Thursday, May 27, 2010

John D. Lamond interview 2002

John Lamond at his computer, in front of a slide for his infamous "Mondo" film Australia After Dark (1974)

8pm Friday 4th June 2010 – Trash Video’s Grindhouse 101 presents


Tribal Theatre, 346 George St, Brisbane

The King of Ozploitation presents his two favourite films, the salacious Felicity (1978) and the mondo shockumentary Australia After Dark (1974), and gives a detailed expose of his career as sleazemonger supremo during a detailed Q&A with Trash Video's Andrew Leavold.

Tickets $15, both films rated R (18+).


Phone interview with Andrew Leavold, early 2002

(tape starts mid-conversation about the Australian film industry)

John: They sort of refer to sexy films as hanky panky…

Andrew: Oh my God!

Yes, I did. Voluntarily. They said, oh, I suppose you have to have that for the box office. I said, no – I want it.

“As a filmmaker, I demand it!”

They always look for some sort of subversive thing. That you’ve been made to do it by a distributor – in fact, the distributors left to try and hold me back. That’s the real incident. I love it too. You know when people say – I used to have a double answer. I did an interview with Playboy once – the Playboy girl, I mean the woman interviewer from Playboy, said, “I suppose that with all those lights and things on the set that doing nudity is not at all sexy.” And I’m saying, “Don’t you believe it!” If on the other hand they say, “Gee, it must be pretty sexy making those films,” I say, “Nah, with all those hot lights and the crew…” (laughs) You always go against it. I remember Graham Blundall once, when they were touring Australia with Alvin Purple. At about the umpteenth woman journalist saying, “You don’t have any sex with any of the people in this film, do you, really?” “Yeah, I fuck them all.” “I can’t put that in!” And he said, “Well – don’t!” Because he got so tired of them saying, did you get a fat or anything. He got devilish after a while – I did too. I used to love it.

I could imagine it would have been a bit of a subversive act, being a filmmaker that made adult films and horror films, back in the Australia of the 1970s. You would have been a bit of a pariah.

Before I did Australia After Dark, I promoted an American film called Dynamite Chicken.

With Richard Pryor?

You remember that? Well I hired the Palais Theatre in Melbourne and stuck the film in there. The ads were bad in America, so I got a beautiful Danish model in Melbourne, stuck her in a nun’s habit and bared her legs. I did a sort of rendition of that famous nun poster that they had in America, like a nun flashing herself.

Yeah, yeah!

And Don Chipp, who was Minister for Customs, got outraged and banned the ad, said I upset the Catholic Church, I upset Billy McMahon... Don Chipp got up at the Queensland Exhibitors Convention and said, “He’s a blot on the good name of film exhibition and distribution!” I though, geez, I’ll never work again. And Alan Finney, who I didn’t know at that stage, met me at a dinner. And he said, ahh, you’re the guy that’s in all the trouble. It was front page in the papers, you know. I get out of the plane in Brisbane and the newspaper headline said FILM MAN ANGERS CHIPP. And I said, “Oh, someone else” – and it was me again! And I thought Jesus, I’ll never work in this town again. And Alan Finney from Village Roadshow said, “We saw your – ah – publicity.” And I said, “Oh yeah?” Dived in. “You wouldn’t like to do the same thing for us on A Clockwork Orange would you?” (laughs) And they sent me around the country promoting Clockwork Orange. They knew I could get publicity. I used to be Wonder Boy in those days. The minute you could upset the film censors about anything – Midge Pinnington was one of the film censors. I continually upset her, with ABC Of Love And Sex ads. Australia After Dark, because they’d have women writhing in sexy underwear and all that sort of thing, in the trailer. And they’d come in balls and all. If you wanted to get any publicity, you’d put something in the ad that they’d object to, and then act like a hurt child. Ring up Truth, ring up the Mirror, the Sun, and say they’d attacked your artistic integrity! You know, when I made Pacific Banana, some woman parliamentarian in South Australia – because the South Australian Film Corporation were in it – said, “Oh, the pornographer! We’re in bed with a pornographer! Outrageous! The people who made Storm Boy are in bed with a pornographer!” So I said, “Step out of Parliament and I’ll sue ya!” Because they never do anything. But I used to thrive on that. Because you could get them every time. TV, radio, press – in the end, you’d be fending it off. But when you’re a success in your area and offend their delicate sensibilities – well, they tend to get you onto the blacklist of evil bastards. Part of some leftwing conspiracy to denigrate the country…

To corrupt the morals...

…capitalist, corrupt, an agent – you name it. I think I was on the front of Truth more times than the racehorses. Shocking, isn’t it?

Did you find yourself without work after Pacific Banana?

Ah no, not really. The thing is, in chronological order, I did Australia After Dark (1974), ABC Of Love And Sex (1978), Felicity (1979), Pacific Banana (released 1981), Nightmares (1980), Breakfast In Paris (1982), a couple of other small ones. And then I ended up doing Sky Pirates in Australia in 1983, ’84. And that wasn’t sexy at all. So they didn’t know how to handle that. Then I nipped off to Hong Kong and Thailand and made some more stuff. Did a kung fu film called The Sword Of Bushido (1989) with Richard Norton. I produced that and Adrian Carr directed it. I spoke to him, he emailed me the other day, he lives in LA now. He was the editor on Phar Lap and The Man From Snowy River and that sort of thing. But I didn’t make, I didn’t make a film in Australia after 1984.

When I spoke to Ross Dimsey the other day, he said he didn’t know that you were in Singapore. And when I told him that I thought you were making martial arts movies in the Far East, he said, “Well, I think that’s where John always wanted to be.”

I love the Far East. Have you ever been here?

Oh, as a kid. I used to go across every couple of years, spend a bit of time in Hong Kong and Singapore, Bangkok.

I love Bangkok, love Hong Kong, love Nepal… I love Japan. The Far East is exciting, and then of course there’s no unions, there’s no tax problem, you can work whenever you like. People have fun, it’s exotic. It’s hard to make St Kilda Road look exotic in Melbourne! Doesn’t lend itself to a kind of gloss, does it?

So I suppose going across to Hong Kong to make Felicity, that must have been a bit of a dream come true.

Well, it actually was in more ways than one. Because when I was fourteen – do you remember The World Of Suzie Wong? I loved that film, and I loved the work of the director, Richard Quine, who used to do a lot of old stuff in the fifties with Judy Holliday. He directed World Of Suzie Wong. And I fell in love with Nancy Kwan, who was the lead. She’s now in a – I actually ended up getting to meet Richard Quine. Subsequently, the silly bugger committed suicide about a year after I met him. Not for that reason I might add. I had lunch with him in Hollywood. I saw Nancy Kwan after that, and we kept in touch, and I said, “We’ll have to have dinner when we go over there. You look fantastic.” She’s in E.R. sometimes now, on TV. And The Joy Luck Club, films like that.

