Avengers of the Reef

The story concerns a scientist Bill Stewart (Dibs Mather) who heads to Fiji to investigate the Crown of Thorns turning up on the island reefs. His son Tim (Simon Drake) discovers a plot by a multinational mining syndicate to destroy the reefs with the starfish, as a way of avoiding environmental objections to their mining the reefs.

Their leader Updike (producer NoelFerrier) and his bumbling aide (Gary McDonald) hire a killer, Kemp (Tim Elliot) to kill Stewart, and thinking his dad is dead, Tim heads to the islands and seeks refuge with a Fijian boy, Sai (Biu Rarawa). After shared adventures in the tropical jungle - there's fire-walking and witchcraft and picturesque locations -  Kemp is captured, and Tim is reunited with his father, who survived the assassination attempt …

Writers:
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Production Details

Production company: Timon Productions

Budget: originally $100,000, but with substantial overages because shortly before filming was completed in Fiji, a major cyclone hit the island of Taveuni causing a delay of several weeks and additional filming.

Locations: Fiji, mainly on the island of Taveuni.

Filmed: September 1972

Australian distributor: Roadshow, and self-distributed.

Theatrical release: the film was selected by the Australian Council for Children's Film and Television to screen during a festival of children's films that was part of the celebrations surrounding the opening of the Sydney Opera House. Avengers opened the season 21st October 1973.

Rating: G

35 mm    colour                                                                                                                                

Running time: 84 mins (Oxford)

Box office: low. The film did the matinee circuit to modest results and swiftly dropped from view.

The Film Victoria report on Australian box office says the film took $27,000 at the box office, equivalent to $210,060 in 2009, but the figures in this report should be treated as an approximation.

 

Opinion

Awards

Writer Anne Brookesbank won an Australian Writers' Guild award for her screenplay.

Availability

The film has  in the past been released in VHS in various territories, but such copies are extremely rare, and there are no known copies circulating outside the archive. The archive contains preservation material for the film, details here.

The film is a classic example of how government-funded productions by one off production entities sometimes fall into a black hole in Australia, for whatever reasons - rights issues, lack of continuity in ownership and activity by the original producer.

In the United States, a film like this would still be in circulation, as part of some library, even if only a B-grade video title.

1. Source:


Writer Anne Brooksbank (writer-director Bob Ellis's partner) wrote the screenplay.

The film was co-financed by actor Noel Ferrier and the newly formed federal government production financing arm, the Australian Film Development Corporation.

2. The production:


The low-budget exercise ran into difficulties and overages as a result of a cyclone affecting the location shoot on the Fijian island of Taveuni.


The film was an early outing for Gary 'Norman Gunston' McDonald, playing Ferrier's bumbling sidekick, and other familiar adult names included producer Ferrier, Tim Elliot and Judy Morris.

The film was directed by Chris McCullough, formerly with the Commonwealth Film Unit, and then seen as a rising young directorial talent. McCullough would later direct documentaries such as the wildlife series In the Wild with Harry Butler (the first series was for release on the ABC in 1976).

It was DOP Peter James' first feature. Amongst many other films, James would go on to do a number of films with director Bruce Beresford, including Driving Miss Daisy (1989), Mister Johnson (1990), Black Robe (1991), Rich in Love (1993), Silent Fall (1994), Last Dance (1996), Paradise Road (1997), Double Jeopardy (1999), Bride of the Wind (2001), And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself (2002), and Mao's Last Dancer (2009)

The music was supplied by John Sangster, with a score described as sinisterly percussive. Sangster (1928-1995) was a jazz composer, arranger, drummer, cornettist and vibraphonist, who joined Tully at the time of the rock musical Hair, and who diversified into film and documentary music in the nineteen seventies.

3. Release:

according to Eric Reade, the film premiered in the Music room of the Sydney Opera House on the 21st October 1973, and was repeated on 28th October and 4th November as part of festivities associated with the opening of the Opera House and with the Sydney Waratah festival.

During the screening on the first night Queen Elizabeth II popped in for a surprise visit, the high point in the film's release. After that it quickly disappeared from view.