(Geoff Murphy, New Zealand, 1969) 31 minutes


Director: Geoff Murphy
Production: Acme Sausage Company
Cinematography: Allun Bollinger
Editor: Simon Reece
Music: Underdogs, John Charles,
  Acme Sausage Company
Vocals: Malcolm McNeil
Stephen O'Rourke
William Gruar
Murray Reece
Geoff Murphy
Peter Needham
Leslie Maughan
Keith Aberdein
and Bruno Lawrence as Bruno

Reviews and notes

First screened on NZ Television New Years Eve 1970
Other known screening: Wellington Film Society
Annual Film School on NZ Film Making 1974

The Italian Job meets cheap jugs and a student union gig in this early Geoff Murphy heist tale. The plot follows some Vic Uni students - short on exam fees and beer money - and their scheme to crack a campus safe ... the things kids got up to before internal assessment! Murphy enlisted $4000 and a bevy of mates (including Bruno on bongos) to make the film over nine months of weekends. It screened on TV; its assured pace and tyro verve in stark contrast to the stage-derived telly standards of the time.

Cast in the local pub, amongst a group of friends, Tank Busters became a first in several respects.

Geoff Murphy's "first film with sound", the first NZ drama to sell into international markets, and the first film to use the "mumblefuck" acting style. Opting to break all the rules of the then conventional stage to screen acting style (possibly to the resentment of stage-to-screen actors of the time), the cast was led by the most experienced (Stephen O'Rourke) in a how-not-to acting class. This was later adopted as a new standard for New Zealand dramas.

"The musicians, actors and film makers affiliated with the linked groups of Bruno Lawrence's Electric Revelation and Travelling Apparition (BLERTA) and the Acme Sausage Company - the former a multimedia and performance group, the latter dedicated to film-equipment hire and film production - would go on to forge major careers in screen acting (Lawrence, Martyn Sanderson, Tony Barry and Ian Watkin), film music (John Charles), and film direction (Geoff Murphy).

BLERTA's first significent foray into film making was the low-budget 16mm heist movie Tank Busters, shot on location in Wellington at sites of local counter-cultural significance, such as the Duke of Edinburgh pub on the corner of Willis and Manners streets. This loose, free-wheeling short film simultaneously introduced the compeling screen presence of Lawrence and director Murphy's fascination with home-made special effects, especially explosives (put to good use in the blowing of a safe at Victoria University of Wellington)."
- Lawrence McDonald, Waking From a Fretful Sleep: Film in the 1970s, Chapter 6 of New Zealand Film - An Illustrated History, edited by Diane Pivac, 2011.

Weblink: Thanks to The Film Shop for making this film available to us

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