(Note: this listing and synopsis contains spoilers, and language matching the film's adult concepts).

Secondary school student Steve Carson (Rod Zuanic) is always in trouble, whether it's stealing eggs from a battery hen farm with his mate Moose (Chris Truswell) and Vicki (Tonu Allaylis), or whipping up a penis-shaped dildo in his woodwork class.

He conducts a war with deputy principal Yates (Denis Moore), a man who loves to apply the cane, and devise ways of evicting Steve from the school.

Steve's been abandoned by his mum, who's run off with an Acme cake man, and left him in the hands of his always drunk dad (Peter Hehir), who keeps a couple of greyhounds. His useless brother (Gary Cook) wants Steve to peddle smack at school for him, instead of the marijuana he's been selling to make a little money.

Most of his teachers have given up on Steve, but a new arrival, practice teacher Sharon (Tracy Mann) shows some sympathy for him - only she gets herself into trouble by taking an unhealthy interest in a student.

Steve also strikes up a friendship with Redback (Steve Bisley), a man who runs a motorbike shop but who has done hard yards in prison after stealing a motorbike and riding it to Alice Springs. Redback helps Steve drag a wrecked bike out of the swamp and begins teaching him how to restore it.

When in trouble, Steve is always scarpering off, as a way of avoiding being caught and punished, but things begin to catch up with him.

His dad poisons the greyhound he was fond of, and Yates calls in a couple of detectives (Lucky Grills and Greig Pickhaver) to investigate the drug deals going down in the school, and when Steve disappoints a couple of his brother's customers with chalk scrapings, he cops a beating.

Sharon is forced to leave the school, and Steve, the Moose and Vicki are ritually humiliated at a school assembley by Yates, and that night at the school social - the Eurogliders are on up stage - as teachers and students dance to the music, the trio break into Yates' office, accidentally setting it on fire.

They douse the flames by dumping Yates' fish tank on them, and then steal his Valiant and hit the road.

After a brief interlude between Steve and Vicki that night, the trio run out of petrol and have to push the car into a country petrol station.

When Steve spots some cops, the boys panic, leaving Vicki behind with the attendant. The Moose drives the car through a billboard into a river. After barely escaping drowning, the Moose is caught, but Steve makes it to a boat with an outboard motor and escapes.

He turns up back at Redback's to get his now restored bike and go on the run. Redback is disapproving - he's seen this show before - and warns Steve about heading off to Alice Springs...

The last shot is of Steve riding his bike up a steep city bridge, towards the setting sun and an uncertain future… 

(For a more detailed synopsis, also with spoilers, see this site's 'about the movie' section).

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

Production Details

Production company: no opening production credit; tail credit assigns copyright to Oldata Pty Ltd.

Budget: $900,000 (Cinema Papers' production survey, May-June 1983); some reports put the budget more in the region of c. $1 million (David Stratton, The Avocado Plantation).

Locations: Sydney, especially the southern suburb of Botany for exteriors. Balmain High was used for the school locations. Sydney railway stations, Wynward and Rockdale, turn up in the action.

Filmed: the film was listed as being in production in the May-June 1983 Cinema Papers' production survey; according to Stratton, a six week shoot.

Australian distributor: Filmways

Theatrical release: the film opened in its home town Sydney at Hoyts City Centre, Roxy Parramatta, Fairfield Forum Twin and Burwood on 23rd-24th August 1984.

Video release: Filmways VTC, marketed by K-Tel Video

Rating: M (January 1984).

super 16mm  colour  blown up to 35mm for theatrical release

Running time: 95 minutes (Murray's Australian Film); 93 minutes (New York Times).

VHS time: 1'29"05 (excluding K-Tel video presentation credit)

YouTube timing, including K-Tel presentation credit: 1'29"31

Box office:

The film was a box office flop as David Stratton explained in The Avocado Plantation:

… despite its life and energy and great good humour, the film fared poorly at the box-offfice. The major distributors didn't want it, and so it was handled by Filmways - and it never really got off the ground. 'It polarised people,' says Cameron. 'It wasn't oozing with charm - it was tough. But there was no rock 'n' roll, and people seemingly couldn't accept its mood. I can't see how it could ever have been a hit, but it could have been marketed more imaginatively than it was.'

Filmways was a low rent distributor of last resort for out of the way Australian material, without the clout or the money of the majors to command screens, and keep a film running in order to promote and build an audience.

The film had been finished in 1983 but it sat on the shelf until finally emerging in August 1984.

As a result, the Film Victoria report on Australian box office suggests the film did a humble $100,118, equivalent to $254,300 in A$ 2009. Even relative to its low budget, this was a poor performance. 

The film did sell into some international territories - it was even given a brief arthouse release in New York - but internationally few cared about the issues confronting working class and lumpenproletariat kids in the NSW education system.

Opinion

Awards

Fast Talking picked up a respectable number of nominations for a low budget film at the 1984 AFI Awards, but no wins:

Nominated, Best Achievement in Direction (Ken Cameron) (Paul Cox won for My First Wife).

Nominated, Best Screenplay (Original) (Ken Cameron) (Paul Cox and Bob Ellis won for My First Wife)

Nominated, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (both Peter Hehir and Steve Bisley were nominated - Bisley defeated himself by winning for his role in Silver City).

Ken Cameron did however win a 1984 AWGIE for "Film Original" screenplay.

The film also won the top prize of 'best feature' at the second annual Sydney film critics' circle awards, involving the 38 critics representing major daily and weekly newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations. It beat out AFI hit Careful He Might Hear You, which picked up five other awards (The Canberra Times, 18th September 1984).

