Sher Mountain Killings Mystery

  • aka The Cursed Mountain Mystery (USA)
  • aka The Sher Mountain Killings

The front of the Australian VHS slick put a box around Joe Bugner’s name and offered “The hunter … the hunted … The quick … and the dead … The Natural … the Supernatural.”

The back slick led with a couple of quotes: “Thoroughly enjoyable … Joe Bugner steps into Schwarzenegger’s shoes comfortably” Review Magazine and “Sheer entertainment - great cast” Daily Mirror.

There was also a synopsis:

Nobody believed the stone was really cursed … it was just another gem in the eyes of the thieves who stole it … but, like all great mystery thrillers… things are not as they seem!

When down and out Davey Joe (Jeffrey Rhoe) is paid to steal an ancient stone from an old Ranger's castle, he decides to keep it for himself in the hope that it’ll bring him good luck and eternal life. But what follows is a trail of mystery and deceit.

Alex (Tom Richards) takes his mute brother Caine (Phil Avalon) on a camping trip to Sher Mountain, little suspecting that Caine has in his possession the cursed stone.

On their trail are two thugs led by Davey Joe, intent on having the stone for their own. However, awaiting their arrival in the Sher Mountains is the protector of the gem - the Ranger (Joe Bugner) who spares no mercy as he takes the mystical stone back to the possession of the keeper.

Abigail and Elizabeth McIvor (Dallas, Cheers) also star in this mystery thriller where primevil (sic) forces and an ancient curse are locked inside the elusive stone.

When the film reached the US tape market thanks to Columbia Tristar, it had changed its name to The Cursed Mountain Mystery and the log line was simpler too: "An ancient curse has found its newest victim."

The back slick didn’t worry about reviewer plugs and went with a short synopsis:

When two petty thieves are hired to steal a rare gemstone, they unwittingly release an unseen power that threatens to destroy their lives.

An eerie, action-packed adventure from Down Under, The Cursed Mountain Mystery features Heavyweight Boxing Champion Joe Bugner as a superhuman warrior whose ancient powers are mysteriously linked to the gem. With the mystical strength of Orion, this eternal archer lures the thieves to the cursed mountain, where he hunts them down one by one. A taut thriller propelled by adrenaline-pumping action.

The Beyond press kit for the film contained a slightly longer synopsis:

There's always something lying in wait under the surface of normality ... the unexpected ... ready to cause turmoil in the lives of normal people.

Dianne and Alex Cordeaux their son, Billy, are no different to thousands of other people. As privileged as they are, their lives are prone to the human problems that plague us all - too much to do and not enough time to do it in - for Alex, the dissolution of marriage and home; for Dianne, as she sees her husband drifting away from her and, for Billy, the role of observer, unable to put the pieces back together for his parents.

Added to this, Alex's brother, Davey-Joe has lost it altogether. He's on a one way trip to the bottom of the heap. Then there's Alex's other brother, Cain a deaf mute who lives with their sister, Muriel, in a world of his own.

Their lives are suddenly turned upside down by a simple act of burglary on the part of Davey-Joe, of a precious stone, a gem rumoured to have some ancient curse on it ...

Something unexpected then intrudes on Davey-Joe's life in the form of a double cross by Sole, the crook who had set up the burglary. Suddenly, Davey-Joe is on the run for his life.

Alex and Caine, retreating to Sher Mountains for a long camping trip, also confront the unexpected... a boating accident... at least that's what it appears to be.

Gradually, Davey-Joe, Dianne, Muriel and Billy, with Sole and his right hand man, Conrad in pursuit, are drawn to Sher Mountains, the precious gem the force now overtaking their lives.

At the centre of this force arises a mysterious figure an image from the past or future? A protector of the gem... one who shows no mercy as he brings the possession of the stone back into the hands of The Keeper.

(For a synopsis with cast details and spoilers, see the bottom of this site's 'about the movie' section).


 

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

Production Details

Production company: Phil Avalon presents Sher Mountain Killings Mystery; tail credit copyrights to Intertropic Films Pty. Ltd.

Budget: $1.5 million (Cinema Papers, March 1990)

Locations: Sydney and surrounds. The Harbourside Brasserie and areas around then Pier 1 make an appearance as does the harbour bridge. Kings Cross also appears for no particular reason, as does Chatswood (Alex has his high rise office there). Thanks to rich Alex, the old Hollywood style house at 1 McHatton Street Waverton also sees much coming and going. The Harbour Bridge, Darling Harbour, the demolished monorail and other Sydney sights also appear.

