This post looks at the careers and films of Australian Directors who made their first impact in the 1970s.
The other directors covered are: Ken Hannam, Henri Safran, Richard Franklin, Donald Crombie, Brian Trenchard-Smith, Jim Sharman, Philippe Mora, Esben Storm, John Power, Stephen Wallace, Igor Auzins, Colin Eggleston, Tom Jeffrey, Michael Thornhill, John D. Lamond, Tom Cowan, Kevin James Dobson, Rod Hardy, Terry Bourke, Bert Deling and Chris Lofven.
The 1970s stand out as the most significant decade in Australian cinema, when our national cinema rose from the ashes to bloom again. The 70s became a benchmark and an inspiration for following generations of Australian film-makers. The 70s revival was due in large measure to a small number of directors who pioneered this rebirth, and the best of those directors have achieved international success rarely matched by later directors.
For over 25 years between World War Two and about 1970, Australian cinema had been moribund, with few successful films made in Australia, and the small film scene dominated by British and American producers and directors. While some of these foreign directors, such as the British and Canadian trio of Michael Powell, Nicholas Roeg and Ted Kotcheff, made great films on Australian themes in the late 60s and early 70s, the films lacked the Australian creative control and input necessary for a national cinema.
Beginning in the early 1970s, Australian cinema experienced a ‘New Wave’ (also known as the ‘Australian Film Revival’ or the ‘Australian Film Renaissance’) when a number of young Australian directors, aided by a new government policy of support, began to tell Australian stories again. These directors had spent the 1960s learning their craft in television or documentary-making in Australia or the UK, and were keen to make Australian features. Tim Burstall, Peter Weir and Bruce Beresford led the way, all making critically or commercially successful films by 1972. They were soon followed by many others, keen to tell a variety of Australian stories. This graph shows the importance of the 1970s for Australian cinema:
[Source: Ozflicks’ graph based on Garry Gillard’s amazing chronological list of Oz films at http://australiancinema.info/date.html]
The first trend for new Australian films in the early-mid 70s was for popular ‘Ocker’ comedies (cheerfully vulgar, lowbrow films featuring broad Australian accents and peppered with Australian colloquialisms) and sex-romps as well as ‘Ozploitation’ genre films (low-budget films emphasising action, sex, violence and horror in an Australian setting). From the mid-70s, directors began to start making so-called ‘quality’ films – serious dramas, art films and period films – which began to gain serious international recognition. As a result, in the 1970s Australians started watching local films again at the cinema, something that had rarely happened since the 1940s.
Of the many new Oz directors who got their start in the 1970s, eight, in particular stand out. These directors made landmark films which revived Australian cinema. All of these directors won AFI awards for best director and many went on to successful careers in Hollywood in the 1980s and 1990s. The eight top Oz directors of the 1970s (& early 1980s) are:
- John Duigan
Here are some details of the careers and achievements of the major directors who established themselves in the 1970s:
1. Peter Weir
Peter Weir was born in Sydney in 1944 and has made 16 films including 8 Australian films which were all made at the start of his career. Weir, after working in television and government documentaries in the 1960s, was one of the first film-makers of the 1970s to get feature films made. His films 3 to Go (1970) (for which Weir directed one of the three segments of a portmanteau film) and Homesdale (1971) won the first two AFI awards for best film. In 1975 Weir made Picnic At Hanging Rock, a film which has been much praised as signalling a new maturity in Australian cinema, and which was the first to gain serious international recognition. Following that, Weir made four more films in Australia before he left for Hollywood, never to make another Australian film. His penultimate Australian film, Gallipoli, was particularly successful in its portrayal of Australia’s ANZAC legend, and won Weir’s final AFI best picture and best director awards. He won two AFI Best Director awards, for Homesdale and Gallipoli, and was nominated three more times, for Picnic At Hanging Rock, The Last Wave and The Year of Living Dangerously. Three of his films won an AFI Best Film award (Three to Go: Michael, Homesdale and Gallipoli) and two more were nominated.
Weir has made eight overseas films, the most successful of which, Dead Poets’ Society and The Truman Show, both made over $200 million each. He has been nominated for Academy Award for Best Director four times (Witness, Dead Poets’ Society, The Truman Show and Master and Commander), and three of his films have been nominated for Best Film. He has won 2 BAFTAs for Best Director (The Truman Show and Master and Commander) and one for Best Film (Dead Poets’ Society). He has been nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Director four times.
He has made 8 Australian films: 3 to Go (1970), Homesdale (1971), The Cars That Ate Paris (1974), Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), The Last Wave (1977), The Plumber (1979), Gallipoli (1981) and The Year of Living Dangerously (1982)
His foreign films are: Witness (1985), The Mosquito Coast (1986), Dead Poets Society (1989), Green Card (1990), Fearless (1993), The Truman Show (1998), Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) and The Way Back (2010).
Recommended Reading: Senses of Cinema’s Great Directors profile of Peter Weir
2. Bruce Beresford
Bruce Beresford was born in Sydney in 1940 and has made 32 films including 12 Australian films. Beresford was another pioneering director of the 1970s revival, making his first Australian feature in 1972, after producing short documentaries for British Film Institute Production Board from 1966 to 1970. He has shown an ability to work in a wide range of genres, having started out making the outrageous Barry McKenzie ‘ocker’ comedies, before moving to political satire with Don’s Party, period pieces with The Getting of Wisdom and Breaker Morant, and then to social issue films in the eighties with films about teenage surf culture, football and Aboriginal disadvantage in the 1980s. He has won two AFI Best Director awards (Don’s Party and Breaker Morant) and has been nominated four more times; one his films won an AFI Best Film award (Breaker Morant) and five more were nominated.
