Shout at the Devil (film)

Shout at the Devil

Original British cinema poster
Directed by Peter R. Hunt
Produced by Michael Klinger
Screenplay by Stanley Price
Alastair Reid
Based on Shout at the Devil
by Wilbur Smith
Starring Lee Marvin
Roger Moore
Music by Maurice Jarre
Cinematography Michael Reed
Edited by Michael J. Duthie
Tonav Productions
Distributed by Hemdale (UK)
Release dates
  • 13 April 1976 (1976-04-13) (UK)
  • 24 November 1976 (1976-11-24) (US)
Running time
147 minutes (UK)
128 minutes (US)
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $9,000,000[1]
Box office £15 million[2]

Shout at the Devil is a 1976 British war adventure film directed by Peter R. Hunt and starring Lee Marvin and Roger Moore. The film, set in Zanzibar and German East Africa in 1913–1915, is based on a novel by Wilbur Smith which is very loosely inspired by real events (see the sinking of the SMS Königsberg).[3] The supporting cast features Barbara Parkins and Ian Holm.


Colonel Flynn O'Flynn (Lee Marvin), a hard-drinking American, manipulates British aristocrat Sebastian Oldsmith (Roger Moore) into helping poach ivory in Tanganyika, which is part of the German-controlled pre-World War I territory of German East Africa. On hearing news that the American has returned, Herman Fleischer, the local German Commander of the Southern Provinces, relentlessly hunts O'Flynn with his Schutztruppen.

Later Sebastian meets and falls in love with O'Flynn's daughter, Rosa (Barbara Parkins). They are married and have a daughter together. Meanwhile the poaching continues. Fleischer has a warship ram and sink O'Flynn's Arab dhow (ship) containing poached ivory. But whilst attacking O'Flynn's home, Schutztruppe under Fleischer's command kill Sebastian's daughter Maria.

O'Flynn and Sebastian decide to go and kill Fleischer as revenge for the death of the little girl. But when it is discovered that Britain is at war with Germany, allied officers convince O'Flynn to locate and destroy the German warship awaiting repair.

O'Flynn, Sebastian, and Rosa pursue Fleischer, who also happens to be on the warship. Eventually they find her in an inlet and sink her.


Original novel

Shout at the Devil

Paperback edition
Author Wilbur Smith
Country South Africa
Language English
Genre War
Publisher Heinemann
Publication date

The script was based on a novel by Wilbur Smith.[4][5] The critic from the New York Times called the book "a bloodbath".[6]

Historical accuracy

The book which the film is based on is vaguely based on real events, and takes significant artistic licence with historical facts. The main story is loosely based on events concerning the light cruiser SMS Königsberg, which was sunk after taking refuge in Rufiji Delta in 1915.[3] An ivory hunter 'Pretorious' had gone on board disguised as a native to pace out the ranges for the Navy's guns.[2]

The German ship is renamed the Blücher, a vessel which did not serve in Africa. The film implies that Portugal became a co-belligerent with Britain against Germany when the First World War broke out in August 1914. In fact, Portugal remained neutral until 1916 (see Portugal in World War I). Portugal's status as an ally seems to be confirmed in the film when the Portuguese supply O'Flynn and Oldsmith with a marked Portuguese plane with a Portuguese pilot to conduct surveillance in German territory. In reality, the Portuguese would not have allowed this as it would have violated their neutrality.

Although the motives for killing Fleischer are personal, Sebastian Oldsmith is in fact the only major character who is a citizen of a nation actually at war with Germany.