Filmed: the film was listed as being in post-production in the January 1990 Cinema Papers’ production survey and again in the March 1990 issue.

Australian distributor: Spear Film Distributors

Theatrical release: The film opened in Sydney in some GU suburban cinemas on 13th September 1990 and at Manly and Campbelltown. Other theatrical bookings were limited.

Video release: First Release. The film was out on tape in the domestic market by December 1990

Rating: M

35mm     colour

Running time: 84 mins (Murray’s Australian Film)

VHS time: 83’27” (about 45 seconds of this is the end credit song running over black before the music is abruptly cut off by VHS distributor First Look’s animated logo)

Box office:

The film didn’t make it into the Film Victoria report on Australian box office, but this is hardly surprising because it had a very modest and small theatrical run in Sydney and very limited appearances elsewhere. 

Its main target was the thriller/mystery/supernatural aisles of video stores and television, and it picked up a tape sale to the United States under a new name, and in a number of other territories in Europe (including Israel).


Opinion

Awards

None known. Urban Cinefile did however record that Phil Avalon, producer of, and actor in the film, had his back catalogue screened at the Sanctuary Cove Film Festival, and noted that he was recently honoured with a lifetime achievement award for a career which began with Summer City, and included the likes of Breaking Loose and Fatal Bond. (Urban Cinefile, 17/9/2015, listed at Pandora here).

Availability

Thus far the film doesn’t seem to have crossed over the digital divide, but in any case old VHS copies still circulate, and copies of the film also circulate amongst collectors, quality contingent on source material used.

The numerous number of hairs in the gate visible even on VHS suggests the film might have been shot on super 16mm and with a budget even lower than the one stated for publicity and marketing purposes - the producer once told this writer that he never liked to stray above a million dollars for a film as a way of keeping returns commensurate with expenditure.

Scott Murray in his 1995 survey Australian Film called Sher Mountain Killings Mystery “clearly one of the least effective thrillers made in this country”, but this sort of positive assessment might cause Ozmovie cultists to miss some of the film’s flaws. It is clearly one of the least effective thrillers made anywhere in the world, with all sorts of issues:

  • Dire script - there’s no way an actor should be asked to say the line “What happened here?” after the movie has reached its climax, but that’s the fate Tom Richards suffers;

  • Dire direction - there are multiple repeat framings from the same spot, suggesting set up time was limited and the film had to be knocked off in a couple of weeks;

  • Dire special effects - in the Woody Allen way, they’re terrible and also in very limited supply;

  • Dire acting - though it’s unfair to blame the actors faced with the script and the direction. The engaging Ric (Richard) Carter does attempt to breathe some comedy into his role as the long-suffering co-villain, but it’s a struggle even for him. Somebody had the idea of allowing the producer Phil Avalon to become a mystical mute, gazing solemnly off into the distance, which results in all his scenes turning into solemn, snail-paced tosh.

Then there are other minor picky bits of business. There might be an explanation as to why a still photographer uses a strobe light to shoot a still photograph "art porn" session but it’s hard to think of one.

It’s easier to think of reasons for why the characters wander around all sorts of Sydney landmarks - it’s a way of filling in time, and avoiding the plot holes or adding to the risible dialogue.

But is there anything in it for Ozmovie cultists determined to explore every nook and cranny of obscure Oz cinema?

Well, it does star Aussie Joe Bugner, who managed in his hey day to go 12 rounds with the likes of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier (15 rounds with Ali in his world title shot).

Bugner displays a good screen presence, and even handles the small number of lines tossed his way. It’s just a pity he got stuck with a dog show.

The other actors do their best in tough circumstances. Ric Carter laps the field with his sense of black humour, while Joe Bugner as the mystical archer and Ron Becks as the other villain are next best. This trio easily outstrip the goodies, and given better material and direction, they could have been contenders.

The rest of the cast is television inclined, with Tom Richards (Sons and Daughters), Abigail (Number 96) and Steven Jacobs (Sweet and Sour) being the most notable, though a special mention must be made of Elizabeth McIvor who once appeared in US soaps and an episode of Cheers before surviving Les Patterson Saves the World, only to end up stuck on Sher Mountain (Ron Becks also managed to survive Return of Captain Invincible). They were a tough hardy crew, this team of troupers on Sher Mountain.

So there it is. This is where the rubber hits the road, the pedal hits the medal for Ozmovie cultists … so bad, it’s truly bad, but in that mysterious supernatural way such movies have, some might derive a weird pleasure from a viewing, though it would help to have ingested some drugs, or imbibed a substantial amount of alcohol.

