In more repressed times, Carmen was one of NZ's most colourful and controversial figures. Geoff Steven's doco traces the life story of the transgender icon who was born Trevor Rupe in Taumarunui in 1936 and went on to be a dancer, sex worker, madam, cafe owner — and one of the few non-MPs to appear before the Privileges Committee. Steven shines a light on a bygone era of gay culture but avoids the temptation to focus on the seedy — opting, instead, for extended fantasy sequences (featuring Neil Gudsell aka Mika) to illustrate key moments in Carmen's life.
Shot in black and white (by Terry King and future Harry Potter cinematographer Michael Seresin), this early Tony Williams directorial effort answers its road safety instructional mandate with style. A jazzy soundtrack scores the setting up of a literal ‘lives collide’ plot. Two lovers go rambling; a gallerist in a goatee takes photos on a car trip, a beau takes his girl for a Wellington coastal drive, a musical duo drive from a 2ZB recording session ... all the while emergency room flash-forwards are intercut and the clock ticks as basic road safety lessons are ignored.
In the Nature of Things saw Christchurch teacher Ron Walton deliver science lessons to children. Along with The Night Sky’s Peter Read, Walton made made science pop. The pair were two of NZ’s best known broadcasting personalities of the era, fondly remembered by a generation of Kiwi kids, as well as overseas viewers (Things was a rare NZBC title that sold to the US and other territories). From a (gentler) time well before the pyrotechnics of MythBusters, here Walton — armed with just a pointer, chart and elemental props — puts vitamins under the microscope.
After being spotted by television producer Christopher Bourn at the 1966 Loxene Golden Disc Awards, Maria Dallas was asked to star in series Golden Girl, grooving and bopping through country and crossover numbers. On a WNTV-1 stairway to nowhere set, she duets on Loxene winner ‘Tumblin’ Down’ with the song’s writer Jay Epae. Her other four numbers include ‘Rustle Your Bustle’ (by Kiwi Sam Freedman), and ‘Engine Engine No 9’. Guests The Dallas Four make their TV debut with a version of doo-wop classic ‘Stay’. The band went on to provide backing vocals for pop show Happen Inn.
In 1969 Kiwi music legend John Rowles was in his early 20s, and flush with UK success: appearing on Top of the Pops and celebrating a single – ‘If I Only Had Time’ – which got to number three in the British charts. This fly on the wall documentary records his homecoming tour, complete with cigars, turtlenecks, rehearsals, press interviews, dancing, hongi and a civic reception in Kawerau (where he’d been fired from a mill job five years before, for arriving late). Rowles launches single ‘M’Lady’, soon to top the NZ charts, and reflects on how he's changed since leaving Kawerau.
In 2010 TVNZ’s Heartland channel celebrated the 50th anniversary of television in New Zealand by producing a decade by decade survey. This interview, taken from the 1960s instalment, sees the late Ray Columbus interviewed by Andrew Shaw. The pioneer of pop music in New Zealand reflects on the role that TV played in his career, from Club Columbus to C’Mon, to co-creating That’s Country. He muses on being a pop star in front of the camera, and working behind the scenes in television. Shaw asks him to rate the best song he’s recorded and his best TV performance.
Made on a wind-up Bolex camera, The Sound of Seeing announced the arrival of 21-year-old filmmaker Tony Williams. Based around a painter and a composer wandering the city (and beyond), the film meshes music and imagery to show the duo taking inspiration from their surroundings. The Sound of Seeing served early notice on Williams' editing talents, his love of music, and his dislike of narration. It was also one of the first independently-made titles screened on Kiwi television. Composer/author Robin Maconie later wrote pioneering electronic music.
This excerpt from a 1962 edition of the National Film Unit's magazine film series features reigning Olympic 800m champion Peter Snell participating in a charity road race on Auckland streets. "Any one of 20 charities stands to make a hundred pounds as 20 roadsters hot-foot it around Auckland's Top o' the Town course." Roadsters also include Bill Baillie and Barry Magee. National hero Snell is in the bunch early on, but coming down a crowded and wet Karangahape Road he is of course, "the man to watch".
Before the Blerta bus and Goodbye Pork Pie's yellow mini hit the road, some friends with more energy than cash dressed up as mad doctors and criminals, and began making films. This freeform short about running late is an early product of varied schemers who were key in the Kiwi film renaissance. Geoff Murphy plays the man in a hurry, and Bruno Lawrence is Dr Brunowski. Originally screened with live music, here it’s jazzed up with new opening credits and a 2012 soundtrack, led by Murphy on vocals. The result is an unbottling of youthful filmmaking pep. Warning: final credits not to be trusted.
The Alpha Plan involves a British spy down under, investigating strange deaths among a Mensa-like group of the planet's brightest brains (meeting on Pakatoa Island!). Made when jet-setting Cold War thrillers were all the rage, the ambitious series involved roughly 120 actors, and was NZ's first drama series to emerge, after occasional one-off plays. This first meet-and-greet episode builds to a memorable finale, after introducing us to key players: an English geology professor, a curious journalist, and a mysterious American who rings after dark with shocking news.