Yeah, I know she was on TV advertising a pearl skincream.

Byron Kennedy, my late friend who did Mad Max, the producer, him and I went over to Hong Kong in ’73 on a world trip, and I thought, “I’ve got to make a film here, it’s wonderful.” So I put together the money for Felicity. Went back there in ’77, I think, after I’d made the first few films. That was a joy, because we found all the locations there. We came back to Melbourne, and hired the studio where they were about to do Prisoner, in Nundawading. We brought the lead actor there, cut together a beaut little film. That was absolute fun, you know.

The thing that really strikes me about Felicity – well, there’s two things. For one thing, the film is beautifully shot. I mean, the cinematography is absolutely gorgeous. And the other thing is, you really notice that the film hasn’t dated that much, because it’s not so saturated in seventies fashion. And it’s such a classic story as well.

You are right about the cinematography. I was thinking just the other day, gee I hope we can get a print of this on DVD. Apart from the fact there are a few mistakes in Hong Kong, and she lands in a 707 rather than a Jumbo – this doesn’t matter at the time. Hong Kong’s wonderful at night. You’re right, it doesn’t actually date that much. If you went out and did the same story today, it’d probably look much the same. We’d use the trams, the can-fan, the ferry, neon signs – it’s still the same city.

You said on the phone the other day that you were trying to make a beautiful soft core film, like Emmanuelle.

Well yeah. I loved the Emmanuelle films. There are two great loves of my life, filmwise – the Orient, and France. Go to France, there’s beautiful food, lovely culture, art, paintings, and I love the music in France. I also love the fact that they’re able to do – when people were doing what were called pornographic films, the French have always been able to make their films NOT be pornographic, they’d be erotic. They were classy – the most they could ever say was ‘softcore’. And the way they did it, they made pretty images that looked like a Singapore Airlines TV commercial, they had nice fashion, good photography and nice music. And that way it dresses it up and makes it all chocolate boxy. Because they did it with The Story Of O and they did it with the first Emmanuelle, which was partially in Bangkok. The second one which was in Hong Kong. And we’d been influenced by those films. We’d seen some of the other films that were made around that time. There was a similar film called Bonenza – it was German. But it didn’t have the same classiness. I thought, if I can be influenced by the French filmmakers, like Just Jaeckin who did the Emmanuelle ones and Story Of O. And they look good. I thought okay, the way to do that on a film budget is to go somewhere exotic. Make sure the people are pretty and they don’t have pimples. Don’t be sordid in any way, have pretty music and exotic locations, nice lighting and nice fashion. So even though it was a tiny film, we came up to Hong Kong and we got all the clothes tailor made for them, so that they fitted properly. We had a little art director in Melbourne do the sets so that we had them just right, everything looked just perfect. In most sexy films, even overseas ones, essentially they’re low budget. And they’re treated badly – they get crappy art direction, they just get in a room, turn on all the lights and they do it. We thought, well no – I even drew little storyboards, where I went, when we do the massage parlour I want to do this, I want to accentuate this, and have lots of scenes. And always colour! Gary Wabshot, who’s a very good cinematographer, was interested in light sources – whether to have little fairy lights on the wall and so on. Each scene in Felicity had a source of lights, we’d play with light and colour. But it didn’t look like the sets were fake. Even one of the Film Commission women said to me one day, “It doesn’t look like this was done in a studio.” I said, “Well, that’s the idea. It’s all meant to be Hong Kong.” I mean, you can probably pick which parts were studio. But we built the massage parlours, we built hotel rooms. They’re all back in Melbourne but nobody knows. When she’s picked up in the Mercedes at the airport, goes through Hong Kong on a ride – that’s an identical Mercedes with a Hong Kong licence plate on it. All the other shots that are in Hong Kong – we just got our Mercedes, put another Chinese student in a cap, bromided the number plate in Hong Kong and brought it back to Melbourne.


And I found out later that’s what they do on REAL films! Keep it simple – I think we did because we had over a year to put together the money. It was a labour of love, and it was a tiny budget. At the time, we thought, tiny for everybody else, but not for us. In fact, it’s harder to make a low budget film – you’ve got to make the money thin out. But you do clever tricks. When we were filming the floating restaurant in Hong Kong, they get off the boat, get into this floating restaurant. But when they’re in there, it’s back in the studio in Melbourne. And the art director said, “Which direction do you need to look?” I had to say, this way, not that way, we need a right angle, we need this, two tables, one bowl of rice, two sets of chopsticks, two people here and an extra there. And he’d say, “Oh, that’ll only cost this much.” Whereas a lot of people, when they’re not disciplined, they’ll build the whole Chinese restaurant and then just shoot in the corner. We built what we needed. That way you can spend the money elsewhere. We went out to Hong Hong with high speed night lenses. That was the first time they were used in Hong Kong. And we went with available light. So we didn’t need a lighting truck. Consequently, we didn’t cut streets off or anything, we just wandered off, radio-mic’ed the people, gave them hand signals and filmed them in the real crowd! And if you got the odd person looking into the camera, which they even got in World Of Suzie Wong, you can rationalise it by saying, oh, they’re looking at the pretty girl! Even the big films, even now, done in New York, just in the distance, out of focus, in the background you can see about 75 onlookers all watch. But we didn’t have that problem, because we’d shoot with a small camera, hide behind rubbish bins, shoot with available light. So there you are.

So the fact that you’ve made a classy erotic film, rather than a cheap-looking porno, means that not only can you get away with more, with the censors, but you’re also able to sell the film overseas a lot more easily?

You can, and we did. For example, when we put it up for sale in the Italian market, we had to beat the people away with a stick. The sales agent first of all didn’t want to handle it. She saw the theatre full of people that I had – she said, “I’ll take it.” We had about three or four distributors in Germany vying for it, half a dozen in France, quite a few in Italy. And they treated the film right – because we gave them only the bits we needed. We had nice stills done, and we controlled the advertising, the way it was handled. So it was obvious – someone said to me once, it was kind of ‘Emmanuelle-esque’! And that way, for instance, we ran for three months in Paris with it. And when it went on cable there, it was about the eighth most popular film of the year. And that’s because – it wasn’t thought of as being porn. It wasn’t X-rated, it was R-rated, so a lot of the ‘beautiful people’ would get along to it and feel all right.

So it’s a film with sex in it, rather than a sex film.

That’s right.

And you got away with the British censors too.


The notoriously savage British censors!

Well, Sir James Thurman phoned me and he said {very posh accent} “Mistah Lamond, looked at your film.” And I thought, “It’s someone taking the piss.” And he says, “I’m not going to cut it.” “Very pleased to hear that.” “It’s not sleazy, like the Scandinavian things or some of the other people. Very nicely done. Now – all I need are the birth certificates of the girls to prove they’re over age.” Once I’d realised that he was genuine, I thought – gee, that’s sort of a backhanded compliment in a way! The censor ringing me up from England. Because I thought oh, it’s a friend putting on a voice. Because I didn’t think censors did that. Bit of a film buff, too, you see – and I thought, that’s good stuff. You know, he’s not just saying, “Right, sex film – cut it!” Looking at the way it was handled. I think that’s the way the French did it too. They make something that’s classy. Maybe the censors are mesmerised by the good quality and go, “We can’t cut that.” It’s a lot different to things like Deep Throat – you know, they turn on the lights and everybody screws.