 

1. Source:

The script was written by Denis Whitburn, who around the same time was attracting attention for his work on Blood Oath.

Producer Phil Avalon is quoted in the Beyond press kit as saying he wrote the story and the initial screenplay and then called in Whitburn to polish it up. For more on Whitburn and others in the creative team see the Beyond press kit at the bottom of this page.

2. Cast:

The film features British heavyweight boxer Joe Bugner, who on coming down to Australia to live and stage a belated return to the ring, adopted the monicker “Aussie Joe”.

Bugner had a very creditable career in the ring, going the distance with Ali twice. He has a relatively detailed wiki here.

For more cast details, see the Beyond press kit below.

3. Release:

The film was essentially a video tape and television title, and had a very limited release in a few locations in Australia before heading off to the exploitation aisle. It would have disappointed fans expecting any explicit sex - Joe Bugner does at least flash his pecs - or explicit violence, though it did score an M rating.

4. Music: 

Lyrics for the song that runs over end credits:

(Guitar and saxophone solos start off the song)...

There’s not one single person in this world

Not searching for that out-stretched hand

We are all wandering islands

Looking for a better la..aaa..and

And as we travel down the road of time

We're doing fine ...

It’s the same old story

Born with eyes, but still we're blind

Easy … sounds so easy …

Simple … oh so simple

(guitar solo, followed by saxophone solo)

Easy … sounds so easy (music continues over black)

Simple… oh so simple

Easy … sounds so easy (a voice singing over behind repeats ’so simple’ and ‘so easy’)

Simple… oh so simple 

Easy … sounds so easy (oh so easy)

Simple … oh so simple …

(music is abruptly cut off on VHS by First Look animated logo)

For more about the music, see this site's pdf of music credits. A Sydney-based band, GANK, active in the 1980s, gets to do an extended, time-filling number in the Harbourside Brasserie.

5. Producer Phil Avalon:

Phil Avalon published an autobiography From Steel City To Hollywood, more details from New Holland Publishers here

6. Synopsis with cast details and many spoilers:

Two no-good bums and petty thieves, Davey-Joe Cordeaux (Jeffrey Rhoe) and Conrad (Ric Carter), head in a boat across to a remote location where Sir John Cherub (Joe Bugner), an old mountain climber, lives in a ramshackle cottage. He’s the owner of a cursed stone …

According to Davey-Joe, whoever owns the stone possesses eternal life, a prospect Conrad thinks is terrible, although Davey-Joe also reckons anyone who’s ever owned it ends up with nothing.

Davey-Joe at first uses a credit card on the derelict cottage door, but Conrad simply pushes the front door open. The pair walk down the hallway past the ageing heavily wrinkled mountain climber, not realising that, as they leave with the stone,  the old house erupts with a white light glowing inside …

The pair turn up at the Harbourside Brasserie, where the band GANK are doing an extended number.

Waiting for the stone is the seedy Sole (Ron Becks). Conrad negotiates a payment of five hundred but Sole reveals he has a buyer willing to pay $100k.

When Conrad heads over to confirm the deal with Davey-Joe, he discovers Davey-Joe’s scarpered into Sydney streets, and sets off in pursuit.

The chase roams through Darling Harbour and the monorail …

Cut to Alex Cordeaux (Tom Richards), a businessman driving to his Chatswood office…

Alex’s black sheep brother Davey-Joe catches him in the lift, and after being insulting to Alex’s secretary Pam (Amanda Pratt) hits him up for money. Alex reluctantly hands over a fifty dollar note, if his brother goes to see a delivery contractor about a job.

Alex gets on the phone to his sister Muriel Cordeaux (Abigail), who’s kicked Davey-Joe out, and who tends to the needs of Caine Cordeaux (Phil Avalon), a mute who spends his time taking Polaroids of the world ,when not mutely watching images on the television. 

Alex explains a friend of his has cancelled out of a two week recreational trip to Sher Mountain and he’s thinking of taking Caine with him instead.

Meanwhile, Davey-Joe heads off to Kings Cross and roams around the colourful night streets, and then attempts to score repayment of a debt from Wacka (David Wheeler), who’s doing an arty photographic shoot of semi-nude models (Tanya Ross and Tony Fields) using strobe lighting with his still camera!

Wacka agrees to pay up, but then disappears, only to return with Conrad and Sole.

