bamptonj

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Reviews

Gandhi
(1982)

Solid Biopic
GANDHI certainly did very well. It seems to have won almost every conceivable award. Ben Kingsley does a remarkable job of inhabiting such an inspiring historical character. You'll find you could return to the film on his performance alone.

The scenes in South Africa are particularly enthralling. GANDHI has a movie of different styles: documentary, luscious travelogue, and old style drama. The parts with the western media seem oddly reminiscent to the equivalent scenes in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA.

And yet, this isn't a perfect film. It feels incomplete somehow. Perhaps the divisiveness of the caste-system in bringing about unity could have been presented a bit more forcefully and the expense of the sectarian Hindu/Muslim divide.

Yet perhaps the biggest criticism must concern itself with the simple dramatic setbacks of the film. As Quentin Crisp - "though, very cleverly, the narrative begins with his assassination, we are not continuously drawn forward at an ever-increasing pace throughout the rest of the picture towards this climax. We do not know why he was killed, we were never made aware of what specific danger he was in nor from what quarter disaster would spring."

The Return of Tommy Tricker
(1994)

suitable for Sunday matinée TV viewing perhaps
Not a particularly imaginative sequel, but perhaps lightning could never strike twice. It was nice to hear the same musical cues. Tommy Tricker isn't as engaging as portrayed in the first film. Polly Mereweather's vocals sound manifestly dubbed, and her Kiwi(?) accent doesn't jell right with her Australian(?) accented brother. Nit picking of course - but the acting is quite wooden. Where's the charm of the original? I suppose the real purpose of this film was to update the original for a new generation of kids rather than a sequel per se, but perhaps six isn't a significant gap (most prescient now in the IT age - Typical Kid: "Stamps?"). At a shorter running time than TOMMY TRICKER, they should perhaps have created a few more sub-plots and some real presence of tension/or race against the clock scenario.

Border Security: Australia's Front Line
(2004)

Very entertaining
This periodic reality series - screening on Network Seven - chronicles the work of Australia's Customs and Quarantine personnel in intercepting suspicious persons or goods entering through Australia's airports.

Filmed largely at Sydney Airport, each show presents a motley crew of suspicious or randomly-selected persons being subjected to an elaborative and thorough screening process. Some are puzzled, others violently indignant: some are well presented, others conspicuously disheveled and inarticulate. We see all kinds of cases: those who have innocently omitted to make certain declarations, those making attempts at mass drug imports, or visitors on 'Tourist Visas' in reality seeking to enter the country for the purposes of work.

Whether BORDER SECURITY contributes to the Australian public's fear of foreigners, or panders to stereotyped views of the typical immigrant, the viewer will have to decide for themselves. The show itself is both entertaining and informative, and portrays those devoted to protecting our borders as being very thorough, and diligently aware of the nefarious tricks incoming passengers play. (The show certainly makes you wonder how much went undetected in the days before narcotic residue machines though!)

Smiley
(1956)

Nice Little Film: lovely afternoon spent
I was greatly entranced by this little film.

It chronicles the misadventures of a likable outback boy, Smiley, who has his heart set upon a bike. He undertakes to do chores for various townspeople - the publican, the reverend, and the obliging policeman - to raise money, but is constantly set back (he has to pay for a damaged bike, and broken windows). I must disagree with the other reviewer, however, and say that apart, from Smiley, his mates, and the laconic Chips Raffetry, I did not find the Australian accent pronounced at all. Indeed, the film featured many adults attempting to bring across that pseudo-English accent that characterized the cultural cringe before the New Wave of Australian cinema in the 1970s.

I was surprised that this was a 20th Century Fox co-production, but maybe that accounts for why SMILEY looks like it was made for a generic international children's market - why there is a map of America in the classroom of an outback school, why a laconic Smiley calls 'yabbys' crayfish, and why opium is the choice of smuggled goods in the outback etc It is indeed a simple story, but offers lovely scenery and a generally capturing performance of the title role in particular. It is politically incorrect if not downright patronizing to Aboriginals and seems to push religious devotion somewhat quite constantly (quoting scripture, praying etc), but it is generally a product of its time.

