The Dominant Species is a loopy look at the relationship between people and cars in 1975 Aotearoa ... from an alien's eye view. Nifty animation and FX intersperse the automotive anthropological survey of Mark IIs, VWs, anti-car activism and driveway car-washing. There's a ladykilling Jesus Christ atop-a-motorcar dream sequence; and Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries scores a rugby match traffic jam (predating Apocalypse Now's choppers). Filmhead will note the tripped out assembly is flush with formative industry talents (see Derek Morton’s guide, under the 'background' tab).
In the era before 24 hour transmission, packages like these opened the day on TV1 and TV2. United by patriotic zeal, they focused on Kiwi people at work and play, and on scenery, and could have doubled as tourism promos. (The 1976 edition — second clip — borrows more than just the soundtrack from short film This is New Zealand). The party piece is the first clip: an epic tag-team version of the national anthem, sung by Annie Crummer, Peter Morgan, the Patea Māori Club and Dalvanius, backed by the NZ Youth Jazz Orchestra. It was originally recorded for Expo 88 in Brisbane.
Like many other current affairs shows in the 70s, Tonight had a fairly brief existence, but it provided the forum for this infamous battle of wills between journalist Simon Walker and Prime Minister Robert Muldoon. It is May 1976, and Walker is daring to interrogats Muldoon about his claims of a Soviet naval presence in the Pacific, and New Zealand's vulnerability to Russian nuclear attack. Muldoon grows increasingly annoyed and bullish at being asked questions that are not on his sheet: "I will not have some smart alec interviewer changing the rules half way through."
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, walk, climb and delve beneath glaciers, in the Aoraki-Mt Cook area. Thrilling footage amidst requisite 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 (Best Documentary in 1977); the LA Times called it "beautiful and awesome".
Part one of a four part thriller written by Keith Aberdein. In a small North Island town, a mysterious unmarked grave is believed to hold the remains of a tohunga who died ridding his people of a deadly epidemic. Now, an archaeological dig might be getting too close to that grave. A visiting doctor (Cathy Downes) arrives in town to find the locals in a state of agitation; the archaelogist (Martyn Sanderson) full of good intentions, but unaware of where his actions could lead; and relations between Māori and Pakeha strained as two cultures struggle to co-exist.
The Italian Job meets cheap jugs and a student union gig in this early heist tale from Geoff Murphy (Pork Pie, Quiet Earth, Utu). The plot follows some university students — short on exam fees and beer money — and their scheme to crack a campus safe ... the things kids got up to before internal assessment! Murphy enlisted $4000 and a bevy of mates (including Bruno on bongos) to make the film over nine months of weekends. It screened on TV on New Year’s Eve 1970; its assured pace and naturalist acting stood in stark contrast to the stage-derived telly standards of the time.
Star English interviewer David Frost was international television royalty when he jetted into New Zealand in 1973 to host a series of six hour long shows which were produced by Des Monaghan and directed by Kevan Moore (the longest duration he’d worked on). In the NZBC’s most ambitious undertaking up until then, the six episodes were recorded in just four days. The series began with political leaders — Prime Minister Norman Kirk and Leader of the Opposition Jack Marshall. The other subjects were abortion, obesity, champion athletes, marriage and children.
A mainstay on cinema and TV screens for over 20 years, this commercial — reputedly NZ’s longest-running — made Kiwis feel as if the UK-born hokey pokey treasure was ‘ours’. Directed by Tony Williams, the madcap romp features a bevy of 70s acting talent caught up in chaos, after outlaws start a free for all fight for a chest of Crunchie bars. A connection with Martin Scorsese’s editor allowed access to footage from old Westerns, while the immortal tune is by Murray Grindlay. Williams overspent his meagre budget, and a lawn mower given to him as a thank you ended up his fee.
This late 70s gender politics satire was a Television One sitcom written by future Gloss creator Rosemary McLeod; it was broadcast live-to-air from Avalon Studios. In this episode, Ginette McDonald’s lippy feminist withholds the joy of sex from her hippy hubbie, and Bruno Lawrence (sporting a magnificent anti-comb over) is the unreformed motorhead neighbour whose hangover cure is beer and cornflakes. Lawrence’s larrikin performance in the show was spotted by director Roger Donaldson who cast Bruno in his breakout big screen lead role: Al Shaw in Smash Palace.
For a generation of music fans rock show Radio with Pictures was their link to local and international music — and essential viewing before TV2's Sunday night horror movies. Following on from the Grunt Machine in 1976, its presenters included Dr Rock (Barry Jenkin), Phil O'Brien, Karyn Hay and Dick Driver. RWP's run coincided with the rise of MTV and the music video, and a burgeoning 80s New Zealand music scene. Videos were a staple but artist interviews also featured and the show staged a number of televised concerts featuring leading local artists.