Beresford started making overseas movies in 1983 with the critically acclaimed Tender Mercies. Since then he has made 20 films overseas. His most successful films, Driving Miss Daisy and Double Jeopardy, both made over $100 million each. Unlike Peter Weir. Beresford returned to make two more films in Australia in the 1990s, and another in 2018. He has received one Academy Award nomination for best director (for Tender Mercies).
His Australian films are: The Adventures of Barry McKenzie (1972), Barry McKenzie Holds His Own (1974), Don’s Party (1976), The Getting of Wisdom (1978), Money Movers (1978), Breaker Morant (1980), The Club (1980), Puberty Blues (1981), The Fringe Dwellers (1986), Paradise Road (1997) and Sydney – A Story of a City (1999), Ladies in Black (2018).
His foreign films are: Side by Side (1975 UK), Tender Mercies (1983), King David (1985), Crimes of the Heart (1986), Her Alibi (1989), Driving Miss Daisy (1989), Mister Johnson (1990) Black Robe (1991) Rich in Love (1993) A Good Man in Africa (1994) Silent Fall (1994) Last Dance (1996), Double Jeopardy (1999), Bride of the Wind (2001), Evelyn (2002), And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself (2003), The Contract (2006), Mao’s Last Dancer (2009), Peace, Love & Misunderstanding (2011), Bonnie & Clyde (2013) and Mr. Church (2016)
3. George Miller
George Miller was born in Brisbane in 1945 and has made 10 films including 7 Australian films, as well as producing others. The son of Greek immigrants, Miller stood out from the other early directors, both because he chose to make action films and because he did not rely on government financing to get his films made. Miller was a doctor during the 70s and used his own savings, plus private investments raised by his producer-partner Byron Kennedy, to make his first film Mad Max. Miller has not made as great a variety of films as Weir and Beresford, but his films have been more successful financially, as he created first the Mad Max series of futuristic action films, and then the two successful series of children’s films Babe and Happy Feet. His most successful films, Happy Feet and Mad Max: Fury Road, both made over $300 million each.
He has won two AFI Best Director awards, for Mad Max 2 and Mad Max: Fury Road, and was nominated for one more, Mad Max. Mad Max: Fury Road also won the AFI Best Film award, and Mad Max was nominated for best film. Mad Max: Fury Road also received an Academy Award nomination for best film and one for best director. Miller also received an Academy Award for the best animated feature for Happy Feet.
His Australian films are: Mad Max (1979). Mad Max 2 (1981), Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985), 40,000 Years of Dreaming (1997), Babe: Pig in the City (1998), Happy Feet (2006), Happy Feet Two (2011), Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).
His foreign films are: Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) (he directed one of the four parts of the film), The Witches of Eastwick (1987) Lorenzo’s Oil (1992)
Recommended Profiles: Senses of Cinema’s Great Directors profile of George Miller ; ‘Mad George’, Variety 2015
4. Fred Schepisi
Fred Schepisi was born in Melbourne in 1939 and has made 17 films including 4 Australian films. He began his career in advertising, directing commercials and documentaries in the 1950s and 1960s. His first feature, The Devil’s Playground beat Peter Weir’s highly respected Picnic At Hanging Rock for the AFI best picture and best director awards. Since then he has made successful films both overseas and in Australia where he returned to make films in 1988 and 2011. He is best known for the films Six Degrees of Separation, Roxanne, Plenty and Last Orders.
He won two AFI Best Director awards, for The Devil’s Playground and Evil Angels, and was nominated twice more, for The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith and The Eye of the Storm. Two of his films won an AFI Best Film award, The Devil’s Playground and Evil Angels, and his other two, The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith and The Eye of the Storm, were nominated. All four of his Australian films are in the Ozflicks top 100.
His Australian films are: The Devil’s Playground (1976), The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978), Evil Angels (A Cry in the Dark) (1988) and The Eye of the Storm (2011).
His foreign films are: Barbarosa (1982), Iceman (1984), Plenty (1985), Roxanne (1987), The Russia House (1990), Mr. Baseball (1992), Six Degrees of Separation (1993), I.Q. (1994), Fierce Creatures (1997), Last Orders (2001), It Runs in the Family (2003), Words and Pictures (2013).
5. Phillip Noyce
Phillip Noyce was born in Griffith, NSW in 1950 and has made 17 films including 6 Australian films. Starting later than Weir, Beresford and Burstall, he made one of the first 70s films with Aboriginal lead actors (Backroads), before making the film that established him as one of our best directors, the post-war period drama Newsfront. After Newsfront he made three more films and two significant TV mini-series in Australia, before moving to Hollywood to make many successful films. His most successful films, Clear and Present Danger and Salt, made over $200 million each while Patriot Games, The Saint and The Bone Collector all made over $100 million. In 2002 he returned to Australian to make another landmark film on the stolen Aboriginal children issue, Rabbit-Proof Fence. He has won one AFI Best Director award, for Newsfront, and was nominated twice more, for Rabbit-Proof Fence and Dead Calm. Two of his films won AFI Best Film awards, Newsfront and Rabbit-Proof Fence, and Dead Calm was also nominated.
His Australian films are: Backroads (1977), Newsfront (1978), Heatwave (1982,) Echoes of Paradise (1987), Dead Calm (1989) and Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002).
His foreign films are: Blind Fury (1989), Patriot Games (1992), Sliver (1993), Clear and Present Danger (1994), The Saint (1997), The Bone Collector (1999), The Quiet American (2002), Catch a Fire (2006), Salt (2010), Mary and Martha (2013) and The Giver (2014).
