The versatile Peter Tait is probably best known for starring in a series of acclaimed short films. One of the earliest — and strangest — was 1989 classic Kitchen Sink. Since then Tait has appeared in The Singing Trophy (as an obsessed hunter), Alison MacLean's Talkback (an aggressive talkback caller), and Cannes success Mon Desir. His work as director includes comic short Bradman, and low-budget features Back River Road and Not Set in Stone.
... he just had this amazing quality — like someone who had just been born. A certain kind of innocence that is at odds with his appearance. He just has such a very strong, physical presence. Director Alison MacLean on Tait’s audition for Kitchen Sink, in P.o.v No 13
This lighthearted road movie follows three bogans on a mission to join the world of movies. After hearing that Peter Jackson is putting Lord of the Rings on film, they set off from West Auckland for Wellywood, hoping against the odds to score acting roles as hobbits. Written by actor Peter Tait — with help from his bogan co-stars and director Grant Lahood — the film also features a memorable cameo by Madeline Sami, plus a blink-and-you-ll miss it appearance by Mr Jackson himself. And some of the cast really did appear in The Lord of the Rings....
Desperate Remedies is high-camp Cannes-selected melodrama from directors Stewart Main and Peter Wells, set in an imaginary 19th-century town called Hope. ‘Draper of distinction' Dorothea Brooks is desperate to save her sister Rose from the clutches of opium, sex and the dastardly Fraser. She begs hunky migrant Lawrence Hayes to marry Rose. Lawrence has his eyes on Dorothea however, and he has competition from malevolent politician Poyser (who has made her an attractive offer), as well as Brooks' sultry lover. Sumptuous and ripe, The Piano this definitely ain't!
This documentary follows the 1973 Heatway Rally, a mud and oil-splattered event in which 120 drivers covered 3600 miles over eight days. Directed by Tony Williams, it was a major logistical exercise, with five camera units, shot by a who’s who of the 70s NZ film industry. In addition to high speed on-and-off road action, it includes an explanation of what co-drivers actually do, a chance for a driver’s wife to ride in a rally car, and driving and cornering montages set to orchestral accompaniment. It won the Feltex Award for best documentary.
After hitting town for a Ranfurly Shield game, two brothers from the sticks (Grant Tilly and Pork Pie's Kelly Johnson) have to sneak their abruptly deceased father back home. If the body isn’t buried at home, they won’t inherit the family farm. Director John Reid’s shaggy dog tale — a Wellington-set Weekend at Bernies reeking of stale-beer and ciggies — both lauds and satirises the Kiwi male. It’s set back when "blokes were blokes and sheilas were their mums". The final clip sees Grant Tilly getting things off his chest, now that Dad is unable to answer back.
Writer Maurice Gee’s experiences growing up in West Auckland during World War II were the basis for this home front drama expertly realised by the producer/director team of Ginette McDonald and Peter Sharp. Twelve-year-old Rex Pascoe (Milan Borich — future singer in the band Pluto) is a war-obsessed schoolboy worried about his father’s black-market dealings. Meanwhile, American soldiers are making their presence felt but not all of their attitudes are welcome. The locals’ prejudices are about to be tested by the arrival of a GI to stay with Rex’s family.
Blessed with a topnotch cast, this hour long drama chronicles the final 48 hours of leave before three soldiers head off to Bosnia. One soldier is forced to share a car with the man who caused his demotion; the trio go on to use their break for various encounters with lovers, families and strangers. Based on a story by Richard Lymposs, whose experiences helped inspire 1986 teen rebel movie Queen City Rocker, The Call Up was shown as part of the debut season of one-off Kiwi dramas which screened in primetime, under the Montana Sunday Theatre mantle.
Beneath her twinset, repressed housewife Gwyneth (Mandy McMullin) is close to the edge: of attacking the dishwasher, and giving in to lust (thanks to neighbour Kevin Smith). Especially so after learning the husband has done the dirty on her. Based on a Fiona Farrell story, Mon Desir offers an arresting blend of fantasy, satire and domestic tragedy. Writer/director Nicky Marshall scratches under the fingernails of Kiwi small towns, to reveal “what happens behind the facade of wholesome goodness and normality”. Mon Desir was chosen for Cannes 'Un Certain Regard' section.
Monstrous spiders, dragon-aided epic battles, endangered hobbits and final farewells ... the finale of the Lord of the Rings trilogy boldly upped the ante. Although the first two films had excited viewers, critics and accountants, Return of the King sealed Peter Jackson's place in movie legend. Reviewers praised it with gusto and Return won a staggering 11 Oscars, a total matched only by Titanic and Ben-Hur. Return anointed a Hollywood empire in the Wellington suburb of Miramar; the box office figures weren't half bad, and nor was the effect on NZ tourism.
