Tony Barry's gravel voice won fame when he starred in 1981 hit Goodbye Pork Pie. By then he already had 30 plus screen credits - including cult 70s sitcom Buck House, and the anarchic Blerta TV series. Barry's busy acting career continues both in his native Australia, and New Zealand. In 2010 he won a Qantas Best Actor Award for his starring role in Gaylene Preston's war tale Home by Christmas.
I think it connected with the dreams of a lot of people ... It gave people a license to believe that they could be free in their own hearts, even if it was just for an hour and a half in the movies. Tony Barry, talking about Goodbye Pork Pie
Geoff Murphy's second feature was a low-budget smash, definitively proving that New Zealanders could make blockbusters too. Young rascal Gerry steals a yellow Mini from a Kaitaia rental company. Heading south, he meets John, who wants his wife back; and a hitchhiker named Shirl. Soon they are driving to Invercargill to find her, with the cops in hot pursuit. Eluding the police with hair-raising driving, verve and trickery, it's not long before the "Blondini gang" are hailed as folk heroes, onscreen and off.
If a single word could sum up the free-wheeling flavour of alternative music and comedy in Aotearoa during the 1970s, that word would surely be ... Blerta. The 'Bruno Lawrence Electric Revelation and Travelling Apparition' encompassed foundation members of the NZ film and TV industry (Lawrence, Geoff Murphy, Alun Bollinger, Martyn Sanderson) and many other merry pranksters and hippy freaks. Blerta Revisited is an anarchic collection of comedic skits, short films, and musical interludes culled from the Blerta archives.
This epic Lee Tamahori-directed promo for the 1990 Auckland Commonwealth Games imagines the stirrings of Games spirit in the mud of the Western Front, 1917. Behind the lines, soldiers from various 'British Empire' nations (Bruno Lawrence, Tony Barry and a young Joel Tobeck) lay bets to see who is the fastest. After racing they pledge to "do this again sometime eh brother" (referring no doubt to the shared joy of competition, as opposed to 1,115,597 Commonwealth war dead). The first Commonwealth Games were held in Hamilton, Ontario (Canada), in 1930.
After their house explodes and they bump into a gunman on Waiheke Island, journo Alf (Temuera Morrision) and Yank partner Melissa (Beverly Hills Cop’s Lisa Eilbacher) head to the West Coast, on the run from the cops and the crims. There’s a plot to blow up a plane of rugby players and a cola conspiracy, but mostly it’s an excuse for chases, capers and crashes galore, all imbued with plenty of pell-mell Pork Pie-style shenanigans (this time heading north in a red Ford Falcon) by director Geoff Murphy. This excerpt sees John Clarke cameo as a used car salesman.
This feature is a dramatized reconstruction of actual events surrounding a notorious miscarriage of justice. Farmer Arthur Allan Thomas was jailed for the murder of Harvey and Jeanette Crewe but later exonerated. Directed by John Laing, produced by John Barnett and starring well-known English actor David Hemmings (Blowup, Barbarella), the docudrama leveraged the immense public interest in the case (Thomas was pardoned when the film was in pre-production). It became NZ's most successful commercial film until Goodbye Pork Pie.
Wild Man is the missing link between early 70s musical legends Blerta, and the burgeoning of Blerta trumpeter Geoff Murphy as a man whose directing talents knew few bounds. The Blerta ensemble relocated to the mud-soaked West Coast to create this tale of pioneer con men and silent movie style pratfalls. Bruno Lawrence and Ian Watkin arrange a fight - and bets - in each town they arrive in, while Bruno channels his inner wild man from under a leopard skin. Wild Man was released in cinemas alongside John Clarke and Geoff Murphy’s Dagg Day Afternoon.
Home by Christmas sees Gaylene Preston returning to the hidden stories of ordinary New Zealanders. Inspired by attempts to get her father Ed to reveal his WWII experiences, this finely-balanced docu-drama moves between three strands: Preston’s father (Goodbye Pork Pie's Tony Barry, in a Qantas award-winning performance) retelling his story; recreations of Ed’s wartime OE; and life for the woman he left behind in Greymouth. The dream cast sees Preston’s own daughter Chelsie Preston Crayford playing Preston's mother Tui, alongside Martin Henderson.
Famous for being New Zealand television's first sitcom, Buck House centred on the antics of a group of uni students sharing a flat in Wellington. In this sixth episode of the first series, Reg — played by a fast-talking, afro-headed Paul Holmes — gets embroiled in his flatmate Joe's latest illicit moneymaking scheme. 'Escorts Unlimited Limited', as Joe (Tony Barry) tries to explain, is a sure fire winner. That is, until Buck House's other flattie, the left-leaning Jo (Jacqui Dunn) invites a member of the local constabulary home for a cup of tea.
Rodeo thrills and spills — Kiwi style — are on display in this doco following two cowboys travelling the circuit in a '50s Chrysler. They compete in events in Fairlie, Rerewhakaaitu and Warkworth, and encounter American stars along the way. Broncos, calves and bulls are ridden, wrestled or roped; but pride of place goes to spectacular shots of them using rodeo skills to capture deer by helicopter. Cowboy up indeed. A parade, the 'Cowboy's Prayer' and fearless rodeo clowns also feature. Geoff Dixon (future founder of production company Silverscreen) directs.