Recommended Reading: Senses of Cinema’s Great Directors profile of Phil Noyce
6. Gillian Armstrong
Gillian Armstrong was born in Melbourne in 1950 and has made 12 films including 6 Australian feature films and 2 Australian documentaries. She was the first Australian woman to make a feature film since Paulette McDonagh in 1933, and became an inspiration to many Australian women film-makers who followed in her wake in the following decades. She made a strong impression with her first full-length feature, My Brilliant Career, based a 1901 ‘feminist’ novel by Miles Franklin, in which actress Judy Davis played the heroine, a young woman torn between love and career. The success of the film established both Armstrong’s and Davis’ careers and both went on to make films in Hollywood in the following decades. Armstrong made four US films, though only Little Women was a great success, making $50 million at the box office. Armstrong has continued to make films in Australia, including one of Australia’s few musicals, Starstruck, and full-length documentaries about Australian fashion designers. She won one AFI Best Director award, for My Brilliant Career, and was nominated twice more, for High Tide and The Last Days of Chez Nous. My Brilliant Career also won an AFI Best Film award and High Tide and The Last Days of Chez Nous were both nominated for the award.
Her Australian films and documentaries are: The Singer and the Dancer (1977) (This was only 52 minutes long and only shown at film festivals and specialist theatres), My Brilliant Career (1979), Starstruck (1982), High Tide (1987), The Last Days of Chez Nous (1992), Oscar and Lucinda (1997), Unfolding Florence: The Many Lives of Florence Broadhurst (DOC) (2006) and Women He’s Undressed (DOC) (2015).
Her foreign films are: Mrs. Soffel (1984), Fires Within (1991), Little Women (1994) and Charlotte Gray (2001).
Recommended Reading: Senses of Cinema’s Great Directors profile of Gillian Armstrong
7. Tim Burstall
Tim Burstall was born in England in 1927, came to Australia (Melbourne) in 1937 and died in 2004. He made 12 Australian films, and no films overseas. Burstall is chiefly known for being the earliest pioneer of the Australian New Wave. He began making shorts and documentaries throughout the 1960s, before making the first locally-produced, properly-financed feature film since Jedda (1955) in 1969 with 2000 Weeks. The critical and commercial failure of 2000 Weeks led Burstall to reject serious films and make a series of popular and successful Ocker comedies and sex-comedies in the early to mid 1970s, including Stork, Alvin Purple, Petersen and Eliza Fraser. Alvin Purple took $4.7 million at the box office, which is equivalent to $42 million in 2015 dollars. This made it the most successful of the 70s films* and the 7th most successful Oz film of all time. These films showed that Australian films could succeed at the box-office, and paved the way for other 70s directors to make Australian films for general release. He won the AFI Best Director award for Stork and was nominated for End Play. Two of his films won the AFI Best Film award, Stork and Libido: The Child, and Petersen was also nominated.
His Australian films are: 2000 Weeks (1969), Stork (1971), Libido – The Child (1973) Alvin Purple (1973), Petersen (1974), End Play (1975), Eliza Fraser (1976), The Last of the Knucklemen (1979), Attack Force Z (1982), Duet for Four (1982), The Naked Country (1985) and Kangaroo (1987). He also made a TV movie in Canada for CBS: Nightmare at Bittercreek (1988)
* Peter Weir’s Picnic At Hanging Rock (1975) actually took $5.1 million two years later, but adjusted for the high inflation at the time this was less than Alvin Purple’s figure in real terms. 15% annual inflation in 1974-5 made Alvin’s $4.7 million the equivalent of $6.2 million in 1975.
8. John Duigan
John Duigan was born in England in 1949 and came to Australia (Melbourne) in 1961. He has made 19 films including 12 Australian films. Duigan started directing in the mid-1970s and made a variety of interesting films, but had his best period in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with the semi-autobiographical The Year My Voice Broke and Flirting, as well as Sirens. He also made nine films in Hollywood and the UK between 1989 and 2004, though none were as successful as his best Australian films. He won one AFI Best Director Award, for The Year My Voice Broke, and was nominated twice more, for Mouth to Mouth and Winter of Our Dreams.
His Australian films are: The Firm Man (1975), The Trespassers (1976), Mouth to Mouth (1978), Dimboola (1979), Winter of Our Dreams (1981), Far East (1982), One Night Stand (1984), The Year My Voice Broke (1987), Fragments of War: The Story of Damien Parer (1988), Flirting (1991), Sirens (1994) and Careless Love (2012).
His foreign films are: Romero (1989), Wide Sargasso Sea (1993), The Journey of August King (1995), The Leading Man (1996), Lawn Dogs (1997), Molly (1999), Paranoid (2000), The Parole Officer (2001) and Head in the Clouds (2004).
Other Oz Directors of the 1970s
Apart from the eight above, a number of other directors contributed significant films in the 1970s and early 80s. Here are the best of the rest:
9. Ken Hannam
Ken Hannam was born in Melbourne in 1929 and made five Australian films. He worked in radio and television in Australia and England in the 1960s, before returning to Australia to make his debut feature, Sunday Too Far Away, in 1975. Sunday Too Far Away was a drama about the life of shearers which bridged the divide between ‘ocker’ and ‘quality’ films, and it won the AFI Best Film award in 1974-5. His next film, Break of Day, was also nominated for Best Film award but his final two features were less successful, and Hannam returned to making television shows in Australia and England. He also co-directed the two part mini-series Robbery Under Arms (1985).
His Australian films were: Sunday Too Far Away (1975), Break of Day (1976), Summerfield (1977). Dawn! (1979) and The Mismatch (1979) (TV movie), Robbery Under Arms (1985) (TV mini-series).