Garish close-ups and things like that.

Casting the extras from McDonalds (laughs) I have to bite my tongue!

Tell me about Glory Annen. How did you get hold of her? She’s pretty much perfect for the role.

She is. And Mike picked her out. Like the casting couch story – you don’t really go there and sleep with the girl and give her the part in the film. What happened was, my wife who had done – we weren’t married then, she’d gone back to the theatre, she knew about acting. I said, “Dianne, I want somebody who can act as well as look good and will do it. We’ve got to find somebody uninhibited.” We went over to England, and I got a casting person to work for us. And we met Koo Stark – remember, Prince Andrew’s girlfriend before she was married.

Yeah. She’d done a couple of sex films around that time, too.

She was good, but I had a feeling… we had breakfast with her one day, and my wife said, “Lovely girl, but will she do it?” She’d been in several films. And we saw a few other people. And then Glory came in. She was Canadian, and I thought, oh no. She’d lived in London for years. She put on a British accent, and I thought, well, she’s got to be sort of a cultured Australian – I thought, there’s no such thing! I said, “Well, will you take your clothes off?” And she said yes, but wouldn’t do it there. I said to her, “When we do it back in Australia and in Hong Kong, there’ll be twenty people in the room. This is my wife here. If you’re not willing to take your clothes off now, you’re not going to feel comfortable in front of a crew.” But she was. So she was happy. She had a lot of proper theatrical acting training. She’d done a film before called Prey (aka Alien Prey), there was some nudity in that too.

That was a thing about alien rapists.

Something like that.

Yeah, I know the one.

I said, “Glory, we want to treat it seriously. We want to take a lot of care and attention. But I don’t want to be hassled. I don’t want you to get out there and start re-negotiating. So if you’re not willing to flash your breasts now, and show pubic hair – I know that you’re not going to do it in the studio. You cannot be coy.” I said, “My wife will be there, but she’s not going to be your guardian angel or anything. She’ll be doing continuity, and there’ll still be blokes around, we can’t keep clearing the set, because we want good lighting, good sound, good makeup. Some of the people will be male. She said, “That’s all right.” Funny thing, when she came out, she took all her clothes off straight away and said to everybody, “Okay, you’ve seen what I look like now,” put her robe back on. From time to time, she’d wander around naked, and she wouldn’t even – I mean, you’d look but you wouldn’t stop and turn because they could see it any time. And she was great, because there was somebody who (a) would do it (b) would look good, and (c) could act. One of the most disastrous things is if you get somebody who gets out there and starts going “Oh, I don’t really want to do it, I don’t want to show my pubic hair, the gaffer is looking at me.” The gaffer just wants to make money and get home, he’s had his look. Now he’s going to plug in the lights. But she was good like that. I suppose she gave me perfectly what I wanted, you know. As I said, an actress who was slim in the body, because you have to get somebody slim because they photograph pounds heavier, someone uninhibited who would do it and enjoy it, but still be a credible actress. It’s quite hard to do, because there’s plenty of good-looking actresses who won’t take their clothes off, and there are also dogs who can act who won’t take their clothes off. Many different combinations, and getting all three is hard.

Did she make any movies after that?

She did little bit parts in Superman and things like that. She still does casting over there, and she does writing and cartoon work. I talked to her last night, actually. She’s a hoot. Still looks good too, because when she made the film, I hate to talk about her age, but she was about 26.

You can sort of tell. That she’s no schoolgirl.

She sort of passed for it for a while though. She still looks so good.

That’s probably another reason why the film travels so well, because everyone in it has their own mid-Pacific accent.

Barry Humphries, in his autobiography, is quoted as saying he doesn’t know why Australian actors – he doesn’t mean this current crop, interesting now that Russell Crowe and Guy Peace and Hugh Jackman, they all perform well overseas – prior to that, when an Australian actor was in a film, they didn’t think they were Australian enough so they used to exaggerate it all. Everything’s a random upwards inflection.

That’s the Neighbours syndrome. It’s a shocker.

I mean, you hear that now in England. Some of the kids in England are developing that sort of accent because of Neighbours! They think we all live like that! ‘Struth’, shocking.

Now, John Michael Howson makes an amusing cameo in a number of your films. He’s not too bad as…

… the pervy gardener and his campy Adrian guy in the clothes and underwear scene.

What compelled you to keep putting John Michael Howson in your movies?

He’s actually a very good writer, he used to write satire for the Ray Taylor Show years ago. At the time, my wife and I were good mates with him because we worked in Roadshow Publicity and he used to be a film buff. And he’d get on and do it, we’d say we need a campish role, or a pervy gardener. And he’d just get up and do it, he’d know his lines, look good, do his showbizzy thing and then buzz off. He always was good value. People knew him in Australia and they didn’t know him overseas, but then overseas they just thought he was good, for what he did.

He was perfect in Nightmares, as the nasty savage queen film critic.

I haven’t seen John Michael for a few years. The last time, we were in LA, because he lives over there. He’s a funny guy. Whenever you put him in a film it was fantastic, because he’d get on all the TV shows and he wouldn’t shut up. A walking publicity machine! Even if he just walked on and smiled for one shot, he’d be a bloody full-boned campaign for you, the Don Lane show, the Bert Newton show, on Derryn Hinch in the morning.

I noticed another thing in Felicity, that you start to recycle some of your images, from ABC Of Love And Sex.

Yeah, that was pure Roger Corman-style economic necessity.

Sitting in the cinema watching ABC Of Love And Sex, but also almost recreating the sex in a lift scene. The bit where Felicity is having sex in an elevator, and they try to beat the 22nd floor?

That’s actually the lift in Roadshow in Melbourne. The theatre was the Tracks Cinema in Melbourne on Toorak Road, which had much better seating than the crummy old cinema in Hong Kong at the time. So they were filmed going into a cinema in Hong Kong, the interior of the theatre was in Melbourne, and they were looking at the sexy stuff done in Sweden in my other film! Miracle of budgeting. You’ve heard of a film being done on a shoestring budget? Well mine was made on a G string budget.

Let’s get back to your background., Before you started working with Tim Burstall and John Murray, what were you up to in the Sixties?

