Ah, cricket. The beautiful game. The sound of willow on leather, man
against the elements. The shadows the birds cast as they swoop low over
the wicket. 11 good men and true, standing, whites expertly washed and
ironed, waiting for the next ball to be bowled. The bowler gently rubbing
the ball against his leg, hoping that the extra shine will cause the ball
to "swing" in flight. The batsman standing, nervous energy coursing
through his veins, as he waits to see what the bowler will do. Without
warning, the scoreboard explodes and some nutter starts dancing around
in his underpants
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Yes, in case
you hadn't guessed it, The Shout is set during a cricket match,
as hairy weirdo Alan Bates tells a peculiar story to a confused Tim Curry.
Anyone who's ever scored during a match will know that tales of sex and
violence whilst your trying to remember whether: 1. a "no-ball"
is marked by a cross or a circle; 2. which bowler that was; and 3. how
many balls have been bowled this over; are frowned upon, but that doesn't
seem to worry old Tim. So sit back and enjoy Alan Bates' odd little tale,
complete with mental-as-anything sound effects
Curry is Charles, the scorer at a cricket match taking place in the grounds
of an insane asylum. In the scorebox he is introduced to Robert (Bates),
who immediately breaks the ice by telling him he believes his soul has
been "shattered into four people".
"Think you can listen and score at the same time?" asks Robert.
"Every word of what I'm going to tell you is true. Although I'm telling
it in a different way, it's always the same story
I vary it a little
because I like to keep it alive."
It's immediately clear that Bates' little tale is being populated by at
least two people from the group playing and watching the match - John
Hurt and his wife, played by Suzannah York.
The story starts with the pair of them (Hurt and York) asleep on a beach.
They both have the same dream featuring a witch doctor in a tailcoat,
holding something in his hand. This in itself is vaguely unsettling, but
the odd atmosphere continues when Hurt gets back home, and starts playing
with weird late 70s music equipment in his basement. His job is a sound
effects technician, and his spends a good few minutes freaking out the
audience by making full use of the film's jarring stereo soundtrack.
Hurt's character is also the organist at the local church, and it's pretty
clear that it's not only the church organ that's getting a workout - he's
having a torrid little affair witch a young Carol "All Creatures
Great And Small" Drinkwater.
On leaving the church he's met by Bates (looking his seedy and dangerous
best) who wants to start a theological discussion, but gets stopped short
by the frankly rude young Mr Hurt. Whether this is what causes Hurt's
eventual downfall, or whether it's got something to do with his extra
marital activities, is left unclear. What does happen is that Bates weedles
his way into Hurt's home life without so much as a by-your-leave (somehow
his tales of killing his own children don't worry them too much) and before
you know it, he's explained that the man in their dreams was a witch doctor
he knew during his 18 years in the Australian Outback ("a genuinely
terrifying man" apparently - if he scared the genuinely terrifying
Bates he must have been a real shit-your-pants type). "He taught
me the skill of the terror SHOUT." Bates explains. Hurt, his professional
interest piqued, decides he'd like to hear this new sound. "I have
heard some sounds in my time, you know," he says.
"It will kill you, then," is Bates' curt reply.
They go down to the beach next morning, and Bates unleashes his shout
on Hurt, who promptly collapses (not surprisingly). The shout itself is
once again a genuinely unsettling thing, even if it's basically the sound
of an aeroplane taking off.
Hurt had blocked his ears, though, and wakes up in a slightly confused
state to find himself surrounded by dead animals.
Who is Bates? What does he want? And what does all this have to do with
cricket? To find out, and to see a very naked Suzannah York, you'll have
to see the film. Luckily, it's not as rare as it was (FilmFour have been
showing it recently) and it's well worth tracking down.
Can you get any more English than a film with the four Cs in it (Cricket,
Countryside, Churches and Carol Drinkwater, in case you're wondering)?
I think not. The Shout is probably the most quintessentially English
film on this entire site. It's so English it's almost English-by-numbers,
which is even odder when you consider that it was directed by a Polish
bloke (the almost unpronounceable Jerzy Skolimowski). Perhaps it takes
an outsiders' eye to see what makes up our peculiar way of life