Giorgio Mangiamele – Clay (1965)

The great unknown masterpiece of mid-century Australian cinema, Clay is unlike anything made in the country before or since. The story of the film is really the sad story of Mangiamele’s career; shown to acclaim at Cannes, no local distributor would show the film, so the director was forced to hire a cinema in Melbourne to screen it himself. There are many influences here, but to me it evokes New Wave cinema from Eastern Europe as much as anything else. Don’t expect great dialogue, or great acting, and there are profound technical issues (the poor sound synch is typical of Mangiamele’s work, but he never had any money for post-production, to the extent that his earlier feature Il Contratto exists only in silent form with no soundtrack at all). Read More »

Michael Laughlin – Strange Behavior AKA Dead Kids (1981)

Back in the 80s, Roger Ebert derisively referred to slashers as “Dead Teenager Movies,” so the title Dead Kids feels like a nice thumb to the eye. Even if it isn’t, it’s still a fucking great title that tells you all you need to know: there be dead kids here (and of course, American distributors got squeamish and renamed it Strange Behavior). An Ozploitation flick by way of New Zealand, Dead Kids is a deceptive entry in the slasher cycle since it merely poses as a typical splatter film before setting off on its own tangents. Per usual, you can’t expect Australians to do anything straightforward. We love them for that, though. Read More »

Peter Weir – The Last Wave (1977)

Nominally a supernatural thriller, Peter Weir’s third feature resonates with the director’s underlying fascination with the collision between the modern, rational world and the primordial mysteries of older belief systems. In The Last Wave, the keys to an enigmatic murder, as well as baffling disturbances in the weather, are gradually revealed to an Australian lawyer (Richard Chamberlain) within the shadowy, nomadic culture of aborigines living in and around Sydney who until now were presumed to be assimilated into its modern–and white–social fabric. Read More »

David Bradbury – Public Enemy Number One (1980)

Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett reported the Vietnam War from the perspective of the North Vietnamese. For this he was reviled as a traitor and a communist in the Australian media. He had been the first journalist into Hiroshima after the atom bomb, and he covered wars in Vietnam, Laos and Kampuchea. Read More »

Stephen Wallace – Stir (1980)

Based on the Bathurst prison riots of 1974, Stir is a convincing account of a brutal jail system and almost unbelievable degree of sadism that infected the warders in their treatment of the prisoners there. Written by Bob Jewson, who was a minimum security inmate at the time, the script presents the prisoner’s point of view without bias but with a great sense of humanity creating well-drawn characters and situations that never fall into the hackneyed or melodramatic. Read More »

Brian Trenchard-Smith – BMX Bandits (1983)

The film follows the exploits of two young BMX experts, P.J. (Angelo D’Angelo) and Goose (James Lugton), and their friend Judy (Nicole Kidman) after stumbling upon a box of police-band walkie talkies. A small group of incompetent bank robbers were hoping to use the walkie talkies to snoop on police traffic and they will now do anything to get them back. Read More »

Tom Jeffrey – The Odd Angry Shot (1979)

In The Odd Angry Shot director Tom Jeffrey provides a cathartic Australian answer to Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter. Australia’s participation in the Vietnam War was as much of an alienating and soul-searching experience for Australians as for Americans, and Jeffrey’s frank portrayal of a group of Australian volunteers casts the war in a different light from the perspective of a Cimino or Oliver Stone. The story concerns a corp of Australian elite soldiers — the Special Air Service troops (the equivalent of the United States’ Special Forces group) — and the elite group’s more pragmatic and hopeful attitudes — whiling away the time in mindless diversions and cracking jokes. Then one of their own is killed and their feelings about the war suddenly change. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi Read More »