Juggernaut
(1974)

An enjoyable watch
It is New Years' Eve and six bombs are found on-board passenger cruiser BRITTANIC, below and above sea level. The anonymous perpetrator demands 500,000 pounds (a suspiciously low sum even in 1974.) Facing choppy seas and 'force 8 winds,' the crew are unable to unload passengers into life-rafts or rescue vessels, and so a team of bomb-disposal experts are flown in.

JUGGERNAUT is a well-paced film and can boast an all-star cast. Richard Harris plays the chief expert as a world-weary drinker who been in the job too long and faced imminent death so many times that he has lost all pretence for morality. David Hemmings has a smaller role as his assistant. A younger - but still grey haired - Anthony Hopkins heads the landside manhunt for the bomber. Ian Holm puts in a lovely performance as the compassionate head of the shipping company, who insists upon paying the ransom, even as the hard-on-terrorists British government threatens to withdraw its generous tax subsidies. Michael Hordern has a cameo, as too does Julian Glover. Rounding off the cast is an understated Roy Kinnear who plays the bumbling cruise director, offering hapless pleasantries to the passengers as well as falling short of a comfort after the bombs presence on board are revealed.

This is a very British film - these is little swearing, no resolute American hero, sandwiches are the meal of choice -offered to the bomb experts and the passengers - who are told relatively early of the threat - take the news with surprising grace, the British upper-lip prevailing over the typical Hollywood hysterier or sentimentality

Waterfront
(1984)

An engrossing mini-series on the violent labour disputes of 1920s Australia
Set in late 1920s Melbourne, WATERFRONT begins with the Waterside Workers' Union refusing to abide by the award-conditions handed down with the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The waterfronts of Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne are effectively shut down. Nationalist Party Prime Minister, Stanley Bruce, authorizes legislation permitting the employment of non-union labour on the wharves and the shipping bosses respond by hiring newly arrived Italian immigrants desperate for work. These 'scabs' face expected bitter resentment by the Union as well as shameful and overt racial intimidation and abuse.

The ruse of 'free labourers' ultimately works in all the capital cities but Melbourne, where the Union executive is strong and determined. Not only are the bosses determined to ride the storm out, but the union comes under increasing hostility from other sections of the community - the strike's consequences extend into neighbouring industries which, starved of raw materials and export passages, are forced to make redundancies. WATERFRONT portrays the eviction, poverty, and racism with deft sensitivity, never retreating into gross caricatures.

While the State Labor Government, with a paper-thin majority, is put in the unenviable position of having to support the unions - its political base - it must find a seemingly illusive solution to a problem that is crippling the state. The Victorian Opposition plans to introduce a motion of no-confidence in the government, and courts the patrician Governor-General, who ultimately dismisses the incumbent government.

Jack Thompson turns in a lovely performance as Max Woodbury, an apolitical, but happy go-lucky minor Union official, who has the leadership thrust upon him after the deaths of circuit-breaker Sam (Syd Barrett) and principled, but naive socialist (Chris Haywood). Greta Scacchi plays the beautiful Anna Chieri, the resourceful daughter of a political professor who has recently escaped from Mussolini's Italy. Her father is killed in a bungled attempt at scaring-off Woodbury, into whose arms she walls when she seeks out her father's murderers.

There are some strong female roles here as wives of the strikers who ultimately come to value 'people over principles.' This is a splendidly photographed piece, with great attention to period authenticity. The entrenched racism the Italians experience is portrayed in a realistic and often brutal way. This is Old Australia where beer is drunken with steak-and-eggs or mixed-grill, everything is closed on Sunday (to the amazement of even continental Catholics!) and the billy-clubs have never been shinier. To its credit, the filmmaker's never imposes a simple solution on the crisis, and while broadly pro-Union, never paint the shipping bosses as irredeemably, rabid, capitalist machine-men.

It is difficult to maintain unquestioned sympathy and respect with the union's position, when many of its members being painted (probably very truthfully) as sexist bigots. WATERFRONT could very easily have been condense into an enjoyable movie, or perhaps even expanded into a full-blown series that expanded into Australian life during the 1920s more generally. At 300 minutes, WATERFRONT might be a little bit too long. The Third Act romance between Thompson and Scacchi seems a hackneyed plot device, although the two perform their parts exceptionally.

