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September 03, 2013

The Odd Angry Shot

odd angry shot poster.jpg

Tom Jeffrey - 1979
Synapse Films BD Region A

Prior to seeing The Odd Angry Shot, I had some knowledge that Australia had troops in Vietnam. It's probably not so coincidental that the one film previously seen that tangentially was about Australians in Vietnam also starred Bryan Brown. That 1982 film, Far East was about a former soldier who stuck around to run a bar primarily for ex-patriates who chose to live in Southeast Asia. The Odd Angry Shot was released three years earlier, before Brown became a top Australian star.

Jeffrey's film makes an interesting contrast with Hollywood films about Vietnam. It's not simply a change in the nationality of the troops that occurs here. There are only a couple of battle scenes, and both are small scale. What I found out later in doing a little bit of research is that the film is fairly accurate in showing the fighting style of the Australians - slow, methodical treks through the jungle, only fighting the identifiable Viet Cong. Much of the film is devoted to time at the base camp - playing cards, downing what appears to be an endless supply of Foster's beer, and simply fighting off boredom. There is some discussion of the meaning of the war, and who benefits from the Australian presence, but Jeffrey is mostly interested in simply showing the experience of war from the point of view of a group of ground troops.

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There is the question as to why Synapse has chosen to give this film a DVD/Blu-ray release as it seems to fall outside of their usual offerings. As far as Australian films, and even Australian war films go, The Odd Angry Shot hovers in a space somewhere between Peter Weir's high-minded Gallipoli and Brian Trenchard-Smith's more viscerally oriented Siege of Firebase Gloria. Jeffrey's other films, based on the descriptions, would also place him as being more serious than those filmmakers associated with "Ozploitation", while perhaps not serious enough to include with those filmmakers like Bruce Beresford, Peter Weir and Gillian Armstrong, who brought critical attention to Australian cinema in the late Seventies. Most of Jeffrey's work as been with television. If The Odd Angry Shot does bring renewed attention to Jeffrey, I would hope to see his first feature, The Removalists from 1975, featuring a young Jacki Weaver.

The DVD/Blu-ray also includes a commentary track by Jeffrey with producer Sue Milliken and actor Graeme Blundell. Milliken produced several films for Bruce Beresford, and has been a significant part of the Australian film industry. There is discussion not only of the logistics of making a war film with a limited budget, but also about the differing acting styles, with a supporting cast that included many non-professionals. Cinematographer Don McAlpine and camera operator John Seale would go on to become Oscar nominated, and in Seale's case, Oscar winning, for their work behind the camera. The disc also included a brief interview with stunt coordinator Buddy Joe Hooker, whose expertise in staging fights was called upon when Milliken and Jeffrey found that there was no one qualified in the Australian film industry at that time. This release of The Odd Angry Shot might be best appreciated for its historical value, part of transition from a time between when Australian cinema rarely merited critical discussion and the the emergence as a world cinema powerhouse.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at September 3, 2013 08:35 AM