THE ODD ANGRY SHOT, fired from Australia in 1979, tells a compact story about a group of their soldiers serving in the Vietnam War. Released the year of Apocalypse Now, it didn’t make the worldwide splash of the American epic, but at 92 minutes and a fraction of the cost it registers an impact of its own, thanks mainly to the cast, a beaut mob of bonzer blokes.
“I’ve seen it all before. First of all, they start to argue with one another…y’know, a few ‘piss off’s and ‘get stuffed’s, and nobody really takes any notice. Then comes stage two, when all this ‘camaraderie’ and esprit bullshit just goes. Then comes stage three when they start to fight one another and the morale goes down. Once the morale goes, the sick parades start to get longer and the casualties start to mount up and all we want to do is get home and get the bloody job over and done with so we don’t take any more risks…’cause there’s no reason to.”
Written & directed by Tom Jeffrey, it’s adapted from the 1975 novel of the same name by ex-soldier William Nagle, based on people he knew when he served in Vietnam. Nagle later wrote the script for another Vietnam War pic, much more combat-oriented, The Siege Of Firebase Gloria. This one has a few brief action scenes but in the main its concerned with the day-to-day coping with weather, food, foot rot, boredom, and loss, reflected through a few mates trying to survive their tour of duty, aided by a barrage of friendly insults and a considerable consumption of beer. The script takes no particular stance other than cynicism, and has plenty of the camaraderie banter standard for Guys Dealing with Shit situations, albeit with a Down Under tang. One segment is overdone, a comic brawl that explodes between the unit and a US outfit after they lose bets on an insect-fight (‘your spider vs. our scorpion’)–it’s amusing, but really belongs in a John Ford movie from an earlier day. Otherwise, excess is kept in check, sentimental gas is absent, and the combat movements seem like they were coordinated by someone who actually knew his stuff.
The engaging cast makes it work to effect. From the classic Oz comedy Don’s Party, there are Graham Kennedy (iconic), John Hargreaves and Graeme Blundell, keeping company with future stars John Jarratt (26 years before his grotesque ‘Mick Taylor of Wolf Creek) and Bryan Brown (nicking the lusty ‘Lt. Handcock’ of Breaker Morant one year later).
Produced for $A617,000 ($A3,201,000 in 2021), in Australia it grossed around $A800,000 (A$4,493,000 in ’21).
“It’s the poor man, the shit-shoveler with the arse out of his pants and two bob in his pocket that makes Australia. Every time trouble starts, there he is, standing like a fool at the recruiting office with his hand out for a rifle, while the rich boys are at home hanging on, waiting for a commission or their fathers to get them into a safe job. And while you’re stuck overseas with some poor bastards from the other side, who are just as scared as you are, shooting at you, the rich boys are at home probably down having a bit of a slum or a chop at yer bird.”