Hamish & Andy
(2004)

Great Potential Unrealized
This was quite an inventive and fresh take on Australian television's variety-skit format.

Channel Seven should be proud of the steps it took in the right direction: a very commendable step.

Unfortunately, HAMISH AND ANDY just didn't produce the desired ratings and only lasted a handful of episodes. In any event, the network soon acquired 'DESPERATIVE HOUSEWIVES' as well as 24, so all was well. Together with 'CNNN/The Chaser Decides' and 'Big Bite,' we genuinely had a funny ride of Australian TV-comedy for a few months there.

One hopes that Hamish and Andy - two generally promising talents, together not unlike a more free-flowing Rove McManus - as well as the hysterical Chris Lilley, won't have disappeared for long.

Mad Dog Morgan
(1976)

A revisionist reading of one of Australia's more unsavoury bushrangers: A Minor Screen Gem
CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS

Once again, Dennis Hopper gives an over-the-top performance as Daniel Morgan, the infamous outlaw of the the 1860s. MAD DOG (as the film was also known) is highly evocative of the colonial era: frontier lands with few townships but individual homesteads, extreme parochialism and an uneasy relationship between free settlers and ex-convicts.

The dirge begins on the NSW Goldfields where our Irish protagonist falls out with his fellow diggers and seeks company with the out-cast Chinese instead. Whilst smoking opium in a Joss House, a group of aggrieved and racist miners beset Morgan and his compatriots; burning the house to the ground. Morgan runs to the bush and becomes a highwayman: eventually being sentenced to the gaols. As the magistrate reveals, severe sentences are necessary to build the colony's roads.

In gaol, Morgan is brutalized and maltreated by both guards and fellow prisoners. Upon his release, he finds himself in old ways and later makes an aboriginal companion. The duo continue to harass (mostly) the squatters and large-lot landowners along the Riverina in New South Wales and Victoria. Morgan is eventually shot and killed by a loose coalition of police officers and privateers.

The authorities generally are portrayed as equally corrupt and invidious as Morgan. The bulk of the police-force, for instance, are recently released prisoners or prison-wardens looking for easy money. The Governor of Victoria (played deliciously by Frank Thring) subscribes to the belief that a mastermind criminal like Morgan must have "the physical attributes of a gorilla" and a "throw-back to primitive man" - forgetting his own monolithic presence and bulging forehead.

Australia is presented as the penal colony it really was: "a melting pot of racial, social, and economic tensions" - and so film is quite a macarabe and episodic one. While evocative of the mood, a far amount of artistic license has been taken in the history. Surprisingly absent from MAD DOG MORGAN are accounts of sadist and barbaric acts committed by Morgan, including the ungentlemenly murder of two policemen shot in the back.

Looking back, MAD DOG MORGAN contains a guest-list of Australian actors which now can be somewhat distracting (Yes, that is Alf Stewart from "HOME AND AWAY" as the Scottish Telegraphist.)

The Simpsons
(1989)

Often quoted, never boring, poignant and HILARIOUS!
THE SIMPSONS is one of the funniest TV shows ever produced. Dismissive of the parameters of the filmed medium, the makers of this cartoon have allowed this series to lampoon modern life (particularly American) through a demonstrated capability to employ nearly all forms of humor: parody, slap-stick, wordplay, vaudeville, puns and given the variety of some plot scenarios, even surrealism.

Some have even gone so far as to say that the Simpsons inform us as much about the human condition as Plato, Aristotle or Kant. Superficially, the show revolves around the high-jinks of a drunken father (Homer), his moralizing house-wife (Marge), their delinquent son (Bart), intellectually inquisitive daughter (Lisa), and perennial silent infant (Maggie). There is a large cast of ensemble characters satirizing just about possibly imaginable sociological form.

The first few years were certainly quite Christian in content with Ten Commandment-type dilemmas posed and resolved usually quite haplessly by the Simpson family. The portrayal of life as a series of binary conventions lasted under make the third or fourth year when the show became openly and hilarious satirical. Here is where the show took off for the brilliance of the Simpsons lies in its openness to attack everyone: ordinary folk (the Simpsons), the two-sides to the well-respected Religious (the Flanders and Lovejoys), the corrupt and scheming politicians and company directors (Quimby, Burns), actors and entertainers (the Schwarzenegger analogue, McBain), and perverse and alarmist Newshound corporations (Kent Brockman) amongst many, many others.