10. Henri Safran
Henri Safran was born in 1932 in Paris, France and came to Australia in 1960 after working in television in France and Britain. He made a number of TV movies with the ABC , then went to Britain to make more TV in 1966. He returned to Australia in the mid-70s and directed Storm Boy, which was the most successful film of 1976 and won the 1977 AFI Best Film award. Although Safran was unable to repeat this success, he made another five films in Australia and a number of TV mini-series before finishing his career with a number of successful French and US television series.
He has made six Australian feature films: Storm Boy (1976), Listen to the Lion (1977), Norman Loves Rose (1982), Bush Christmas (1983), The Wild Duck (1984) and The Edge of Power (1987).
He has also made many Australian TV films and mini-series including: Golden Soak (1979) (mini-series), A Fortunate Life (1985) (mini-series), Flair (1990) (mini-series), The Rogue Stallion (1990) (TV movie) and The Lancaster Miller Affair (1990) (mini-Series).
11. Richard Franklin
Richard Franklin was born in Melbourne in 1948 and died in 2007. Franklin left Australia after finishing school in the 1960s to study film in California. While there he became a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock who became a big source of inspiration in his films. He then returned to Australia to direct TV cop shows before he was 21. Franklin contributed to the ‘ozploitation’ side of the 70s New Wave, starting with two sex-comedies, Eskimo Nell and Fantasm, followed by two suspense/horror films, Patrick and Roadgames, which were probably his most successful Australian films. He went on to make a series of suspense/sci-fi films overseas, then returned to Australia in the mid-90s to make a variety of drama and suspense films here.
His Australian films are: The True Story of Eskimo Nell (1975), Fantasm (1976), Patrick (1978), Roadgames (1981), Hotel Sorrento (1995), Brilliant Lies (1996), One Way Ticket (1997) and Visitors (2003).
His foreign films are: Psycho II (1983), Cloak & Dagger (1984), Link (1986), F/X2 (1991) and Running Delilah (1992).
Recommended Reading: Senses of Cinema’s Great Directors profile of Richard Franklin
12. Donald Crombie
Donald Crombie was born in Brisbane in 1942 and made documentaries in the 1960s before making several interesting films in the 1970s and 1980s. Caddie, the story of a working class woman during the Great Depression, was his most successful film making $2.8 million at the box office in 1976 (equivalent to $17 million in 2015 dollars). Caddie and Cathy’s Child were both nominated for AFI Best Film awards, and Crombie was nominated for Best Director for Cathy’s Child.
He made 8 Australian films: Caddie (1976), The Irishman (1978), Cathy’s Child (1979), The Killing of Angel Street (1981), Kitty and the Bagman (1983), Robbery Under Arms (1985), Playing Beatie Bow (1986), Rough Diamonds (1994) and Selkie (2000)
13. Brian Trenchard-Smith
Brian Trenchard-Smith was born in England in 1946 but his father was Australian. He moved to Australia in 1965 and worked in commercial television for some years before forming his own company in 1972 and made his debut TV documentary, The Stuntmen in 1973. In 1975 he made the ground-breaking action film The Man From Hong Kong starring Hong Kong ‘chop-sockey’ film star Jimmy Wu as an Asian James Bond who comes to Sydney to arrest a Hong Kong criminal. This was a joint Hong Kong-Australian production, and also starred the Australian James Bond, George Lazenby. The film made over one million dollars, equivalent to over seven million today. Trenchard-Smith has gone on to make over twenty feature films as well as numerous TV series and documentaries. Apart from The Man From Hong Kong, his best known Australian films are Turkey Shoot (1982) a dystopian bloodfest, BMX Bandits (1983) a kids adventure film starring a young Nicole Kidman, and Dead End Drive-In (1986) a cult horror film. Since the early 90s Trenchard-Smith has directed a number of successful horror films and thrillers in the US. He is also known as a critic, especially for the Trailers From Hell website.
His films are: The Love Epidemic (documentary 1974), The Man from Hong Kong (1975), Deathcheaters (1976), Hospitals Don’t Burn Down (1977), Stunt Rock (1978), Turkey Shoot (1982), BMX Bandits (1983), Frog Dreaming (1986), Dead End Drive-In (1986), Jenny Kissed Me (1986), Out of the Body (1988), Day of the Panther (1988), Strike of the Panther (1989), The Siege of Firebase Gloria (1989), Night of the Demons 2 (1994), Leprechaun 3 (1995), Leprechaun 4: In Space (1998), Megiddo: The Omega Code 2 (2001), In Her Line of Fire (2006), Arctic Blast (2010), Absolute Deception (2013) and Drive Hard (2014). (Australian films in red)
14. Jim Sharman
Jim Sharman was born in Sydney in 1945, and was a theatre director from the early 1960s until the 2000s. He made five films, starting with a sci-fi comedy, Shirley Thompson vs. the Aliens (1972). Following the failure of that film, Sharman returned to theatre directing in London, and directed the hit musical play The Rocky Horror Show, which Sharman helped writer Richard O’Brien bring to completion. Sharman then directed a film version of the play in the UK, The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), starring Tim Curry and Susan Sarandon. The film was a worldwide hit, making over US$140 million, and has become a cult favourite.
Between working as a theatre director, Sharman has made three more films: Summer of Secrets (1976), which is another sci-fi comedy about young lovers and a mad professor; The Night the Prowler (1978), which was an adaptation of a Patrick White story about a dysfunctional upper-class Sydney family, and which starred Ruth Cracknell and Kerry Walker; and Shock Treatment (1981), which was a sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but failed to repeat its success.
