Reviews and notes
Now that WILD MAN
has actually hit the streets, it would be a shame to tell the world to lock its doors. The first New Zealand feature film to be made for many a year, WILD MAN
has the unfortunate responsibility of having to carry the can for the films that haven't made it and those that are yet to come.
If the can shows a tendency to come out and hit us on the head rather too heavily, that's not to say it's not the duty of every right-thinking Kiwi to submit to his punishment. WILD MAN
, after all, was never meant to be anything else than an excursion into the most Kiwi place in Kiwi-land - the West Coast - at a time when New Zealand's grubby little soul was first formed - the gold rush days.
Given its due, the film is actually quite entertaining and eventful - it's just not so very polished, sophisticated or well put together. But thank heavens for Bruno Lawrence who makes the whole thing worth while in the title role. For the rest of the cast, the production seems nothing more than an opportunity to have some fun and get valuable personal footage on screen.
- Brigid Hampton, The Evening Post, 2 July, 1977.
Director Geoff Murphy?s interest in filmmaking was prompted by the arrival and popularity of television in New Zealand. He felt that the programming was lacking in creativity and wondered if he could do a better job himself. Murphy had already dropped out of University in Wellington, where he had been studying science and was teaching painting and jazz trumpet. He wrote a musical for his students called The Magik Hammer
and a friend helped him make it into a short film. In the late 60s, he gave up teaching and went on the road with actor/musician Bruno Lawrence in a band called "The Acme Sausage Company," for which he made a series of silent black and white comedies. The band was later renamed "Blerta" and after six years of touring the band, along with Murphy?s silent films, became quite famous.
As they were becoming well known, the "Blerta" team made an anarchic TV series from which Murphy?s first feature WILD MAN
, starring Bruno Lawrence, emerged. The film was made for $50,000 and it took in $100,000 at the box office. Murphy recalls those years as "the heyday for New Zealand filmmakers" ? a time when there was no finance and no market, so that filmmakers were sustained by their passion and commitment for making films.
- Lot 47 Films
I became involved with Blerta, which is a pretty talented bunch of people. They had been given a $24,000 commission from Television One to make a six-part light entertainment series... They made a very funny, slightly risque local community series. One episode was a 50 minute film called WILD MAN
. It was set in a village Blerta built out of demolition materials on the West Coast. I looked at the rough cut and thought it was amusing, so we decided to stretch it out to 72 minutes... We then put a half-hour film on Fred Dagg in the front of it, and put out the first all-New Zealand film package.
"At this time, Sleeping Dogs
were also being shot. This activity was a direct result of frustration over not being able to get anything on local television. I took WILD MAN
in its 16mm roughcut form to Amalgamated Theatres, who said they'd give it a go... We hoped the thing would run two weeks in Queen Street, Auckland, but to everybody's surprise it ran six. The programme also ran throughout the country... WILD MAN
wasn't a bad film, it just lacked discipline in the script. But it was an important and interesting experience.
- John Barnett, Producer, interviewed in Cinema Papers 27, NZ Film Industry Supplement, May-June 1980.
The cinema represented a daunting task to a film maker, often working with antiquated equipment, without funding and only a very limited talent pool of technicians and actors to draw upon. WILD MAN
was shot in 16mm and blown up to 35mm for release in 1977. Although a few other films had achieved limited release through the independents, it was the first main street release of a New Zealand film for 11 years. Over the following two years three more were widely released: Sleeping Dogs
, Off The Edge
- Geoff Murphy, Film in Aotearoa New Zealand, Victoria University Press, 1992.
The success of WILD MAN
and Roger Donaldson's Sleeping Dogs
in the mid 1970's, encouraged representatives of the independent film industry to lobby for the establishment of a film commission. Once that happened, it happened quickly. In October 1977 the Interim Film Commission was established and a year later the New Zealand Film Commission was formed by act of parliament, to "encourage, and also to participate and assist in the making, promotion, distribution, and exhibition of films".
- Robert Hood, Tabula Rasa (with bibliographical acknowledgement to Cinema Papers 27).
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