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Curated by the NZ On Screen team
18th August 2009



 NZ On Screen team

Curated by the NZ On Screen team



It seems a fascination with going fast is built into human DNA. Covering distance in the shortest amount of time has long captured our imagination. From muscle-powered freaks of nature (thoroughbred horses, falcons, Peter Snell) to motorhead mayhem, from Formula 1 legends to front-running design innovation, this collection celebrates the particularly Kiwi 'need for speed'. 


The Speed Collection

 Trio at the Top

This documentary uses archive footage and interviews to tell the story of motor-racing legends Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme, and Chris Amon. The trio topped podiums in the sport's 'golden age' - one of those eras when unlikely Kiwi talent managed to dominate a truly global sport. 

 Peter Snell - Athlete

This NFU classic tells Peter Snell's story up to just prior to his famous double-gold triumph at the Tokyo Olympics. Snell's commentary - candid, focused - plays over beautifully shot footage of him training (in the Waiatarua hills, through bush and leaping farm fences) and racing. 

 Kaikohe Demolition

The far out meets the Far North in director Florian Habicht's tribute to a community of characters drawn together by a desire to demolition derby. Behind the bangs, prangs, and blow-ups, the heart and soul of a small town - Kaikohe - is laid bare. 

 Shaker Run

Driver Judd (Cliff Robertson) and mechanic Casey (Leif Garrett) race a pink and black Trans-Am on a fast and furious dash from Dunedin, with Lisa Harrow and a deadly virus in tow. Derek Malcolm: "it has the best stunts ever accomplished in a New Zealand picture, some of them quite breathtaking."

 On the Run

This film showcases legendary running coach Arthur Lydiard's training methods - building stamina to complement speed - through the example of his acolytes; these included multiple Kiwi Olympic champs (Snell, Halberg,Walker et al). A doco highlight is Jack Foster's exhilarating scree slope descent.

 Britten: Backyard Visionary

During the late 1980s, Kiwi inventor John Britten developed and built a revolutionary racing motorcycle. In 1992, at Daytona International Speedway, the motorcycle maverick proceeded to beat the biggest and richest manufacturers in the world. 

 Goodbye Pork Pie

A Kaitaia-to-Invercargill dash in a stolen yellow mini, with the cops in pursuit, is the famous plot line of this original Kiwi blockbuster. The lads eluded the police with hair-raising driving, verve and trickery and it wasn't long before the 'Blondini gang' became hailed as folk heroes, on-screen and off.

 Off the Edge

Michael Firth's Oscar-nominated ode to the exhilaration of adventuring on the spine of NZ's Southern Alps was something of a snowy Endless Summer; the thrilling footage —which included a jaw-dropping hang gliding sequence — was widely acclaimed. The LA Times called it "beautiful and awesome".

 Circuits of Gold

Champion speedway driver Ivan Mauger powered and slid his motorbike around oval tracks to a record six individual world speedway titles from 1968-79. This documentary tells his story; his focus on winning comes through, "if you show me a good loser you show me someone who consistently loses".

 The World's Fastest Indian

Director Roger Donaldson's homecoming film is the incredible true story of how a crusty old curmudgeon from Invercargill took his home engineered hot rod motorbike to America, and won a land speed record. Variety described it as "like a geriatric Rocky on wheels", which about sums it up! 

 John Walker - The 3.49.4 Man

On the eve of the 1976 Olympics, this Keith Quinn-scripted profile traces the career of champion athlete John Walker from a training averse teenager at the Manurewa Harrier Club to his world mile record triumph in Göteborg, Sweden, and sets the scene for a re-match with his rival Filbert Bayi.

 The Leading Edge

In this Michael Firth feature, a bunch of extreme thrill-seekers throw themselves off volcanoes, glaciers, mountains and into an Iron Man race with "get more go" abandon. Notable for its Stuart Dryburgh-shot action sequences (set to an 80s pop soundtrack) and Billy T James as a mad pilot.  