I was a film editor. I started my career in Melbourne at the old Channel O, what is now Channel Ten. In the props department. I was the cheapest person on the staff, lowest paid, youngest person. Then I left and I worked for the various other film companies in Melbourne that used to churn out TV ads. And I worked for places like Ajax Films. Up till 1971 when The Naked Bunyip came out, I always liked the idea of barnstorming around, putting on a show, because at that stage people said Australian films don’t work. And Philip Adams and John Murray hired me to put on The Naked Bunyip. And I saw there was an audience for Australian films, and if you put the right things in a film it could work. So in 1972 I had a choice, either work for Crawford Productions, or I could work freelance doing film publicity for Roadshow. And I took Roadshow because I thought it would give me an insight into the passage a film makes, from when it’s made till when it reaches an audience. So I’d go out to various drive-ins, from Broken Hill to Surfers Paradise, and I’d promote films and see the audience come in. When Alvin Purple came out, I did that for Roadshow. I mean, I didn’t create the campaign, but I’d barnstorm it, and you’d see the audience turn up and like it. I remember standing up at the back of the theatre with Tim Burstall with the first paying audience, at the Hoyts Cinema in Melbourne. Allen Finney, Tim Burstall, Graham Blundall and I stood up, unseen by the audience. And I remember Tim saying “Jesus, is this going to work?” Because people had theories but once you give the audience what it wants, they’ll embrace the local stuff.

And I suppose what I did from that day on, I worked through 1972, ‘73 with Roadshow, and I went around the world with Bryon Kennedy and looked at all the film production and distribution set-ups we could see on a world trip. And I came back busting to make my first film.

So mentally taking notes the whole time.

And for years I collected stories about weird things in Australia. Remember the old film Mondo Cane, about the weird wonderful and way-out things around the world, with a phoney baloney narration? I thought to myself, I could do an Australian one of those. So I thought of the name Australia After Dark. I unashamedly copied the style of Mondo Cane, I borrowed a 16mm print of it and ran it on a closed circuit cinema thing and stopped and started the projector and looked at it. It ran on a sort of cycle – pathos, humour, oddity, nudity. I thought okay, what I need to do is shoot about fifty sequences, cut it into something coherent and pacey, and made it on the same sort of thing. I’d have something sexy, then something odd, then something really way-out, then something light hearted. And always do it tongue in cheek, and not have any sequence in the film run longer than about two minutes. And anything sexy, I’ll make it way-out or pretty. I did that nude underwater stuff, with all the tropical fish. I shot it 16mm with a very tiny crew. And when we were shooting it, Hexagon – who were a Roadshow production company, they put up part of the money – and I shot it in 16mm with the intention of blowing it up for commercial release. When the film was finished, I didn’t like some of the sequences, so I reshot a couple. Then Graham Burke, the head of Roadshow, said a couple of things, “You don’t want to have Aboriginal rock paintings in it,” so I took them out. And then I changed a couple of scenes that had witchcraft, I put witchcraft down near the underwater scenes. Did a final edit on it, blew it up to 35mm, made twenty prints of it. And I remember Terry Jackman, from Birch Carrol and Coyle, he said to me, “Your film’s a pile of shit, but it’ll make a lot of money for us.” He didn’t really mean that, but he DID really make a lot of money from it! And we ran that, and when that worked really well, I wanted to do Felicity. We got off to a false start on that. George Miller was going to originally direct Felicity.


We went to Hong Kong and were preparing it, but it became obvious that we were thinking of going in different directions. He wanted to do Mad Max and I still wanted to do Felicity. So we parted amicably and he went off and made Mad Max! So I made ABC Of Love And Sex in the interim after Australia After Dark, and then Felicity. But all the time in the seventies that I worked at Roadshow, there was an understanding that I’d work in their publicity department. I used to write and produce all their radio and TV commercial spots, I’d make their trailers. Between those times, I’d leave for about eight weeks and go and make my film. Then I’d come back and promote my own film from within. So I had a wonderful experience - guaranteed the release of my films in Australia, retain the overseas rights to my film, and work for Roadshow for my bread and butter. But I couldn’t do that after the first three films, because filmmaking is really fulltime. And I guess I went out on my own from 1977 on. So that’s where I got to. And that was when I made Felicity, in 1977. Scary.

In Australia After Dark, there’s that great Mondo Cane tradition in there of sliding in fake footage.

(mock outrage) NO! You don’t think any of that’s FAKE do you?

Total shocker! I shouldn’t even be suggesting it! (laughs)

You mean the witchcraft sequence?

Well, that springs to mind, yeah.

There was some real witchcraft sequence in there, with a very interesting intelligent Sydney witch named Eddie Beorge.

Could you tell me more about him?

He was a very intelligent man., very interesting to interview. There was some nudity involved in that, with the girl who worked with him. But we wanted to be a bit over the top with the entertainment. We’d heard of a witch cove down in Melbourne in the forest, and we managed to find it, with the help of certain people I knew. Who put on robes. And built props (laughs). And brought in fog machines. And it all happened together, and cutting the two together it looked a bit Hammer Films-ish.

Exactly! You expect the devil to appear on a rock.

I know. Shocking, wasn’t it? I’m still conscience stricken about the whole thing.

It looks like there’s a bit of Swedish footage in there as well.

I don’t think so. You mean the blonde girl in the titles? No, we blew the film up in Sweden. When I made the film in 16mm, at that stage you couldn’t do terrific blow-ups in Australia but it became obvious that my film’s money was going to be made at the drive-in. You need really good 35mm prints. So my cinematographer recommended a studio in Stockholm that did the best blow-ups from 16mm in the world. They did stuff for Ingmar Bergman, a TV series called Scenes From A Marriage, which they cut together and made into a feature film. And it looked fantastic. So I took the 16mm negative over there and blew it up to 35mm and also made the prints. Hence the Swedish thing. And when I do ABC Of Love And Sex, I shot most of that in Australia, but went back to Sweden, used the lab again, but shot a lot of the sexy stuff in Stockholm. So that’s the connection, but there’s no Swedish footage in Australia After Dark. We just blew it up there.

Now, ‘Madame Lash’ seems to make an appearance in quite a few Australian programmes back in the seventies.

She was an intelligent woman too, she was a university graduate, highly intelligent. Just liked whipping people.

Like Germaine Greer, only with a whip!

She was actually good stuff. She put on that Madame Lash thing with the rack and I just filmed it. Since I paid to build the rack…

I’m sure it was well used afterwards, too.

Oh yes.

But I guess you might say it was faked?

Oh no, I’m not saying the Madame Lash stuff was faked. It’s just that Madame Lash seems to have been a bit of a cool celeb back in the early seventies. She’s like the first media star from the S&M scene.

Now, onto The ABC Of Love And Sex: Australia Style. You said that there was about 20 percent Swedish footage in there.

I’m not sure of the actual percentage. What we did, we went over there and filmed real sex, and stuff like this very plain looking woman…

Brigitta Almsron.

From Swedish Sex Research. And it was interesting, because I asked her about women’s orgasm problems, masturbation and that sort of thing. She seemed to delight in telling that stuff.

That’s strange, because that’s probably the most unerotic footage in the movie.

