TLW's Australian Cinemascope
By T.L. Winslow (TLW), the Historyscoper™
© Copyright by T.L. Winslow. All Rights Reserved.
Original Pub. Date: Oct. 7, 2015. Last Update: Jan. 10, 2019.
Westerners are not only known as history ignoramuses, but double dumbass history ignoramuses when it comes to Australian cinema history. Since I'm the one-and-only Historyscoper (tm), let me quickly bring you up to speed before you dive into my Master Historyscope.
The Australian film industry suffers from the smallness of the Australian pop. and the remoteness of the Australian continent, but makes up for it with the weirdness of the subject matter, scenery, and actors. The added spice of knowing that their ancestors were convicted criminals doesn't hurt the box office.
On Dec. 27, 1971 after the introduction of the R rating in Australia this year, Tim Burstall's Stork (B&W) debuts, based on the play "The Coming of Stork" by David Williamson, featuring the film debuts of 6'7" Kiwi actor Bruce Spence (1945-) and Jacqueline Ruth "Jacki" Weaver (1947-); does $224K box office on a $60K budget; the first successful Ocker comedy, usually featuring a male ocker speaking in a Strine (broad Australian accent) while wearing a blue singlet (sleeveless shirt) and rubber thongs (sandals) with a tinnie (beer can) in his hand propping up a bar"; which push a "masculine, populist, and cheerfully vulgar view of Australian society", which some call Ozploitation, launching the Australian New Wave (Film Renaissance); others incl. "Stork" (1971), "The Adventures of Barry McKenzie" (1972), and "Alvin Purple" (1973).
In 1972 the South Australian Film Corp. is established by the govt. as their first state film corp., their success causing other countries to copy them.
On Apr. 12, 1979 George Miller's Mad Max debuts, making a star of hunky Peekskill, N.Y.-born Mel Colmcille Gerard Gibson (1956-) as "Mad Max" Rockatansky, a cop whose babe Jessie (Joanne Samuel) is killed by a biker gang in apocalyptic Australia, causing him to become a revenge machine on wheels; puts Australia on the cinematic map; does $100M box office on a $400K budget; spawns sequels "Mad Max 2 (The Road Warrior)" (1981), "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome" (1985), and "Mad Max: Fury Road" (2015).
On Mar. 15, 1980 Bruce Beresford's Breaker Morant debuts, based on the 1978 Kenneth G. Ross play about three Australian soldiers in the South African Boer War who are court-martialed in 1902 as scapegoats for the British high command; stars Edward Woodward as Lt. Harry "Breaker" Morant, Bryan Brown as Lt. Peter Handcock, Lewis Fitz-Gerald as Lt. George Ramsdale Witton, and Jack Thompson as their green atty. Maj. J.F. Thomas; its success heralds Australia's film renaissance; does $4.7M box office on an $8M budget.
On Aug. 13, 1981 Peter Weir's Gallipoli (Village Roadshow) (Paramount Pictures) (Cinema Internat. Corp.) debuts, about the scandalous Allied Gallipoli campaign in WWI, starring hunk Mel Gibson as unemployed railroad worker Frank Dunne, and Mark Lee as prize-winning sprinter and stockman Archie Hamilton, who enlist in infantryand end up losing their innocence; does $11.7M box office on a $2.8M budget.
On Dec. 24, 1981 George Miller's The Road Warrior (Mad Max 2) debuts, a futuristic take on the Last of the Mohicans, starring Mel Gibson as Mad Max Rockatansky climaxes with one of the most exciting chase scenes ever, and virtually creates the action-adventure pic of the 1980s; co-stars Emil Minty as the Feral Kid, Mike Preston as Pappagallo, Vernon Wells as Wez, Max Phipps as the Toadie, Bruce Spence as the Gyro Captain, and Swedish-born Kjell Nilsson as facemask-wearing radiation-scarred bodybuilder Lord Humungus; a parable of the peaceful civilized Jews trying to survive while surrounded by a sea of barbaric Palestinians?; does $23.7M U.S. box office on a $10.8M budget; preceded by "Mad Max" (1979); followed by "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome" (1985).
On Mar. 25, 1982 George Miller's The Man from Snowy River (20th Cent. Fox) debuts, based on the Banjo Paterson poem and set in Australia, starring Kirk Douglas as twin brothers Harrison (owner of a cattle station) and Spur (prospector), and Tom Burlinson as Jim Craig; does $20.6M U.S. and $17.2M Australian box office on an Australian $3M budget; watch trailer.
On Dec. 17, 1982 Peter Weir's The Year of Living Dangerously (Dec. 17) (McElroy and McElroy) (MGM) (United Internat. Pictures) (MGM/UA Entertainment Co.) debuts (title based on a phrase used by Sukarno in his 1964 Indonesian Independence Day Speech), becoming the first Australian movie financed by a U.S. studio, starring Mel Gibson as Australian journalist Guy Hamilton covering the coup against Pres. Sukarno in Indonesia in 1965, while romancing manly woman Jill Bryant (Sigourney Weaver), and flirting in other ways with womanly man photographer Billy Kwan (Linda Hunt); allegedly based on a C.J. Koch novel, it is actually based on CNN's Peter Arnett?; confirms Gibson as an internat. box office star; the location shooting had to be moved from the Philippines to Sydney after the crew was threatened by Muslim extremists who considered the film anti-Muslim; does $10.3M U.S. and Australian $2.9M box office on an Australian $6M budget; watch trailer.
On Sept. 10, 1987 Simon Wincer's The Lighthorsemen debuts, about the 1917 Battle of Beersheeba through the eyes of 4th Light Horse Brigade soldiers Frank (Gary Sweet), Scotty (Jon Blake), Chiller (Tim McKenzie), and Tas (John Walton); does $1.6M box office on a $10.5M budget.
On Aug. 4, 1995 Chris Noonan's Babe: A Little Pig Goes a Long Way (Babe: The Gallant Pig) (Kennedy Miller Productions) (Universal Pictures) debuts, based on Dick King-Smith's 1983 novel "The Sheep-Pig", starring James Cromwell as Australian Farmer Arthur Hoggett, owner of talking piglet Babe, who was raised by talking matriarch sheepdog Fly, and wins a sheepdog herding championship with the help of a secret ovine passphrase; does $254.1MK box office on a $30M budget.