Controversy arose in Western Australia when this movie was selected to screen at a Western Australian Royal Gala Premiere Screening in Perth for Prince Charles as part of his 1979 Royal Visit to Western Australia for its Sesquicentenary (150th) Anniversary Birthday celebrations. Then state premier Sir Charles Court canceled the event due to grave concerns over the film's use of offensive language (too many four-letter words) and nudity. In the Western Australian parliament, the then leader of the opposition said that Western Australia had been made a laughing-stock due to a 67 year-old politician [Court] stopping a 30 year old prince from watching a film that was classification approved for old audiences 15 years old and above.
The production were presented by the Australian Army with a Commemorative Shield at the end of principal photography. The plaque featured a multi-headed dragon emblem with an inscription that read: "To the Cast and Crew of 'The Odd Angry Shot' from Phil Thompson, Gus Pauza and John Mosel" who were the Australian Army minders and advisers to the production.
This film's director Tom Jeffrey has said of this movie: "It was a risky commercial venture making this movie in 1978. The Vietnam War was a dirty subject. Few people wanted to be reminded of our involvement. Remember the soldiers 'Welcome Home' march didn't happen until about seven years after the film was made. But I wasn't making a conventional war movie. What I wanted to convey was soldiers as real people . . . Although the men are tough professionals, we focus on the human side of their lives. The film shows their courage, their fears, their loves and their humor - the full range of emotions shared and understood by everyone. It is a film about men who happen to be soldiers. We sought to make a very alive and human film, which is funny, exciting and tense but very warm and poignant, too. It is a film about expectations, how we all imagine great things for ourselves but then have to cope with a reality which often falls far short of those expectations. It is about trust, how we all need to trust in ourselves and others, and how that trust is like a fine thread which can be broken very easily. It is about friendship, how we all rely on friends for protection and help and how, through their support, we can live through our fears. And it is about laughter, how laughter can help overcome fears and worries, and, through it, help demonstrate our compassion. And finally it is about alienation, the growing realization that nobody much cares about the situation they're in, or what is happening. At the end Harry [Graham Kennedy] and Bill [John Jarratt] cope with this by denying they've served to Vietnam. This is why 'The Odd Angry Shot' continues to have resonance and appeal for today's audience".
William Lawrence Nagle [William R. Nagel], author of the 'The Odd Angry Shot' novel, was about eighteen years of age when he went to serve in the Vietnam War enlisting on 31 August 1964. Private Nagle 38359 first underwent basic training and then in January 1965, completed the Army Basic Cooking Course, qualified as a cook, and then in May 1965, Nagel was assigned to the Australian Army Catering Corps (AACC). An army cook, billed as The Cook and played by Graham Rouse), is featured in the movie and has frequent humorous banter with Graham Kennedy, who frequently complains about his food. In March 1966, Nagel was appointed as a cook to the SAS Regiment, the SAS being the military division seen in the film. Nagle returned to Australia from South Vietnam on 18 March 1967 and was discharged from the army on 12 September 1968. Nagle lived between 4 June 1947 - 5 March 2002, his novel 'The Odd Angry Shot' being first published in 1975.William Nagle was a qualified patrol member of the SAS and is recognised as such in the book about the SAS, "SAS Phantoms of the Jungle".
This film's producer Sue Milliken has said of this movie: '[The novel] was written by a wild Vietnam veteran called Bill Nagle [William L. Nagle] whom we assumed had been in the SAS but eventually it turned out he had been an army cook. Nevertheless, a cook with an ear for the vernacular. The story was told from the soldiers' point of view and was sardonically anti-war. We made this film in 1978, which was only four years after the end of the war, so feelings were still very strong. The book said everything you needed to know about the misery and alienation of fighting a war which should never have been fought in the first place. It was also acerbic and funny, and it was this aspect of the piece, which we emphasized to wary investors as making the story accessible to an audience. After months of perseverance, we got the cooperation of the army, although the army hierarchy was very nervous about anything to do with Vietnam. The soldiers, on the other hand, couldn't have been more helpful. We shot for six weeks at the Land Warfare Centre at Canungra, in the hills behind the Gold Coast. The film is recognized by soldiers in all sorts of places around the world as one of the best films ever made about how a war is fought."
Reportedly, and famously, the Australian military forces who command the Canungra Army Land Warfare Center in south-east Queensland, Australia unprecedentedly and wholeheartedly gave their support to this movie to film there whilst previously and only recently, they had turned down the Apocalypse Now (1979) production from filming at the very same Canungra military region location.
Filmed at the Australian Army's notoriously adverse Jungle Warfare Training Centre in Canungra, Queensland. During the Vietnam War, all Australian soldiers - including draftees - who were to be deployed to Vietnam went through four weeks' specialized training in Canungra.
The Iroquois ('Huey') helicopters used by the SAS patrols in this movie are those of 9 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, on kind loan from the Australian Defence Force. This squadron - and indeed, the very helicopters seen in the film - actually served in combat during the Vietnam War.