This low-budget feature fishtails after a Mum and her teenage kids, kicking around the far north one sleepy summer. Store Santa holiday jobs, teen romance, purloined cars, pet possums, and pot deals fill out the small town shenanigans plotline. Ray Woolf plays an undercover cop, and Calvin Tuteao is a kauri-hugging suitor. Director Peter Tait (who acted in Kitchen Sink) wrote the film to showcase the charisma of kids he was teaching at Taipa College. Made for under $20,000, the film “was bigger than Titanic” at Oruru’s Swamp Palace cinema and community hall.
This Richard Riddiford-directed comedic thriller plays out in pre-crash 80s Auckland with the CBD skyline changing daily, brick-sized phones, shadowy corporations on the rise and the share market on everyone's lips. With a second harbour crossing due to be announced, a telephone operator (future events maestro Mike Mizrahi) and a waitress moonlighting as a dominatrix (Lucy Sheehan) become ensnared in a web of corporate greed and blackmail. Chris Knox contributes the soundtrack, and extensive outdoor sequences include a memorable chase scene at Kelly Tarlton’s.
A social cricket match in Cornwall Park needs a third umpire after an errant bogan dog swallows the ball in this short film. As the men in white struggle to field the ball, a statistics-obsessed sport crosses absurd boundaries. A line-up of contemporary NZ comedic talent features on the field, as well as New Zealand Black Caps cricketers (and 1992 World Cup bowlers) Chris Pringle and Willie Watson. Bradman was directed by Peter Tait (actor in classic shorts Singing Trophy and Kitchen Sink). The song ‘Bradman’ by Aussie singer Paul Kelly scores the film.
Mitch (Keith Aberdein) moves to Tongariro National Park to help wrangle wild horses threatening ecology and traffic. He meets Sara, who shares an obsession for a fabled silver horse. They clash with rangers and deer recovery guns-for-hire (Bruno Lawrence is the black-clad villain) determined to eradicate the horses, and a showdown on the Desert Plateau ensues. In the notoriously fraught production a stable of Kiwi acting legends perform a melange of western and freedom-on-the-range genre turns (with the conservationists oddly set up as the bad guys).
Set in a Rogernomics-era 'New Auckland' world of property deals and horse racing, the second part of this 1989 mini-series sees the brassy odd couple Tammy (Annie Whittle) and Joanna (Miranda Harcourt) in deep water. The working class battler and the art consultant have done up their inherited greasy spoon, but they're "the only fly in the ointment" of the 'Vision 2000' scheme of a nefarious developer (Brit-import James Faulkner). Girl power meets utopian unitary planning as the duo find bones in the basement and get (too) close to the secrets of Huntercorp HQ.
This is the first of a two-part "money and greed" morality tale set in a Rogernomics-era 'New Auckland' of property deals and horse racing. Working class lass Tammy (Annie Whittle) and art consultant Joanna (fresh-from-Gloss Miranda Harcourt) are an unlikely duo who inherit a racehorse and a greasy spoon cafe (instant coffee rather than cappuccino). Brit-import James Faulkner plays a shady developer whose scheme is blocked by the obdurate cafe. Murder, underhand unitary plans, yuppie love and old gambling debts complicate life for Tammy and Joanna.
A talkback radio operator is forced to stand in for the regular host when he walks out because of a personal crisis. In between trying to answer calls, organize a replacement and discuss odd topics with a succession of callers, the flustered operator makes a surprising connection with another lost soul. Auckland's urban soul is captured with distinctive assurance in this neglected television short film from writer (with Geoff Chapple) and director Alison Maclean.
Made for Montana Sunday Theatre, Dead Certs provides rare starring roles for talents Rawiri Paratene and Ginette McDonald. Paratene won a Television Award for his acting, and also co-wrote the script (with director Ian Mune), which he began writing on a Burns Fellowship. Paratene plays Hare Hohepa, whose dreams of a winning bet that will allow him to escape his down'n'out existence take an unusual turn: his friend Martha (McDonald) expires after some drinks, then returns in ghostly form to encourage him to keep betting. So begins a dream run at the TAB.
Young Geoff Garlick reckons he's developed a game-winning move - the 'Garlick Thrust' - for his schoolboy rugby team, but the Saturday he hopes to show it off to his dysfunctional family they're more interested in the Springbok match. The national loss of innocence the '81 tour represented is captured in an end scene, where Geoff and his weeping Dad (Michael Noonan) are intercut with clips of a notorious stand-off between tour protestors and rugbyheads. Written by playwright Bruce Mason, this was one of a three TV dramas written as he was battling cancer.
Shot on location in Wellington, often after dark, Inside Straight helped usher in a new era of Kiwi TV dramas, far from the rural backblocks. This Minder-esque portrait of Wellington’s underworld was inspired by writer Keith Aberdein’s experiences as a taxi-driver and all night cafe worker. Phillip Gordon (soon to win fame as a conman in Came a Hot Friday) stars as the former fisherman, learning the ways of the city from veteran taxi driver Roy Billing. A solid but unspectacular rater over 10 episodes, the show was scuttled by the launch of trucker’s tale Roche.