Films: Shirley Thompson vs. the Aliens (1972), The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), Summer of Secrets (1976), The Night the Prowler (1978), Shock Treatment (1981). (Australian films in red)
15. Philippe Mora
Philippe Mora has had an intermittent connection to Australia, being born in France in 1949, moving to Australia with his artist parents in 1961, and living in Australia for only a few years as an adult. He started his career in bohemian London making a low-budget experimental film, Trouble in Molopolis (1969), before making two good documentary features. Moira returned to Australia to join in the Australia revival, and helped start Cinema Papers, which became a leading film magazine. Mora made his real feature film debut with an offbeat bushranger romp, Mad Dog Morgan (1976), which starred American rebel Dennis Hopper as a soulful Irish killer. The film was liked by some critics, but not the public, though it is something of cult favourite nowadays.
After Morgan, Moira has mainly worked overseas making indie films and documentaries. He returned to Australia twice in the 80s, to make three more films: the first was a music-comedy about a superhero, The Return of Captain Invincible (1983), the next was a drama about a real incident in Australia during World War 2, Death of a Soldier (1986), and the third was an Australian version of a series of werewolf films, Howling III (1987) (also called Howling III: The Marsupials). Moira is still producing low-budget films in the USA.
His films are: Trouble in Molopolis (1969), Mad Dog Morgan (1976), The Beast Within (1982), The Return of Captain Invincible (1983), A Breed Apart (1984), Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985), Death of a Soldier (1986), Howling III (1987), Communion (1989), Art Deco Detective (1994), Precious Find (1996), Pterodactyl Woman from Beverly Hills (1997), Snide and Prejudice (1997), Back in Business (1997), Joseph’s Gift (1998), Mercenary II: Thick & Thin (1999), Burning Down the House (2001), The Gertrude Stein Mystery or Some Like It Art (2009), Continuity (2012). (Australian films in red)
16. Esben Storm
Esben Storm was born in 1950 in Denmark, and came to Australia in 1958 with his parents. Storm was interested in photography and began making his own films from the age of 18. His first feature film was 27A (1974), about a man’s attempt to be released from a mental asylum. Robert McDarra won the AFI Best Actor award for this film.
Storm’s next film was the drama-road movie In Search of Anna (1978), which starred Richard Moir and Judy Morris as an ex-con and a woman who gives him a lift, travelling together while searching for an ex-girlfriend. The film was critically liked and nominated for several AFI awards (winning the best screenplay), but was not given a wide distribution. Storm went on to make a drama based on the 1978 Sydney Hilton bombing, With Prejudice (1982), a bigger-budget comedy, Stanley: Every Home Should Have One (1984), a crime drama, Deadly (1991), and a horror sci-fi flick, Subterano (2003), but never had a commercial success. He had more success in television, where he had a good career as a writer, actor and director until his death in 2011.
His films are: 27A (1974), In Search of Anna (1978), With Prejudice (1982), Stanley: Every Home Should Have One (1984), Touch the Sun: Devil’s Hill (TV Movie) (1988), More Winners: The Big Wish (TV Movie) (1988), Deadly (1991), Subterano (2003)
17. John Power
John Power was born in 1930 in Maitland. He is best known for The Picture Show Man (1977), but he made about 20 significant films and mini-series. He initially worked as a journalist and then a current-affairs TV producer and documentary-maker. An early TV biopic about Prime Minister Billy Hughes and Percy Deane, Billy and Percy (1974), won him an AFI Best Director Award. For his next self-written TV film, They Don’t Clap Losers (1975), Power won the Australian Writers’ Guild award.
The Picture Show Man, a film about a travelling silent film show starring John Meillon, was nominated for eight AFI awards and won four minor awards. After this film, Power returned to TV directing until he made his second feature film Father (1990), with Swedish legend Max von Sydow as an-ex Nazi in Australia. Julia Blake won an AFI Best Supporting Actress award for this film. Power spent the 1990s in the USA where he directed a Stephen King mini-series The Tommyknockers (1993) and five TV films.
His films are: Escape from Singapore (1974) (TV movie), Billy and Percy (1974) (TV movie), They Don’t Clap Losers (1975) (TV movie), The Picture Show Man (1977), The Sound of Love (1978) (TV movie), A Single Life (1986) (TV movie), The Dismissal (1983) (TV mini series), The Great Gold Swindle (1984), Alice to Nowhere (1986) (TV mini series), The Dirtwater Dynasty (1988) (TV mini series), Father (1990), Sky Trackers (1990) (TV movie), All the Rivers Run 2 (1990) (TV mini series), The Tommyknockers (1993) (TV mini series), Someone Else’s Child (1994) (TV movie), Betrayed by Love (1994) (TV movie), Fatal Vows: The Alexandra O’Hara Story (1994) (TV movie), A Child is Missing (1995) (TV movie), Heart of Fire (1997) (TV movie)
18. Sandy Harbutt
Sandy Harbutt was born in 1941 in Australia, and was an actor in Australian films and television in the 1960s and 1970s. He wrote and directed only one film, Stone (1974). Stone was a bikie-action-crime film about a policeman (Ken Shorter) who goes undercover in a Sydney bikie gang. The film was a hit, making $1.5 million (equivalent to $12 million today). Despite the success of this film, Harbutt was unable to get finance for any more films, despite trying for 30 years.
See also: Sandy Harbutt at Wikipedia
19. Igor Auzins
Igor Auzins was born in 1949 in Melbourne, and was a TV director/producer during the 1970s. He directed one feature film in the 1970s, High Rolling (1977), a buddy road-movie starring American Joseph Bottoms, as well as Wendy Hughes, and Judy Davis in her debut film. The film, produced by Tim Burstall, was not a success, but Auzins made three more films in the early 80s.
His best film was the period drama, We of the Never Never (1982), starring Angela Punch McGregor as a white woman on an isolated cattle station who befriends the local Aboriginal tribe. The film was nominated for five AFI awards and earned one award for best cinematography. Auzins also made a sports drama about ironman racing, The Coolangatta Gold (1984), with Colin Friels, and a number of TV films.