Availability

The film was released on VHS by K-Tel, but doesn't seem to have made it from tape across the digital divide.

The original release is now rare, but copies derived from tape sources circulate amongst collectors, quality contingent on the quality of the original material.

Ozmovies doesn't always link to shows that have been put up on YouTube, because this usually happens without the permission of the copyright owners. There's Hollywood studios complaining about intellectual property rights, while other American businesses flout intellectual property rights all the time.

But there's a failure of marketplace nerve when it comes to this film, and it can be found in full, for the moment, here, in a relatively high quality transfer - even if it shows the usual softness of a VHS source. 

It's already had over 40,000 views - that's surely more than the film had on its original theatrical release - and it's also collected a number of favourable comments (relatively free of the childish abuse and snarky comments that are a usual feature of YouTube).

Yet the film has never been revived by commercial interests, and it's availability online has probably made a hole in the potential market for a digital release.

That's a great pity, because this is a film that would benefit from a good modern transfer, instead of a crappy tape being given a crappy makeover to mp4.

Having been shot on super 16mm, and then blown up to 35mm for theatrical release, it shouldn't be too hard to find decent source material for a digital release,

Suffice to say, anyone who experienced an education in a large secondary school during the 1960s-1980s - decades that might be called "the era of the cane and six of the best" - will find the documentary aspects of the film full of memories, and the drama nicely acted and staged, even if the outcome is a tad predictable, and even if VHS is never a good way to see a film.

1. Source:

Ken Cameron started as a teacher, and some of his short films derived from his experiences in schools. 

According to an interview in Cinema Papers, October-November 1984, he wrote the first sketch for Fast Talking in 1980 at a time he didn't think he could get Monkey Grip made:

(Producer) Pat Lovell and I had been trying for a couple of years to get Monkey Grip financed and we almost had it together when it fell through So, I started work on Fast Talking.

But, not long after, the money for Monkey Grip came through and I had to abandon work on Fast Talking. I went back to it at the end of 1982.

Cameron later explained to David Stratton in his 1990 survey of the 10BA years, The Avocado Plantation:

'Fast Talking developed out of my short films,' he says. 'It's my favourite of my films, the most free and the most joyful.'

According to his interview with Peter Malone at Malone's essential site, the works were not autobiographical, but were semi-autobiographical:

Peter Malone: Did you enjoy being a teacher? 

Ken Cameron: I did. I wouldn't have enjoyed it had I remained a teacher, but I did enjoy the two years that I taught. It was immensely stimulating. I might not have even been a film-maker if I hadn't been a teacher, because I met Albert Moran. He was a friend then and a really big influence on me, in looking at film in the way he looked at literature. That's when I first started to think I could do it myself, and school certainly gave me a subject.

Temperament Unsuited was autobiographical only in certain anecdotes, certain scenes. It was actually about a teacher that I was interested in, a person that I saw go through all those experiences. These films were all sponsored by the Australian government. Sailing to Brooklyn was an experimental film made for a few thousand dollars, and Temperament Unsuited was a Creative Development Branch film. There were loans given for larger works. Amazingly cheap for those days, about $30,000 or so. It seemed a lot then, but of course it would hardly buy you a minute of film now. Fast Talking was a 10BA film.

Peter Malone: Fast Talking received a very good response in the '80s.

Ken Cameron: It's a very '80s film.

Peter Malone: What were you trying to dramatise? 

Ken Cameron: I think I was playing around with an idea of a Ginger Meggs, Junior Ned Kelly, character who was in a state of flight and rebellion from, I suppose, his school as prison. It's a strange work in the sense that it's never really resolved, his story. He remains on the run at the end just as he was at the beginning. I guess that comes from 400 Blows. I think I was very influenced by 400 Blows, by Ken Loach's work. It was an amalgam of all those things. I think at that stage in my career I was trying to graft the things that had influenced me onto the things that I saw in my own world.

The full interview is online here, and looks at a wide range of Cameron's work up to when it was conducted, 12th April, 1996.

In fact Cameron initially had hopes of imitating Truffaut by making a series of films about his central character, as noted by Stratton:

Had it been a commercial success, which, sadly, it was not, Cameron had hoped to continue to explore the life of his young hero, Steve, much in the same way Francois Truffaut returned time and again to the life of Antoine Doinel, whom we first met as a child in Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows). Cameron envies John Duigan's success in being able to continue the story of Danny in The Year My Voice Broke, Flirting and the planned third feature. 

In fact Duigan never completed his trilogy and Cameron got to explore much the same turf as Fast Talking in a 1984 telemovie for the ABC, Crime of the Decade. 

2. Production:

David Stratton in his survey of the 10BA era, The Avocado Plantation, provided a short gloss on the making of the film:

Cameron spent months looking for a boy who could play Steve; he went to a great many schools to talk to youngsters interested in drama. He finally found Rod Zuanic, fourteen years old at the time, living in Blacktown (west of Sydney), half Yugoslav, half French. 'He was a very cheeky, funny, unselfconscious kid,' says Cameron. 'And he was happy to do the film because he wanted to get out of doing maths.'

Ross Matthews produced the film, which was budgeted at $1 million. It was a risky project, because there were no name actors, and the story was generally considered not very commercial. Filming was scheduled to last six weeks: 'I knew the headmaster from my teaching days,' says Cameron. 'These days we'd need permission from the Education Department to film at a school, but then it was easier. He was happy for us to shoot there, but we had to hide the film crew when school inspectors arrived.' He adds, 'The kids were a joy to work with. The filming became a game for them.' Adult roles were taken by Steve Bisley and Tracy Mann; David Gribble, who had photographed Monkey Grip, was cinematographer.

