“Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle”. Denis Glover’s classic poem The Magpies has inspired plays, art by Dick Frizzell, spats about onomatopoeia, and this 1974 short film, produced by publisher Alister Taylor. It centres around Glover musing on Magpies in his smoky Terrace flat in Wellington, during an interview with Glover’s son Rupert. Bookending the interview are two readings of the poem by director Martyn Sanderson. Sanderson’s memorable voice scores scenes of rural decay, and animation interpreting the tragedy of Tom and Elizabeth (the farming couple whose dreams go bad).
It's Wellington in the 1970s and Bob (Jeremy Stephens) is having a midlife crisis. Square-peg Graham (Bill Johnson, who later played Mr Wilberforce in Under the Mountain) tries to convince Bob to quit his bohemian lifestyle (and his lover/muse Carol) and return to his wife Jean. But is Graham really acting in his mate's best interests? Featuring a young Sam Neill as the epitome of handsome, unfettered youth (flared jeans, bushy beard) this early, well-received TV drama was one of several produced by the NZ Broadcasting Corporation to tackle 'difficult' contemporary issues.
Like many young New Zealand males during the late 1960s, Wayne Chester joined the army and headed overseas to fight in Vietnam. As a machine gunner he patrolled the jungles outside of Saigon and saw combat, facing the Viet Cong on several occasions. He recounts his experiences in the jungle, along with some close encounters with wildlife, and the altercations and laughs shared with the American contingent. He also discusses his admiration for the Vietnamese people and the Viet Cong, and the long-term physical and political effects of agent orange.
This two hander is one of the heavier editions of the Loose Enz series. After midnight, a woman (Heather Lindsay) rifles through her prescription drugs then smashes a glass against an Egon Schiele print hanging on her wall (with Laurie Anderson-inspired blips scoring the scene). Shortly afterwards a married colleague (Peter Vere-Jones) turns up, whom she's forgotten she's phoned. The titular samaritan finds himself drawn into the midlife crisis of a woman under the influence: from Yevtushenko to a bitter waltz to Split Enz's 'I Got You'.
“It’s not just a game. It’s a way of life”. This short film travels to the Central Otago town of Naseby: a rare bastion where the sport of curling is still practised on natural ice. But warmer winters may end the tradition. In their woollen 'tams' the southern ice men competing for NZ’s oldest sporting trophy provide a unique perspective on climate change. Made by Rachael Patching and Roland Kahurangi as part of Otago University’s science communication masters, the award-winning doco screened at Wildscreen and Banff film festivals.
Bob Stenhouse worked largely alone to visualise this luminously-animated ode to the "nation of drunkards" (as New Zealand was tagged in the House of Lords in 1838). A shepherd tricks a Mackenzie barman out of a bottle of ‘Hokonui Lightning', but too much pioneer spirit sees him haunted by the devil's daughter. In 1986 Frog was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Short; later an animation festival in Annecy, France judged it one of the best animated films made that century. A short 'making of' clip at the end offers hints of the hard work behind the film's distinctive look.
Died in the Wool was part of a TV anthology adapting the murder mysteries of Dame Ngaio Marsh. MP Flossie Rubrick has been found dead in a wool bale, and it's up to Inspector Roderick Alleyn (UK actor George Baker — Bond, Z Cars, I, Claudius) to unravel the secrets of a South Island sheep station. The tale of a cultured Englishman amidst World War II spies, Bach and seamy colonial crimes — like Marsh's books — found a global audience: it was the first NZ TV drama to screen in the US (on PBS). Includes a Cluedo-style sitting room inquest and a wool shed reveal.
Artists Prepare was an National Film Unit series that featured prominent performance-based artists of the time. The edition follows poets Sam Hunt and Gary McCormick (the "John Travolta of New Zealand poetry") on tour in the Nelson region as they give poetry readings, talk to high school girls, drink whiskey, and muse about poetry and life — while Minstrel, Hunt's dog, lies patiently under bar tables. Ultra-tight stovepipe jeans, rock-star scarves, scenes in a milk bar and out on the open road in a Valiant evoke a time when poetry and heartthrob weren't antonyms.
After befriending Sir Edmund Hillary over Irish whiskey, Tom Scott won Hillary’s endorsement to document his life story for TVNZ. In this four-part series Scott bags the storied peaks of ‘Sir Ed’s’ adventuring and humanitarian career, but also visits the lesser-known tragedies and struggles that the “surprisingly shy” that Hillary has faced; from gangly student and beekeeper to the man who Scott calls “an icon, benchmark and metaphor in his own lifetime”. View from the Top screened in September-October 1997, and won Best Factual Series at the 1998 TV Guide Awards.
Rain evokes an idyllic 1970s beach holiday. But as the title hints, all is not sunny at the bach. Mum (Sarah Peirse) is drowning in drink, Dad is defeated, and 13-year-old Janey is awakening to a new kind of power. Adapted from Kirsty Gunn's novel, Rain marked the acclaimed first feature for director Christine Jeffs. Invited to screen at the Cannes Film Festival, it won awards back home for actors Peirse, Alistair Browning and teenager Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki. Neil Finn and Edmund Cake composed the soundtrack. LA Times critic Kevin Thomas called it "an important feature debut".