Tag Archives: Bill Hunter

Newsfront (1978)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Life of a cameraman.

The story centers on the men and women who worked to bring Australian film audiences the latest footage of news events of the day during post World War II. It focuses on those working for a company called Cinetone, which is run by A. G. Marwood (Don Crosby), who’s a demanding boss who expects perfection in the product that he sends out as well as footage that is brought in. The movie also looks at the private lives of the crew including Len (Bill Hunter) whose brother Frank (Gerard Kennedy) works for a competitor as well as the advent of TV news, which eventually put the weekly news reels out of business since they could show the events live as they happened.

The film is unusual in that the first 15 minutes are in black-and-white looking much like the newsreel footage that is shown during the opening credits only to shift suddenly into color. It then goes back and forth between color and black-and-white at roughly 30-minute intervals where for a couple minutes the scene shifts to black-and-white for no apparent reason that I could find and then eventually back to color. I’m not sure what the significance of this was, but it’s a bit distracting and doesn’t help get the viewer into the story, but if anything drives them a bit away.

The plot is different too as it’s made up of small personal dramas versus one big one. I didn’t necessarily have a problem with this, but I did feel the conflicts should’ve been more tied to the newsreel profession, which the majority of it isn’t. For instance the story thread dealing with Len’s opposition to having an amendment added to the constitution barring affiliation with the communist party, which goes against the sentiments of the rest of the town, has nothing intrinsically to do with his camerawork and therefore didn’t seem necessary to the story. There’s also scenes dealing with his failing marriage and love affair with co-worker Amy (Wendy Hughes), which again could happen in any work place and seemed rather pedestrian.

There’s also other threads that I thought should’ve been played-out more. Len’s conflict with his assistant Chris (Chris Haywood) over his reluctance to get married to his girlfriend after he finds out she’s pregnant had potential for strong dramatic moments and it would’ve been interesting seeing them continue to work together despite the underlying tensions, but like with a lot of things in this movie, it gets briefly introduced and then quickly resolved. The same thing happens when Len is forced to work with a new assistant after Chris dies unexpectedly. It’s obvious during the short scene of the two in a car that there’s a big generational difference between them, which piqued my interest seeing if they could forge a working relationship despite these issues, but the film never goes back to it, which I found frustrating.

Overall it manages to be compelling nonetheless and much of it could be credited to actual newsreel footage that gets shown throughout. The violent ones that get shown at the start I found particularly riveting including the one where a race car careen out of control and drives right into the spectators, where it clearly injuries and kills many. I was almost hoping for a backstory to that one, but none is given yet it skillfully illustrates how vivid some of the newsreel footage was even after all of these years, which is the best point that the movie makes. I just wished the scenarios dealt more with the work aspect. In a lot of ways my favorite character was A.G. as I enjoyed the way he fretted about every little detail, was a classic chain smoker, and seemed married to his job. It’s a shame he didn’t stay on the whole way through as he was the type of obsessive guy you could’ve really built a movie around.

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My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: July 29, 1978

Runtime: 1 Hour 50 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Phillip Noyce

Studio: Roadshow Shows

Available: DVD, Tubi

Fever (1989)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review:  Suspense in the desert.

This review will be a first in a series in which we celebrate Australian cinema by reviewing one film each week from Down Under. Today’s movie centers on Jack Welles (Bill Hunter) who comes upon a suitcase full of money after a shootout with a drug dealer. He decides to keep the loot and take it home to his lovely wife Leanne (Mary Regan) unfortunately when he gets there he finds that she is in bed with another man named Jeff (Gary Sweet). The enraged Jack attacks Jeff, but Jeff and Leanne manage to fight him off while knocking him out in the process. Thinking that they’ve killed him they take his body out to the desert and dump it into a vat. The problem is that Jack isn’t dead and he proceeds to relentlessly chase the two while also being followed by a busy-body deputy named Morris (Jim Holt) who thinks that Jack is hiding something and who in-turn is also being followed by criminal kingpin Mr. Tan (Lawrence Mah) who is out to retrieve his drug money.

For the most part this film works pretty well and has a story that is compact and original and will keep the viewer guessing all the way through to the end. It also has some particularly novel camera angles including seeing the inside of a car, with the driver still at the wheel, as it flips over.

The film manages to avoid most of the expected loopholes that you usually see in these types of stories, but there are still a few discrepancies. The biggest one is that Jack recovers from the blow to his head a bit too quickly and magically. There is no dried blood, or bandages needed despite the fact that he does initially bleed when he is first hit. In fact there is no sign of even a cut and no after effects like headaches, swelling or dizziness that most assuredly would affect anyone else after being hit over the head with a vase and knocked unconscious. There is also a scene near the end where, in an effort to find his wife, Jack barges into a lady’s washroom and kicks open all the stall doors before finding a woman sitting on the toilet, but for some reason she doesn’t scream or react at all when he does this, which is weird.

The casting is another issue. Hunter is way older than the actress who plays his wife and it doesn’t look right or make sense. Why would such a young beauty settle for some tubby middle-ager? It clearly wasn’t for love or money and the actor playing her lover has too much of the chiseled male model features of a soap opera star. The solution would’ve been to cast performers to play the wife and lover that were of the same age and looks range as Hunter.  Average looking, middle-aged people have sex and affairs in real-life, so why can’t characters on the big screen ever reflect this?

The story also suffers by having characters that are not likable and nobody to root for. Any screenwriting coach will tell you that no matter how clever, or creative the plot may be if it does not have three dimensional characters then it won’t work.

However, with all that said there are still enough unexpected twists to keep it interesting particularly the ones that occur during the final ten minutes. The last one is especially good and one I would never have guessed, nor seen done in any other film, so the movie gets kudos for that.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: February 1, 1989

Runtime: 1Hour 23Minutes

Rated R

Director: Craig Lahiff

Studio: Genesis Films

Available: VHS