I know, Bridgit didn’t like watching it either! She said orgasms were normal, watching films. Masturbation was normal. I think they were worried about getting pressure for that.

You remember Marilyn Chambers? She and Chuck Traynor came to Australia and I went to Melbourne and Sydney with them to do a video when they were promoting the film Insatiable. I was nearly going to make a film called ‘Marilyn Chambers Makes It Down Under’, but I couldn’t get anyone to finance it.

Oh my god! Insatiable was an absolute blockbuster.

Heavily cut in Australia, I can tell you. I’ve still got an autographed video box of that, with her lips on it. I might auction it off sometime. Her and Chuck Traynor – they were non-smokers, very health conscious. They just screwed with other people. Or she did. They were nice people. One of the biggest clichés is people who make sexy films are weird. My experience is that some are, and some aren’t. Probably in equal ratio to people who don’t make sexy films. I’m one of the nice ones.

People always used to say that Chambers and Traynor had one of those weird Svengali-like relationships, that he had a Svengali type hold over her. Now, back to ABC Of Love And Sex. Did you ever actually release a hardcore version of it? Overseas?

I think it was probably cut just about everywhere at the time. Lots of it, totally cut in Australia. They get into bed and have sex? In the Australian version they’re shaking hands and saying pleased to meet ya. They’d be welded together, but they wouldn’t go up and down. Because it would have been obvious it was real. Which it was. In Sweden I got about six groups turning up in a sex club, lesbians on a bed, all that sort of thing. An it was real. You couldn’t get away with that in Australia at the time. You would have been clapped in irons.

The animated intro is quite amusing too.

That was done by a guy called Alan Osborne. He’s a film buff, a huge collector of film memorabilia. Very good at animation. It took ages to do that, all by hand, stop motion claymation, takes hours and hours. It took as long to shoot as the whole film! I remember waiting on that after the film was finished. It looks good, though, doesn’t it?

It made a great bookend to the film though. All those little blank faces, waiting to be enlightened.

I only wanted to do something different. I used to get fed up with everybody in Australia, who kept wanting to do films that had to be valid, had to be relevant, had to have integrity… And if it was entertaining, well that was all right too. But I’d rather get away and make it entertaining. Cos I didn’t want to keep justifying the content of my films, because the audience likes them, why do I have to justify them to a film critic or a journalist? If you go to Scandinavia, people don’t worry about sex, but violence, they worry about.

You were telling me there was an attitude coming from the film industry in the seventies that if you were using foreign money, and you were successfully selling your films overseas, that you were almost deliberately gearing your films towards an international market, that it was somehow selling out the Australian industry. If you didn’t make films that had a distinctly Australian feel, then you were almost letting the team down.

They did, they had this sort of patriotic thing going on. But I used to answer it like this – when you go and see Dirty Harry, Warners Brothers don’t say, “See this great American movie!” They just say it’s a great film. Obviously the American films are very ‘American’. But even now, Raiders Of The Lost Ark – American and British actors, shot in Tunisia and in an English studio, and finished off in post-production in America. What was it, American, British, what?

Star Wars is another classic example too.

And I remember when I made Felicity (a) with private money, and (b) partly overseas, I remember a clown from one of the film commission bodies saying to me at the time, when I had to get a certificate of origin for the film, “Your film’s obviously not Australian.” I said, “How do you mean?” He said, “Well, it’s Chinese, isn’t it?” It’s like saying Out Of Africa is an African film. Or Lord Of The Rings comes from some strange place that doesn’t exist. How does it get its certificate of origin? It belongs with the filmmakers, the creative people and the money. I said, “Felicity was an Australian production made in Hong Kong with an Australian crew, and a cast from around the world. Not Chinese, not Canadian, not Italian.” But that was the way it was. Especially if you had government money, they’d say the film has to be very, very Australian. Unlike if you make a film in England, they don’t demand it be very, very British. You can trot off and shoot it in Tunisia if you want to. Like The Mummy was made in Morocco with American studio money by an English studio. They haven’t had that nationalistic hang-up the way that they’ve had in Australia. They’re mad about the artistic integrity, and want the films to be very, very Australian, down to its bootstraps. As long as the money comes from local sources. If the money comes from overseas, then they go the other way – “Ah, you’re only engineering it so it works overseas.” Now, Clint Eastwood wouldn’t be accused of engineering his films to work overseas. He’d say, well I come from California, but I don’t just want my films to work in California, I want them to work in Stockholm, in Germany, Italy, France… And Australia used to be very outward looking like that. Then they went the other way, but they HALF-did it. Me, I couldn’t have cared less. Even some of my early films, I’ve always had overseas influence. I’ve done the blow-up overseas, or I’ve filmed a bit of it overseas. I’ve now filmed in Sweden, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Canada, England, Easter Island, Tahiti. I like exotic locations. And I like the film to travel across more than one national boundary. It becomes boring, staying parochial.

They also seem to have had a hang-up that if the film is somehow entertaining , that it can’t be ‘ART’.

That’s right, that’s the other thing. Art versus commerce. See, in the case of Mad Max, it was snuck overseas and sold before it was shown in Australia. And when you do that, when you get it shown overseas and somebody likes it, then they dare not rubbish it. Funny that, isn’t it? I thought most of those hang-ups had gone now. I mean, you can do the other way. With Australia After Dark, I capitalised on the Australian response to Alvin Purple and Stork. With Felicity, the story started in Australia. But it didn’t have a kangaroo, and it didn’t have slouch hats, it wasn’t overtly Australian. It wasn’t anything. Those films become easily saleable, but I didn’t stop and think things like “I won’t show things that are deliberately Australian.” Pacific Banana was very Australian. They just come out a certain way, they’re not really contrived in my case. They cost so little money, nobody ever said to me, you’ve got to do this or you’ve go to do that. I was never even conscious of it. I was only conscious of the audience. But it is a buzz when you go along the Champs Elyses in Paris and see your film running in a theatre there. “Well, somebody must have liked it, in a place other than Melbourne.” But I’d hope those hang-ups would have just about disappeared now, have they?

Which movie comes chronologically after Felicity? Is it Nightmares or Pacific Banana?

Good question. I shot them back to back. I shot Pacific Banana, and then I shot Nightmares. And I edited them virtually together.

Was the script for Pacific Banana there first? Was the script already done before you decided to do the film?

No, the idea was there and I went to the South Australian Film Corporation who unfortunately after the criticisms of me in Parliament about being a pornographer, said they would only be involved with the film if I toned it down and it was sanitised. Which was regrettable.

When I first saw it I think I was about 13 and I saw it on late night TV. I couldn’t believe that Sid James’ son from Bless This House was in an Aussie comedy.

The film was sort of like those British films, the Confessions Of A Window Cleaner or Adventures Of A Taxi Driver, things like that.

It’s almost like that film comes a couple of years too late, because that whole sex comedy cycle was pretty much over by about 1976, 1977.

