Collection

Better Safe than Sorry

Curated by NZ On Screen team

Long before Ghost Chips, even before "don't use your back like a crane", life in Godzone was fraught with hazards. This collection shows public safety awareness films spanning from the 50s to the 70s. If there's kitsch enjoyment to be had in the looking back (chimps on bikes?!) the lessons remain timeless. Remember: It's better to be safe than sorry.

Wait and See

Shihad, Music Video, 1998

The video for Shihad’s 'Wait And See' has the band shot in sepia, and trapped in industrial landscapes. Caught in the confines of a factory, the band face tentacles growing out of the walls and a mystery typewriter that seems central to proceedings. Mimicking surveillance footage, the video is made up of fast cuts and shaky shots. The song features on their EP Blue Light Disco, and was later rerecorded for number one album The General Electric. In 2000 the clip won director Reuben Sutherland the first of two consecutive Best Music Video gongs, at the Coca-Cola NZ Music Awards.

Chic Chat - 1981 Episode

Television, 1981 (Full Length Episode)

Chic Littlewood’s afterschool show for children featured skits performed by Chic and his puppets to link cartoons and other overseas programming. Chic should be in control — but the real star here is the somewhat wayward Willie McNabb (from a Scottish family of mice courtesy of Auckland theatre doyenne Alma Woods). Chic and Willie are never quite on the same wavelength — and Chic’s Gramps character has even less chance of matching wits with him. Mother McNabb appears briefly — while the apparently ogre-like producer is an ominous but unseen presence.

New Zealand Is Yours - Nightlife

Short Film, 1974 (Full Length)

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".

Turn of the Century

Beat Rhythm Fashion, Music Video, 1981

The video for BRF's second single contrasts images of youths in gas masks with This is New Zealand-style panoramic scenery. The song ominously describes a complacent society ignoring apocalyptic possibilities: it could be the theme song to The Quiet Earth. But like BRF's UK contemporaries the Cure and Joy Division, behind the brooding, melancholic music is a pop song with deceptive hooklines. The haunting melody emerges slowly from a funereal marching beat, while the chorus is almost ecstatic, with phased synthesised strings that seem to take flight.

Johnny

Salmonella Dub, Music Video, 1999

An echoing synth gives this song an ominous tone, and the video matches it with B-movie flair. With the logo for Salmonella Dub’s third album Killervision burnt into his chest, Johnny wakes in the band's boardroom, and the tale of how he got there unfolds. His troubles begin at the Havana Bar where he is drugged, and awakens in the back of a moving convertible. The resultant chase through native bush ends with Johnny getting cornered high up on a dam, leading to perhaps the most daring fight scene yet seen in a New Zealand music video.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination

Film, 2009 (Excerpts)

Edgar Allen Poe's tales of murder, burial, and ominous ravens have inspired movies, nightmares ... and an eclectic musical suite by saxophonist Lucien Johnson, which he first performed live with Wellington’s Village of the Idiots. With the aid of some home-cooked CGI, director Geoff Murphy mixes concert footage, fantastical imagery, interviews and spoken word to put it on screen. Family and friends help round out the crew. The results echo Murphy's early, genre-stretching days with ensemble Blerta, this time with themes of mortality mixing in with the horns.

Theme from Once Were Warriors

Tama Renata, Music Video, 1994

Tama Renata’s memorable theme for Once Were Warriors embedded itself in the New Zealand psyche as much as the line “cook me some eggs”, or the ominous buzzing sounds of the pūrerehua. In this promo clip, the Herbs guitarist takes centre stage as he shreds on a custom stratocaster cast in traditional wood whakairo (carving). The shots of Renata playing are interspersed with iconic scenes from the movie, which launched its takeover of New Zealand cinemas in mid 1994, before screening around the globe. Tama Renata passed away on 4 November 2018.

The Wyllie Bunch

Television, 1991 (Full Length)

The third of Pasta Productions’ popular All Blacks documentaries sees winger John Kirwan provide running commentary on the team’s path to the 1991 World Cup in England: from Argentina to Sydney and Auckland to contest the Bledisloe; from facing bottle and orange missiles in Tucumán to touch on Bondi Beach. JK muses on why coach Alex Wyllie is nicknamed ‘Grizz’, Neil and Tim Finn provide musical accompaniment (“I see black”), and Canterbury Uglies are the training uniform du jour. Meanwhile on-field signs are ominous for the reigning world champs.  

Dreaming

Scribe, Music Video, 2004

After his hard-hitting debut single 'Stand Up' and the hit remix of 'Not Many', Scribe took a gentler approach on the third single from his five times platinum debut album. Rolling clouds open the music video, which trades bombastic beats and ominous synth tones for gentler piano. The chart-topping hook, originally written for Che Fu, was sung by Scribe himself after encouragement from collaborator P-Money. Photos from Scribe’s childhood appear on screen while he raps about the struggle to realise his potential, before glimpses of 'making of' footage from previous videos.