In his interview for Cinema Papers, October-November 1984, Cameron explained he had a particular reason for using the Botany area of Sydney for exteriors (as featured for example in the scene where Steve takes his dog Megsy for a run):

It is not a beach; it is more a denuded landscape full of junk cars. People have destroyed the light covering of bushes and trees, and have left a great, sandy wasteland - it is like an urban Australian desert. The choice of locations was deliberate and an extension of my thoughts about the school. Australia is like a junkyard, like most industrial nations and industrial cities, and I wanted the environment to be an expression of the disregard that society has for a character such as Steve.

I used Botany all the time because it is where Australia began - it is where James Cook and Joseph Banks first came ashore and took a walk - but now it is like the 'arsehole' of Sydney. In any other country in the world, it would probably be an incredible park or a beautiful environment, but here it has just become a dead industrial zone.

As for the casting process, Cameron fleshed out the details in the same interview:

I spent about three months walking around the Western suburbs (in Sydney), taking small drama classes in schools, just to see if I could find the right kind of people. I would go to a school and give a drama lesson for an hour or two to a group of 20 or 30 people. I would do some free improvization and out of that, sometimes, if I were lucky, I would find a person or two whom I thought was worth following up. People such as Rod just stood out. I found him in a high school at Blacktown.

Cinema Papers: So he had no acting experience before the film?

Ken Cameron: Only within the high school.

Cinema Papers: Was it the same with Chris Truswell?

Ken Cameron: No. Chris was a bit older than the others, about 17, and has just left school. He was found a different way. We had a campaign on the radio station 2SM to see if we could bring in a larger group of people than I could find. Chris responded to an advertisement on the radio and came in with the others to spend a minute talking on tape. I wasn't present, but Chris did impressions and he was very funny.

Chris is not an actor: he works as an apprentice printer. I guess acting was something that hadn't occurred to him, but, as with a lot of kids that age, he just loves imitating things on television.

Cinema Papers: So the actors weren't inhibited by the camera …

Ken Cameron: No, they wanted to do it. They weren't people who needed coercing. Toni is a bit different. She was still at school when I met her - she is only about 16 - and nowadays she is more interested in rock 'n' roll than acting. Both Toni and Rod have parts in Mad Max 3.

The cast is a relatively large one for a low budget feature, and a number of them, including Rod Zuanic, Toni Allaylis, John Godden, Peter Hehir, and Antoinette Byron turn up in Cameron's ABC telemovie Crime of the Decade.

There's also a few in-jokes scattered through the film - for example, around the 31 minute mark of the VHS release, production designer Neil Angwin's name is called out by the roll teacher as being part of the class.

Cultists will be pleased to note Greig Pickhaver - H.G. (of Roy and HG fame) - appears as a police detective, Det. Greer, who is easily fooled by Rod Zuanic's Steve.

Pickhaver appears in company with Crawfords' cop and star of Bargearse, Lucky Grills, who plays the grumpy Det. Holloway.

3. Release:

The film was a box office flop as David Stratton explained in The Avocado Plantation:

… despite its life and energy and great good humour, the film fared poorly at the box-offfice. The major distributors didn't want it, and so it was handled by Filmways - and it never really got off the ground. 'It polarised people,' says Cameron. 'It wasn't oozing with charm - it was tough. But there was no rock 'n' roll, and people seemingly couldn't accept its mood. I can't see how it could ever have been a hit, but it could have been marketed more imaginatively than it was.'

Filmways was a low rent distributor of last resort for out of the way Australian material, without the clout or the money of the majors to command screens, and keep a film running in order to promote and build an audience.

Ken Cameron had some thoughts on the failure of the film in his 12th April 1996 interview with Peter Malone, available in full at Malone's essential site here: 

Peter Malone: Was it well received at the time? 

Ken Cameron: It was well received - it got very good reviews. Probably the reviews were as good as any I have ever had, but it did terrible box office. It was a film like Kes, a film that wasn't a film for kids. It didn't have a big rock 'n roll soundtrack and it wasn't for teenagers. It was about teenagers. It probably was a film that was too problematic to simply be an entertainment. It raised a lot of unsettling questions. When you look at the kid's life, it was awful. The kid's parents had split up and his father was an alcoholic. It was a litany of woes, really, yet it was seen with an ironical comic eye. So I think it was slightly problematic. It wasn't just an untroubled ride. It wasn't a fun picture. And yet it didn't work for adults either, because it was about kids. So it fell into a category: not commercial at all.

Peter Malone: But a realistic portrait of Sydney at that time? 

Ken Cameron: I wouldn't say realistic. I'd just say irreverent and, probably, picaresque. It wasn't a realist work. It wasn't rigorously realist like, say, Ken Loach's work. It was more lighthearted than that, and it certainly wasn't a searing and poignantly personal film as 400 Blows. No, it was just an unrepeatable kind of movie that we made in that era. We did a lot of unusual things then - I'm not saying good things or great things, but unusual things that are very hard to do now.

 Peter Malone: At a seminar an Irish nun was really angry with Fast Talking because she found it too pessimistic and she wanted the problems resolved. But the younger people argued her down. 

Ken Cameron: A lot of people expect cinema and drama to be cathartic, to offer resolution and to leave a character in a different place from where we first found that character - and I guess that's the recipe for good drama. But some stories are not amenable to that kind of dramatic model. Some people are where they always were and that, probably, is a pessimistic view. I couldn't have grafted a happy ending or some sort of civic lesson on to it because it wasn't in the character to respond like that.

