In 1957 Connie Radar became the first woman on the moon. At least that's what this whimsical take on the space race would have you believe. Years later the heroic Connie (played by Anna Jullienne) brings the fight to two arrogant American astronauts. The short film was created by 15 Bachelor of Art and Design students from Auckland's Media Design School, led by award-winning director James Cunningham. It was nominated for Best Short at the 2014 New Zealand Film Awards, and played at Comic-Con in San Diego. Connie was first created by Kiwi comic artist Karl Wills.
Ron Cross is a military man through and through. A proud soldier, he feels lucky to have had the experiences that shaped his life. Joining up as a regular Army Cadet, Ron served in both the Malayan conflict and the Vietnam War. From the comedy of preparing for jungle warfare in snow-covered hills around Tekapo, to the tension of being fired on at close range on the roads of Vietnam, Ron’s vivid recollections are captivating. His one regret: that the lesson of how not to have wars has yet to be learned.
Rizk Alexander found himself in a rare situation during WWI — he was an Ottoman subject who chose to fight for the British Empire. His brief life still holds a fascination for his descendants. From a Syrian Christian family, Alexander had only been in New Zealand three years, when the 17-year-old signed up for war. Hoping to fight the Turkish Ottomans, he instead ended up on the Western Front, proving himself at the Battle of Messines in 1917. Later gassed, Alexander returned to Wellington to recuperate but he never fully recovered, dying in 1924. He was 27.
This feature dramatises an ill-fated offensive that Kiwi soldiers undertook during World War I’s Gallipoli campaign. On 8 August 1915 the Wellington Battalion briefly seized Chunuk Bair, a pivotal peak overlooking the Dardanelles; they suffered huge losses. The film pitches the attack as a formative New Zealand nationhood moment, with Kiwi guts and resilience countered by inept, careless British generals, as much as their Turkish foes. Filmed on an Avalon set and the Wainuiomata coast, the story was based on Maurice Shadbolt’s classic play Once On Chunuk Bair.
The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) was waged between Republicans and General Franco’s Nationalists. Thousands of volunteers from around the globe joined the fight, mostly on the Republican side. These excerpts from a 1976 documentary on the 20 or so Kiwi veterans of the conflict feature Joan Conway, who reflects on the death of her brother Griff Maclaurin fighting the fascists; Tom Spiller, another International Brigade soldier; socialist George Jackson, who discusses official apathy from the NZ Government, and Geoffrey Cox, who wrote a book about the war.
Peter Rowley was in his early 20s when David McPhail asked him to audition for new comedy show A Week of It. Rowley talks in this Funny As interview about his long career, performing with Billy T James, and other subjects, including: Working as a stage manager at Christchurch's Court Theatre, before getting his break on A Week of It in 1977 — "It was just sensational, and it was groundbreaking" First meeting Billy T James in a corridor, and clicking with him straight away Giving up stand-up comedy in Australia to write and act in The Billy T James Show, and moving into Billy's house to write the series Hanging out of a helicopter for The Billy T James Show, and having "the most fun a guy could ever have" on accidents will happen comedy Letter to Blanchy Being a "bit difficult" while co-starring on comedy Pete and Pio in the 1990s Wearing an $8,000 wig for 2018 movie Mortal Engines (in which he played a slave trader) Note: For more on Billy T, check out this Funny As interview with Rowley and Billy T's former minder Rick Harris.
Despite the misleading numbering, this October 1942 film marked the first of the National Film Unit's long-running Weekly Review series. The NFU had been established a year earlier to promote the war effort via newsreels screened in movie theatres. In a meta first clip, Kiwi soldiers watch an NFU film in a makeshift outdoor cinema. Then war readiness is demonstrated via army exercises — including on Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where “Māori and Pākehā are working together, mounting machine guns for their common defence.” Finally: Red Cross parcels are prepared for NZ prisoners of war.
This is a silent film record of the civic reception of returning World War I hero, Lieutenant John Grant. The Hawera builder won a Victoria Cross aged 28 for raiding several German machine-gun 'nests' — by leaping into them — near Bapaume, France on 1 September 1918. Grant's citation noted he "displayed coolness, determination and valour". Grant is wearing the NZ Army's 'lemon squeezer' hat as he plants a tree and poses for portraits in front of the crowds, and receives the supreme award for battlefield bravery given to Commonwealth servicemen.
The youngest of eight children from a prominent Canterbury family, brothers Robin and Gordon Harper signed up eagerly to enlist in World War l. The Harpers fought in Turkey and Egypt as machine gunners with the Canterbury Mounted Rifles, earning medals for their bravery at Hill 60 in Gallipoli. Using their farming skills, the brothers found each other on the battlefield with their distinctive dog whistles. Susan Harper, a relative of the pair, displays a Turkish machine gun one of the brothers brought home. The other sibling was killed in battle in Egypt.
The opening sequence of music show Ready to Roll is imprinted on the eyes and ears of many Kiwi music fans. The show jumped directly from the opening graphics to a quick rundown of the week's top 20 singles. Here are two of RTR's beloved openings: the late 70s version is scored to 1974 Commmodores instrumental 'Machine Gun'. In the 80s, Peter Blake's synth number had taken over from funk, and the colours favoured electric neon. The graphics owed a debt to the arcade computer games that followed Space Invaders. The week's featured acts came next, then the countdown.