That’s right, because the second Alvin Purple movie (Alvin Rides Again) was already suffering for not being a novelty.

Pacific Banana was pretty much a deliberate attempt to do another Alvin Purple.

Well, I knew Graham, he was good fun. Helen Hopkins thought of the idea, of ‘Banana Airlines’, and I said, “Let’s go to Tahiti.” And I went there and had a look and we shot some locations in Tahiti. The plane never went there, the plane was only ever in Melbourne.

That old DC-3?

We painted ‘Banana Airlines’ on it, flew to a different airport, we did takeoffs and landings, flew over the bay, getting the sun in the background – which is a hard thing to do in Melbourne – and we integrated it with aerial footage and other footage done in Tahiti. And it worked all right. It was a bit hard to do, because when you go overseas with a low budget, people want to stay in nice places and you can see the money going out the door. Just in overheads. We should have quite frankly gone to do it in Dunk Island or somewhere like that.

But you wanted to do it in Tahiti?

It was part of getting the money, to do it in Tahiti. I said, “I think we could pull the plug on it and do it in Queensland.” They said, “If you do that we’re not going to put up the money.” So I reluctantly went off to Tahiti. On a film, when someone else is meddling, you make a lot of silly compromises. If it had been just my film, I would have said, “Okay, we’ll go to Tahiti, but just for three days. We’ll do the background stuff, and everything else we’ll fake in Queensland. A rock is a rock, a tree is a tree, you know? In Felicity, when she’s walking along the beach at the end, we were shooting that on Land Howe Island. A typhoon struck, and we had to come home to Australia. It was going to rage for five days, it would have blown our budget. So we duplicated the beach house and stuck it on a beach in Victoria and used interiors from the studio as planned. A lot of the exteriors… the woman in the Chinese hat walking past is my wife in Chinese pajamas and a cane hat! Roger Corman stuff, you know? That’s the way to do it.

I suppose by the time you’re making Pacific Banana you must be a master at producing something out of nothing. I mean, you can tell the film is very low budget, but there’s some amazing things you can do.

Because I was a film editor, you learn. Even in Felicity, when she gets out of bed, walks down the hallway and sneaks a look at the other couple making love in the bedroom. Well, chronologically I did her bedroom where she’s awake and gets up, walks out the door and then I did the hallway. That was the first day. Then they repainted her bedroom, redecorated it, and we used her room again as the second bedroom with the lovers in it. So she’s really looking into her own bedroom. And when you do that, you can say, “Right, we need that wall.” So that wall then became the wall for the massage parlour, painted another colour. If you know what you’re doing, you can do that again and again. Even in Sky Pirates, we had five jeeps, and it was the one jeep, painted with different numbers. As long as there weren’t two jeeps in the one shot it was never going to matter. When we did Sky Pirates we had a couple of DC-3s, one which was mainly in camouflage, the other one in another colour. Well, we painted plastic strip-off paint on an old DC-3 from Sydney, we painted one side with camouflage, the other side with the other colour! And the one sinking in the water is actually a six foot model sinking in my swimming pool in Melbourne. That’s the way you do it, otherwise you can go broke.

The thing I think most people remember from Pacific Banana is the song. The song is fantastic.

We did a little animated banana thing for it in the film, it was good. They sat down and wrote it together in a couple of days, and I thought this will be good, and it was, so they recorded it. They were all happy. It’s good when things like that happen.

Cos I know that the film’s got a fanatical following in Australia. I mean, that’s your definition of a cult film right there, a film people will watch over and over again. And the song is the thing that I think gets most people.

I don’t even have a copy of that anymore. Well I’ll be damned.

And the script as well. I mean, it’s pure British sex comedy, absolutely dripping with innuendo. It’s just one after another. The one line that I could not get over is when he’s talking about having sex with Lady Blandings, and he says, “It was like waving your arm in a warm room.”

Shocking! But the audience does like that. I love James Bond films, the old ones are still good. But the Pierce Brosnan one, The World Is Not Enough, has the best line. It’s when Denise Richards says “Somebody’s going to have my arse for that,” and Bond says, “First things first.”

I should have done stuff like Austin Powers years ago. I wanted to do more films with Graham Blundall, something like a Tom Jones thing but do it on Norfolk Island, among the old ruins and make a really bawdy Rum Rebellion movie. But when the second Alvin Purple didn’t work, no-one was interested in it. But I’d still like to make a Woody Allen style neurotic comedy in Australia, because in Australia they don’t make comedies about normal people. Everyday people, you know. I’d like to do a Woody Allen type film about a neurotic guy in Melbourne, working a normal job.

Blundall’s perfect for those sort of roles, too. He’s that kind of "every schmuck".

That’s right. It would be good fun. There’s still plenty of things to do, isn’t there?

Yeah, absolutely.

I used to wag school and see films on sports days. I’d see two films on a Wednesday afternoon ‘cos I hated sport. I got honours and high marks so I didn’t have to worry. And then on Saturday I used to see films at 11, 2, 5 and 8, running from one theatre to the other. I saw everything that ever came out, for years. And then when I worked at Roadshow, we used to see all the films pre-censor. Which was wonderful. You’d pick up a print of Jaws, even though Roadshow didn’t release it, everything would come in and Roadshow would see it. And I’d definitely get involved. All pre-censor, all months before release. People would say, “Oh, I wonder what A Star Is Born will be like?” and I’d say “I saw it three months ago.”

Nightmares is one of the few films in that short lived Aussie horror boom that came just after Patrick.

Nightmares should have been a lot better. We used the Steadicam camera for the first time in Australia on that. It was all right, but it didn’t have any story. The technique was all right. Brian May’s music was great.

I figured that he was taking a lot of cues from Bernhard Hermann.

I am a Bernard Hermann freak, as was Richard Franklin was. He was even more of a freak than me, even has some of the original recordings from the studio. But I love his stuff too. I played it all for Brian May, and said I want that sort of stuff. At that stage, the only people who knew about Bernard Hermann were film buffs and composers. But I loved that sort of stuff.

With Nightmares, I was a bit disappointed. It was dumped by the distributor. No-one tried, nobody did anything. But it should have been better. Because it was a real quickie. I had the chance to make a real quickie, they said if you don’t take the money we’ll give it to somebody else.

So Colin Eggleston put that one together, did he?

Well, actually I did, but he wrote it. And John Michael Howson had the original idea for setting it in the theatre, and I virtually said to myself, “You have six weeks to get a film together. And a few hundred thousand, and if we don’t do it, someone else is going to get the money.” Looking back on it, I wish I had more time and more money.

There’s a great cast – except for the lead.

The girl?

She’s AWFUL.

The girl was a last ditch stand. Because, would you believe, we picked a girl who was Mickey Rourke’s girlfriend at the time. She had a car crash on the way to the airport and had to replace her at the last minute. Pity, for the film. Gary Sweet’s in that, his first film.

