Michael Heath's imagination has spawned movies bursting with murder and mayhem, as well as lyrical tales of childhood and unheralded artists. Heath's work ranges widely – some of his films are lyrical, comical and murderous all at the same time. His scripts include two contenders for New Zealand's first horror film (Death Warmed Up and Next of Kin), plus an affectionate adaptation of Ronald Hugh Morrieson classic The Scarecrow, which was the first Kiwi movie invited to the Cannes Film Festival. In recent years Heath has blossomed from writer into director.
Actor Kevin Smith could do it all; from brooding like Brando in a Tennessee Williams play, through Xena, to the gentle romantic lead of Double Booking, and self-parody in Love Mussel. Collected here are selections from a career cut short (he died in a 2002 film-set accident). Plus tributes from James Griffin, Michael Hurst, Geoffrey Dolan and Simon Prast.
Music videos — often they're no more than a promotional tool; sometimes they are works of art. They provide a chart of changing fashions and trends, and offer emerging filmmakers the chance to really show their stuff. The best clips lift the music even higher. So get your groove on for this career-spanning, 'best of' compilation: from mad scientists to metalheads, from Supergroove to The Naked and Famous — almost every Best Music Video winner at New Zealand's local music awards, since Andrew Shaw first took the prize for DD Smash's 'Outlook for Thursday' in 1983.
Pre-dating Peter Jackson's arrival (Bad Taste) by three years, New Zealand's first horror movie sees Michael Hurst making his movie debut as he fights mutants (including Bruno Lawrence) on Waiheke Island. Hurst's character is out to avenge the mad scientist who forced him to kill his parents. A grand prize-winner at a French fantasy festival (with cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky on the jury), David Blyth's splatterfest marked the first of many horrors funded by the NZ Film Commission. It was also the first local showcase of the smoothly-flowing Steadicam camera.
Reuben Sutherland directs a hair-raising tour through a wretched laboratory in this music video — his second Shihad clip in a row to take away the Best Video Award, at Aotearoa's yearly music award ceremonies. Frenetically paced and skillfully edited, the video adheres to the feverish temperament of the song, while layered graphics add a sinister and unsettling sci-fi edge. Singer Jon Toogood nails his performance as a demented pharmacist bent way out of shape. Aside from making videos and commercials, director Sutherland is also one half of sound plus visuals group Sculpture.
The video was directed by Mark Williams (aka MC Slave) and the concept was born over yum cha sessions with the band. In the clip the Fat Freddy's crew are abducted by mad scientist and former child prodigy musician Boondigga (Taungaroa Emile). Taunted by FFD's soul sounds, he conducts a lab experiment to extract the music from their brains.
Peter Feeney is a veritable Swiss Army knife of the screen, with credits as actor, casting director and acting tutor (as well as novelist). Feeney's 20 year plus acting CV ranges from NZ-shot US shows (Spartacus), to kids TV (Secret Agent Men, The Cul de Sac), comedy (Auckland Daze) drama (Abandoned), commercials (Memphis Meltdown) and film: he won rave reviews as a mad scientist in Black Sheep.
In director Geoff Murphy's cult sci fi feature, a global energy project has malfunctioned and scientist Zac Hobson (Bruno Lawrence) awakes to find himself the only living being left on earth. At first he lives out his fantasies, helping himself to cars and clothes, before the implications of being 'man alone' sink in. As this awareness sends him to the brink of madness — see the excerpt above — he discovers two other survivors. One of them is a woman. The Los Angeles Daily News called the movie “quite simply the best science-fiction film of the 80s”. Read more about it here.
Though Michael Heath helped create a run of pioneering examples of the Kiwi cinema of unease, his contributions to our culture defy easy categorisation. His scripts include many films which have made a comfortable home between genres: children’s vampire tale Moonrise/Grampire, nostalgic Ronald Hugh Morrieson chiller The Scarecrow, Heath’s work with director Tony Williams, and his acclaimed song-cycle A Small Life.
Ian Watkin's long acting career saw him playing mad doctors, priests, axe-wielding stepfathers, and American presidents. Part of the legendary Blerta troupe which toured Australasia in the 1970s, Watkin went on to appearances in everything from Beyond Reasonable Doubt and an iconic Crunchie bar commercial, to presenting Miss Universe New Zealand. He passed away in May 2016.