Men of the Silver Fern was a four-part celebration of all things All Black, made in 1992 for the centenary of the NZRFU (now known as New Zealand Rugby). This first episode covers the early period from when Charles Monro kicked off the sport in NZ in Nelson on 14 May 1870, through the establishment of rules, provincial unions and the New Zealand Rugby Football Union. The programme surveys the front-running international tours — from the 1884 Flaxlanders to the 1888 Natives, 1905 Originals and 1924 Invincibles — where the All Blacks’ "winning reputation" was forged.
This silent 16mm gem shows two legendary All Black teams in action. The film opens with a roll-call of the returning ‘Invincibles’, who — starring fullback George Nepia — were unbeaten on their international tour of 1924/5; and then features match highlights. The second clip opens with rare footage of the 1905 ‘Originals’; before returning to packed 1925 Twickenham for a test match, where the Invincibles perform “the famous Māori War Cry”, show off the Kiwi mascot (intended as a gift for the first team to beat them), meet the Prince of Wales, and defeat England.
This documentary follows the then world champion All Blacks on a 1989 tour of Wales and Ireland. With star winger John Kirwan as guide, 'The All Black Film Unit' gives a players’ insight into an international tour in pre-professional, pre-media trained times — there’s even a plate of oranges. Match, training, and travel footage is complemented by relaxed encounters with players (Zinzan Brooke mounting a shetland pony has entered rugby folklore). Producer Ric Salizzo repeated the recipe — sports fandom mixed with schoolboy pratfalls — in the successful Sports Cafe series.
Screened in the lead-up to the 1999 World Cup final, this keenly-watched series explores the history of our most famous sports team. Episode one is framed around All Black encounters with England, Wales and Scotland. In these excerpts, Quinn tracks down 60s test prop 'Jazz' Muller (whose home is a shrine to touring days), explores prop Keith Murdoch’s infamous 1972 tour expulsion; visits the marae of George Nepia, examines rugby’s far-from-egalitarian status in England; and various All Blacks recall the rare shame of losing, amidst a history of victory.
A death-bed confession from a touch judge leads to a repeat of a test match between the All Blacks and Wales played 25 years earlier — with the same players. Before the footy, a former Welsh star is forced to face up to a past romance. Mateships and rivalries are rekindled in this genial "what if" yarn, that celebrates and satirises two nations' rugby obsessions. It won best screenplay and supporting actor (John Bach) at 1992's NZ Film Awards. The cast saw former All Blacks and Welsh rugby reps playing alongside acting greats from both countries.
There have been many royal visits since Prince Alfred first came to NZ in 1867 for pig hunting and picnicking. Made for TV (it screened in March 1970), this NFU title surveys tours from George V in 1901 to Queen Elizabeth II in 1963, via archive footage and photos. It also looks at NZ’s changing relationship to the “distant mother country”. Tours include the Prince of Wales in 1920 (he is said to have shaken 20,000 hands), the Duke and Duchess of York in 1927 (the footage is silent so there’s no speech from the future King George VI), and Queen Elizabeth II’s 1953-54 Coronation Tour.
This 1978 National Film Unit documentary provides a potted history of non-British settler groups that came to New Zealand from Europe. Archive material and narration covers the colonials; then visits are paid to the German-descended Eggers, tobacco growers from Moutere, and newly arrived French bakers and Dutch dairy farmers. Aptly for a film directed by actor and vintner Sam Neill, the film drops in on an Italian play and the Babich family of Dalmatian winemakers. Neill worked at the NFU in his 20s, about the time of his breakout role in Sleeping Dogs (1977).
The race to build a new hotel at Mount Cook to replace the original Hermitage (which burnt down a year earlier) leads this edition of the National Film Unit's magazine series. A two year construction job was finished in just eight months and Prime Minister Walter Nash cuts the cake at the grand opening. The recording industry is booming and sales of LPs soaring as the cameras visit a pressing plant to find out "what's behind putting the chatter on the platter"; and the NZ team for the 1958 Cardiff Empire Games gets ready to fly out with high hopes for medals.
This third episode of Men of the Silver Fern follows the fortunes of the All Blacks from 1956 to 1978. In 1956 the All Blacks had beaten the Springboks by playing a conservative ’10-man’ game, but they faced criticism for their dour pragmatism. A decade later the backs were back: coach Fred ‘The Needle’ Allen based his triumphant turn at the helm of the All Blacks on expressive, running rugby. This episode follows the All Blacks’ ongoing mission to win a series in South Africa, and achieve a ‘grand slam’ of victories over the home unions on a tour of the UK.
This NZBC documentary goes behind the scenes of the All Blacks, as the 1969 edition prepares to face the Welsh tourists. Match-day superstitions and training routines are analysed: Colin Meads relays his fitness regime (up farm hills), Sid Going discusses being a missionary, and there is much musing on all-things All Black from players, punters and even footballers’ wives. Exploration of player psychology plays it up the middle, and though the film neglects to ask how many Weetbix a player can eat, it was nominated for Best Documentary at the 1970 Feltex Awards.