Al 'The Bomb' Dawson (Michael Karpaney) is caught between his Aboriginal friends, fight promoters, and students campaigning for Aboriginal rights.

(Karpaney had been a professional boxer, and so the film features some credible ring action).

Unable to resolve the conflicting forces around him, Al walks away from all of them, in the process losing the chance for a shot at the world welterweight title fight.

One moment he's hitch-hiking with a mate ... the next he's gone ...


Writers:
Exec producers:
Production Designers:
Art Directors:
Composers:
Editors:

Production Details

Production company: self-produced by Nigel Buesst

Budget: A$6,000 (Oxford Australian Film), with assistance from the Experimental Film and Television Fund ($5,000 SMH).

Locations: Melbourne

Filmed: 1973

Australian distributor: self-distributed, Melbourne Film-Makers Co-Op Ltd, etc.

Theatrical release: Melbourne Pram Factory, 20th July 1973, and then to other dates, mainly via indie and co-op circuit. Supporting featurette at the Melbourne Swanston Cinema, 26th December 1973. It was picked up for television by network Ten, and as late as 27th November 1980 was being repeated in the unflattering Australian Playhouse slot, at 11.20 pm on a Thursday.

Rating: AO (television)

16mm          colour

Running time: 50 mins (Oxford Australian Film)

VHS copy: 48'00"

DVD copy is listed by seller as: 50 mins.

Box office: the Oxford Australian Film notes a "profitable" run at the Pram Factory, but box office would have been low, and only profitable within the context of the very low budget of the film. The few short theatrical runs the film received wouldn't have produced much revenue, nor would the indie co-op circuit then existing, with the sale to televison possibly generating the most revenue.

 

Opinion

Awards

Remarkably the film was ignored by the AFI awards but the film was a joint winner, according to Eric Reade, of the 1973 Benson & Hedges fiction award at the 1973 Sydney Film Festival.

Availability

For some time the film was only available amongst collectors on a grainy copy derived from VHS sources, but the show is now available on DVD, for $25 plus postage from artfilms. The YouTube located screener on the site suggests that the quality of the digial image is good.

The film is also available direct from the film-maker here, for $30, which includes package and posting. (Both sources at time of writing, February 2013)


1. Source:

The film was loosely based on a play by Harry Martin. There is no screen credit for adaptation of the play, but presumably this was done by director Nigel Buesst.

Martin's play was staged at the Pram Factory in the early 1970s, and was published as And come out fighting, a 65 page leaved work by the Council of Adult Education, Melbourne, 1970, no. 17 in its edition of new plays (Trove records it here).

2. Production:

Michael Karpaney was a non-professional actor, but a trained boxer, and the training and boxing scenes featured in the film therefore carried more conviction than usual.

Max Pescud, Karpaney's real life trainer, featured in the film, and the two key fights in the film were filmed as scheduled fights, then woven into the drama.

Karpaney was active as a boxer in the early 1970s, and fought twice for the Australian welterweight title, losing both times to Alan Aldenhoven. He then gave away the game.

Karpaney's fight record was 19 wins (6 KOs), 11 losses (2KOs) and 4 draws (34 fights) fighting as a welterweight out of Robinvale Victoria. His full record can be found here. His career arc somewhat resembles the fictional character he plays.

The fights featured in the film are Joe Archer (25/9/72, win by KO) and Sila Nomura (13/11/72, loss on points).

Byron Kennedy, later producer of Mad Max, was the DOP. (He would later die in a helicopter crash). Film director John "Sirens" Duigan appears as a student.

Karpaney later turned up as a cameo, playing himself, in Clayton Jacobson's 2006 film Kenny, sparring with the main character.

3. Further reading:

Dylan Rainforth provides an extended analysis of the film at Senses of Cinema under the header Boxing on with Mao and Mundine: Come Out Fighting. A sample:

In a scene that personally rates as the most moving in the entire film a minor character discusses the old tent boxing days when he boxed for Jimmy Sharman. Saying he’s not sad that the tent era has ended he delivers a monologue straight to camera about how they were never paid for their troubles and how boxers would end up brutalised and “punch-drunk”. Delivered haltingly, the non-actor’s soliloquy holds the power of truth. It stands in stark contrast to the nationalistic and egalitarian myths often perpetuated about the tents ...

...Unsurprisingly, Al loses the title fight, just as he loses any interest to fight for a place in a world that neither respects nor values him. In a beautiful and remarkable final scene he hitchhikes out of town with another Aboriginal man. Cars pass and no one stops but then, without a change of shot or a car slowing down, Al and his friend disappear. No more appearances, no more false images.

The film, played out mostly within the social realist/indigenous genre, is certainly one of Buesst's best works, and it captures a period in boxing where Aboriginal people were dominant. The use of real people, real fights, and a real gym makes it essential viewing for anyone interested in the way boxing worked in Australia during the 1970s.

In an opening pan around the gym, the camera picks up a photo of Tony Mundine (father of boxer Anthony), who held many Australian titles in various divisions, and who fought Carloz Monzon for the WBA world middleweight title, but losing by knockout in the 7th round. Unlike Buesst's hero, he went on to a successful political career. His boxing wiki is here.

4. Music:

There are no music credits, but director Buesst occasionally uses some library classical music tracks, as when Michael Karpaney hoes into a bowl of spaghetti.