Film rights were bought by Michael Klinger, who would also buy the rights to Gold Mine, The Sun Bird, The Eye of the Tiger and Eagle in the Sky.[2] It was announced in 1969 that the movie version would be made by Cinerama Inc but it took a number of years for the adaptation to be financed.[7]

In 1971 Smith wrote to Klinger that, "It is now becoming critical that somebody start making films out of my books. This is essential for my career - which really needs a good film to take off in the Alistair Maclean class."[2]

Klinger was highly enthusiastic about Shout at the Devil - his son referred to it as his father's equivalent of Gone with the Wind. The producer himself called it a combination between The African Queen and The Guns of Navarone. However it was an expensive film to produce. Klinger decided to first make a film of Smith's novel Gold Mine.[2]


Smith worked on the script with Stanley Price, who also helped adapt Smith's novel Gold Mine for Michael Klinger.[8] However, the film ending was changed; in the novel all three main characters die.


The film's budget has been reported as $9–10 million. Klinger said $3.5 million was provided by AIP.[9]

The film was shot on location in Malta and - controversially due to the then apartheid regime - in South Africa. Shooting took 15 weeks and began in March 1975. The South African portion of the film was based out of the town of Port St John.[10]

Stars Roger Moore and Lee Marvin got along well. "They were very funny and liked each other a great deal," said director Peter Hunt. "They would socialise and get drunk together in the evenings, although they never had thick heads in the morning."[10]

"I love this gentleman," said Moore about Marvin. "Thanks to him I have given my best performance ever. I can only be as good as the other guy. Working with Lee Marvin hauls you up, forces you to try to reach his level."[10]

The movie was cut during post production with around 50 minutes cut out.[10]


The music was composed by Maurice Jarre


Box Office

The film was one of the most successful British films of 1976 grossing £15 million.[2]


Critic Richard Eder did not like the film much. He wrote, "The movie has too much plot. All that action, conducted by characters without character—except for Fleischer, whose childlike joy in hurting people is almost appealing—produces lethargy...the movie is a passable midget in absurdly long pants."[11]

Film critic Roger Ebert thought that "Shout at the Devil is a big, dumb, silly movie that's impossible to dislike. It's so cheerfully corny, so willing to involve its heroes in every possible predicament, that after a while we relax: This is the kind of movie they used to make, back when audiences were supposed to have the mentality of a 12-year-old. It's great to be 12 again."[12]

Follow Ups

Klinger had the film rights to other Smith novels, The Sunbird, Eagle in the Sky and The Eye of the Tiger. Eagle and Eye of the Tiger were meant to be part of a four picture deal between Klinger and Rank Productions. However none were ever made. The relationship between Smith and Klinger, once warm, ultimately ended in litigation.[2]


  1. Tempo Entertainment: AIP shooting for respectability Vernon, Scott. Chicago Tribune (1963–present file) [Chicago, Ill] 2 December 1976: a5.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Andrew Spicer, 'Rethinking Authorship in Film: The Struggle for Creative Control between Michael Klinger (Producer) and Wilbur Smith (Writer)'Smith
  3. 1 2 Smith, Wilbur (2006). Shout at the Devil. St. Martin's Press. p. Forward. ISBN 978-0-312-94063-8.
  4. Shout at the Devil at Wilbur Smith's website
  5. Shout at the Devil at Pan MacMillan
  6. Review 15 – No Title New York Times (1923–Current file) [New York, N.Y] 28 July 1968: 268.
  7. Robert Moore Will Star in 'Junie Moon' By A. H. WEILER. New York Times (1923–Current file) [New York, N.Y] 17 Apr 1969: 54.
  8. News of the Screen: Radnitz Making Schoolboy Story 6 Composers' Lives Subjects of Films Newman to Study Pershing Career 'Gold' Team Sets New Adventure By A. H. WEILER. New York Times (1923–Current file) [New York, N.Y] 20 Oct 1974: 65.
  9. After 'Network,' What? Science Lee, Grant. Los Angeles Times (1923–Current file) [Los Angeles, Calif] 30 Oct 1976: b7
  10. 1 2 3 4 Roy Moseley, Roger Moore: A Biography, 1985 p 220-221
  11. Eder, Richard (25 November 1976), "Shout Whispers on Screen", The New York Times
  12. Ebert, Roger (11 November 1976), "Shout at the Devil", Chicago Sun-Times
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