Episode 42: Trial Run (1984)

On this episode of Never Repeats we’re joined for the very first time by some guest hosts! Our friends Sarah and Cara drop by to help us discuss Trial Run, a thriller about a photographer menaced by an unseen presence while working at a secluded cottage. We talk about feminism, penguins, and red herrings, and argue about the effectiveness of the film’s bonkers twist ending.

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Director: Melanie Read
Producer: Don Reynolds
Screenplay: Melanie Read
Director of photography: Allen Guilford
Editor: Finola Dwyer
Music: Jan Preston

Cast:
Rosemary Edmonds…Annie Whittle
Frances Hunt…Judith Gibson
James Edmonds…Christopher Broun
Anna Edmonds…Phillipa Mayne
Michael Edmonds…Stephen Tozer
Alan West…Martyn Sanderson

Notes:

  • The New Zealand DVD release of Trial Run is now out-of-print, but can still be found through some retailers and auction sites. The quality isn’t great, but it’s the best available option until the film is restored by the Film Commission.
  • We’ve been a bit confused at times as to whether The Silent One or Trial Run counts as the first NZ fiction feature directed solely by a woman. After a bit more research it seems clear that The Silent One is generally considered the first, while Trial Run is noted as the earliest to have a woman credited as both writer and director.
  • While based in Australia during the late ’70s, Melanie Read was involved in the making of the documentary Witches, Faggots, Dykes, and Poofters – an attempt to document the oppression faced by the increasingly visible queer community in Australia and place it within the context of historical (and overwhelmingly patriarchal) persecution. Made by a lesbian collective named ‘The One-in-Seven Collective’, most participants weren’t credited by their full names, and as such it fails to appear in many filmographies of Read’s work. Incorporating personal interviews and footage of the first Sydney Mardi Gras, Witches sounds like a fascinating and important film, not least because it is informed by a lesbian feminist perspective at a time when most high-profile queer films were being made by men. Unfortunately the film is frustratingly hard to track down, the only available source being a rare Australian VHS release.
  • Although not mentioned in the film’s opening credits, most sources credit Caterina De Nave with helping to develop Trial Run‘s story.
  • In an interview with Broadsheet magazine, Read describes her short film Hooks and Feelers as a literal ‘trial run’ for the later feature and credits it with helping to secure funding from the Film Commission. It can be watched in full at NZ On Screen, though the video quality is rather poor.
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