The Simpsons, while not consistently delivering the charm and irreverence of its mid-years, is still a wonderfully delightful show. Some have advanced that the tri-partite of The Simpsons, South Park, and Family Guy has offered an incisive critique of Western civilization without leaving any stone unturned. Whatever the reality, these and other imitators (even filmed media) owes a considerable debt to the trailblazing Simpsons.

Barry McKenzie Holds His Own
(1974)

Absurdly politically incorrect, but a gem
Bazza doesn't care much for `shirtlifters' or `pie-eaters', `ratbags' or `poofter liberators,' he disdains `ikey-mo style b***ards' and `abos.' This movie belongs within the Ockerish period of the Australian Cinematic Revival and one likes it despite of or possibly because of its genre defying.

The film starts aboard a 'Frog Air' flight to Paris presumably straight after the events of the first movie, 'THE ADVENTURES OF BARRY McKENZIE' (though the last scene of that movie had announcements by the captain suggesting the plane was far into its journey and already over Eastern Europe and the décor decidingly Qantas), where Transylvanian Nationals (one with an improbable German accent) mistake Aunty Edna for Queen Elizabeth II. After a series of mishaps, they finally succeed in kidnapping her and thus later in England Operation 'Gladioli' is developed to rescue her. The movie involves a few music-hall type numbers and much beer guzzling.

The sequel is more or less the same as its predecessor thought the mood seems more cynical and abusing. There are still acute cultural comparisons which cannot help but attract laughs: when shown Parisian landmarks Bazza simply observes `Why don't they knock 'em down and put in some amenities.like garages, drive-in opera houses and bottle-shops?' Bazza and his piss-pot mates spill Fosters into the Sein, behave most irreverently and consistently deliver culturally-divisive one-line quips, but the charm of the original Bazza (who said `sport' are the end of almost every sentence) seems to have dissipated.

Bazza is a big-L Liberal*, albeit rough-around-the-edges, who is ultimately suspicious of trade-union 'whingers' and student protestor types (his middle name 'MENZIES' after all). He acerbically observes that Australians now have `culture coming out of their arses' and that 'arty-farty' types are getting much favour in his homeland. Bazza represents the fundamental dichotomy of conservative Australian: he prefers `decent church-going people' but despises his brother Kev the `Rev', he revels in seeing strippers and burlesque (as long as the objects are "dagoes" not clean cut Aussie sheilas) but procrastinates committing intimacy, despises government hand-outs but openly takes a free-trip home. Bazza is also the archetypical Australian `pom-basher' who likes to think that there were no convicts on his family's side and that Australia is the best little place in the world, no risk.

For Bazza's arch-nemesis, Humphries has created the most reprehensible character: a Continental Communist Vampire, Count Eric von Plasma (Donald Pleasance in a wonderful and largely forgotten role) who much like General Ripper in Dr. Strangelove is seen by Bazza to be draining the free-world's of its 'vital fluids' (literally). The film features parts by Clive James, Don Spencer and Barry Humphries in four roles. The movie is an improvement, if only technically, over the original but critics of the first won't be enticed back. It has more of a narrative flow than the original which was far more episodic.

The Original Documentary that was included on my DVD copy had beeped out all references to homosexuality in the `Christ and the Orgasm' segment of the movie. I suspect we Australians NEEDED to make and screen these movies if only to erode our prudish and stiff white-collar leanings. Humphries points out that at the time of production Australia still had a de-facto White Australia policy: so the almost cartoon-like characterisation of other races (a group of Indian-Europeans including a snake-charmer and a Turkish carpet salesmen who jump straight into the Unemployment office after being smuggled into England) may psychologically have drawn our unreasonableness to ourselves. For this and other reasons, I was never afraid to laugh at 'HOLDS HIS OWN.

