bond aren't comparable here.
For those who are fans of Roger Moore and Lee Marvin, they do have a lot of screen time together,
As for Scorchy, I think Shout! should find a good print, uncut, framed right, and shout it to the fans.
Oh, and see if Connie Stevens would do a video interview as Dwayne Hickman did for the Dobie Gillis DVD release.
Roger Moore and Lee Marvin brawl when the bickering and bantering stop. It's a fairly lengthy fight sequence, with both actors doing most of their own stunts.
Copyright © 2013 Don McGregor