This 1994 ‘home front noir’ is set in World War II Wellington, where the plots — a murdered marine, exploited working girls and gonorrhea — spread amidst the invasion of US soldiers stationed at Paekakariki. Kerry Fox (An Angel at My Table) is a public health nurse who becomes romantically linked with the US investigating officer (Tony Goldwyn — Ghost, TV's Scandal) while pursuing the STDs and the truth. They’re supported by Oscar-winning US veterans Rod Steiger and Robert Loggia. John Reid (Middle Age Spread) directs, from a Keith Aberdein script.
City Life screened from 1996 to 1998 and made a direct appeal to New Zealand's Gen X apartment-dwelling demographic. Following the lives of a tight-knit group of friends, and featuring racy shots of Auckland's K-Road and nightlife set to contemporary NZ pop music, City Life was NZ's answer to Melrose Place. In this excerpt from the first episode, the friends are thrown into conflict when one of their own (played by Kevin Smith) decides to marry outside the circle. Complications ensue when Smith shares a brief, but notorious, screen kiss with Charles Mesure.
In director Garth Maxwell’s 1993 gothic horror twins Jack and Dora (US actor Alexis Arquette and Kiwi Sarah Smuts-Kennedy) are separated while young; their adult reunion sees them battling with the trauma of their past while being pursued by Jack’s sadistic step sisters. Replete with ESP, and a steam-driven hypnosis machine, Maxwell makes an exuberant and surreal contribution to the cinema of unease. New York Times’ Stephen Holden lauded the heady head-spinner as “a superior genre film” with a “feverish intensity that recalls scenes from Hitchcock and De Palma.”
The last novel by Taranaki author Ronald Hugh Morrieson revolves around a freezing plant worker (Peter McCauley) in an inter-racial marriage. The role of an English remittance man was expanded in a failed attempt to cast Peter O'Toole (the role ultimately went to NZ-born Bruce Spence). Morrieson's view of small town NZ is a dark one, as he explores racism, violence, murder, suicide and blackmail. Bruno Lawrence contributes to Jonathan Crayford's jazz-tinged score, and features in the wedding band. The freezing works scenes were shot at the defunct plant in Patea.
After the assassination of scientist David Typhon, a cast of interested parties head for his secret lab in New Zealand, pursuing the truth behind rumoured experiments on humans. Among them are rabid protestors, a European infiltrator (Michael Hurst) and the strangely-gifted Cato (Greg Wise). Typhon’s People marked a rare time that writer Margaret Mahy created a story aimed at adult audiences. Blessed with an impressive cast of Kiwis, Brits (Wise, Alfred Molina), and The Castle star Sophie Lee, it sold as both a mini-series and as a 90 minute tele-movie.
Comedy Rest for the Wicked showcases an all-star aged A-team of Kiwi actors — among them Ian Mune, John Bach, and Gloss boss Ilona Rodgers. Gravel-voiced Tony Barry (the man who uttered the immortal line "goodbye pork pie") stars as Murray, a retired detective going undercover in an upmarket rest-home. Frank hopes to catch his longtime nemesis (Bach). Instead he finds himself in the company of the randy, and the unexpectedly dead. The "sweet, rather knowing little movie" (Linda Burgess, Dominion Post) marks the feature debut of ad veteran Simon Pattison.
A death-bed confession from a touch judge leads to a repeat of a test match between the All Blacks and Wales played 25 years earlier — with the same players. Before the footy, a former Welsh star is forced to face up to a past romance. Mateships and rivalries are rekindled in this genial "what if" yarn, that celebrates and satirises two nations' rugby obsessions. It won best screenplay and supporting actor (John Bach) at 1992's NZ Film Awards. The cast saw former All Blacks and Welsh rugby reps playing alongside acting greats from both countries.
In Gaylene Preston's War Stories, her mother Tui revealed that she had fallen for another man while her husband was off at war. In Home by Christmas, inspired by an audio interview with her father Ed, Preston looks again at her parents' life during wartime. In this behind-the-scenes doco, veteran actor Tony Barry talks about the acting techniques which allowed him to "be, rather than play, Ed"; Preston reveals that Barry's distinctive voice is almost a carbon copy of her father's; and Chelsie Preston Crayford talks about portraying her own grandmother.
Pioneering series Pukemanu (the NZBC’s first continuing drama) followed the goings-on of a North Island timber town. The series was conceived by former forester Julian Dickon (who quit the series and was replaced by Listener critic Hamish Keith as writer). Producing two seasons of six episodes was a key step in industry professionalisation, and many of the cast became stars (Ginette McDonald, Ian Mune). It offered an archetypal screen image that Kiwis could relate to: rural, bi-cultural, boozy and blokey; and reviews praised its Swannie-clad authenticity.
Famous as New Zealand television's first ever sitcom, Buck House was a rollicking and relatively risqué series that centred on the comings and goings of uni students in a dilapidated flat in Wellington - the eponymous 'Buck House'. Stars of the show include now-veteran actors John Clarke, Tony Barry and Paul Holmes. Despite (or more likely because of) its bawdy humour, occasional coarse language and alcohol abuse, the pioneering comedy sated the needs of many Kiwi viewers desperate for TV with an identifiable local content and flavour.
City Life follows a tight-knit group of apartment-dwelling twenty-somethings (lawyers, bartenders, drug dealers, art dealers, et al) on the emotional merry-go-round of urban living. Created by James Griffin, the television series was an effort to create popular drama relevant to contemporary Auckland city life and to appeal to a Gen X demographic – to inject Melrose Place into Mt Eden. A bevy of Kiwi acting talent drink, dramatise and prevaricate to a soundtrack of contemporary NZ pop.
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.