Yeah, he’s pretty good in it, too., I see Briony Behets makes a small appearance in it as well.

We shot that in three different theatres in Melbourne. It was interesting. We shot it anamorphic, with the Steadicam.

Have you ever seen the print that Roadshow Video put out?


Suffers badly. It’s so badly cropped. It’s one of the worst pan and scans I’ve ever seen.

They annoy me when they used to do that, because when I was in the country they could have called and said come and do it yourself. I’d often wondered about that. That’s why I want to do the DVD jobs on all my films. If you ever convert that to widescreen, it’s going to work a hell of a lot better than it does. You see half heads, you see action happening off screen… one of the worst pan and scans. And when you said it was done in anamorphic… I mean, it would have looked beautiful in the cinema.

So was it a rushed edit job?

Yeah, pretty well everything was. That was back in the old tax regime. You had to get the money, make the film, be finished by a certain time, you couldn’t take longer.

You can actually tell there are a few sequences towards the end of the film, which just don’t really go anywhere.

The kills are all right, you know when the girl falls off the catwalk. When the girl runs in the rain at the end of the film… I think more attention could have been given to the script. I think the techniques were all right, that walking around the catwalks and the creepy music would have worked had there been a proper script. Had we been more careful on that, it could have been really good. The money was there to do only certain things.

It’s a movie that’s got some great bits in it, but the overall effect is just a little less than that. There’s the whole red flashing light from the police car, that red flashing light proceeding any of the knife attacks. That’s great stuff. Then you chuck Brian May’s music on the top of it, and it really works beautifully.

Those things work better than the story though, that’s the problem. I think we had a technique in search of a story there. I like the killings, and the Steadicam was good stuff for the time.

Just going back to Pacific Banana for a moment, was the narration in the script, or was that an afterthought?

No, we had a narration in there. It wasn’t in the first draft of the script, but before we shot it we planned to have a narration. Because I like that sort of thing, it somehow makes it ‘legitimate’.

Especially when you get someone like Noel Ferrier.

He died a couple of years ago, didn’t he? I worked with him on Eliza Fraser.

Could you tell me a few stories about the experience of taking The Naked Bunyip up and down the country?

Of course, I wasn’t there when it was shot. I came along afterwards. The funny thing was, you know, the thing with Barry Humphries looking out the window of his suburban house as Edna Everage? Well, Queensland never got the joke. Because Barry Humphries loves showing Australian kitsch as bad taste, because we were showing it in northern Queensland they didn’t get the gag. It didn’t look like bad taste to them, it looked like a classy home! All the gags went over their head. At that stage it was rather unsophisticated in northern Queensland.

There were queues for it a mile long at different times, I think because there was novelty value. There’s very little nudity in it. But there’s a few snatches of it, haha. There were glimpses of nudity, not much. When you think of the full frontal nudity in Australia After Dark, nothing like that in Australia at that stage. It’s not a brilliant film, but it’s interesting. The second half ran too long. John Murray would kill me for saying so. Because he is a pioneer, he dragged Australian audiences back into a theatre for the first time in years to look at an Australian film.

It’s two hours.

About half an hour too long, because there’s an interview with a callgirl and it goes on forever. Now I’m probably being unkind, because I’ve seen the film about a hundred times because I had to screen it.

I think you probably know it almost as well as John, what’s going on in that film.

Filming The Naked Bunyip (1970): director John B. Murray (middle) and producer Phillip Adams (right)

Pretty good the way it was, for the time. But now it would not even raise an eyebrow on television. Because it comes across as being old fashioned, it’s not the fault of the film. For its time, it was outrageous, it was people discussing sex and showing things on screen.

Did you have to put a film up for a certificate at that time? I think there was something that went up on posters that said “Suitable for adults only.”

Yeah, they didn’t have the R, but it still had to be classified.

So you still had to go up in front of a censorship board?

Well, you didn’t have to turn up yourself, just give them your film. The funny thing was, when Australia After Dark came out, I found out they wanted about fourteen cuts in it. I found out you could go in front of the censorship board and argue your case. I objected to all the cuts and I won every time, they didn’t cut anything. Because they were intimidated, people didn’t usually turn up to argue, they could safely cut it.

You know they now charge you an extra thousand dollars if you wanted to dispute a certificate? It’s a thousand dollars to get a film classified, and then if you want to review their decision, it’s another thousand.


That’s why most distributors don’t even bother, they just go right, we’ll cut it. They’ve pretty much got all the film companies over a barrel. So what sort of places were you showing Naked Bunyip in?

Townsville, Rockhampton, we went up the Queensland coast from Surfers Paradise upwards. It took about six months to do it.

Town halls?

Usually rented cinemas. We’d go to the cinema owner, they were independent cinemas that were a bit run down. We’d say look, we want to hire your cinema for a week. And he’d say no, no, I can’t make enough money out of that, I would have made a thousand dollars anyway. And we’d say how about we do a deal where we go halves, or whatever, after costs. But I wouldn’t want to do it again. I mean, it’s all very exciting for a while, but eating a cold dinner every night, you end up saying “I’d rather give it to a distributor now and negotiate a better deal.”

I suppose at the time no-one would have touched it.

It was like an experiment. That worked. But I remember saying to John Murray at the time, and Philip Adams, “Okay, we’ve proven we can crack it, that we can put on a film made in Australia where the audience turns up. Now it’s better to do it properly, deal with a distributor.” And that’s what happened with Tim. He used the same projector we had used with Naked Bunyip, put the film on in the Palais, proved to Roadshow there was an audience, they paid for the blow-up of Stork, and it ran in the drive-ins and did very well.

And I think that’s where it really started. I don’t count films that have come in from America. Wake In Fright was an Australian film from a couple of years before that worked, but it wasn’t big. Just okay. The first thing really done for years that worked was They’re A Weird Mob. And I shared a flat with Michael Powell’s son Kevin, I think he still lives in Canberra. His father made that one, and the other one was Age Of Consent. Essentially they were British films made in Australia. Nothing wrong with that. But there really hadn’t been an Australian made and conceived film for years.

But why was that? Because there wasn’t any money there?

I think two things. I think there wasn’t any money there, and people didn’t think there’d be an audience. What happened was, there was a process – John Murray was a pioneer and proved there was an audience. Tim Burstall verified it. Not to mention The Adventures Of Barry McKenzie – I did the same thing, I went around a few states and promoted that a bit for Philip Adams while I was working for Roadshow. Those films, Stork, Alvin Purple, Naked Bunyip, Barry McKenzie – they got audiences back into films in Australia. They were ones that proved there was an audience.

And a mass audience, too, not just a cult audience.

They didn’t just do well, they did fantastically.

It must have been a very exciting time.

