The stars in an Auckland harbour master’s eyes are of the cowboy variety in this documentary that goes behind the scenes of the Western Districts' Fast Draw Club. The westie club takes literal inspiration from its name, as its members — from truck drivers to accountants — meet in the basement of a dairy to recreate scenes from the American wild west. Director Greg Stitt aimed to explore, “the fantasies ordinary people need to survive”; and his partly-dramatised doco details the impressive preparation (and passion) that goes into the live shows and stunts.
In the late 90s Kiwi treasures The Topp Twins (aka Lynda and Jools Topp) created their own TV series. Over three seasons it showcased their iconic cast of Kiwi characters and singing and yodelling talents. These excerpts from the second season feature a country and western saloon musical dream sequence (with fluffy pink slippers, feather boas and sharpshooters and car sharks in drag). Meanwhile Camp Mother and Ken Moller compete at the speedway in a bambina and a Hillman Hunter respectively.
This 1983 film looks at New Zealand in World War II, via a compilation of footage from the National Film Unit’s Weekly Review newsreel series, which screened in NZ cinemas from 1941 to 1946. It begins with Prime Minister Savage’s “where Britain goes, we go” speech, and covers campaigns in Europe, Africa and the Pacific, and life on the home front. The propaganda film excerpts are augmented with narration and graphics giving context to the war effort. Helen Martin called it "a fascinating record of documentary filmmaking at a crucial time in the country’s history".
This 1961 edition of Pictorial Parade visits Western Samoa shortly before it gains independence from New Zealand. Locals are seen voting in the May referendum, where a huge majority voted to self-rule. Surgeon Ioane Okesene and his large family feature in this newsreel; daughter Karaponi is filmed marrying her Kiwi partner Bill McGrath in Apia. (Trivia fact: Rugby legend Michael Jones' mother, Maina Jones, is among the wedding guests.) Western Samoa's close ties to Aotearoa are highlighted, with stories of locals moving downunder to study, such as medical student Margaret Stehlin.
Lawrence 'Curly' Blyth volunteered for World War 1 despite being under age. In 1916 his rifle brigade was sent to the Western Front, where he fought for 23 days amongst the mud of the Somme. In the final weeks of WW1 Blyth helped liberate the strategic French town of Le Quesnoy from German forces, later winning a French Legion of Honour for his efforts. In this documentary his grandson, director David Blyth, uses interviews and stock footage to chronicle the times at war of his bossy yet personable grandad, who died in 2001, aged 105.
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.
Australian Idol winner Stan Walker made his acting debut in this hit feature, as aspiring singer Turei. Part of a whānau of Māori potato pickers from Pukekohe, he has to choose between duty to job and family (Temuera Morrison plays his hard-working Dad) and letting the music play. His dilemma takes place as reggae star Bob Marley performs in Aotearoa in 1979, offering the chance for Turei's band Small Axe to win a supporting slot at Marley's Western Springs concert. Released on Waitangi Day 2013, Tearepa Kahi's debut feature became the most successful local release of the year.
This 1970s talent show was a popular light entertainment programme for new channel TV2. It followed in the television footsteps of New Faces and Studio One, with wannabe stars mostly covering popular classics. The buzzers and tough judges of X Factor are decades away. This final from the 1975 season, filmed at Christchurch’s Civic Theatre, sees contestants cover everything from country and western to cabaret. Promoter Trevor Spitz awards record contracts, and talent co-ordinator Ray Columbus joins host Rhys Jones to announce the winner.
A mainstay on cinema and TV screens for over 20 years, this commercial — reputedly NZ’s longest-running — made Kiwis feel as if the UK-born hokey pokey treasure was ‘ours’. Directed by Tony Williams, the madcap romp features a bevy of 70s acting talent caught up in chaos, after outlaws start a free for all fight for a chest of Crunchie bars. A connection with Martin Scorsese’s editor allowed access to footage from old Westerns, while the immortal tune is by Murray Grindlay. Williams overspent his meagre budget, and a lawn mower given to him as a thank you ended up his fee.
“We’ve chosen someone Hollywood would call an action hero” says Hilary Barry, as she introduces this TV item recalling Kiwi experiences in World War I. The subject is decorated flying ace Keith Caldwell, who left for England in 1916 to join the RAF with only eight hours training (which he’d paid for himself). He became one of the most successful pilots on the Western Front, leading ‘Tiger Squadron’. The short, which screened during 3 News, recounts the dogfights and close escapes that Caldwell negotiated with “splendid skill and fearlessness”.