The Odd Angry Shot (1979)

A well made war film tells the story of Australian soldiers serving in Vietnam. Final Cut UK R0 DVD.

The Film

Young Australian Bill ships out to Vietnam where Australian forces are engaged against the VC and NVA. In the camp he discovers veteran Harry (Graham Kennedy) who introduces him to life on the front line - inbetween raids on Vietnamise forces, the soldiers try anything to pass the time and ignore the persistant rain and athlete's foot.

The storyline is based on Australian SAS veteran William L. Nagle's memoirs of the Vietnam war and rather than an ongoing narrative, the film consists of a number of extended vingettes covering the main characters' tour of duty. Like a series of memories, these vingettes cover a few combat scenes, but also the drudgery of camp life, from the athlete's foot to endless rainstorms and it is here that the film really excels with some decent characterisation and superbly written and often wryly amusing dialogue that makes these scenes the key focus of the film, rather than just the filler between action scenes that they form in most war films. Like many Vietnam war films, there is political feeling expressed in the dialogue (although it is a lot more subtly done than most) - rather than the usual approach of emphasising the wasteful pointlessness of the war, it concerns the reception of the soldiers after the conflict, at the time of production a very sore point in Australia where Vietnam veterans were being denied official recognition by army support groups set up after the Second World War.

The combat scenes however are not neglected, in keeping with the tone of the film they are quite understated and there are certainly no attempts to portray the soldiers as macho or particularly heroic, they are just doing their job, but the strong characterisation means that some excellent frisson is built up during these sequences, the script's willingness to kill and injure characters without qualms means it is never possible to predict who will still be alive at the end. A firm emphasis is put on realism during these scenes, in the actions and dialogue of the soldiers and particularly the use of radios. Pacing overall is appropriately slow as a lot of time is spent waiting around at camp but the vingette format means that the film keeps moving and it certainly never drags, building to a fitting conclusion.

Television director Tom Jeffrey handles the project adeptly - direction is generally conventional but good work on the sets and locations as well as a selection of original equipment gives the film a high level of authenticity and along with the character's accents provides an interesting contrast with the usual US Vietnam war films. The film was largely shot at the Australian Army's jungle warfare training camp at Canungra in Queensland and it certainly looks authentic. An occasional soundtrack from composer Michael Carlos (Long Weekend (1978)) provides very fitting backing to the film.

The film is well served by a very strong Australian cast - the main group is made up of experienced actors. Although better known for his comic television career, Graham Kennedy is particularly good as the veteran warrior, while John Jarratt (best known today as the murderous villain of Wolf Creek (2005)) makes for a believable new recruit.

A timely reminder of the often forgotten sacrifices made by Australian soldiers in Vietnam, The Odd Angry Shot is also a very good war film, authentically capturing the drudgery of camp life and the tension of combat. Not one for anyone hoping to see all out action, but recommended to fans of serious and realistic war films.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Graham Kennedy - nicknamed 'King of Australian television' and best known for his comedy sketch shows.
Directed by anyone interesting? Tom Jeffrey - a long serving television director, he helmed a couple of films, the darkly comic The Removalists (1975) and crime film Weekend of Shadows (1978).
Any gore or violence? Some blood and a couple of vivid wounds.
Any sex or nudity? A couple of brief female topless shots. A short sequence of full male nudity in the camp showers.
Who is it for? Recommended to all serious war movie fans and anyone interested in the Vietnam war.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour
The print is okay, although there is some softness and a general lack of detail as though it was a very good VHS print.
Audio English mono - sounds fine.
Subtitles None.
Extras None.
Region Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Other regions? Also available on R4 DVD from Roadshow Entertainment in Australia - picture quality seems to be better and the disc includes an audio commentary with the director Tom Jeffrey and actor Graeme Blundell as well as extensive text based extras.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. The print used is English language.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 10th November 2011.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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