1. Sky Pirates (Colin Eggleston, 1986)
2. Starship (Roger Christian, 1984)
3. The Time Guardian (Brian Hannant, 1987)
4. Incident at Raven's Gate (Rolf de Heer, 1988)
5. Lost: The Black Earth (James Cole, 2004)
6. Angel Mine (David Blyth, 1978)
7. 41 (Glenn Triggs, 2012)
OK, finally some Aussie films that aren't rated below 5.5
8. Wake In Fright
(Ted Kotcheff, 1971)
This is one of those films that has eluded even my knowledge until quite recently; not having ever really made an effort to explore Aussie cinema in particular, not knowing or caring much about director Kotcheff and not knowing any of the cast apart from Donald Pleasance (simply great here as a possibly deranged and definitely decadent alcoholic doctor), it just flew below my radar. But then with this challenge approaching I looked at the Official list and found it was the film on the most lists that I hadn't seen, then read a description, and here it is. And I'm glad I did, this is one of the best slices-of-unpleasant-life I've seen recently, kind of reminds me in some ways of a cross between "Under the Volcano" and "Deliverance" though it's not really that close to either. Very seedy, very nasty at times, but also all-too-real and another reminder of how easy it is - especially in isolated situations - for humans to fall into the traps of addiction and violence. It also conveys the feeling of heat and dryness more palpably than most anything I can remember. I think the betting sequence early on goes on a bit too long but otherwise there's not much I can think of to complain about; excellent.
9. Turkey Shoot
(Brian Trenchard-Smith, 1982)
10. Dead End Drive-In
(Brian Trenchard-Smith, 1986)
This turned out to be a very appropriate double feature; apart from the being from the same director and both being (nominally) science fiction, the two share a broad dystopian vision, though it's articulated in very different ways.
is - and I hate to keep calling films mash-ups but it's a pretty accurate shorthand here - "1984" meets "The Most Dangerous Game". Really, if you're familiar with both of those literary works - or their better cinematic adaptations - that's it. A group of people are sent to a "re-education" camp in a totalitarian society, and then those who run the camp make sport by setting a few of them "free" if they can escape a brutal hunt. There might also be shades of Punishment Park
and of various SF TV shows from the period - I know there was a similar episode of Logan's Run
for example. Nothing new here, and nothing all that novel in the execution, but it's reasonably well done and fun and has just the right level of violence and nudity to keep it in exploitation territory while not seeming so exsessive that you forget the overall message, such as it is.
Dead End Drive-In
on the other hand is something really special; in this case the dystopia is much more subtle, one of diminished expectations and dreams, in which (mostly) young people end up in a "drive in" from which they can't escape. They get to watch movies (mostly earlier Brian Trenchard-Smith films!), they get food, they can sleep in their cars, they can get beer and drugs, but they can't leave. It's a parable of course about the whole bread and circuses mentality in a society - give people enough to sate their momentary desires, don't scare them or physically abuse them, and they'll lie down like sheep for the slaughter. Of course we have one man, our hero Crabs (Ned Manning) who won't give up trying to keep his cherry-red '56 Chevy running and won't give up on dreams of escape.
Beautifully shot in a neon-inflected bright color palette, full of classic cars and classic tunes, and with a lot of references to the culture of the time that probably will have to be sorted out in future viewings, this struck me as almost the ur-80s-film, a reminder of the excesses of the Me Generation and of Reaganism and Thatcherism - and there's a more unpleasant side to this fenced-in paradise that comes out in the last third of the film that surely has even more resonance today under Trumpism - a feeling that this was a film of it's time and of the future, a warning but also a celebration of the music and color and hair and cars starting to fade before a grim onslaught of coming environmental catastrophe and diminished resources, expectations, and... dreams. Which makes the ending - quite similar to the climax of Turkey Shoot
something both triumphant and sadly, increasingly hard to believe or hope for.
Easily my favorite film of this challenge so far and a top 5-10 from Oceania, and apologies to George Miller but I think this is the most interesting post-apocalyptic or dystopian vision Australia has produced. I hope the brilliant new Arrow Blu-Ray will help give this some of the recognition it deserves.