The elite Australian army special forces unit that the soldiers belong to in the movie was 21 Patrol of the Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) which is also known by the shorter names of Special Air Service or SAS. Their motto was, like their English equivalent, the British SAS, "Who Dares Wins" and the Australian SAS outfit were based on them. Interestingly, Australian actress Judy Davis, starred in the British action movie about the SAS, The Final Option (1982), a few years later.
The Australian Army and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) acted as technical consultants to the production and provided equipment and vehicles such as aircraft and helicopters which are seen in the film. The production reimbursed the military outfits for their services.
Around the time that this Australian war movie was made and released, television personality Graham Kennedy, whose nickname was Gra Gra, had been starring in an Australian TV game show called Blankety Blanks (1977). One Australian newspaper covering this movie ran with the headline: "Gra Gra goes to war . . . But he's only firing blankety-blanks!"
Financial and scheduling considerations meant that the Vung Tau Street set was designed and constructed in such a way that it could be taken down from the Sydney Showgrounds in Sydney, New South Wales and transported to the Canungra Land Warfare Centre, Queensland and reconfigured there by production designer Bernard Hides as the Buddhist Temple set.
The meaning and relevance of this film's title, 'The Odd Angry Shot', is that it refers to the intermittent and potentially fatal gun-play that was the normal theater of guerrilla war during Vietnam. Australian film curator, critic and historian Paul Brynes says "The Viet Cong primarily used guerrilla tactics, and so action was sporadic; potentially deadly engagements could happen at any time. As reflected in the film's title, 'The Odd Angry Shot', the soldiers experienced the War as bouts of monotony punctuated by intense, frantic bursts of action."
The film featured two songs not composed by the film's composer, Michael Carlos. They were "Who Cares, Anyway" sung by Normie Rowe which was written especially for this movie and John Denver's 1967 "Leaving on a Jet Plane" performed by an uncredited Peter Paul & Mary. The latter song had been a well-known Vietnam War anthem for Australian soldiers.
Composer Michael Carlos once said of scoring this film with two songs written by other artists: "I have never tried to work music into a film which was not mine. Fortunately, they are both strong songs and I like them very much. They reflect not only that period of the 60s, but also have an up to date relevance".
Graham Kennedy took six weeks absence-with-leave from his Australian TV game-show Blankety Blanks (1977) so he could appear in this film. After the movie was shot, Kennedy returned to Sydney, Australia whereupon he recorded more episodes of the game-show a week than usual, nine, so as to catch-up for the lost time.
Graham Kennedy once said of production filming on this movie: "Having to run, fall, crawl in the mud, with a rifle and a heavy pack on my back, is not what I'm used to...[stating that he is]...a rather lazy person with a fondness for creature comforts, like good food and wine...Added to that, for the last twenty-two years, I've lived the night-time television life - bed at 3 am and up at noon. During filming, I got up at 5 am and was usually sound asleep by 9 o'clock at night. I was completely exhausted for the entire shoot".
Lead star actor Graham Kennedy once said of filming this picture: "This movie shows these men enduring enormous tension and then releasing it with almost desperate exuberance. When you understand, you can appreciate why they indulge in such crazy bizarre reactions off duty. This script tells it like it is - it has been a tough shoot but it had to be - a schedule that instantly transformed my last twenty-two years routine of bed at 3am and up at noon into a horror stretch of up at 5am and into an exhausted sleep by 9pm. But what we have tried to do is capture all the incredible excitement and danger and true grit commitment that faced those guys when the chips were down".
Second major appearance in a theatrical feature film for Australian TV star Graham Kennedy. Kennedy's first was in Don's Party (1976) though Kennedy did apparently appear uncredited in a bit part in On the Beach (1959).
During the scene on the range, the range corporal asks the four protagonists for their names as he is reprimanding them. On the spur of the moment, he is given four false names; Grey, Green, Brown & Oakover. 'Brown' is allocated to Rogers - played by Bryan Brown.
This was the first ever full theatrically released Australian film about the Vietnam War though You Can't See 'round Corners (1969) was a drama about a soldier conscripted to the Vietnam war who deserts.
This movie is one of few theatrically released Australian films that deal with the Vietnam War. Of the few, A Street to Die (1985) and The Siege of Firebase Gloria (1989), are others, the latter written by this film's source novelist, William R. Nagel. There are two Australian movies that are tangentially related, they are Love in Ambush (1997) and Turtle Beach (1992). During the 1980s decade after this movie was made, Australia produced two mini-series and one tele-film relating to the Vietnam War: Which Way Home (1991), Vietnam (1987) and Frankie's House (1992). The American TV movie Love Is Forever (1983), released theatrically in Australia as 'Comeback', dealt with an Australian photo-journalist character in Laos in 1977.
During production filming, this movie attracted a lot of media coverage due to the presence of Australian television star Graham Kennedy and the fact that in 1978, the Vietnam War was still a topic of current and sensitive public interest.
William R. Nagel was the author of this movie's source novel, 'The Odd Angry Shot'. Nagel didn't write the screenplay for this film, Tom Jeffrey did, but Nagel did write the film script for two other movies, and they were also both war films. These pictures were Death of a Soldier (1986) (about a World War II incident and legal case) and The Siege of Firebase Gloria (1989), the latter also being a movie about the Vietnam War.