Films: All at Sea (TV movie) (1977), Death Train (TV movie) (1977), The Night Nurse (TV movie) (1977), High Rolling (1977), Runaway Island (TV movie) (1982), We of the Never Never (1982), The Coolangatta Gold (1984)
20. Stephen Wallace
Stephen Wallace was born in NSW in 1943, and is known for several films starring Bryan Brown. His first film was the moving short feature, The Love Letters from Teralba Road (1977), which starred Brown as a man trying to win back his wife who left him after he beat her.
Wallace’s first feature was the prison drama, Stir (1980), which was Wallace’s most successful, both critically and commercially. It was nominated for 9 AFI awards, but lost out to another Bryan Brown film, Breaker Morant. Wallace made two more during the 1980s: The Boy Who Had Everything (1985), with Diane Cilento, and For Love Alone (1986), with Helen Buday, Hugo Weaving and Sam Neill.
Brown returned for Wallace’s next feature film about Australian soldiers in a Japanese prison-camp, Blood Oath (1990), which was critically successful but a financial flop. Wallace made one last film Turtle Beach (1992), about the Vietnamese boat people refugees, which starred Greta Scacchi, Joan Chen and Jack Thompson.
His films are: The Love Letters from Teralba Road (1977), Stir (1980), Women of the Sun (TV Mini-Series) (1982), Mail Order Bride (TV Movie) (1984), The Boy Who Had Everything (1985), For Love Alone (1986), Hunger (TV Movie) (1986), Olive (TV Movie) (1988), Blood Oath (1990), Turtle Beach (1992)
21. Colin Eggleston
Colin Eggleston was born in 1941 in Melbourne, and was a writer and director for Oz TV and films. He is best known for the bush-thriller, Long Weekend (1978), about a couple that destroy nature during a camping weekend, until nature takes revenge. The film, starring John Hargreaves and Briony Behets, did not do well at the time, but is something of a cult classic these days.
Eggleston made four other feature films: the sexploitation-comedy, Fantasm Comes Again (1977), the horror flick, Innocent Prey (1984), the sci-fi, action film with John Hargreaves, Sky Pirates (1986), and another horror-thriller, Cassandra (1987). He also made a number of TV films, of which Outback Vampires (1987) gained some interest for its injection of comedy into the vampire genre.
Films: Fantasm Comes Again (1977), Long Weekend (1978), The Lion’s Share (TV Movie) (1978), The Little Feller (TV Movie) (1982), Innocent Prey (1984), Body Business (TV Movie) (1986), Sky Pirates (1986), Cassandra (1987), Outback Vampires (TV Movie) (1987)
22. Tom Jeffrey
Tom Jeffrey was born in Sydney in 1938, and was a TV director and producer from the mid-60s. He made three interesting films. The first was a version of David Williamson’s The Removalists (1975), starring John Hargreaves, Kate Fitzpatrick, Jacki Weaver and Chris Haywood. Though critically liked, it did not do well.
Jeffrey followed with a crime-thriller, Weekend of Shadows (1978), and then made one of the few Aussie films about the Australian army during the Vietnam War. The Odd Angry Shot (1979). This film starred Graham Kennedy, Bryan Brown, John Hargreaves, John Jarratt, and Graeme Blundell, and was Jeffrey’s most successful film, critically and commercially.
Films: The Removalists (1975), Weekend of Shadows (1978), The Odd Angry Shot (1979)
23. Michael Thornhill
Michael Thornhill was born in Sydney in 1941, and was a member of the WEA Film Study Group in the 1960s where he met writer Frank Moorhouse, who later adapted many of his stories for Thornhill’s films. Thornhill became a film critic and wrote for film journals and newspapers. After making several short films and documentaries, Thornhill’s first feature was Between Wars (1974), a drama that follows a doctor’s life from the First World War until the second. Though nominated for the AFI best picture award, the film failed financially.
Thornhill’s next film was the story of teenagers in Sydney’s western suburbs, The FJ Holden (1977), which was his most successful film, making $700,000 at the box office. His next film, a sex-comedy, The Journalist (1979), with Jack Thompson, flopped however.
In the 1980s, Thornhill made two films, The Disappearance of Azaria Chamberlain (1984), which was a telemovie about the famous Chamberlain case; and The Everlasting Secret Family (1988), based on Frank Moorhouse’s book about a secret society of gay men.
His films are: Between Wars (1974), The FJ Holden (1977), Harvest of Hate (TV movie) (1978), The Journalist (1979), The Disappearance of Azaria Chamberlain (TV movie) (1984), The Everlasting Secret Family (1988)
24. John D. Lamond
John D. Lamond was born in Melbourne in 1947, and made a number of popular sexploitation films in the 1970s. He started with the light-heated soft-core documentary Australia After Dark (1975), which was a collection of sex-related clips about aspects of the sexual revolution, from nude swimming and nude dancing, to homosexuality and drag clubs. The film was very popular, making over $1 million at the box office. Lamond then made a similar film, The ABC of Love and Sex: Australia Style (1978), which was another soft-core titillating look at sex. It also made a profit, though less than its predecessor.
Next, Lamond made Felicity (1979), an erotic story of an adventurous teen, which also did well at the box office, both in Australia and abroad. He then tried his hand at a horror thriller about a psycho-killer, Nightmares (1980), before switching back to comedies with a sex-comedy, Pacific Banana (1981), a romantic- comedy Breakfast in Paris (1982), and a vasectomy comedy, A Slice of Life (1983). None of these matched the commercial appeal of Lamond’s first three films.