I'm very fond of that film, but it's with a certain sadness because it marked a downturn in my career. It was the end of the 10BA era, the beginning of another era where you really had to do more rigorously commercial work to survive and so it was seen as a failure. It really created difficulties for me for a while.

Cameron did in fact get to explore similar characters in a 1984 telemovie for the ABC, Crime of the Decade, but there's no doubting that the glow that had surrounded him after Monkey Grip dimmed a little and he would later go on to do some of his best work in high end television mini-series such as Brides of Christ.

4. Director Ken Cameron on the film:

In his October-November 1984 interview with Cinema Papers, director Ken Cameron expanded on the ideas behind the film, school days, and the edgy scene of the burning of the deputy principal's office in the film (his gold fish die in order to put out the flames):

Cinema Papers: "Fast Talking" has a strong anti-authority motif: for instance, the opening with the bars and the scene in the chicken coop which you set against the ending of the film when Steve Carson (Rod Zuanic) rides off…

Ken Cameron: All my films in schools express that. It is not that I am anti-education, it is that I think schools are a model for Australian society. They are everyone's first contact with authority, with the rules. In Fast Talking, you see Steve's struggling with authority figures, not just at the school, but also with the police, his father and his elder brother - all these coercive figures. It is a problem that Australians have: the struggle to express oneself, or to be oneself, with so many fathers. I know I have had it.

Cinema Papers: Does that come out of your school background?

Ken Cameron: The film is my life, my growing up and my attitude towards authority It is very hard in Australia to feel free to express strong opposition. There are so many restrictions and the most you can achieve usually is just to be evasive, like Steve - he is alway slipping out of the window or ducking away. You can't confront it head on because you will fail. The tall poppies soon get knocked down.

Cinema Papers: You have been very savage with some of the teachers: the scene when Steve makes the wooden penis and the vice-principal's preoccupation with his fish and his petunias …

Ken Cameron: There is hardly anything in Fast Talking that I haven't somehow seen or heard in schools. All of it is culled form observation or memory, including the fish and the petunias. At the high school in which I taught, the deputy principal did nothing but water the garden, enter it in gardening competitions and co-opt the kids into chain gangs to work on it.

When I have seen the film with an audience of teachers they have responded straight away; they recognize the level of satire. People who went to private schools or who don't quite recognize that milieu think, "This has to be exaggerated", but it isn't. That sort of eccentricity is out there, alive and well.

Cinema Papers: There seems to be a sense of enclosure in the film. Steve is frequently visualized against bars or through bars: for example, in the end sequence when he is breaking out of Redback's (Steve Bisley) yard and in the sequence when Steve is talking to Sharon Hart (Tracy Mann) …

Ken Cameron: Schools are like that. The bars are there; we didn't put them there.

Cinema Papers: No, but you have gone to some trouble to frame things in a certain way …

Ken Cameron: Nowadays, schools feel they are under attack. Since the days of 10 per cent unemployment, there has been a lot of hostility directed towards them. The Steve Carson character is too young to be aware of his political situation but he knows intuitively that he is going to get screwed: the school is just keeping him captive until he is kicked out and left unemployed. School is a bit like a penal settlement.

Cinema Papers: You don't see either the school or the family institution as offering salvation?

Ken Cameron: No. On the contrary, the schools have contributed to the division of kids on the basis of gender and class. The school has determined his destiny.

Cinema Papers: Do many people object to the film being unsentimental?

Ken Cameron: A lot of people want lovable characters. When we had trouble getting distribution, that was one of the things levelled against us. People thought the film was too harsh, but I was just trying to be truthful and, if you want to portray situations like that truthfully, sentiment just doesn't have a place.

Cinema Papers: But the lack of sentiment comes through even in the humor of the film. One of the scenes which has shocked a few people is the one in which Megsy, the dog, savages the cat …

Ken Cameron: Well, kids respond to that. I saw the film a couple of weeks ago at a sneak preview with an audience mainly of kids. The scene arouses mixed feelings. They laugh a lot but then it hits them and they realize it is not funny; the cat is dead and the poor woman is going to suffer when she finds out. But it is a black humor I have seen in so many kids. They are not sentimental; they can often laugh at the most awful things.

There is a type of equivalent of racism among a lot of adults towards kids - I don't know what you would call it, "kiddism" or something  - whereby they try to be protective and deny kids a truthful view of things. You will see it, say, in children's television, when you see an attempt to deny the complexity of teenage life.

Cinema Papers: Do you mean "The Brady Bunch" and "Little House on the Prairie" syndrome …

Ken Cameron: You see it in Australia programs as well. It is an attempt to feed kids what adults think they out to know. All the references to marijuana and the other 'scurrilous' stuff in Fast Talking strike a lot of people as just 'off'. We were told by some people that the film should get an "R", that it shouldn't be seen by kids, but, of course, there is nothing in it that is unusual. People, however, don't look at it in that way: a lot of the adults balk at the scenes with the wooden penis or the marijuana.

We had an Australian National Opinion Poll done of the kids' reactions and they were fantastic. The kids were seeing the issues of the kid's impression and the futureless world into which he was heading. It was far more sophisticated than that of the adults'.

Cinema Papers: The once scene that disturbs some teachers is the burning of the school. That is a touchy issue in Melbourne …

Ken Cameron: It is touchy here in Sydney. What is important about the burning of the school is why people do it. They are not just vandals who have come out of nowhere and burn the school; they are often people who have a terrific hostility towards the school. I think that Fast Talking reveals why these kids break in. They are not intending to burn it - that is an accident and, in fact, they try to put it out. They break in because they feel they are being ripped off. It is an act of revenge.