Meanwhile, Alex is telling his long-suffering wife Dianne Cordeaux (Elizabeth McIvor) that he’s heading off with Caine to the mountain. She moans that he’s not spending enough time with his family, confirmed when young Billy Cordeaux (Steven Jacobs) notes his father has been distant. Alex tries to persuade Billy to come with him on the trip, but Billy has other plans with his mates.

Alex sets off with Caine, as Conrad and Sole take Davey-Joe to his sister Muriel’s house, where he’s hidden the glowing cursed stone under Caine’s bed (Conrad also complains that Davey-Joe could do with a bath).

But the stone has gone - and now Caine, with glowing stone in bag, is with Alex and they’re meeting the Sher Mountain Park ranger (Joe Bugner), who makes Caine a Deputy Ranger. The weird Ranger has eyes that give off an eerie blue glow.

Back in the city, Conrad and Sole burst in on Muriel and Davey-Joe.

Sole produces a gun, and learns of Dianne’s address. They all head off, with Billy in the boot.

Muriel: “Why did you put him in the trunk?”

Conrad: “Because it’s bigger than the ash tray!”

They arrive at Alex’s upmarket Waverton home, but Dianne is reluctant to help, and Sole threatens Billy with his gun to get more information from her.

Dianne reveals that Alex and Caine are likely on a walking trail in the park.

At the ranger’s hut, Alex seizes the moment to use the ranger’s phone to call home, but there’s no answer, because Sole tells Conrad to let it ring. Instead Conrad gives Davey-Joe a whack to the head.

Up in the mountains Alex is inflating a boat with a pump.

Meanwhile, Conrad is in the kitchen with Muriel, who’s been forced to make coffee for the heavies. Conrad explains he doesn’t want to hurt her - just get the idiot stone for his idiot friend - and gets in close and sexy with her, but makes the mistake of turning his back.

Muriel seizes the moment, stabs him in the back, and scores his gun, which leads to a Mexican stand-off between Sole holding his gun on Billy and the feisty Muriel holding the gun on Sole.

Meanwhile, up in the bush, the Polaroid-obsessed Caine doesn’t notice that his bag with the stone has fallen into the water and has drifted away …

Sole and the badly wounded Conrad manage to evade Muriel, and with Billy in the back seat head off to the Sher Mountain Wilderness Park.

Muriel, a nervous Dianne and a reluctant Davey-Joe head off in pursuit of the baddies and Billy.

Alex decides to score a rabbit for dinner with his rifle, as the baddies arrive at the park entrance and meet up with the mysterious Ranger. Then it’s Muriel, Dianne and Davey-Joe’s turn to meet the Ranger.

Conrad is feeling poorly and Billy finally gets a chance to take a leak, as Caine and Alex settle down to eat the rabbit.

Sole and Conrad catch up with them, and using Billy as their hostage, threaten Alex and demand he reveal the whereabouts of the cursed stone, kicking Alex in the balls.

But Alex kicks Conrad in the balls, and he, Billy and Caine seize the chance to escape from the inept Sole and Conrad, who has “an incredibly bad feeling about this”, a riff Conrad will repeat a couple of times.

Billy explains to Alex what happened, as night begins to fall. 

The flower-entranced Dianne decides to spend the night looking at a view over a valley, while Billy, Alex and Caine shack up in an old derelict hut.

Meanwhile, an exotic figure - the Ranger in old-fashioned period Robin Hood clothing and armed with bow and arrow - begins to stalk the baddies. He sees a Polaroid of Sole and Conrad that Caine took and tosses it in the embers of Alex’s fire.

Sensing things are going badly, Conrad reminds Sole how much he hates jails. “If I ever get real bad, you finish it.”

Sole: “Yeah man, I’ll pop you off, don’t worry about it.”

Inside the derelict hut, Alex and Billy decide to take turns keeping watch, but Alex nods off, and sleep through into the morning. The others also wake up to the new day - though Dianne remains entranced by the flowers that are poised above the mountain and valley view.

Conrad is now bleeding badly from his shoulder wound, as Caine’s bag still floats in the river.

Overnight, a mysterious force has swept the useless Davey-Joe into a large tree, where he’s discovered by Muriel and Dianne.

Alex and Billy emerge from the shack, watched by the mysterious ranger hunter figure, but they’re intercepted by Sole and Conrad. “Together again,” jokes Sole, “where’s the dummy?”

But Caine has wandered off.