Lamond’s last two films were action films set in Asia with American actor Sam Bottoms, North of Chiang Mai (1991), and True Files (2002).
Films: Australia After Dark (1975), The ABC of Love and Sex: Australia Style (1978), Felicity (1979), Nightmares (1980), Pacific Banana (1981), Breakfast in Paris (1982), A Slice of Life (1983), North of Chiang Mai (1991), True Files (2002)
25. Tom Cowan
Tom Cowan was born in Victoria in 1942, and started making documentaries in the 1960s for the Commonwealth Film Unit, where he worked as a cinematographer and director. Cowan made his debut film early, with a self-written drama, The Office Picnic (1972), which starred Kate Fitzpatrick. This was followed by a drama about migration, Promised Woman (1975), based on the play Throw Away Your Harmonica by Theo Patrikareas.
Cowan’s next film made the biggest impact of any of his films. Journey Among Women (1977), was a period drama unlike another of the era. It told the story of a group of female convicts who escape from the sexual abuse of early Sydney to form a female resistance group in the bush. Though not popular with the critics for its poor production, it was a surprise box-office hit amongst a public perhaps more interested in the nudity and lesbian themes of the film, than in its historical accuracy or feminist values.
Cowan has continued to make films over the next 30 years, but has found it difficult to gain wide distribution for his other films: Sweet Dreamers (1982), Orange Love Story (2004), and Life Class (2016).
Films: The Office Picnic (1972), Promised Woman (1975), Journey Among Women (1977), Sweet Dreamers (1982), Orange Love Story (2004), Life Class (2016)
26. Kevin James Dobson
Kevin James Dobson was born in 1952. He worked as a TV director in Australia throughout the 70s and 80s, and made his feature debut directing the Michael Pate period film The Mango Tree (1977). The film was one of the successes of 1977, making over $1 million. Dobson then made two TV films and a period mini-series, before making his second feature, Squizzy Taylor (1982), a period film about a 20s gangster.
The film failed to be promoted and Dobson returned to TV work, making a number of TV series, TV films and mini-series, before moving to USA in the 1990s where he worked constantly making TV series and TV films. He made two feature films in the US, of which Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain (1995), with Christina Ricci, was the more successful. Dobson’s last film was a disappointing Australian thriller Savages Crossing (2011), written and produced by actor John Jarratt.
Films: The Mango Tree (1977), Gone to Ground (TV Movie) (1978), Demolition (TV Movie) (1979), The Last Outlaw (TV Mini-Series) (1980), Image of Death (TV Movie) (1981), Squizzy Taylor (1982), Winner Take All (TV Mini-Series) (1982), The Dean Case (TV Movie) (1983), Tanamera – Lion of Singapore (TV Mini-Series) (1989), Casey’s Gift: For Love of a Child (TV Movie) (1990), Miracle in the Wilderness (TV Movie) (1991), Survive the Savage Sea (TV Movie) (1992), What She Doesn’t Know (TV Movie) (1992), Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain (1995), The Thorn Birds: The Missing Years (TV Movie) (Oz/US 1996), The Virgin of Juarez (2006), Savages Crossing (2011)
27. Rod Hardy
Rod Hardy was born in 1949 in Melbourne, and has been a film and TV director in Australia and the USA. After working extensively in Oz TV throughout the 70s, Hardy made his debut feature film, the outback vampire horror film, Thirst (1979), which has been much admired by vampire fans everywhere. Hardy spent the 80s making Oz TV series, including the popular mini-series Sara Dane (1982), Under Capricorn (1983), and Eureka Stockade (1984).
Since 1989, Hardy has spent 30 years in the USA where he has directed countless TV series and eleven TV movies. He returned to Australia in 2007, where he directed one more film, December Boys (2007), about a group of men remembering their childhood in a Catholic orphanage.
Films: Thirst (1979), Sara Dane (TV Mini-Series) (1982), Under Capricorn (TV Mini-Series) (1983), Eureka Stockade (TV Mini-Series) (1984), Shadows of the Heart (TV Movie) (1990), Rio Diablo (TV Movie) (1993), Between Love and Hate (1993), Lies and Lullabies (TV Movie) (1993), The Only Way Out (TV Movie) (1993), My Name Is Kate (TV Movie) (1994), The Yearling (TV Movie) (1994), Buffalo Girls (TV Mini-Series) (1995), An Unfinished Affair (TV Movie) (1996), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (TV Mini-Series) (1997), Robinson Crusoe (1997), Two For Texas (TV Movie) (1998), Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (TV Movie) (1998), High Noon (TV Movie) (2000), Route 52 (2002), December Boys (2007)
28. Terry Bourke
Terry Bourke was born in Victoria in 1940. He worked as a journalist in Hong Kong, and became involved in Hong Kong films. He wrote and directed one successful Hong Kong film, Sampan (1968), followed by an action film in Guam, Noon Sunday (1970).
Bourke returned to Australia in 1970, and made his Australian debut with Night of Fear (1972), which is credited as being Australia’s first horror film, and forged a path which many were to follow. Night of Fear was regarded as a success, and Bourke made another horror film, Inn of the Damned (1975). Though made with a bigger budget, Inn was less successful than Night. Bourke changed tack, making Plugg (1975), a mid-budget sex-comedy, about a private detective named Plugg.
Bourke, ever willing to try something new, then made a family drama about a child lost in the bush, Little Boy Lost (1978), a sex-thriller, Lady Stay Dead (1981), and an action drama about the Australian journalists killed in Timor in 1975, Brothers (1982), but none were particularly successful, and Bourke’s main contributions to Oz cinema were his pioneering horror films.