The protagonist of this film yields not the 'bush' romanticism of CROCODILE DUNDEE but a brash two-dimensional Sydneysider with a lot of similes to make and a lot of beer to drink. Criticism is foreshadowed within the movie by a cornered Von Plasma who taunts the Australian Rescue Contingent that they will end up making `B-Grade yokel movies'

* The Liberal Party in Australia is somewhat of a misdominor: it is actually the conservative party. It has been in power in several forms for over 70% of Australia's Federal History.

Hang 'Em High
(1968)

More like a TV Western than a Spaghetti Western proper but very stylish in its own way...
'HANG 'EM HIGH' is a pleasant compromise between the typical Randolph/Wayne Western and the updated Sergio Leone style. The typical Western Score permeated with intermittent Morricone motifs, the photography viscerally lush with a number of close ups, ruthless violence etc.

Eastwood plays Jed Cooper a deputy marshal who sets off to bring to justice the nine men responsible for his attempted lynching at the opening of the film. In the cliched morality play, Cooper is in danger of becoming as inflexible as his accusers were. Everybody is thirsty for blood in this movie with lawful hangings becoming such an attractive spectacle that local saloon-keepers sell cold beer to the crowds turning out.

The romantic, idyllic bits with Inger Stevens are clumsily and drolly written (was she trying to poison Cooper or was it merely a relapse from his violent beatings?) but for the most part this is quite enjoyable though perhaps uneven.

Look out for Dennis Hopper's early appearance as a psychotic outlaw who meets with a gruesome end.

The Outlaw Josey Wales
(1976)

ORSON WELLES: "If Eastwood hadn't had his name on the credits, they would have called it a masterpiece..."
During the American Civil War, a farmer's wife and child are killed by Union soldiers in front of his very eyes; their simple but homely homestead burnt to cinders. Josey Wales joins a group of Confederate guerrillas in order to satisfy his sudden bloodthirsty desire for revenge. At war's end, the rest of the group capitulates and the remnants are massacred by the Union Army. Wales is declared an outlaw.

People start to gather around him, a young confederate, a disaffected and wise old Indian man and a proto-hippy and her respectable auntie. No matter how much he declares his indifference to their company, the more they gather. He spits tobacco on the dog who only barks and comes back for more. It becomes almost genteel in the middle and comes dangerously close to moralising but avoids doing so.

This movie has it all and was not even nominated! Unspoken romance, social commentary on solitariness, death, Clintisms - "You a bounty hunter?" "Man's got to do something for a living..." "Dying ain't much of a living, boy..."

An excellent cast. Fitting music.

THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES manages to be beautiful and poetic (In a 'Clint' film you probably ask?). As noted by another viewer, "it manages to be epic---truly grand, covering broad territories interior and exterior, a lot of emotion...without posturing or self-conscious bigness." Josey's peace-making with Ten Bears is truly inspirational and moral. This movie will have a profound impact on you.

The Eiger Sanction
(1975)

Strangely compelling: joyous fun
This is surely the most unusual title in Clint's extensive catalog. Like so much of his output that seems uneven, politically incorrect and blisteringly mediocre strangely this will probably be highly compelling to fans, though the casual viewer may find THE EIGER SANCTION utterly boring, prolonged and inconsequential.

Clint plays an assassin who otherwise spends his time as a curly, unhelpful art professor. During the title credits, a colleague is killed and Clint must avenge the death by climbing the face of the Eiger Mountain in Switzerland. A typical espionage-movie double cross occurs at the end. That's pretty much it, though we meet with many interesting characters like Clint's Blofeld-type 'M', David, a reclusive albino. There's also liberal sexual repartee and double entendre with the obligatory nudity and sex scenes.

The supporting cast are very lively and fun. The photography of the ascent is well-paced and composed with very little or no rear projection: the cast it seemed actually climbed part of the mountain. Indeed, one man died during the Eiger filming - an accomplished and professional mountaineer - and the director of photography was seriously injured.

Like so many of Clint's films, you wonder what the movie would have been like without him. We don't know why we love Clint, we just do. THE EIGER SANCTION certainly doesn't feature the man's best acting. More often than not, however, his very presence is enough.

Coogan's Bluff
(1968)

Clint's non-western mannerisms were on the way!
"COOGAN'S BLUFF" is relatively enjoyable and there are certainly DIRTY HARRY moments (as a result of Siegel). The movie is probably the best example of obvious chauvinism that Clint has offered.

