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The Geoff Murphy Collection

By NZ On Screen team
16th September 2013

 The Geoff Murphy Collection

The Geoff Murphy Collection

 NZ On Screen team

By NZ On Screen team


GM movie-making

Arts Icon Geoff Murphy is the trumpet-player who got New Zealand yelling in the movie aisles. His road movie Goodbye Pork Pie was the blockbuster hit of the NZ film renaissance, and he completed an unsurpassed triple punch with Utu and Bruno Lawrence classic The Quiet Earth. From student heists to hobbits this collection pays tribute to the laconic wild man of Kiwi film.


"The thing I like about filmmaking is that it gives you the opportunity to blow up sheds and throw pianos off balconies."

 Utu Redux

In 1983 Murphy burst out of the scrub of the Kiwi film industry with a quadruple-barreled shotgun take on the great NZ colonial epic; it made New Yorker critic Pauline Kael's head swim. This 2013 redux — led by cameraman Graeme Cowley, Murphy and editor Mike Horton — is Utu "enhanced and restored".

 Goodbye Pork Pie

"We're takin' this bloody car to Invercargill boy." Murphy's Wild Man follow-up was a low-budget smash, definitively proving that Kiwis could make blockbusters too. The tale of the errant yellow mini rivaled Star Wars at the local box office and the "Blondini gang" were hailed as folk heroes.


 The Quiet Earth

In Murphy's cult sci-fi feature a global energy project malfunction has left scientist Zac Hobson (Bruno Lawrence) man alone on earth. Bruno's first half hour performance — living out his fantasies — is tour de force; Los Angeles Daily News: "quite simply the best science-fiction film of the 80s".

 Blerta Revisited

Legendary 70s performing group Blerta — 'Bruno Lawrence Electric Revelation and Travelling Apparition' — spawned foundation members of the NZ screen industry: Lawrence, Murphy, Bollinger, Sanderson and more merry pranksters. Here trumpeter Murphy blows out anarchic gems from the Blerta archives.

 Tank Busters

The Italian Job meets cheap jugs and a student union gig in this early Murphy heist tale. The plot follows some Vic Uni students and a campus safe-cracking scheme ... the things kids got up to before internal assessment! Murphy enlisted $4000 and a bevy of mates (Bruno on bongos) to make the film.


Directed by Murphy and shot by longtime collaborator Alun Bollinger at their Waimarama base, this freewheeling adaptation of the Māori legend of Uenuku was the first TV drama to be screened entirely in te reo. Film historian Roger Horrocks called it: “A Māori-language film ahead of its time.”

 Making Utu

Director Gaylene Preston goes behind the scenes of Murphy’s 'puha western', showing his pioneering insistence on cultural respect, and his sheer pleasure in making movies: "the thing I like about filmmaking is that it gives you the opportunity to blow up sheds and throw pianos off balconies".

 Wild Man

The Blerta ensemble relocated to the mud-soaked West Coast to create this yarn about pioneer con men, doused with silent movie style pratfalls and Bruno in a leopard skin in the title role. The 'featurette' was released in cinemas on a double bill with Murphy and John Clarke’s Dagg Day Afternoon.


The saga of a retributive land wars campaign waged by Māori leader Te Wheke (Anzac Wallace) was the first Kiwi film to be officially invited to Cannes. It was later controversially recut by the producer for US release (where these excerpts come from). In 2013 Utu was given the redux treatment.

 Cowboys of Culture

Geoff Murphy looms large in Geoff Steven's personal take on NZ film's new wave: from Ian Mune remarking on Murphy's DIY gun-making ingenuity in Sleeping Dogs, to Bruno discussing the 'lateral' mechanics of Pork Pie, and Kelly Johnson on how the kids on set inspired his character's 'yahoo' antics.

 Never Say Die

Journo Alf (Tem Morrision) and his Yank sheila are on the run from the cops and the crims. A plot to blow up a plane of rugby players and a cola conspiracy is an excuse for plenty of pell-mell Pork Pie-style shenanigans. This excerpt from the feature sees John Clarke cameo as a used car salesman.

 Hurry Hurry Faster Faster

This free range short about running late is an early product of a group of schemers who were later to be key in kick-starting Kiwi film (Murphy is a man in a hurry and Bruno is 'Dr Brunowski'). Originally screened with live music, here it's jazzed up with a 2012 soundtrack led by Murphy on vocals.

 Close Up - Utu

This 1982 Close Up segment visits a Waimarama set of Utu. Murphy and Bruno are interviewed and various members of the Murphy clan are shown engaged in production, underlining Murphy’s stab at why the Blerta crew had gotten this far: “A uniformity of philosophy I suppose ... the family thing.”

 Sleeping Dogs

Director Roger Donaldson on the GM modification of his film: "Sleeping Dogs may not have been made without Geoff's input – he helped with the script, helped with production and did his magic on the special effects.  His genius problem-solving and lateral thinking made the film feasible."

 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Throughout his storied career Murphy has supported fellow Kiwi filmmakers' projects, including many stints as 2nd Unit Director: from stepping in during an hour of need for Roger Donaldson on Dante's Peak, to wrangling the Cave Troll sequence for Peter Jackson in Lord of the Rings.

 Kaleidoscope - NZ Cinema, the Past Decade

This report about the 80s NZ cinema boom interviews a bleached blonde Murphy, around 8 min into part two. He muses on being anti-establishment and the timeliness of Pork Pie's "enormous energy". "New Zealanders really wanted to see themselves and have a good laugh and lose themselves in a picture."

 Tales of Mystery and Imagination

Inspired by Edgar Allen Poe's macabre tales, Kiwi saxophonist Lucien Johnson composed an eclectic musical suite and enlisted Murphy’s help to put it on screen. The ensuing southern gothic sampler mixes concert footage, CGI imagery, interviews and spoken word, with a dose of Blerta’s jazz spirit.


Loosely based on the case of a real-life computer dealer who unwittingly received international bank records and later died mysteriously on Auckland Harbour Bridge, Spooked marked Murphy’s first local feature in 15 years. Christopher Hobbs is spooked and Cliff Curtis is an investigating TV journo.

Roger Donaldson on Geoff Murphy

Roger Donaldson on Geoff Murphy

The Smash Palace director gives thanks: "without the help and support Geoff generously gave me, my early films may not have been made." Read 

Albol on Geoff Murphy

Albol on Geoff Murphy

Cinematographer Alun Bollinger on his 'telepathic' relationship with Murphy, from The Magic Hammer at Newtown Primary School to Pork Pie. Read 

The Genius of Geoff Murphy

The Genius of Geoff Murphy

NZ Herald critic Dominic Corry surveys Murphy’s career and his crowd-pleasing ability to match commercial films with NZ stories. Read 

“Let’s go down in a blaze of glory!”

“Let’s go down in a blaze of glory!”

Murphy’s attitude to making Quiet Earth could be his filmmaking ethos. From Wild Man to Hollywood he ranges in this 2011 ScreenTalk interview. View 

Lead trumpet for NZ film

Lead trumpet for NZ film

Director Derek Morton recalls Murphy’s burgeoning filmmaking talents: from Victoria University Jazz Club to DIY crane building. Read ›