Tag Archives: John Hargreaves

The Killing of Angel Street (1981)

killing of angel street

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Their homes get demolished.

Jessica (Elizabeth Alexander) is a quiet woman who suddenly finds herself embroiled in a heated battle between homeowners and developers who want to build beachfront property on their land and tearing down their homes in the process. Jessica’s father (Alexander Archdale) is one of the homeowners whose place will be destroyed if the developers have their way. Since she has no experience in fighting these matters she employs the assistance of local union leader Elliot (John Hargreaves) to help her in her fight and the two quickly start-up a relationship, but just as they feel they are making some headway Jessica begins to get harassed by complete strangers who break into her home and threaten her life unless she agrees to back-off.

This film is based on the same real-life incident that was also the inspiration for Heatwave, which came out a year after this one. What I found so interesting is how both films took the same incident, but managed to veer into two very diametrically opposite directions with it. Heatwave viewed the situation from all different perspectives including that of the antagonist while this one only looks at the viewpoint of the lead character and uses the premise as a catalyst to what surmounts to being a basic thriller.

While I felt Heatwave was the superior film I did feel this movie was better at creating an emotional impact with the viewer. You get to know the residents better here and are more sympathetic to their cause as well as witnessing the human side and its impact. The shots of houses getting torn down is especially strong as well as the shot near the end where you see the crumbling skeletons of the buildings all in a row and looking like remnants of some sort of war zone.

The film suffers from the weak presence of its lead actress whose performance comes off as being much too rehearsed and lacks any type of spontaneity. Hargreaves, who became one of Australia’s best known lead actors, is wasted in a benign supporting role and is not seen very much. Archdale practically steals it in a touching portrait of an old man clinging to the only thing he has left, but the pronounced bags under his eyes almost becomes a distraction.

The film’s final 20 minutes are the best. This is where Jessica finds herself kidnapped and hung upside down over the side of a tall building, which is quite intense, as well as a myriad of almost surreal events where she runs into evil people and ugly situations wherever she turns including that of a humiliating and unnecessary full body search while inside the seemingly safe confines of a police station.

The story though veers way off from what actually happened making this an almost fictional account and barely related to the real Juanita Nielsen whose true-life story inspired this one. The real event had far more interesting twists and I’m not sure why neither film chose to stick to the facts and it almost begs for a talented filmmaker to come in and create a film that examines the events and people as it actually occurred.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: October 1, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 35Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Donald Crombie

Studio: Forest Hill Films

Available: VHS

Don’s Party (1976)

dons party 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10        

4-Word Review: This party gets wild.

It’s October 25, 1969 and the election for Australian Prime Minister is being broadcast all over the nation. Don Henderson (John Hargreaves) is a Sydney suburbanite hoping that the Labor Party will unseat the incumbent Liberal one and invites his friends over to his home to watch the results. Things start out cordial at first, but as the night wears on and the alcohol takes its toll it heats up. Sexual escapades, arguments and fistfights breakout as the veil of civility comes off and their true selves come out.

This is playwright David Williamson’s most famous work and one that was not only a giant hit in his homeland, but has achieved worldwide acclaim. What I loved about the movie and what makes it so funny is that it cuts out the pretense and shows people as they really are while becoming a scathing indictment on suburbia. Most movies tend to pullback and sanitize things, but this one takes the opposite approach with a crude, in-your-face style that pokes holes at every level of suburban lifestyle that is refreshingly honest and totally accurate. The characters are excessively crass and there’s an abundance of sex and nudity, but sprinkled with a definite grain of truth that makes it more revealing about human nature than shocking.

An actual house was used for the setting, which helps avoid the static feeling and director Bruce Beresford does a good job of taking advantage of all the different rooms in the place and uses a variety of camera angles and shots to give it a nice visual flow. The performances are unilaterally superb and the actors appear genuinely intoxicated making the viewer feel drunk with them as they watch them down one beer after another.

The film’s drawback is that the characters lose their inhibitions too quickly and behave in an unnaturally aggressive way right from the start. It would’ve been more fun had they been overtly civil at the beginning only to watch it slowly deteriorate as the film progresses. There are also a few scenes where the background music is too loud and it’s impossible to hear what the characters are saying, which makes this otherwise slick production come off as a bit amateurish.

I first saw this movie back when I was in college and at the time I just didn’t get it. It seemed excessively profane without any redeeming qualities and filled with characters who were hateful and crude, but then I saw it years later after I’d lived in suburbia and become middle-aged it all suddenly made sense. In fact it made a little too much sense as the message it conveys and portrait it creates is not a pleasant one, but I admire the filmmakers for having the tenacity to bring it to light without compromise or hesitation.

dons party 3

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: November 10, 1976

Runtime: 1Hour 30Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Bruce Beresford

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD

The Removalists (1975)

removalists 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Cops abuse their authority.

Having just graduated from police training Neville (John Hargreaves) is both excited and nervous about joining the force. His first day on the job working at a small police station with the conservative and boisterous Sargent Dan Simmonds (Pete Cummins) as his new boss gets off to a rocky start and then gets even worse when two sisters arrive to report an incident. Kate (Kate Fitzpatrick) is the older of the two who says that her shy younger sibling Marilyn (Jacki Weaver) has been abused by her husband Kenny (Martin Harris) and will require the services of the two policemen to help move her things out of her apartment and keep Kenny under control while they do it. The two cops oblige, but to everyone’s shock the Sargent immediately becomes physically abusive to the husband when he enters the place and while he has him handcuffed. The beatings escalate throughout the day until Kenny looks to be on the brink of death forcing the two officers into a heated argument over what type of alibi they should use should the victim eventually die.

The film was written by the talented David Williamson and based on one of his stage plays. Williamson is noted, especially in Australia, for his darkly humored subject matter and scathing wit with this one being no exception. It starts out with a caustic tone that just proceeds to get stronger as it progresses. The actions by the Sargent are disturbing and reprehensible, but the fact that the character doesn’t see it that way and expounds on the importance of ‘self-control’ and having a rigid morality shows just how out-of-touch he is with his own contradictions, which makes him quite human and strangely engaging while also making a great commentary on the abuse of police power.

This also marks the film debut of legendary Australian actor John Hargreaves who went on to have a remarkable film career with a wide array of interesting roles before unfortunately dying at age of 50 from AIDS. His portrayal of a nervous and hesitant new recruit is humorously on-target, but the way his character becomes more emboldened as the day wears on is even more interesting.

The film’s downfall is the fact that the sets are visually dull. To some extent this works particularly in the rundown apartment that the majority of the action takes place in because it helps to symbolize how trapped the characters are with their own deteriorating and misguided value system, but it still ultimately gives the film too much of a low budget and unimaginative look. The story itself is predictable and although laced with darkly amusing moments could’ve been funnier and played-up more.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: October 16, 1975

Runtime: 1Hour 33Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Tom Jeffrey

Studio: Seven Keys

Available: DVD (Region 0)