Coogan, a police officer/cowboy from the mid-west, is sent to the Big Apple in order to expedite a criminal back to his desert state. Most of the movie deals with his antipathy towards the different breed of criminal, justicial expectations/methods and fast-paced life. The film has dated but not inordinately. Pauling Kael would certainly have a field day over the male chauvinism which permiates the entire film (Coogan won't take no for an answer and practically smothers his romantic interest into submission).

There is some pleasant photography, music and direction though the sets look plastic. The superficial and piecemeal presentation of the counter-culture (at the rave and the girl's apartment) like most mainstream flicks pre 1969 is quite amusing. Is this the movie where Siegal and Eastwood wrote plot/character points, cut them up, shuffled them arbitrarily, and stuck them back together? It shows but I think the choppiness adds to its charm; which COOGAN's BLUFF certainly has a lot of.

Degrassi Junior High
(1987)

Classic TV
First syndicated in Australia on the ABC's "Afternoon Show" with James Valentine from 1988/1989 onwards, this was a terrificly topical show for elderly children and younger adults. Episodes concerning teenage alcoholism, pregnancy, delinquency, child abuse, homosexuality, harassment, puberty and depression were delivered with an immediate frankness not previously produced for the little screen.

"Degrassi Junior High" was throughly entertaining; creating many lasting characters, particularly Joey Jeremiah and Derek "Wheels". The show lost its earnesty - though not its appeal - when it became "Degrassi High", the tele-movie extrapolation, "School's Out" was subpar whilst strangely compelling and the most recent series deplorably banal, but the original series was a classic.

"Degrassi Junior High" looks as if it was hastily filmed; with post-production added only sparingly - the show looks scant and cheap - but it was undeniably charming; the very theme song ("Wake up in the morning...feeling shy and lonely...") alerted me to the joy that would unfold over the next 22 minutes or so. The Junior High School looked anitiquated, dirty, cold and industrial - the Toronto skies were perpetually grey, the stories and familiy life not alway positive, but it was thoroughly commendable.

I haven't seen an episode in years; I try desperately to remember more of the plotlines, more of the obscure characters. I can't - only the vibes remain. But what vibes! And what a show! It has deservedly won quite a cult following around the world, particularly Australia and the U.K, but the author is surprised to discover that it is virtually unknown in the U.S and to some extent in its homeland!

Let's see it on DVD soon!

Viva Maria!
(1965)

Stands up well today!
VIVA MARIA, a French-Italian co-production, is set in the revolution-torn Mexico in the early 1900s. Maria (Brigitte Bardot) - the daughter of an IRA operative - journeys to Mexico and meets up with her namesake Jeanne Moreau. Under the guise of circus/vaudevillian entertainers, they pursue their revolutionary activities around the countryside. The illustrious pair are captured but escape to fight with an enthusiastic peasantry to free San Miguel from its Spanish oppressors. Thoroughly entertaining and rollicking fun with spectacular visual action. Most of the film was shot on location in Mexico and the railway scenes filmed authentically on the 3ft gauge Interoceanic division of National Railways of Mexico. The featured steam loco is G-023 class 2-8-0 No. 66 (Alco 5209).

Just for Laughs
(2002)

Some funny people
Judith Lucy hosts this one-off special of the comedy festival in Canada. Featuring snippets of gigs from a wide variety of comics, we enjoy Lucy's dry, laconic, yet strangely sympathetic presence as she schmoozes with the more famous artistes featured after and before gigs. Almost expected Jimeoin to turn up!

Backroads
(1977)

Australia's racial Easy Rider?
This movie reminded me of EASY RIDER. While not documenting the emergence of a freer counter-culture or revealing the shortcomings of contemporary society, it flowed on similarly as a thoroughly fluid road-movie that sought to uncover deeply-engrained prejudices that still persist, even latently, in attitude formation: black or white.

The two protagonists are once again outcasts; Bill the itinerant, petty-thief rebel-rouser and Dave his good, clear-thinking, articulate Aboriginal friend. They pick up hitchhikers on their way across Northern New South Wales, stopping by Dave's reservation and generally having a good time. The movies ends in an element of pathos analogous to EASY RIDER.

