Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

New England's big screen highlights

Old Main Street, Raymond Terrace: Filming for Tomorrow, When the War Began

A few months ago, New England born writer and comedian Carlo Ritchie oganised New England expatriate/New State drinks at a pub in Sydney’s Redfern. The idea was to bring us together across interests and generations, to create a centre where we could talk about New England matters from film to food to beer and all things beyond.

It wasn’t a big group, these things take time to evolve, but I couldn’t help noticing just how many film makers, actors and dramatists there were.

We don’t have a proper history of New England film, indeed most people don’t even know that there is such a thing. In 2006 when film writer Neil Rattigan wrote his pioneering piece on New England film in High Lean Country, he identified ten feature films with New England connections.

I have been digging around in the ten years since Neil wrote. I use a broader definition of New England, but have now identified 29 feature films with some New England connection from the rather ramshackle 1921 Guyra Ghost Mystery to P J Hogan’s 2012 production, Mental.

When I look at the time distribution of the films, we have one on the 1920s, two in the 1930s, then just one in the 1940s. In the 1950s when the Australian film industry was down, there were actually four including Armidale filmed Captain Thunderbolt.

The 1960s saw just one film, Koya No Toseinin (The Drifting Avenger). Filmed on location at Nundle, this Japanese western starred Ken Takakura, the Clint Eastwood of Japanese film., seeking revenge for his murdered family. The movie was apparently never released in Australia, but I am told that it is available on YouTube. .

The 1970s saw six films, then just one the following decade. Production picked up in the 1990s with three films, six in the 2000s, with four so far in the 2010s. In all, its quite a lot.

A number of the films have absolutely nothing to do with New England beyond incidental filming.

Ken Halls’ 1937 Lovers and Luggers is a rollicking adventure melodrama about a lounge lizard and pianist who is sent on a quest to Thursday Island to retrieve a pearl for a girl.

What could be more reasonable than that? It’s a 1937 chick flick! Needless to say, the girl was not worth his love, but he does find true love in the process.

The only connection between Lovers and Luggers and New England is that a few scenes were shot in Port Stephens.

That was 1937. Many years later, I visited Raymond Terrace. I hadn’t been there before. We were on our way to Armidale, introducing a friend to New England.

Over a picnic lunch near the pioneer museum, wine and pate and meats and breads, I explained that I wanted to find the main street location where Tomorrow, When the war Began (2010) was shot.

Later we found it. Like Lovers and Luggers, the only connection between this film and New England is location. But it makes life so much richer because I can see the interconnections. 
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 9 August 2017. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here 2017. 

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