 Open Door - Wingspan

This Open Door episode looks at Rotorua's Wingspan, where the art of falconry is being used to train, breed and rehabilitate kārearea and other birds of prey. The $20 note icon can fly at speeds of over 200kph, as spectacularly demonstrated in a public show when a falcon hunts down a finch.

 Bred to Win

Made when racing could be described as our "national sport" this documentary looks at racehorse breeding in NZ, an industry appraised as producing "the world's finest racing thoroughbreds", such as 1966 Melbourne Cup winner Galilee.

 This is Your Life - Peter Snell

In September 2000 NZ's greatest athlete was surprised with the 'Big Red Book'. Paul Holmes reunites Snell with figures in his life, from the Rome 800m medallists, to Opunake locals, and coach Arthur Lydiard. The tribute to his peerless career includes footage of Olympic triumphs and world records.

 Fender Bending

This motors'n'mullets doco focuses on a group of men, women and their families who are obsessed by stock car racing. Shot by Stuart Dryburgh, it follows a group of drivers and crews as they ready for Saturday night racing at speeds of up to 112 kmph in the mud at Waikaraka Park Speedway, Onehunga. 

 Jet Boats in New Zealand

In the 1950s, driven by a desire to power around the shallows of the Mackenzie Country's braided rivers, inventor Bill Hamilton went against the flow and developed a revolutionary method of jet boat propulsion. This NFU film explains the concept and Hamilton demonstrates the "turbo craft". 

 Monaco Monza Macao Wellington

"For three days, Wellington, New Zealand will become the Monte Carlo of the South Pacific". Monaco Monza Macao Wellington follows a champion saloon car team (BMW Schnitzer M3) racing in 1989's Nissan Mobil 500 Wellington street race.

 New Zealand Grand Prix

Shot during the sports' golden age this NFU short on NZ motor racing in the early 60s begins with Dunedin's 'round the town' race (won by Denis Hulme), then shifts to Auckland for the NZ International Grand Prix as world champion Jack Brabham and local hero Bruce McLaren battle for the title.

 Smash Palace

In this Roger Donaldson-directed classic, Al Shaw (a brilliant, brooding Bruno Lawrence) is a racing car driver who now runs a wrecker's yard under Mount Ruapehu. Shaw finds release from Man Alone melancholy and his estranged wife through some fast and furious driving and dubious train-track parking.

 If You're in it, You're in it to the Limit - Bikies

This notorious film looks at '70s bikie culture, focusing on Auckland's Hells Angels. These not-so-easy riders — with sideburns and swastikas and fuelled by pies and beer — rev up the Triumphs, beat up scarfies, cruise on the Interislander, provoke civic censure, and attend a Blossom Festival.

 Tired From Sleeping

Director Sam Peacocke’s tale of love and motor-racing was the first official music video to be made for The Checks. Set in the 1960s, it contrasts a young Japanese driver at the track with his apprehensive girlfriend who waits forlornly at home while he test drives a Lotus racing car.

 Mountain Dew on the Edge - Series Three, Episode Four

Lana Coc-Kroft and her all female Extreme Team swing, fall and paddle their way through this episode from their primetime, extreme sports TV series. There's a guest appearance from actor Kevin Smith who enthusiastically investigates bridge swinging with Jayne Mitchell (near Masterton).

 Drag Racer

Back of the Y pranksters Chris Stapp and Matt Heath's adept manipulation of miniatures with real-life racing cars, combines with aloof performances from the band in a speed-fuelled music video. Drink driving and police chases add to the tongue-in-cheek anti-establishmentarianism.

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Geoff Bryan on getting hooked

Geoff Bryan on getting hooked

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Robert Rakete on the 'Speedy Kiwi'

Robert Rakete on the 'Speedy Kiwi'

Broadcaster Robert Rakete explores his love for speed and the legacy of flying Kiwis who, "lived to race, to go faster, to win."  Read More >



We would like to thank Matt Herring for allowing use of his speedway banner image, courtesy of Creative Commons.