'No 8 wire' Kiwi ingenuity is defined by problem solving from few resources (No 8 wire is fencing wire that can be adapted to many uses, an ability that was particularly handy for isolated NZ settlers). Embodied in heroes from Richard Pearse to PJ, Kiwi ingenuity is a quality dear to our national sense of self. It has been memorably celebrated, and sometimes satirised, on screen.
The Country Touch was a widely popular country and western music show from the 60s, that screened on Saturday nights. Produced by Bryan Easte for NZBC the show was filmed on an Auckland hay barn set and featured musical numbers, from folk, fiddles, and banjos to bluegrass, introduced by the legendary Tex Morton. Regulars included The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band, Brian Hirst’s Country Touch Singers (with a team of 20 square dancers), and Kay and Shane. Has Auckland ever been this close to the Appalachians?
Ask Country Calendar viewers which shows they remember and inevitably the answer is "the spoofs" — satirical episodes that screened unannounced. Sometimes there was outrage but mostly the public enjoyed having the wool pulled over their eyes. Created by producer Tony Trotter and Bogor cartoonist Burton Silver, the first (in late 1977) was the fencing wire-playing farmer and his "rural music". This special episode collects the best of the spoofs, from the infamous radio-controlled dog, to the gay couple who ran a "stress-free" flock, and more malarkey besides.
Enjoying sex, drugs and rock'n'roll is difficult when you have to be up early to shear sheep. Country Calendar visited Rangitikei to investigate the Dickheads phenomenon, and found the Taihape band ready to mumble when it came to discussing the hazards of mixing music with farming. The Dickheads are seen rehearsing at Dickheadquarters, in the stockyards, and yarning at the New Taihape Hotel as they head for the big time: an afternoon slot at Sweetwaters, 1982. As a former shearer, TVNZ director Keith Slater identified with the Dickheads' dilemmas.
The magpie quardle oodled and the narrator uttered, "Welcome to Woolly Valley", in the intro to this children's TV classic. The low-tech puppet show with its rustic charm was familiar to a generation of kids who grew up in the 80s. It follows the lives of woolly-haired farmer Wally and his long-suffering wife Beattie, who live with talking ewe Eunice. Also featured is hippie Tussock, voiced by Russell (Count Homogenized) Smith. Woolly Valley marked an early piece of screenwriting by children's writer Margaret Mahy. This compilation is the entire first series.
In this 1971 film pianist Barry Margan ‘humps’ his grand piano around NZ, on a mission to bring classical piano to places where it might not typically be heard. Aiming to break down barriers to enjoying live chamber music, Margan plays his pop-up piano (including Douglas Lilburn’s ‘Sonatina’) at coffee bars, libraries and art galleries. The trailer-borne grand is not easy to set up, but the audiences (from soldiers to children) are willing. Narrated by Margan, this was the last film in the National Film Unit's three decade-spanning Pictorial Parade magazine series.
Country and western music legend Tex Morton presents this popular 60s Saturday night music show. The Auckland studio audience is seated on hay bales in a barn-styled set and provide the chorus to the musical numbers. The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band, The Country Touch Singers and Square Dancers, Jan Butler, fiddler Colleen Bain, and resident guest singers Kay and Shane perform. Tex himself sings a novelty number about the good ol’ days, and applauds Butler: “Isn’t she a redheaded little spark? I wish we had colour television!” The times they have a changed!
Rainbow-coloured goats and a herd of children on horseback feature in this 1965 Australian movie. Expat Kiwi producer Roger Mirams called on a stable of actors from his TV work for this part-musical romp, about a group of youngsters who discover a way to change the colour of animal wool. The cast includes Grease's Olivia Newton-John (in her screen debut) and Howard Morrison (as a shearer who teaches the kids a Māori stick game). After co-founding Kiwi production company Pacific Films, Mirams had left Aotearoa in 1957 to launch a short-lived Australian arm of Pacific.
In this first feature film from writer/director Greg Page, two urban bloke best friends take off on a surfing weekend. Their prospects of finding fun go down with the sun. Instead of enjoying surf and black sand, the boys find themselves lost in a rural nightmare, battling an inescapable curse and nocturnal field bogans. Page, known for his high energy music videos, wheel-spins city limits phobia into the Waikato heartland for a Kiwi twist on thriller genre thrills. Horrorview.com called it: "different and inventive enough to stand out from the crowd."
Claire Duncan’s “love-letter to music on the margins” punctures the romantic view of the touring musician (with withering narration playing over images of rural backwaters) while simultaneously affirming the virtues of self-expression, and the special transience of live performance. Featured are interviews and arresting performances from some of NZ’s most singular new artists: Seth Frightening, i.e. crazy (the director’s musical alias) and Girls Pissing On Girls Pissing. This was one of three films produced by Lumière, advocating for local artists working outside the mainstream.