The movie gives the actors scope to make a balanced statement on the nature of racism. Bill Hunter plays an essentially fair, full-loving and decent bloke, who still had ingrained reservations about fully recognising Aboriginal cultural-sovereignty. BACKROADS succeeds because it is sensible and makes no definite statement on the race debate.

A very enjoyable film that probably gave the Australian Film Commission courage to make others like "Wrong Side Of The Road".

In the Wake of the Bounty
(1933)

An interesting aside to the `Bounty' story you think you know.
The fictional part of `IN THE WAKE OF THE BOUNTY' is a brief, piecemeal rendition of the typical Bounty saga; resplendent with over-acting, ludicrously stereotypical costumes and substandard directing. It adds nothing to the arcane mystique and unholiness that later versions would impress upon it (particularly Dino De Laurentis's). The scenes used for Tahiti are taken from un-used stock footage with none of the principle actors appearing in them.

What is compelling, however, is the style in which the movie is made: for the film is also a documentary on the current inhabitants of Pitcairn Island, nearly all of whom are descendants of Christian and his fellow mutineers. It is pleasantly filmed and makes for very compelling viewing: the footage painting these in-bred islanders as resourceful, unique, and resilient.

Errol Flynn's performance is subpar (thought the script doesn't give anyone much scope) and certainly gives no impression whatsoever to his international talent, although it was a scant eighteen months after 'BOUNTY that he would achieve his superstardom.

The Barkleys
(1972)

Largely forgotten charmingly mediocre animation series of the 1970s
In Australia, "The Barkleys" was released on CBS-Fox with another show by the same producers "The Houndcats" in 1988. They both became a child hood favorite despite the shoddy animation.

The two shows seem to have been made at roughly the same expense; the animation and script-writing are at about the same level. The Barkley's might be a tiny bit more satirical and intelligent. Most episodes revolve around the pivotal character, Arnie Barkley, the patriachal father of three children - sometimes browbeating, often unrelentingly pedantic and demanding. He maintains a superiority of his well-meaning neighbor Beagle (the Flanders), but is constantly sycophantic towards the owner of the bus company he works for (the Burns).

Not bad, this little comedy. The shoddiness of the overall production is more likely to endear than repulse.

Eureka Stockade
(1949)

Banded entrepreneurs or Proto-Unionists?
** Warning: Contains Some Spoilers **

EUREKA STOCKADE is one of the few antipodean 'Westerns' made by Ealing Studios in Australia during the mid to late forties.

Peter Lalor, a recent Irish emigre to Australia, is attracted to the Victoria Goldfields of 1854 and comes to identify with the hopes and aspirations of the diggers. He is equally appalled at the apparent misgovernance and corruption of police and judicial authorities on the diggings and is particularly incensed at the exploitive prices of a mining licenses ("we are men, not serfs"). Reacting to such grievances, he helps form the Ballarat Reform League with the intention of opening up dialogue between the miners and the newly appointed Governor Hotham.

Lalor is reluctant to lead anyone but is thrust popularly into such a position by the diggers themselves. The movie moves along at a nice pace and there is some nice photography. At the end of movie, it was pleasing to see some effective direct cutting between the Court trial scene and the amputation of Lalor's arm. Chips Raffetry is mis-cast as Lalor, however. Although he is a great actor, he was no leading man and the most valuable contributions he would make would be as a supporting characters displaying his usual laconical Australian wit. Raffetry's Irish accent is quite bare and he plays Lalor very softly - and supposedly reflectively - with a ludicrously fake beard.

Does the film make light of the historic contradictions of Lalor's personality? Watt's Lalor proclaims his overwhelming desire for citizenship and justice against the administration of His Majesty's law, yet in real-life the Lalor later elected to parliament became a bulwark of Victorian conservatism and property holding. For while he later became a Statesmen of Victoria, he was not perpetually emancipating the downtrodden and oppressed as his leadership in 1854 would seem to suggest.

