This was New Zealand's first big historical drama after the controversy over the cost of The Governor almost a decade earlier. Over seven episodes — set between 1895 and 1914 — it followed the life of Dunedin barrister Alf Hanlon, focussing on six of his most important cases. British actor David Gwillim played Hanlon, while Australian Robyn Nevin was cast as convicted baby murderer Minnie Dean in the first and most celebrated episode. A major critical, ratings and awards success, it immediately recouped its budget when the Minnie Dean episode spurred a big international sale.
Dunedin barrister Alf Hanlon’s first — and most famous — defence case was the first episode in this award-winning drama series about his career. In 1895, alleged baby farmer Minnie Dean was charged with murdering two infants in her care. Hanlon’s inspired manslaughter defence was undermined by the judge’s direction to the jury; and Dean became the only woman to be hanged in NZ. Hanlon vowed none of his future clients would ever suffer this fate. Emmy-nominated and a major critical success, the episode contributed to a re-evaluation of Dean’s conviction.
In early 1974, NZ had more than just the Commonwealth Games on its mind. Norman Kirk’s Labour government was promoting social and ecological issues and the NZBC's 24 radio stations launched a yearlong 'I Care' campaign for the protection of the environment. A contest to find a theme song was won by John Hanlon whose credentials as a conservation crooner had been established with his eco-anthem 'Damn the Dam'. The launch in Petone was presided over by conservation minister Joe Walding, an understated logo was unveiled, and Hanlon performed his winning song.
One night in his early 20s, John Hanlon was nudged into playing some songs at a party. A recording studio owner was listening in, and so a star was born. Hanlon won the APRA Silver Scroll Award in 1974 and 75, plus a host of RATA awards, including Songwriter of the Year three years running. ‘Damn the Dam’ became a protest classic, despite its birth as a Pink Batts radio jingle; 1974 hit ‘Lovely Lady’ got to number one. 'Higher Trials' accompanied the airborne climax of Oscar-nominated adventure film Off the Edge (1977). Soon after, growing weary of replaying the hits, Hanlon concentrated on his advertising career.
This collection rounds up almost every music video for a number one hit by a Kiwi artist; everything from ballads to hip hop to glam rock. Press on the images below to find the hits for each decade — plus try this backgrounder by Michael Higgins, whose high speed history of local hits touches on the sometimes questionable ways past charts were created.
This short clip marks the only known footage of John Hanlon performing his biggest hit 'Lovely Lady', via NZBC talent competition Studio One. The song ended up placing second, but went on to spend 20 weeks in the NZ charts. It reached number one, and won the 1974 APRA Silver Scroll songwriting award. Despite his immense success — he won another Silver Scroll the following year, and earned multiple RATA awards — Hanlon has faded somewhat from New Zealand’s cultural consciousness, since concentrating from 1978 on a career in advertising.
The South Tonight was a Dunedin-filmed regional news show. In these excerpts, Martin Phillipps and The Chills return home from London, and find album Submarine Bells is number one; legendary local band Sneaky Feelings play a last gig; Velvet Underground muse Nico plays Orientation Week; a ball is filmed at Larnach Castle for TV series Hanlon; rhododendron nuts ramble at the Dunedin Botanic Gardens, and Jim Mora visits the Danseys Pass Hotel. Finally there’s a survey of dingy student digs circa 1985 (when rents went as low as $14 a week).
This NZBC series from the first great era of TV talent shows (and the heyday of light entertainment on the box) featured three new artists and three new songs vying for the judges' favours each week. Performers include Steve Allen (fresh from the success of his Commonwealth Games song 'Join Together') and actor and singer Annie Whittle; and there's a rare glimpse of singer-songwriter John Hanlon. Auckland band Space Waltz steals the show in the New Faces section, debuting their glam rock anthem 'Out on the Street' to an unsuspecting nation (and judges).
Off the Edge was director Michael Firth's ode to the exhilaration of adventuring on the spine of New Zealand's Southern Alps. Something of a snowy Endless Summer, the film follows an American and a Canadian as they ski, hang glide, climb and delve beneath glaciers, in the Aoraki-Mt Cook area. Thrilling footage amidst spectacular scenery was shot over two seasons, where extreme weather and geography meant few chances for second takes. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary in 1977. The Los Angeles Times called it "beautiful and awesome".
In this Attitude episode, 14-year-old Sean Prendeville faces up to a complex and radical surgery: rotationplasty. For the bone cancer survivor the operation involves attaching his lower leg to the hip joint, rotating it and using the ankle as a ‘hinge’ for a prosthetic limb. The programme tracks the nature-mad Sean’s journey, from pre-surgery anxiety to rehab on his backwards right foot/knee; and the things that helped him through: his blue tongue lizard, challenge beads, Mum and family, and design student Jessica Quinn (who underwent the procedure when she was younger).