Films: Sampan (Hong Kong 1968), Noon Sunday (Guam/USA 1970), Night of Fear (1972), Plugg (1975), Inn of the Damned (1975), Murcheson Creek (TV movie) (1976), Little Boy Lost (1978), Lady Stay Dead (1981), Brothers (1982), The Tourist (TV movie) (1987)
29. Bert Deling
Bert Deling was maker of low-budget experimental films, whose best known work was Pure Shit (1975) (also called Pure S-). Pure Shit is about the exploits of a group of Melbourne junkies over 24 hours. The film was nominated for the AFI best film and best director awards, and has become something of a cult-classic of gritty-realism. Deling went on to make a crime film, Dead Easy (1982), and a sci-fi adventure for television, Keiron: The First Voyager (1985), before writing for TV shows, including Neighbours.
His films are: Dalmas (1973), Pure Shit (1975), Dead Easy (1982), Keiron: The First Voyager (TV) (1985).
30. Chris Lofven
Chris Lofven (Löfvén) was born in 1948 and is a musician and film-maker who made several shorts and two feature films in the 1970s. The first, Part One – 806 (1971), is a rarely-seen sci-fi experimental film, but Lofven is chiefly remembered for his imaginative low-budget musical, Oz – A Rock ‘n’ Roll Road Movie (1976). While Oz lacks professional production values, it is an amusing romp, retelling the Wizard of Oz story in backblocks Victoria with Daddy Cool’s Ross Wilson providing the music.
Films: Part One – 806 (1971), Oz – A Rock ‘n’ Roll Road Movie (1976)
The 1970s at the Australian Box Office
The Australian box office figures for the 1970s show the importance of the Ocker/Ozploitation movement, and particularly Tim Burstall, in the rebirth of Australian cinema at the box office. Burstall’s sex-romps (Alvin Purple, Alvin Rides Again, Petersen and Eliza Fraser) were extremely successful, as were Bruce Beresford’s Barry McKenzie Ocker comedies in 1972 and 1974. After the success of these entertaining films, Australians started watching more serious dramas such as Picnic at Hanging Rock, Caddie, Storm Boy, My Brilliant Career, Sunday Too Far Away and Newsfront in the second half of the 70s.
Here are the top 20 Oz 70s films at the Australian box office (the figure in round brackets is the equivalent in 2016 dollars; the figure in square brackets is the all-time ranking):
- Alvin Purple (Burstall) (1973) $4,720,000 ($42,291,200) 
- Picnic at Hanging Rock (Weir) (1975) $5,120,000 ($34,611,200) 
- Mad Max (Miller) (1979) $5,355,490 ($24,099,705) 
- Caddie (Crombie) (1976) $2,847,000 ($16,968,120) 
- Storm Boy (Safran) (1976) $2,645,000 ($15,764,200) 
- Alvin Rides Again (Bilock/Copping/Burstall) (1974) $1,880,000 ($14,645,200) 
- My Brilliant Career (Armstrong) (1979) $3,052,000 ($13,734,000) 
- Stone (Harbutt) (1974) $1,572,000 ($12,245,880) 
- Barry Mckenzie Holds His Own (Beresford) (1974) $1,407,000 ($10,960,530) 
- Petersen (Burstall) (1974) $1,363,000 ($10,617,770) 
- Eliza Fraser (Burstall) (1976) $1,672,000 ($9,965,120) 
- The Adventures of Barry McKenzie (Beresford) (1972) $1,000,000 ($9,790,000) 
- Sunday Too Far Away (Hannam) (1975) $1,356,000 ($9,166,560) 
- Ned Kelly (Richardson) (1970) $808,000 ($8,904,160) 
- Newsfront (Noyce) (1978) $1,576,000 ($7,738,160) 
- The Man From Hong Kong (Trenchard-Smith) (1975) $1,066,000 ($7,291,440) 
- The Last Wave (1977) $1,258,000 ($6,755,460) 
- Ride A Wild Pony (1975) $949,000 ($6,491,160) 
- The Box (1975) (857,000 ($5,861,880) 
- The Mango Tree (1977) (Pate) $1,028,000 ($5,520,360) 
- The Getting Of Wisdom (1977) $982,000 ($5,273,340) 
- Don’s Party (1976) $871,000 ($5,252,130) 
- The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978) $1,021,000 ($5,074,370) 
- Stork (1971) $463,000 ($4,866,130) 
- High Rolling (1977) $841,000 ($4,516,170) 
Ozflicks’ Favourite Australian Films of the 1970s
- Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) (Peter Weir)
- My Brilliant Career (1979) (Gillian Armstrong)
- Walkabout (1971) (Nicolas Roeg)
- Wake in Fright (1971) (Ted Kotcheff)
- Newsfront (1978) (Phillip Noyce)
- Don’s Party (1976) (Bruce Beresford)
- Storm Boy (1976) (Henri Safran)
- The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978) (Fred Schepisi)
- The Removalists (1975) (Tom Jeffrey)
- The Devil’s Playground (1976) (Fred Schepisi)
- Sunday Too Far Away (1975) (Ken Hannam)
- The Getting of Wisdom (1978) (Bruce Beresford)
- Mad Max (1979) (Dr. George Miller)
- Dimboola (1979) (John Duigan)
- Mad Dog Morgan (1976) (Philippe Mora)
- Long Weekend (1978) (Colin Eggleston)
- The Odd Angry Shot (1979) (Tom Jeffrey)
- The Man From Hong Kong (1975) (Brian Trenchard-Smith)
- Backroads (1977) (Phillip Noyce)
- The Last Wave (1977) (Peter Weir)
[Page updated in Nov. 2018 – with extra directors added]
NEXT MONTH: Oz Directors of the 1980s: The Arty-Types vs The Crowd-Pleasers