Wild Man is the missing link between 1970s musical legends Blerta, and the burgeoning of Blerta trumpeter Geoff Murphy as a director whose talents knew few bounds. The Blerta ensemble relocated to the mud-soaked West Coast to create this tale of pioneer con men and silent movie style pratfalls. Bruno Lawrence and Ian Watkin arrange a fight — and betting — in each town they arrive in, while Bruno channels his inner wild man from under a leopard skin. Wild Man was released in cinemas alongside John Clarke and Geoff Murphy’s Fred Dagg comedy Dagg Day Afternoon.
One of those Blighters began life as a doco on Taranaki novelist Ronald Hugh Morrieson, but after interviews with many who knew him, morphed into something more offbeat: a semi-fictionalised tale of Morrieson’s mates reminiscing about his departure, interwoven with highlights from his tales of drunkards and con artists. The dramatisations are from his four novels - all became movies - plus one posthumously published short story. Amidst a cast packed to the rafters with carousing Kiwi screen legends, fellow multi-talented muso Bruno Lawrence plays Morrieson.
Billy Apple: enigma, con man, or artist? Being Billy Apple looks at one of New Zealand's most controversial contemporary artists: a man who changed his name, then turned himself into a brand. Director Leanne Pooley (The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls) follows Apple's life, and looks at his work in the context of the development of conceptual art overseas. This opening excerpt from the 70-minute documentary sees Apple talking with the filmmaker about whether it is important his face is even seen on screen.
“The funniest, liveliest, most exuberant film ever made in New Zealand”. So said critic Nicholas Reid, a year after Came a Hot Friday became 1985's biggest local hit. Though Billy T’s loony Mexican-Māori cowboy is beloved by fans, he is but one eccentric here among many — as two scheming conmen hit town, and encounter bookies, boozers, country hicks, nasty crim Marshall Napier, and Prince Tui Teka playing saxophone. Until the arrival of The Piano in 1993, Ian Mune and Dean Parker’s award-loaded adaptation remained NZ's third biggest local hit. Ian Pryor writes about the film here.
Brit-born Caroline Johnstone directed an eclectic slate of documentaries, reality shows and corporate projects, many for Wellington company Top Shelf. Always up for a challenge, she worked on subjects ranging from coins, to con artists, to drag performers (one-off doco The Drag Kings). Described by those close as a “total adventure-seeking thrill seeker”, Johnstone died after a fall at Whakapapa skifield, on 31 August 2013.
Canadian-born documentary filmmaker Leanne Pooley’s award-winning films have examined some of the most potent issues of New Zealand’s recent history - from euthanasia, to sport and politics, to controversial court verdicts. She has also sensitively paid tribute to some of our foremost artists - dancer Douglas Wright, and beloved comedians and singers The Topp Twins.
Sometime actor Taika Waititi has clearly sunk his teeth into directing. His 2005 short film Two Cars, One Night was Oscar-nominated. Second feature Boy (2010) became the most successful Kiwi film released on its home soil — at least until the arrival of Waititi's fourth movie, Barry Crump inspired adventure comedy Hunt for the Wilderpeople. In 2017 Marvel movie Thor: Ragnarok became an international hit.