There are some brief scenes in the movie where Lalor is painted as a sage like hero, not an inciter or rebel rouser but simply translating the basic hopes of the diggers to the authorities. Watt paints his Lalor as aloof and separate from the miners (we rarely see him involved in any mining of his own), yet an elusive noble hero. EUREKA STOCKADE merely confirms the story of the Lalor we know in myth and doesn't add any dimensions or depth to the figure unduly and perhaps undeservingly preeminent in colonial folklore. The movie is quite lyrical however and is certainly an enjoyable watch.

In the end, concessions are granted to the miners and free settlers of the 'new' colony, most notably the extension of self-government in less than a year after the events depicted in the movie. The insurrection at the stockade is generally characterized as one of the few substantial rebellious uprising in Australia's short history and would later become subsumed in the rhetoric of Republican movement. In the immediate years following Eureka, the whole affair was come to be seen as manifestly un-British and decidingly embarrassing; an unfortunate incident led by ungrateful colonists against a more than generous motherland.

Heritage
(1935)

Not one of Chauvel's greatest by any means
With the blurb of the National Film and Sound Archive copy proclaiming it as an exploration of "one hundred and fifty years of Australian history through the national myths of the visionary, the pioneer and the national builder...", I was expecting a "How The West was Won" type expose on the opening of Australia but was thoroughly disappointed. Most importantly it failed dramatically to captivate any narrative interest.

As pointed out in the earlier review, the stock-footage from World War One, the 1920s and 1930s beginning the third act of the movie came as an interesting historical aside. It was lovely to see a pan of Princes Bridge and St. Pauls Cathedral in Melbourne circa 1930 anyway. The brief historical re-enactment at the start of the film of the Port Jackson settlement of First Fleet times was quite captivating.

The main players - especially Frank Harvey - perform dismally and are overshadowed by slightly more polished co-stars.

Moving Out
(1983)

Somewhat touching
I enjoyed watching this movie and was surprised at how good Vince Colosimo was. Upon subsequent contemplation, I realized that he's generally good in all the roles he has undertaken (though not so the actual movies). This is a good vehicle to see him at his early best.

Without the flash and almost vulgarity of STREET HERO, this movie manages to achieve a certain home-spun charm as it deals with the trials and tribulations of an Italian born teenager (Gino) of a migrant family in Melbourne. His parents still speak their own language, cling desperately to their cultural identity and refuse to fully emerge as Australians - this he disparages in much the same way as Nino Culotta does in the final pages of his novel THEY'RE A WEIRD MOB (1957). This is then confounded by the arrival of relatives from the old country which sparks even more old-country celebration.

I found this movie fairly enjoyable to watch and felt it had a valid point (or meant to have one) in the pressure on migrant families to conform to Australian cultural norms. It did not really, however, seem to show overt or patent persecution of Gino's family or Gino's own heritage which made Gino's quest more one of self-improvement. Maybe the point is that feeling alienated and outcast is similarly felt and occasioned by the subtlety of society and vague impressions given by the those in authority. Watch it for yourself to decide.

The movie is technically quite proficient, though it remains for the viewer to decide whether it is a certified Australian classic. I think not.

The F.J. Holden
(1977)

Quite Dreary
I think we've all seen movies like this. "The F.J Holden" sees two suburban adolescents - Kevin and Bob - on their way to becoming adults. They spend their days working unpromisingly in wrecking yards with older greasers. When they don't work they prowl the streets for girls and spend their spare time "hotting up" old cars. Filmed on 16mm in Sydney's West, the low-budgeting of the movie certainly does it few favors. I suppose it is designed to be a social or class commentary on the youth of Australia, but the narrative and direction does little to sustain much interest.

Eliza Fraser
(1976)

A cracker, a piss-take
I'm just a sucker for this type of Australian comedy romp. ELISA FRASER follows somewhat in the path established by ALVIN PURPLE, THE GREAT MACARTHY and later PACIFIC BANANA, this time transporting the story to early colonial times.

A priggish and portentous sea captain played humorously by Noel Ferrier and his young wife - Susannah York - are shipwrecked on an island with their crew. They are later captured by Aborigines while their mutinous crew deteriorate into savages. One convict and Military officer on the nearby penal settlement both vie for the Captain's wife's attentions. The plot moves on comedically at a Swiftan pace and is quite enjoyable.

This movie is also an all-star cast of Australian actors and every player - admittingly given the script's content - churns out a great performance.

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