After a long flight in a C-130 Hercules, Dez Harrison arrived in Vietnam on the fifth of May 1967. As he puts it, when you’re young and green it’s all an adventure. Serving in 161 Field battery, Harrison says he was blessed with good leadership from non-commissioned officers who were mainly veterans of Korea and Malaya. As the memories rattle off, he has plenty of praise for the Americans in Vietnam, but less so for his Australian comrades. Stories of leave in Saigon and Singapore provide fond memories, but the reception back in New Zealand at the end of his service is less happy.
Shot in Wellington, Hawke’s Bay and Hong Kong, Eternity is a rare homegrown sci-fi feature. In a virtual world, detective Richard Manning (Elliot Travers) must solve a case where the fictional suspects were all in the next room to the murder, while he battles a memory-eroding virus that may have real world consequences. Director Alex Galvin’s good-looking globetrotting whodunnit was rendered on a shoestring budget. Scenes and some post-production was done in Kong Kong, after his first movie When Night Falls impressed Hong Kong-based producer Eric Stark.
This episode of the legendary professional wrestling series screened in March 1981. Barry Holland and the late Steve Rickard host (Ernie Leonard has moved behind the scenes into a producer role). Rickard welcomes locals and viewers from Kenya, Hong Kong and Malaysia. On the Mat mainstay Mark Lewin features prominently, appearing in tag action before reminiscing about a fiery battle with King Curtis in Japan. Things don't improve as he's attacked by the Voodoo-crazed Big Mullumba. The main event sees local star Johnny Garcia and Samoan Joe battling it out.
In this 2013 short, a possum-trapping nature boy is challenged when a woman moves into a house on the edge of the bush, looking for a fresh start. Cinematographer Ginny Loane captures the wintry central plateau landscape where the fable of life and death plays out. Director Leo Woodhead co-wrote the script with Paul Stanley Ward; the result followed Woodhead’s short Cargo (2007) to the Venice Film Festival, and won the Jury Prize at the 2014 Hong Kong Film Festival. Director Andrew Adamson (Shrek) called it “a well structured, beautifully shot narrative.”
John (Anton Tennet) is a small town crim with a big time dream: to abscond from Thames to Paeroa with his boss’s sister. A robbery gone wrong and a mysterious Chinese bracelet send his plans into a spin, and he finds that going back to the future has a price. Hong Kong action movies, Kiwi slapstick and time travel head to the heartland in Tim van Dammen’s follow-up to Romeo and Juliet: A Love Song. Jonathan Brugh (What We Do in the Shadows) plays the villain; Milo Cawthorne and Yoson An are also in the cast. Mega Time Squad was selected for the Fantasia festival in Montreal.
This post-war Weekly Review boards a RNZAF Dakota flying “the longest air route in the world”: a weekly 17,000 mile ‘hop’ taking mail to Jayforce, the Kiwi occupation force in Japan. Auckland to Iwakuni via Norfolk Island, Australia (including a pub pit-stop in the outback), Indonesia, the slums of Singapore, Saigon, Hong Kong; then Okinawa, Manilla and home. Director Cecil Holmes’ pithy comments on postcolonial friction and rich and poor avoided censorship, but won a warning not to rock the boat. The next year he was controversially sacked from the National Film Unit.
Beat Rhythm Fashion was a Wellington post-punk band formed in 1980 by brothers Dan and Nino Birch (who had grown up in Hong Kong). They were part of the “Terrace Scene” (centred on large, old flats near Victoria University) but the finely crafted, swirling sophistication of their sound set them apart from more aggressive musical neighbours. After signing with Mike Alexander’s Bunk label, they released three well received singles — but a projected move to Australia failed to eventuate and an August 1982 gig at Wellington’s Clyde Quay Tavern was their last.
Young, confident and good-looking, Michael (Matt Whelan from Go Girls) discovers he has only a short time to live. Rather than undergo pricey experimental cancer treatment, he steals the cash and absconds to Hong Kong and Europe, determined to enjoy the life that remains. But heedless OE hedonism is complicated when he meets Sylvie (Roxane Mesquida, star of A Ma Soeur) and goes cross-continental with her. Based on Steven Gannaway novel Seraphim Blues, Kirstin Marcon’s first feature combines down under filming with a guerilla-style winter shoot across Europe.
Illustrious Energy sees Chan and his older mate Kim prospecting for gold in 1890s Otago. Marooned until they can pay off their debts and return to China; they’ve been fruitlessly working their claim for 12 and 27 years respectively. Chan faces racism, isolation, extreme weather, threatening surveyors, opium dens and a circus romance. The renowned feature-directing debut of cinematographer Leon Narbey provides a poetic evocation of the Chinese settler experience; especially vivid are Central’s natural details — desolate schist and tussock lands, rasping crickets.
Morton Wilson began composing for film while playing in band Schtung. Hagen and fellow band member Andrew Hagen went on to provide music for a quartet of Kiwi movies, including The Scarecrow and Kingpin. In 1981 they moved to Hong Kong and got even busier, composing commercials. Wilson went on to oversee Schtung sound studios in Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai, while Hagen launched Schtung in Hollywood.