A roundup of classic films and catalogue titles currently in the news
As mentioned in our recent review of Starstruck, Australia has produced an eclectic assortment of musicals. One of the most curious is Oz, Chris Lofven’s 1976 film relocating the plot and action of The Wizard of Oz to an outback setting.
At some point Down Under Flix will take a look at Oz, but until then check out the recent review by Drew Dietsch published at Wikia.
1980’s Breaker Morant, directed by Bruce Beresford, is one of the all-time greats of Australian cinema. Based on a true story, the film depicts the military trial of three Australian soldiers charged with murdering prisoners during the Boer War. Earlier this year, artifacts belonging to Morant were discovered in a rubbish tip near Tenterfield, New South Wales, the hometown of Morant’s lawyer James Francis Thomas (played onscreen by Jack Thompson in a stellar performance that earned him a Best Supporting Actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival).
This news story is a few months old, but any opportunity to sing Breaker Morant’s praises is worth seizing. Read about the discovery via the Sydney Morning Herald.
This month saw THREE announcements about classic Australian films transitioning into new mediums. First up, director P.J. Hogan has scripted a stage musical version of his popular film Muriel’s Wedding. The production will be mounted by Sydney Theatre Company, with music and lyrics by Kate Miller-Heidke & Keir Nuttall along with the expected ABBA quota. Directed by Simon Phillips, the musical debuts on 6 November 2017. For more information, visit Sydney Theatre Company.
Secondly, John Cook’s 1961 novel Wake in Fright is set to be adapted for television. Cook’s book was the basis of 1971’s Wake in Fright, directed by Ted Kotcheff and starring Gary Bond, Donald Pleasance, and the ubiquitous Jack Thompson. Wake in Fright isn’t for the faint of heart: it’s a dark, dirty, drunken downward spiral of a film chronicling a civilized schoolteacher’s descent into alcoholic barbarity in outback Australia. The series, to be screened on Channel 10, will be directed by Kriv Stenders, best known for Red Dog. Kotcheff later directed First Blood starring Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo, a character who does not approve of red dogs, so there’s some perverse synergy there.
Finally, Picnic at Hanging Rock, as noted previously, is another major entry in the Australian film canon. Like Wake in Fright, Peter Weir’s ethereal, left of kilter 1975 film was adapted from an existing work, a 1967 novel by Joan Lindsay, which is likewise to be adapted for television. The six-part series is being produced by and for Foxtel.
While these television series aren’t remakes of the films per se – their press releases are careful to stress their lineage with the source novels – Kotcheff’s Wake in Fright and Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock loom large in local film history, and any new adaptations of these books must to some extent grapple with and react to the preceding films. Read about these forthcoming series via The Canberra Times.