Episode 33: An Interview with David Blyth (Part Two)

In the second of a two-part special, Hayden and L.J. sit down with director David Blyth (Angel Mine, Death Warmed Up) for an in-depth discussion of his career. In this episode we talk about his work on ’90s TV shows like White Fang and Fresh-up in the Deep End, his documentaries about BDSM (Bound for Pleasure) and masking (Transfigured Nights), his controversial return to feature film-making with Wound, and his ongoing series of interviews with war veterans Memories of Service.

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Notes:

  • For more information on David Blyth and his films the best resource is probably his website. There are plenty of links to news articles and resources about his most recent work – as well as contact information for the man himself.
  • A number of the works discussed in this episode are available to view at NZ On Screen. These include the war documentaries Our Oldest Soldier and French Connection, and war veteran interview series Memories of Service. Unfortunately The Call Up can no longer be watched in full, but only as a 10 minute excerpt.
  • If you’re looking for copies of Wound or Ghost Bride, your best resource is NZ Videos.
  • Sadly, neither Bound for Pleasure or Transfigured Nights have ever received home video releases, and the streaming service that previously hosted Bound for Pleasure is no longer online. Your best hope of seeing either film is probably to get in touch with David himself.

Episode 32: An Interview with David Blyth (Part One)

In the first of a two-part special, Hayden and L.J. sit down with director David Blyth (Angel Mine, Death Warmed Up) for an in-depth discussion of his career. In this episode we talk about the making of his controversial first feature Angel Mine, working on the TV soap Close to Home, getting A Woman of Good Character off the ground, meeting Alejandro Jodorowsky, being fired from The Horror Show, directing on the first season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and much, much more.

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Notes:

  • Something we completely forgot to mention in our intro is that the other voice you hear popping in from time to time is Michael Heath, who wrote Death Warmed Up and Moonrise.
  • For more information on David Blyth and his films the best resource is probably his website. There are plenty of links to news articles and resources about his most recent work – as well as contact information for the man himself.
  • David’s work can be frustratingly difficult to track down, with some films unavailable on DVD, some only available from various international sources, and some not on home video at all. For Angel Mine and A Woman of Good Character you can refer to the notes for our podcast episodes about them. For the rest of his NZ-shot films there’s information available at the always reliable NZ Videos website. When it comes to everything else, your best bet is to check out Amazon and eBay.

Episode 31: It’s Lizzie To Those Close (1983)

The second feature (sort of) from director David Blyth is a marked departure from his debut Angel Mine – swapping suburban Auckland ennui for madness and isolation on a mid-1800s Canterbury sheep farm. The tale of a young English woman (Sarah Peirse) who takes up a servant position in rural New Zealand, It’s Lizzie To Those Close was originally shot and screened as a television drama under the name A Woman Of Good Character, until producer Grahame McLean decided to expand it to feature-length several years later. Hayden and L.J. sit down to dissect both versions of the film and discuss how seemingly minor changes can completely alter the tone of a work.

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Director: David Blyth
Producer: Grahame McLean
Screenplay: Elizabeth Gowans
Director of photography: John Earnshaw
Editor: Jamie Selkirk

Cast:
Lizzie…Sarah Peirse
Reginald Bowen Jnr…Jeremy Stephens
Reginald Bowen Snr…Derek Hardwick
Younger son…Bruno Lawrence
Stock buyer…Ian Watkin
Reverend…Martyn Sanderson

Notes:

  • Unfortunately only the extended version of the film, under the title It’s Lizzie To Those Close, is easily available to view through NZ On Screen. In our opinion it completely undermines all the qualities that made Blyth’s original cut so interesting, and should only be viewed as a curiosity. However, since A Woman of Good Character is only available through Ngā Taonga’s medianet resource, it may be the only option available for many people.
  • Sarah Peirse won a Best Actress Feltex award in 1982 for her performance as Lizzie. The Feltex Awards were the annual celebration of New Zealand television from 1970-1985. The name came from their sponsor – local carpet manufacturer Feltex.
  • Anyone looking to acquire Elizabeth Gowans’ novelisation of A Woman of Good Character should not confuse it with Charlotte Macdonald’s non-fiction study of the same title. Though, given Macdonald’s book covers the same subject matter from a historical perspective, it may be of equal interest. It’s available as an e-book from the website of publisher Bridget Williams Books.
  • Since the credits of It’s Lizzie To Those Close contain no character names, those listed above have been taken from ‘New Zealand Film 1912-1996’ by Helen Martin and Sam Edwards.

Episode 30: Savage Islands (1983)

Racism ho! Ever the gluttons for punishment, Hayden and L.J. sit down to watch big-budget pirate epic Savage Islands, an attempt to turn the story of real-life slaver and rapist Bully Hayes into an Indiana Jones-style adventure romp. What could possibly go wrong?

