Country music singer Suzanne Prentice is given the all-star treatment with this concert special. A major production from an apparently lost era of light entertainment, it was recorded at the Christchurch Town Hall by a crew who had honed their skills on That’s Country. Prentice is backed by the Roger Fox Band, vocalists The Yandall Sisters and Tom Sharplin, and a string section from the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra. Elvis Presley hits and an Anne Murray medley feature in a set list which culminates in an epic version of ‘How Great Thou Art’.
'The White Rabbit' was two minutes of surf guitar meets country music that made Peter Posa a household name in the 1960s, and led to encounters in Las Vegas with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. In May 1984 Posa got out his golden guitar and performed the beloved guitar instrumental to an enthusiastic audience, on TV show That’s Country. In 2012 he told Stuff’s Vicki Anderson: "It was heaven to play at the Christchurch Town Hall. The better the acoustics the better you play." Posa had a late career resurgence in 2012 when a 'best of' album debuted atop the Kiwi album charts.
This National Film Unit film visits Christchurch roughly four years before the main event, to promote the city’s readiness to host the Commonwealth Games. A comical potted history of New Zealand precedes a montage of young women cycling around Canterbury environs and a split screen catalogue of NZ tourist attractions, before getting into a survey of the venues. As the opening demonstrates, “there’s always a traditional welcome awaiting our friends!” In 1973 the NFU completed a second film called Christchurch 74, before covering the games themselves in the feature-length Games 74.
Featured here are two performances of 'Nothing But Dreams' by Tina Cross. The first sees Cross in sequins at the 1979 Pacific Song Contest, in front of a global television audience estimated at 50 million. Cross was 20; she'd first sung on TV at age 16. Carl Doy's composition took away the top prize for Best Song, against entries from six other countries. The second clip is from a 1985 Michael Fowler Centre special, celebrating 25 years of television in New Zealand. By now Cross was in new wave duo Koo De Tah. That year they scored an Australian Top 10 hit with 'Too Young for Promises'.
This NFU production covers the Shah of Iran’s first tour downunder, and uses the occasion to showcase New Zealand to international viewers: from scenery to topdressing, dental clinics and Wellington Girls’ College. The four day visit could be seen as a symbol of globalisation: NZ had been cut adrift by Britain and was looking for markets for its lamb, cheese and wool, and to secure oil supplies. The Shah needed food for his modernising petroleum exporting country. (The booming trade was to be curtailed by the 1979 Iranian Revolution, when the Shah was exiled.)
This short promo was part of a mid '70s Tourist and Publicity Department campaign touting New Zealand to New Zealanders. It focuses on nightlife to highlight the swinging face of our cities: bars, bands, dancing, floor shows and restaurants. As the jingle says: "Share it, share it, you've got to share it with each other." Delight in fast-cut '70s fashion and styles even if the chop stick, champagne and ciggie-filled affair has a faintly ominous vibe (just what is the bartender slipping in the cocktail?). The film ends with the Orwellian instruction to "go there ... now".
Director Sam Neill uses ‘Architect Man’ — a cartoon superhero trying to save Wellington’s buildings from mediocrity — to open this visual essay on contemporary Kiwi architecture. A montage of construction materials is followed by views on the high rise, woolshed, and Futuna Chapel. Renovation, DIY, prefabs and non-conformist design thinking are offered as hopes for the built environment’s future. Made by Neill when he was working at the National Film Unit, it was released in a shortened version (without the animation) in 1977, the same year he starred in movie Sleeping Dogs.
Half-hour documentary The Reel People of New Zealand visits boutique cinemas, from Te Awamutu’s Regent Theatre to Stewart Island’s Bunkhouse. The changing landscape of movie-watching is revealed through visits to legendary Christchurch video store Alice (which has added a screening venue) to Opunake’s community-owned Everybody’s Theatre and Wanaka’s compact Rubys Cinema. The interviews include cinema and video store managers, tales of getting married in a cinema, and contrasting views on whether the death of cinema is unlikely or inevitable.
From a pre-Mythbusters but post-blackboard and pointer era, Christchurch-produced Science Express took a current affairs approach to reporting contemporary NZ scientific research. Presented by broadcaster Ken Ellis this 1984 ‘best of’ dives beneath fiords to explore mysterious black coral forests; and looks at teeth transplants, efforts to stimulate deer fawning, and the STD chlamydia. Finally the show visits Wellington and Christchurch Town Halls to profile concert hall acoustics pioneer Harold Marshall, and his mission to attain perfect sound for listeners.
In this episode of the influential NZ architecture series, dapper tour guide David Mitchell looks at the 'Christchurch Style'. He begins with the humble baches on Taylor's Mistake's cliffs, before focusing on the Euro-influenced brutalism of Miles Warren and the "flamboyant" practice of Peter Beaven (earthquake victims SBS House, and Lyttelton Tunnel's "fifth ship" are featured); and the cottage's modern descendent: Don Donnithorne's post-war home. Warren intriguingly compares his process designing Christchurch Town Hall with Jørn Utzon's Sydney Opera House.