Schools have to acknowledge that, if they play a part in people's lives, then they have to expect to be accountable. The problem with schools is that it is usually a one-way system: the kids don't feel they can express their grievances or control their lives there.

Cinema Papers: In one scene, Redback is fixing the wheels of a bike and Steve is looking at him with eyes glistening, totally attentive. Redback says to him, "Listen pal, you've got to pay attention here, this ain't school." That seems to be a crucial point in the context of the film …

Ken Cameron: A lot of guys are like the Steve character; their lives are impoverished as far as having older admirable males to whom they can relate. That is what Redback is. He has been in gaol but somehow has survived that experience, built a bit of a business and created a life for himself. Steve recognizes in this bloke an unsentimental, fairly tough attitude, but there is also a warmth about the guy. And Steve can see a purpose in what Redback does: you fix a bike and sell it. That makes sense to the kid, whereas school is abstract, bizarre and pretty pointless.

Cinema Papers: That line, "I've seen this show before", is one interpretation of the end of the film when Steve is riding off. There is a small camera track on in Redback, before the image dissolves to Steve going off into the sunset…

Ken Cameron: I think it is pretty clear that Steve will get caught and spend time in gaol. But, ultimately, he will grow up and probably become like Redback. He will have to go through that stage to come out the other side. Some people say he should be punished but I think it is very clear that the film has another destiny in mind for him.

Cinema Papers: Actually some teachers have said they thought he should be punished …

Ken Cameron: But that would be terrible; it would be a defeatist ending if he suffered or were punished. Moral growth, any sort of growth, has to come from within. If he were punished, then he would just be bitter and hostile. It is as if he has to rebel and take charge of his own destiny to grow. And that is what the school system doesn't allow: it continues to impose regulations which don't give him the space to grow …

Cameron then goes on to do some comparisons of the film with his ABC telemovie Crime of the Decade. For these details, see this site's listing for that telemovie here. 

5. Music:

The film features an appearance by then popular Perth band the Eurogliders, playing the school social, and one of their songs, Wildlife, runs over the burning of the school and over the end credits. 

The Eurogliders have a relatively detailed wiki here.

The lyrics for the song, “Another Day In The Big World”, which runs over the school social, are thematically relevant to the storyline, and the coverage of the alienating school social:

Some people say that it’s

Say that it’s a waste of time

Some people can’t off, no

Can’t get me off their mind

Some people say that I

Say that I’m the laughing kind

The kind of people

Push me around

But you know better

Baby you know

Some things are better left

Leave it for another time

Some people just can’t wait, 

Can’t wait to say their mind

Some people say that I’m

Say that I’m the stronger kind

You kind of people

Push me around

But you know better

Baby you know

But you know better

Baby you know

Finding it hard

To say what I mean

Finding it hard

To say what I mean

Cause it’s another day

Another day in the big world

Another day - aayo

Another day in the big world

Another day - aayo

Some people say that it’s

Say that it’s a waste of time

Some people can’t off, no

Can’t get me off their mind

Some people say that I

Say that I’m the laughing kind

The kind of people

Push me around

But you know better

Baby you know

Another day in the big world

Another day - aayo

Another day in the big world

Another day - aayo

Another day in the big world

Another day - aayo

Another day in the big world

Another day - aayo

The lyrics for the end credits song are more mysterious, but also thematically relevant:

Wild life (chorus: wild life)

They say that you can’t stay

Be the same

Man, here’s the great thing

Worry stiff

The wolf is at your door

Wild life (chorus: wild life)

All for a reason

(guitar interlude)

Wild life

We’ll never reach the other side

Wild life

we’ll never reach the other side

Wild life

We’ll never reach the other side

For more details of music  credits, see this site's pdf.

6. Date:

The film is commonly dated to 1984, the year of its Australian theatrical release, but the copyright notice in the film indicates it was finished in 1983 and copyrighted to that year.

It's a good indication of the difficulties the film faced in getting a release to date the year of production correctly to 1983, along with the rider that it took until August 1984 for small distributor Filmways belatedly to pick it up and give it a tepid release, probably with an eye to making money on the K-Tel tape release, rather than expecting to do any meaningful theatrical business.

7. Detailed Synopsis:

On a raid to steal eggs from a battery hen farm, Steve Carson (Rod Zuanic) and his egg stealing mates Vicki (Toni Allaylis) and Moose (for Bruce, Chris Truswell) are disturbed by the owner. Steve races away across the bleak Botany landscape and ends up at a market garden, where he crawls through a muddy ditch to steal some water for his marijuana plant.

After feeding it a little Thrive fertiliser, Steve turns up at school where he and the rest of the class are carrying desks.

When Moose trips him, his Scottish-accented woodwork teacher (Ron Hackett) tells him he's a fool who cannae be trusted with a simple task.

In the woodwork room, the teacher discovers Steve working on a large penis-shaped wooden dildo. "And what's this creation Carson?" "It's a cricket bat handle sir."

The teacher confiscates it and puts it in his pocket, so it protrudes in a comical way, as he keeps berating Steve. 

Out in the locker area, Steve sells a little dope to a girl for ten bucks, but then a prefect Scott Harris (Angelo D'Angelo) spots the next deal going down and takes Steve and the buyer off to the Deputy Principal Yates' ("Seedy" - Denis Moore) office for six of the best with a cane.

Yates asks Steve about the match box the boy was carrying - "I've got the silly idea you might know where it came from … (then showing the marijuana inside) … I suppose you don't know what this is either".

Yates tells Steve to get his clothes off so he can search them, and asks him about a stash of cash in his pants. Steve explains it's his shopping money. "What kind of mother would trust you with fifty dollars?" Yates asks. Yates' secretary arrives with biscuits which forces Yates to let Steve put his strides back on.

Yates pockets the money then applies three stripes to each hand, saying he usually stops at four, but in Steve's case he felt enthusiastic: "I know you're a liar, and I know what you're doing and I know I'm going to catch you at it, and that'll be the last we see of you Carson."

On the way out, Steve asks for his money back and Yates tells him he's got one foot on the banana skin.

When he returns to class, Steve discovers a new student/prac. teacher, Sharon Hart (Tracy Mann) is in charge. He tells her he's just been down to see Old Seedy, which gets a laugh from the class.

It's a rough introduction to the class for Sharon, and Steve slips away the minute the bell sounds, to be picked up by his brother Al (Gary Cook) who wants his money from the drug-dealing.

When he finds out it's only fifty bucks, Al decides he'll keep all of it himself - but Steve says if he doesn't get ten bucks, Al will be selling the stuff himself. Al stuffs a "loan" of five bucks in Steve's mouth, and the pair drive off to Redback's Motor Cycle Graveyard.

While his brother does drug business next door, Steve checks out the bikes and is spotted by Redback (Steve Bisley). "Man died trying to stay on that machine," Redback says, adding "you could get yourself killed too, trying to knock off stuff out of my yard." Steve runs, bike petrol cap in hand, but Redback catches him and then when Al turns up, Redback warns him not to bring smack into his yard.

With Al telling Steve he can walk home, Redback decides to show Steve his Redback special, a bike flung together from bits and pieces in his yard, then invites him around on the weekend to see what goes on.

Back home, Steve's drunk dad Ralph (Peter Heir) is abusing his greyhounds as useless, while clumsy removalists are loading furniture for Steve's mother into their truck. When they try to take the TV and aerial, Ralph bungs on a do, and Steve decides to take one of the greyhounds for a walk.

When he lets it go, the dog runs back to a suburban house and kills a cat, with its owner Mrs Steiner (Sidy Roll) emerging to tell him to go away.

Steve reads a letter from his mother - she's left ten dollars for him under the fridge - and then it's back to school where he tells Vicki Young (Toni Allaylis) that his mum's left home, pissed off, because she's going out with a bloke who owns a cake shop.

In class, the geography teacher (Ric Carter) is setting a test, but Steve manages to take a look at "forbidden fruit", the panties that Vicki's wearing ...

When Sharon takes the class to play cricket, Steve seizes the moment to duck away to Redback's, to watch him work on a bike chassis. As Redback reminisces about motorbike racing, he gives Steve a chance to practise with the oxy, but adding it'd cost 500 or 600 bucks to knock up a bike, out of Steve's league.

In class, Sharon introduces the school inspector Mr Curry (Alistair Duncan), come from college to check up on her work. As Sharon talks to the class about communication without words, Curry sees how a student wordlessly disposes of some snot. 

When Sharon asks for volunteers to provide examples, the kids circulate a note saying "No Volunteers".

The inspector dobs in Steve, who races off to the toilet. Sharon goes in to confront him, only to be interrupted by Mr Swinton (Bill McCluskey) coming in and pulling down his fly, anxious to relieve himself at the urinal.

Sharon wants to know why Steve did it, and he tells her she shouldn't have dobbed him into Yates about the cricket ... (when Steve scarpered off amongst a pile of paper ready for pulping).

Sharon tells him she thinks he secretly enjoys getting himself into trouble, but the stupid thing is that no one cares what he does: "They've written you off matey."

"Oh I couldn't give a stuff."

"I know. But you're not going to get away with writing me off."

She leaves and finally Swinton can go to the toilet.

Steve is watching when Redback pulls a motorbike from a swamp. Redback offers the muddy wreck to him, because otherwise sooner or later he'd be stealing one. That's when Redback confesses to having done a couple of years in the nick for stealing, and when Steve smiles, he says "you think that's really something, don't ya? Just goes to show how full of shit you are mate …"

Redback remembers how he took a new Harley straight off the street, just couldn't keep his hands off it, and rode it from Sydney to Alice Springs, all day and all night, and it ended up costing him three years. Boy's home, jail, the lot …

Steve promptly steals a bundle of newspapers from a newsagent, and sells them at traffic lights, then counts his money and stashes it under his matress.

At school, a teacher (John Cobley) calls out the roll, but Steve is missing. He's off at the CES looking for a job, pretending that he's been working for the last six months at Redback's.

When the interviewer (Jane McDermott) demands a phone number and hands Steve the phone book, she accuses him of being too young and says he's lying and he should be in school, and he leaves with her nicked cigarette lighter.

Steve gives Vicki the lighter, and they end up in a pub but the bouncer ejects Steve for being under 18. When the bouncer turns his back, Steve slips inside, then invites the others in, robbing the ticket box as he passes.

On the Wynyard railway escalator, Steve plants a kiss on Vicki's neck, and she tells him "you and me, we're not like that." They've been hanging around for four years and all of a sudden he starts coming on: "What do you expect?"

When Moose teases him about Vicki's boyfriend - tongue down his throat, his hand up her dress - Steve wrestles his head over the railway platform, as a train rumbles into the station. Later on the train they smoke joints, only to be interrupted by two police officers getting on …

Steve and Vicki dash off the train and race into the station's ladies' toilet. The cop sends the female ticket collector in to check but when she knocks on the toilet door, Steve escapes by sliding through the nearby cubicles, startling the female occupants as he goes … (one's reading Straight and Crooked Thinking by Robert H. Thouless).

Steve scarpers onto a train and then it's back to school, to be greeted by Sharon, who wasn't expecting him, not after their last little show. She's heard about his caper at the CES office, and points out there's no future in that, while Mr Yates is under the impression he's running a marijuana business in the school.

"You must be aware that just about every teacher in this school is after you for one thing or another," says Sharon, adding he skips lessons, he's a liar, and a thief, and he pulls a lot of dumb tricks, "and you don't face up to anything."

She gives him the word - they're planning to get rid of him, just like they're planning to get rid of her.

Redback's showing Steve how to tighten spokes, but Steve reckons he's bullshitting about which ones to tighten. "Listen pal," says Redback, "you gotta pay attention here. This ain't school."

At the supermarket, Steve slips a couple of Marlboro packs inside a Kelloggs' box. He tries to hustle the checkout woman (Antoinette Byron) with the old trick of swapping notes - claiming he's left his girlfriend's phone number on the ten dollar bill. She wakes up to his game, but misses the cigarettes.

When Steve emerges, Vicki spots his mother (Julie McGregor) across the road, and he races to ask her when she's coming back, but she tells him things are a bit of a mess right now.

When Steve resumes selling newspapers at the traffic lights, cops chase him but he escapes by jumping in the back of a traytop.

The cops turn up at school, where Yates warns his students to be careful: "You trample my petunias son and it'll be the last step you ever take", boasting to the cops that his display took out second prize in the Herald's gardening competition… the southern division.

While Bruce the Moose distracts the class by bringing a pack of condoms to the class for the show and tell and prompted by Sharon, reads the instructions, Yates brings the cops to Sharon's door.

Yates chivvies Sharon, who says she's helping the students learn to read directions. Yates says it sounds it's more like a family planning class and the students don't need any help with that.

Steve crawls towards his usual window escape hatch, Yates snatches the pack of condoms as he goes, and Steve clambers up a pipe past a class reading T. S. Eliot's poem about J. Alfred Prufrock, measuring out his life in coffee spoons.

Steve makes it to the roof, but the boys from the Eliot class waylay him. He races back across the roof, and slips down the pipe, landing right beside the departing cops.

Back home, his drunk dad sends things scattering as he complains about the two hundred bucks worth of newspapers Steve knocked off. Where'd all that bloody money go, eh, he wants to know, as he whacks Steve across the head. Steve defiantly says he spent it on his bike.

When his dad finds a bottle of spirits Steve says was a present for him, his dad softens and says he doesn't know why he keeps hitting him, he guesses he's just a bloody no hoper. They're both a couple of no hopers.

Steve phones his mum but gets no joy, and as he prepares a matchbox of marijuana, his brother turns up and says he's got something more profitable for him.

But Steve says he's not touching smack. His brother says he doesn't have to get customers, he just has to deliver, but Steve insists he's no pusher, he knows what the stuff does. His brother wants to know if he's joined the Festival of Light.

His brother leaves it with him, saying he's giving him some names, but Steve flushes the smack down the toilet.

At school a tough kid grabs Steve by the throat, demanding to know where the smack is. Steve hastily scrapes a stick of chalk into a piece of paper as the frustrated careers advisor (Frank Lloyd) despairs of the class, pointing out next year he'll be retired and playing golf in Port Macquarie. He thinks they may as well spend the next two weeks talking about life on the dole - by the end of the year, he thinks Steve will be an authority on the subject.

In his office, Yates is admiring his fish, when he looks out the window, spots something and reaches for the binoculars.

As the two tough kids head down the back of the sports oval to collect their smack cum chalk from Steve, Yates and a bunch of senior kids head across the oval. They don't arrive in time to stop Steve sneaking away through a hole in the fence, and the chase is on. Steve races through the desolate landscape of mountains of paper waiting to pulped, until he's eventually caught.

In his office, Yates presents the trio of Steve, Vicki and Moose to Dets. Holloway (Lucky Grills) and Greer (Greig Pickhaver). The detectives have come all the way from Bondi and they don't like to waste a trip.

Greer asks Steve how he got into this sort of trouble, and as usual Steve lies, making up a story about helping out his sick, heart-troubled old man. Then Steve blames the prefects for roughing him up, bungs on a fainting fit, and falls to the floor.

Greer panics, the cops call an ambulance, and then they decide to go - they think the matter's been taken far enough. They're not going to press criminal charges and Holloway tells Yates to do what the school usually does - belt the shit out of the students or suspend them. "It's your show, but listen Frank will you do us a favour. In future don't bring us all the way out here unless you've got a case, okay?"

"Nice fish," says Greer, looking at Yates' tank. "Especially the flathead," adds Holloway.

Steve's wiping down his dog in the back yard when his brother turns up wanting to know what's this he's heard about Steve giving his customers self-raising flour, and Steve tells him it was chalk dust - and he flushed the smack down the shithouse and he can go down looking for it if he likes.

His brother takes the money out of Steve's cigar box, telling him he's as slow as the old man - a good deal would have to be half way up his arse before he saw it coming. 

Steve and his father take the dogs out to a practice track, but Steve lets the dogs go too soon after the lure's released, and the dogs catch up with it, and shred the stuffed toy.

Steve's dad gives him a thump around the ears and wonders why they're wasting their time testing Steve's dog - "all he's good for is turning steak into dogshit… and you bugger it up this time boy and I'm going to tie you to the wire."

Steve lets his dog Megsy go, but the dog's distracted by sheep. Megsy jumps through the fence and goes after them - he's like your mother, says the dad, he's bloody hopeless.

Steve's dad races after the dog, and then back in the kitchen as Steve gets some cereal, his now drunk dad puts drops into some raw meat. He tells Steve to piss off to school, but Steve races to save Megsy. His father chases after them in his Falcon ute, and whistles to the dog, "come on and get it yer mongrel", and the dog turns and races back, and that's the end of Megsy.

Steve attacks his father, and kicks the car, and then in his bedroom, his brother tries to console him, saying it was a bad thing what he done to you, but half the time their father gets so pissed he wouldn't know if it was Pitt street or Christmas. No use crying about it, he says, it's just not good business keeping a dog that couldn't run.

"See that's the difference between you and me little buddy, you run around acting like the little crim but you're still too soft. It's just no good getting attached to a stupid dog. See this (he puts a twenty dollar note in Steve's arm), this is what I get attached to…You can have it ..." 

The next day Yates gets the trio of Steve, Vicki and the Moose up before the general assembly, denouncing them for breaking the laws of the state, and shaming themselves, the school and their families and all of the gathered students.

They've behaved foolishly and destructively by bringing drugs into the school, and unfortunately they're not the only ones. They're going to pay the penalty - they won't be sitting for their exams, they won't be getting a school certificate, and they won't be coming back for a second chance.

"These illustrious worms are about to graduate on to the scrap heap of unemployment… (turning to the trio) well I think we've seen all we want to see of you three … you've got nothing to say for yourselves and I've certainly got no intention of wasting any more words on ya. Go on, get back to my office …"

He then delivers a spiel for tickets for The Sound of Music being on sale from next Monday …

Steve heads off to Redback's to take his bike for a ride to show it off. Redback points out it's got no plates, and he's got no licence, what does he think he's doing? If they catch him, he'll never ride again.

"That's just it, I'm not gunna get caught, eh," says Steve, and heads off into the rain.

Night falls as Steve knocks on Vicki's window and asks if she wants to go out for a spin.

Vicki tells him her mum reckons all her troubles have come from hanging around with Steve, but Steve says it was her hanging around with the prefect, and then they kiss.

Back in school, Sharon is furious at the accusations Yates is making and says she's going straight to the Federation (the teachers' union - we have the impression it might have something to do with her affection for the prefect that's on view through the film), as Steve's drunk dad rocks up, and confronts the well-spoken Principal (Peter Collingwood).

"Just who do you think you are," the drunk dad shouts at the Principal, "you can't even speak the bloody language."

The Principal takes Steve into his office, and tells him that it's a done deal, he's being kicked out of school.

When Steve emerges he sees Sharon getting into her Volkswagon, ready to drive off. 

He tells her he's leaving that day, and she asks him if he's challenged it, he's entitled to sit for his exams, but Steve shrugs. 

That night there's a school social, with the band, The Eurogliders, playing. 

While students and teachers dance, Steve, Vicki and the Moose break into Yates' office. The Moose pisses in Yates' pot plant, while Vicki breaks into the filing cabinet and they look at their files. "Load of shit," says Steve, and they begin ransacking the office.

Vicki discovers the year end exam papers.

When Steve asks Vicki a question about how much a man would have left over after deducting various expenses from his wages, she replies she couldn't give a shit.

Then the Moose discovers a drawer full of confiscated items, condoms, lighters, pocket knives, make-up, while Steve breaks the teacher's canes in half.

A paper fight erupts, and the Moose clicks on a lighter, and the flame accidentally lands on some fluid, and a fire catches.

It's out of control. Vicki hits the fire alarm button, and then she and the Moose tip over the fish tank and douse the flames.

A concerned student finds it hard to prise Yates from his dance with an attractive young blonde, but eventually he comes out into the darkness and sees smoke swirling out of his office window.

The Moose says he has the keys to Yatesy's Valiant, and they race to the car park. Yates arrives in his office to see his fish flapping on the burned paper - "oh no, not my bloody fish."

The Moose can't seem to drive very well and the Valiant lurches into the darkness. He swerves to avoid the arriving fire truck, collects a sign, and after a fade to black, we end in a bush park.

Steve proposes a change of number plates, and then they can drive to Alice Springs and lay low for a couple of years, but in the meantime, the Moose reckons he's worked out the answer to the exam question - the man would have 13 dollars left in his pocket. When Steve challenges him, the Moose has to go back to doing more work.

The next day the trio push the Valiant into a small garage, and while the attendant fills the tank with petrol, to the sounds of country music, Vicki indulges in a little shop lifting, which means she's left behind when Steve spots a cop car approaching and the two boys drive off in a panic.

The cops pick up Vicki and then head after the boys, a job made easier by the Moose swerving to avoid a truck, and sending the car through a billboard into the river below.

The car rapidly fills with water, but they manage to kick out the windscreen. As a cop swims after them and grabs the Moose, Steve makes it to a tinnie with an outboard, and sets the motor running.

Vicki waves farewell ...

Steve arrives at Redback's, trying to cut the bolt with the oxy as Redback arrives and says he couldn't have picked a better getaway machine.

" I was just gunna …," says Steve, but Redback cuts him off. "I know what you were gunna do mate, I've seen this show before."

He opens the gate and Steve wheels out his bike.

"Your choice pal," says Redback. "You can take off, give 'em all a run for their money, oh they'll probably catch you somewhere down the track, at least you can say you had a shot at it. Take it easy on the curves. Remember you never got around to fixing the brakes… Hey, one more thing. Stay well clear of Alice Springs."

And with that Steve is off, riding his bike up a steep city bridge into the sunset, and towards an uncertain future, as the image freezes, the bass throbs on the soundtrack and the end credits roll …