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Director: Ferdinand Fairfax
Producers: Lloyd Phillips, Rob Whitehouse
Screenplay: John Hughes, David Odell
Director of photography: Tony Imi
Editor: John Shirley
Music: Trevor Jones

Notes:

  • Savage Islands is most commonly available under the title Nate & Hayes. A Region 1 DVD release under that title is currently out-of-print, but can be found second-hand quite easily. A Region 2 DVD from Norway under the Savage Islands title is available from a number of sources, including Amazon UK. The film is also available as an HD download from several sources, including Amazon and iTunes, though region restrictions may apply. More info on all this can be found at NZ Videos.

Episode 29: Strata (1983)

High on a volcanic plateau, a writer is interviewing a volcanologist in order to write a biography. In the valley below, a mis-matched group of travellers (recently escaped from quarantine) attempt to reach civilisation. These are the two strands that intertwine to make Strata, Geoff Steven’s 1983 follow-up to Skin Deep. A bold attempt to emulate some of the qualities of Eastern European cinema, will Strata turn out to be as much of a hidden gem as Steven’s earlier work?

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Director: Geoff Steven
Producer: John Maynard
Screenplay: Ester Krumbachová, Geoff Steven, Michael Havas
Director of photography: Leon Narbey
Editor: David Coulson
Music: Mike Nock

Notes:

  • Strata is not an easy film to get your hands on. We can’t find any record of an official home video release anywhere in the world. Aro Video has a VHS copy available for rent, which they appear to have sourced directly from the Film Commission.
  • Apologies for the poor quality of the film clips used in this episode. They were distractingly noisy, and required severe noise reduction to be listenable.

Episode 28: Patu! (1983)\Bastion Point: Day 507 (1980)

The 1981 Springbok rugby tour is one of the defining moments of recent New Zealand history, and Merata Mita’s Patu!, a document of the anti-tour protests, is a crucial snapshot of that moment. Hayden and L.J. look back at one of the great New Zealand documentaries and discuss technique, impact, and controversy. And to make it a Merata Mita double-feature they also watch Bastion Point: Day 507, an early short she co-directed with Gerd Pohlmann and Leon Narbey about the forced eviction of occupying protesters at Bastion Point in Auckland.

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Director and producer: Merata Mita
Co-ordinators: Gaylene Preston, Gerd Pohlmann, Martyn Sanderson
Photography: Barry Harbet
Additional photography: W. Attewell, C. Barrett, A. Barry, J. Bartle, A. Bollinger, P. Carvell, R. Donaldson, M. Fingel, E. Frizzell, C. Ghent, A. Guilford, R. Long, L. Narbey, R. Prosser, M. Single
Editor: Annie Collins
Music: Diatribe, Tia Kingi
Additional music: Syd Melbourne, Haruru Mai

Notes:

  • The easiest way to see Patu! is to stream it at NZ On Screen. A DVD is available from Filmshop, though we are unable to vouch for its quality. As for Bastion Point: Day 507, check out this list of Medianet access points around New Zealand.
  • NZ On Screen also has a short excerpt from an episode of Maori Television’s doco series Kete Aronui about Merata Mita, focusing on her experience making Bastion Point.
  • The history behind the 1981 tour proved too wide-ranging and complex to summarise in this episode. There’s plenty of information out there online (including a good concise summary at the NZHistory website) – for a deeper dive Hayden recommends Geoff Chapple’s book ‘1981: The Tour’ if you can track it down.
  • Bastion Point was restored by Ngā Taonga in 2016. This article about the restoration and subsequent screening at Ōrākei marae has a couple of short clips of the restored version.
  • If you want to know more about Merata Mita (and you do), the best starting point is probably her NZ On Screen biography.
  • Merata Mita’s influence in the medium of film extended far beyond New Zealand. From 2000-2009 she was an advisor and artistic director of the Sundance Institute NativeLab, and in 2016 the Institute announced the Merata Mita Fellowship. Ngā Taonga’s blog has an entry by Heperi Mita about his trip to represent his mother at the announcement ceremony.
  • The Wellywood Woman blog has a beautiful eulogy for Merata Mita that explores what an important figure she is in New Zealand cinema. Essential reading.

Episode 27: War Years (1983)

As an excuse to talk a bit more about the National Film Unit, Hayden and L.J. take a look at War Years – a 1983 documentary composed almost exclusively of NFU newsreel footage.

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Director: Pat McGuire
Producer: Hugh Macdonald
Producer (original footage): Stanhope Andrews
Editor: Chris Lancaster
Film Archivist: Clive Sowry

Notes:

  • War Years is a fairly easy film to see these days thanks to NZ On Screen. It’s also available to rent on VHS from Aro Video, though we can’t confirm that it was ever commercially available.
  • If you’re interested in the original Weekly Review newsreels, a selection are available to watch at NZ On Screen. Two specific ones mentioned in the podcast are Wheat Problem 1948, and the very first NFU film Country Lads.
  • 2016 marked the 75th anniversary of the National Film Unit, and Radio New Zealand put together a superb piece to commemorate the occasion. If you want to know more background details about the Unit and those who worked there it should be your first stop.