It was. There were a lot of things influencing it. I mean, we didn’t have colour TV at the time, so it was still a novelty to see a film in colour. Well, not a novelty. But you couldn’t see a film in colour on TV. Plus the R certificate – films like that were a novelty to the screen. With the second Alvin Purple movie they made one mistake – well, it wasn’t funny enough, but also they made it less sexy, because they didn’t want to lose any potential audience, “we want people under 18”. So the second one wasn’t rated R and it flopped, fell on its arse after the first month. The first one ran a whole year in Melbourne, and the second one started the day the first one ended. But once the word got out, straight away…

We used to find that with the drive-ins. If the film was a dog, whatever it was, it would go to the drive-in on Thursday and if it was no good, everyone would go to Hoyts on Friday. Or vice versa. You’d tell your friend, and he’d tell his mother, and that’s the way it would work.

So after Pacific Banana and Nightmares, you make a few more films in Australia, and then you decide to piss off overseas.

Yeah, I think I did A Slice Of Life (1983), which was a TV film with Robin Nedwell, and Sky Pirates. Then I did Sword Of Bushido and a couple of films overseas. It’s actually a lot of fun making a film overseas if you can get the money together. There’s no Film Commission trying to control your money, you know, if it’s made in Singapore “it has to be Singaporean”. It’s more of the real world.

So it’s a lot more exciting making films overseas now?

I think it is, but I don’t like unions, and I don’t like to not work on weekends. And I like one day off, but I don’t feel the necessity to finish at 5 or 6 at night. Two days off and have coffee breaks and all that sort of thing. When you film in Thailand there’s none of that. You have a big lunch, no coffee breaks, you have a situation where one day of the week comes along and provided you’re not religious and don’t miss the church on Sunday, that day may be Wednesday. They have Buddha’s birthday in Thailand and that’s about it.

So you really do feel like an independent filmmaker.

I guess so, because even though I came out of distribution – see, I like reading about Spike Lee and those people who do films on credit cards, because I’ve done all that. I’ve sort of done similar versions of that, I did Sword Of Bushido and stuck it all on my Diners Card. For the first three months getting it together, because it’s not going to happen otherwise. You can wait for the film commission. I can remember going once to a film commission in Melbourne after I’d made Sky Pirates. Big film, 4.2 million dollars. The first film to have a prospectus in Melbourne, everybody copied me afterwards. Michael and I put that film together with all of our money, our own dough. We were the biggest customers of Film Victoria, using its studio. And I went into Film Victoria and I asked for a deal on development. I said, “Look, give me fifty thousand, I’ll develop a couple of movies. If you like them, stay in, if you don’t I’ll give you the money back with interest.” No, it had to be the old ‘fill in the form, go to the board, we’ll give you three and a half thousand’. I leaned across the desk and said to the guy, “Lift your Venetian blind and look behind you.” He said, “What?” And I said, “See that bank ATM machine on the corner? I can go over there, punch it, eight anonymous numbers on a machine, and five grand’s going to drop out of it, and they won’t even get to read the script.” So see you later! And that’s true. That’s the trouble. I think one of the things that became bad about the Australian film industry is that producers became totally reliant on government money, to the point where they wouldn’t make the film unless the government gave them the money. I’ve never been in that position. The films I’ve made, I’ve put my own money in them – sometimes the very thing that gets a film going is the money you put up on your own first. Because you don’t want someone saying, yeah that’s a good idea, here’s the money. What if they say it’s a bad idea? Does it mean you’re so uncommitted you don’t make the film? Put it together. Did you ever meet the guy that went to all the video shops in Australia and raised the money for his film? Apparently he went up the coast and went to all the video shops and said, “Look, stick five grand in the film and I’ll give you videos back when I’m finished and a percentage of the film.” I think he raised quite a bit of money.

I’m doing it at the moment. I’m putting together, I’m trying to put together a hundred thousand US so I can prepare a film. I’m just going to do twenty investors at five thousand each, because if you do that, you get the money together, no-one interferes with you, and you can give the people back their money with a profit. If you went to the Film Commission and tried that, you’d be going through seven years of red tape. And then they’d say, “But we still have to like the script.”

We’re doing a film noir film called Dark Days. We’re going to do it in a beach resort in Patia. Sort of like The Postman Always Rings Twice. And it’s about this guy who’s infatuated with the beautiful wife of the German owner of this resort there. The film noir thing is very successful. Doing it all in this resort in Patia. And my son and I and another guy are writing it. He’s directing it, I’m producing it, the third guy’s editing it. We’re all experienced in the business world of film. It’ll be us and about ten investors. And we’ll own it. We figure if we shoot it for a price, the least we can do is double it. We’ll do a Coen Brothers, a Blood Simple, something like that.

That was made on the smell of an oily rag too.

But those are the sort of things that in a way - you know, John Carpenter’s best film is Halloween, where he did everything himself. He and his wife did the music. They hired Donald Pleasance for three days, scattered him throughout the film. They got Jamie Lee Curtis, who was a non- entity then, went to a location and put a mask on a bloke and used the Steadicam. The one we used. I got the inspiration for Nightmares by looking at it.

All you’ve got to do is have a good grasp of filmmaking and you can make something that should cost two or three million, for a hundred thousand.

You know what we’re doing? We’re putting together seven hundred thousand US dollars, and half of that’s deferrals. We’ll raise the cash through ten investors, shoot the film in Thailand, edit it in Thailand, do post-production in Thailand. We can do everything in Thailand at a dirt cheap price. I worked on Oliver Stone’s film Heaven And Earth there, I represented the completion guarantors when they were making it. In a small capacity. But I’ve worked on three films in Thailand and I’ve got a British art director who lives there, who did The Killing Fields, Good Morning Vietnam. Steve lives in Thailand, and I’ll get him, my son, a cinematographer, an editor, we’ll go and stick the whole thing together. We edit on AVID, and do the whole thing on a couple of Apple Powerbook computers. Keep a low profile, a small group in Thailand. The Thai crews are wonderful, most of them speak a bit of English and they’ve done scores of films. You can go and make a film there for about half what you could in Australia. And have more fun!

Without people peering down the back of your neck!

So if you want a grip job, give me a call! We’ve either do it just before or just after July.

Hey, the one thing I didn’t ask you about was your appearance in Alvin Purple as the projectionist. I mean, that must have been the ultimate kick in the teeth for the censors.

They asked me to do that. It sounded like a hoot to me. I said I’d be honoured to do it. Didn’t get paid for it, didn’t mind.

And the fact that you’re screening a porno film in a court room, there’s so many levels of irony there.

Well, I did a Cinema Papers interview once, they took a photo of me in a plastic raincoat coming out of an underground cinema. I don’t mind, I’ll take the piss with the best of ‘em! You know, you can get rubbished in your home territory and then still be appreciated overseas. Felicity got good reviews in Italy, France, Germany… I thought, it’s nice to know the Broadmeadows Times might like it, but it’s not worrisome if they don’t.

As long as you know there’s a cult following here in Australia.

It’s good, I appreciate it. It’s nice to know.

No comments: