Episode 43: Other Halves (1984)

In our final episode of 2017 we watch Other Halves, a “dangerous love story” from novelist Sue McCauley and director John Laing. With McCauley adapting her own story for the screen and Laing having proved his directing chops with Beyond Reasonable Doubt, Other Halves looks like it has all the ingredients for a successful drama but commercial compromises threaten to send it off the rails. Hayden and L.J. sit down to discuss a movie that turns out to be more bizarre than either of them could have expected.

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Director: John Laing
Producers: Tom Finlayson, Dean Hill
Screenplay: Sue McCauley, adapted from her novel Other Halves
Director of photography: Leon Narbey
Editor: Harley Oliver
Music: Don McGlashan

Cast:
Liz…Lisa Harrow
Tug…Mark Pilisi
Michael…Fraser Stephen-Smith
Ken…Paul Gittins
Aileen…Clare Clifford
Tony…Temuera Morrison

Notes:

    • Other Halves is not the easiest film to see, having never been released on any digital format. If you live in New Zealand you can rent a VHS copy from the indispensable Aro Video (they offer a home delivery service). Otherwise your best bet is scouring auction sites for second-hand copies – the most likely source is probably Australia.
    • The Auckland Metro article cited in this episode is from the February 1985 issue. Here’s a telling excerpt we didn’t have time to discuss in the podcast: “The police didn’t believe it was legitimate that the kids were being driven around in a Honda Accord by Pat Hammond. In the end they had to be given a letter saying they were employed by a company making a feature film and that they would be in costume, around town, at all hours, day and night. It was like having a leave pass. They were young, black and in a smart car, stoppable, a target for suspicion.”
    • John Laing’s ScreenTalk interview offers some good insights into how he approached the production, and how he feels about the end result.
    • Think the production design in Other Halves can’t be as ridiculous as we make it sound? See for yourself:
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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.

Episode 41: American Horror/Thriller Halloween Special

In this special episode of Never Repeats we’re watching three horror/thriller films that were shot in New Zealand during the ’80s but aimed squarely at the American market. None of these are films we’d normally cover on this podcast, but we found an excuse to talk about them anyway! First up is Dead Kids, a tale of gruesome murders and shocking experiments in a small American town; next is Mesmerized, in which a young woman’s unhappy marriage descends into hypnotism and murder; then comes Restless, about a bored, rich socialite who falls in love with the wrong man. We discuss horror conventions, bad accents, bonkers plot twists, and the perils of writing fiction with an historical setting.

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Episode 40: Came A Hot Friday (1984)

Arriba! When two hapless con artists attempt to run a horse-racing scam in the small provicial town of Tainuia they end up in far more trouble than they bargained for. A fast-paced and raucous comedy, Ian Mune’s Came A Hot Friday brings another Ronald Hugh Morrieson story to the screen with style and creates one of the most indelible New Zealand movie characters in the process. Hayden and L.J. hold back their giggling long enough to talk about the craft behind the film’s comedic set-pieces, the way the adaptation streamlines (and sanitises) Morrieson’s novel, and Billy T. James’ iconic performance as The Tainuia Kid.

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Director: Ian Mune
Producer: Larry Parr
Screenplay: Dean Parker, Ian Mune from the novel by Ronald Hugh Morrieson
Director of photography: Alun Bollinger
Editor: Ken Zemke
Composer: Steven McCurdy

Cast:
Wes Pennington…
Peter Bland
Cyril Kidman…Philip Gordon
The Tainuia Kid…Billy T. James
Don Jackson…Michael Lawrence
Sel Bishop…Marshall Napier
Norm Cray…Don Selwyn

Notes:

  • The best way to watch Came A Hot Friday these days is through NZ Film On Demand. The only good DVD release is now OOP, but shouldn’t be too difficult to find from second-hand sources. NZ Videos has more info about the various ways to obtain the film.
  • Morrieson’s novel has been reprinted numerous times and copies aren’t hard to come by. There should be a copy at a library near you, and second-hand bookstores and book fairs are always a safe bet. Failing that, new copies of the Popular Penguins reprint from 2010 can be found at various online retailers.
  • There are some lovely details about the film’s production and reception in this article from NZ On Screen.

Episode 39: Second Time Lucky (1984)

Do you enjoy puerile comedy, gratuitous nudity, and forced sentimentality? Oh boy do we have a film for you! When the Devil makes a bet with God that humanity would once again fall from grace if given a second chance, two college students find themselves propelled through history in the ultimate contest of Good vs. Evil. Designed to ride a wave of raunchy (and profitable) comedies produced in North America in the early ’80s, Second Time Lucky imports an experienced British director and young American lead actors, and attempts to recreate the Garden of Eden near Thames.

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Director: Michael Anderson
Producer: Antony Ginnane
Screenplay: Ross Dimsey, Howard Grigsby, David Sigmund
Director of photography: John McLean
Editor: Tony Paterson

Cast:
Eve…
Diane Franklin
Adam…Roger Wilson
Gabriel…Jon Gadsby
God…Robert Morley
The Devil…Robert Helpmann

Notes:

  • Second Time Lucky isn’t a particularly difficult film to get your hands on, having received DVD releases in America and Europe. At the time of writing, the UK DVD is fairly cheap and available from stores like Amazon. The entire film is also up on Youtube. We won’t link to it directly, but a quick search should be all you need to find it.
  • The brief shots of Robert Helpmann in this reissue trailer for The Tales of Hoffmann give some impression of his striking screen presence. Looking back, the similarities between his appearances in Hoffmann and Second Time Lucky are far more pronounced than the brief comparison in the podcast would indicate.
  • Director Michael Anderson really did have a strange career, encompassing both beloved war movie The Dam Busters and the much-maligned Jaws rip-off Orca: The Killer Whale.
  • The writing credits for Second Time Lucky are a bit confusing. The print we viewed includes a “Story by David Sigmund and Ross Dimsey” credit during the opening scene, along with “Additional Screenplay Material by Ron Challoner and Allan Byrns” at the very end of the closing credits. However, multiple other sources assign Allan Byrns a “Story by” credit, and at least one other doesn’t give David Sigmund a “Screenplay by” credit.

Episode 38: Death Warmed Up (1984)

What do you get when you mix together brainwashing, gory brain surgery, cryogenics, zombies, and motorbike chases? You get New Zealand’s first horror film¬†Death Warmed Up, a delirious tale of mad science and revenge. Hayden and L.J. dive in to discuss structure, influences, and Bruno Lawrence’s exploding head.

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Director: David Blyth
Producer: Murray Newey
Screenplay: Michael Heath, David Blyth
Director of photography: James Bartle
Editor: David Huggett
Composer: Mark Nicholas

Cast:
Michael Tucker…
Michael Hurst
Sandy…Margaret Umbers
Lucas…William Upjohn
Jeannie…Norelle Scott
Spider…David Letch
Dr. Howell…Gary Day

Notes:

  • The Screenline DVD release is sadly out-of-print, but we recommend tracking down a copy if you want to see the film as it’s the only guaranteed way to see the uncut version. Copies periodically show up on second-hand sites like TradeMe. If you live in New Zealand, it can be rented from Aro Video. Information about other releases is available from NZ Videos, but we can’t vouch for their quality.
  • The interviews with David Blyth and Michael Heath included as an extra on the Screenline DVD can be viewed at NZ On Screen. The wildly OTT trailer is worth a look as well.
  • Death Warmed Up won the Grand Prix at the International Festival of Fantasy & Science Fiction Films, Paris in 1984. The jury that year was headed by Alejandro Jodorowsky.
  • There are a couple of minor errors in the plot synopsis Hayden gives in the episode. He incorrectly states that both Lucas and Jeannie are unaware of Michael’s revenge plans – it is actually only Jeannie who is in the dark. There’s also some confusion over the exact nature of Dr. Howell’s facility – in the film it is briefly referred to as a psychiatric institute.
  • Ant Timpson’s blog contains a nice recollection of his first encounter with Death Warmed Up.
  • If you’re interested in more info on the type of censorship the film suffered in several territories, a list of the Australian cuts is available at the excellent Refused-Classification.com along with some notes from Blyth.

Episode 37: Wild Horses (1984)

There’s no way to sugar-coat it: Wild Horses is an absolute trainwreck of a film. The story of how a man’s dreams of wrangling horses are threatened by evil Government conservationists(?!), it’s a baffling mess on almost every level. Hayden and L.J. break out their tools for an impromptu autopsy in an attempt to figure out how a production with so many talented people involved could go so horribly wrong.

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Director: Derek Morton
Producer: John Barnett
Original Screenplay: Kevin O’Sullivan
Director of photography: Doug Milsome
Editor: Simon Reece

Cast:
Mitch…
Keith Aberdein
Jack…John Bach
Harry…Kevin J. Wilson
Sara…Robyn Gibbes
Sam…Tom Poata
Tyson…Bruno Lawrence

Notes:

  • If you live in New Zealand, Australia, or the UK, you’re lucky enough to be able to rent or buy a lovely restored copy of Wild Horses from NZ Film On Demand. Since the cinematography is one of the only things the film has going for it, we don’t recommend viewing inferior DVD or VHS copies, but if that’s your only option NZ Videos is the place to go for info.
  • This is probably the only chance we’ll have to talk about Derek Morton. As mentioned in the podcast he has a pretty interesting history and it’s worth checking out NZ On Screen’s great biography to get a more detailed overview of his career.
  • If you want to get a sense of how critics reacted to Wild Horses when it was released, here’s a review from Vincent Canby at The New York Times. It’s not exactly complimentary.