Episode 17: The Scarecrow (1982)

Ronald Hugh Morrieson’s ‘The Scarecrow’ has one of the most memorable opening lines in NZ literature, setting a tone that could prove difficult to translate from page to screen. Never Repeats takes a gander at Sam Pillsbury’s 1982 film adaptation and discusses the production, how the film holds up, and whether it manages to capture the gothic, darkly humourous tone of Morrieson’s writing.

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Director: Sam Pillsbury
Producer: Rob Whitehouse
Screenplay: Michael Heath, Sam Pillsbury
Director of Photography: James Bartle
Editor: Ian John

Cast:
Ned…
Jonathan Smith
Prudence…Tracy Mann
Les…Daniel McLaren
Salter…John Carradine
Uncle Athol…Bruce Allpress
Constable Len Ramsbottom…Philip Holder
Narration (adult Ned)…Martyn Sanderson

Notes:

  • As we mention in the episode, the quality of the local DVD release of The Scarecrow is pretty poor, but still watchable. It can be purchased from Aro Video. The ever-reliable NZ Videos has more info on that release, as well as a Spanish DVD that came out about a decade ago. We can’t comment on the quality of that one, but it probably can’t be any worse.
  • If you want more information on Ronald Hugh Morrieson the biography available at Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand is a good place to start. If you want to read his work, ‘The Scarecrow’ was reprinted as recently as 2012 and should be easily available to buy or borrow. The rest should be accessible through your local library.
  • There’s a great Sam Pillsbury interview from 1982 available at the Art New Zealand website. Well worth a read.
  • The film was re-titled as Klynham Summer for its release in the United States. It’s possible this was to avoid any confusion with 1973’s Scarecrow, starring Al Pacino, but the new title is so awfully generic it couldn’t have done the film any favours.
  • John Carradine really did have a hell of a career – his IMDb page lists a grand total of 351 acting credits. Sadly, around the time The Scarecrow was made he was mostly appearing in cheap trash like Vampire Hookers and Evils of the Night.
  • It was around the time we recorded this episode that our recording interface started dying on us. As a result, the sound quality isn’t as good as we’d like it to be. Hayden has solidly scrubbed the surface noise out of all the quieter moments, but it still crops up sometimes when we’re talking.
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