Sole pulls his gun to try to make Alex more helpful, then tosses it to Conrad to take out Alex. But an arrow from the ranger hunter pierces Conrad’s wrist …

As Alex and Billy flee, the mysterious ranger hunter discovers Caine in a now mist-drenched landscape, and returns his lost glasses and deputy ranger’s badge to him.

Sole catches up with Caine in the derelict shack.

Caine thrusts his deputy ranger’s badge at Sole, who drags Caine outside, then demands that Conrad get back on his feet.

“Pure fantasy,” says Conrad. Sole pulls out his gun and pops Conrad …

The mysterious Ranger hovers over the dead Conrad, and his body magically begins to burn …

Meanwhile, Davey-Joe, Muriel and Dianne head back to the ranger’s station.

Sole tries to interrogate the mute Caine, who points into the distance to the whereabouts of the stone … still floating on the water in his bag.

A delighted Sole gives him his white panama hat and pats him - “good boy” - as the trio led by Muriel arrive at the ranger’s station and discover it is now a derelict building. 

“What the hell is going on Mu, this is the place isn’t it?” asks Davey-Joe.

Meanwhile a maniacally cackling Sole heads into the water to retrieve the bag. But as he heads back to land, a weird blue light shoots down from the sky and the glistening torso of the very large body of the Ranger emerges from the light and hovers on the water.

“What’s happening?” Muriel wants to know.

Sole fires his gun into the weird figure, but the bullets have no impact, as the figure snatches back the bag, then twists and contorts Sole’s arm.

The villain scrambles back to land and takes off into the fog.

Meanwhile the entranced Dianne enters the ranger’s station, as thunder echoes and fog swirls, and the blue light results in the eerie Ranger standing before her …

Elsewhere in the fog, the fleeing Sole is suddenly seized by the blue light shooting down from the sky. He erupts into flames and perishes …

Caine mutely watches, as the entranced Dianne stares into the distance…

The blue light retreats back into the heavens, and the survivors congregate at the ranger station, with Alex telling Davey-Joe that he’s in the shit. “Thought I might be,” says a pensive Davey-Joe.

Muriel catches up with Billy, who complains about not being allowed to wee for three hours, and Alex bursts in on Dianne, who suddenly returns to reality.

Both are puzzled - “what happened?” Alex wonders.

Dianne thinks back to the old days when they used to go camping there, when the ranger’s station was derelict, but Alex is certain he made a phone call from the functioning ranger’s station only yesterday - now turned derelict shack.

Alex mentions something happened to Caine up in the hills, “something strange”, as Caine takes a Polaroid of them, and the mysterious ranger hunter figure heads off into the sunset and disappears.

Cut to the old home where the whole saga began. The camera skips along the water, as blue light erupts around the old man lying in his bed.

The ranger hunter figure arrives, the glowing stone in his hand. The old man smiles, and the ranger hunter and the old man dissolve into each other and become one.

A TV newsreader reads a report on the mysterious events, and Caine switches over to watch a cartoon, then leans out of a window to take a Polaroid of the city's night lights. 

Caine heads to his bed and takes a Polaroid of a piece of art hanging on his wall which he drew - of the hunter and his bow and arrow.

Caine holds his deputy ranger badge and his eyes glow an eerie blue, as the end song begins and end titles start to roll …

7. Beyond Press Kit:

Sales agent Beyond once handled the film in the international marketplace and prepared a press kit, which was lost online when Beyond moved away from feature film marketing.

This is the text - the synopsis is on this site’s front page - though in the usual way of Beyond kits, it doesn’t reveal that much about the production:

PRODUCTION NOTES

Sher Mountain Killing Mystery is a project very much formulated by its producer, Phil Avalon, to suit the international marketplace.

Says Phil: "I began by calling contacts around the world to see what sort of film the international sales agents would find easy to sell. They all said they'd like an action-adventure with a little bit of humour and a little bit of pathos, because there's always a market for that sort of material. I then went to our script cupboard at the studios, found nothing that was appropriate, so sat down and wrote the story myself, as I have with many of may previous projects. I then spoke to Denis Whitburn (one of Australia's most experienced screenplay writers) and asked him to polish the screenplay, and to compile the shooting script".

Phil then spoke to Vince Martin, his first and only choice for director, and to director of photography Ray Henman and to sound recordist Bob Clayton; both had worked with Phil on previous projects.

Casting then began, although both Phil and Vince knew who they wanted for most to the lead roles. Says Phil: "Tom Richards was always set for the role of Alex Cordeaux and Abigail was our one and only choice for the part of Muriel, Alex's sister". Adds Vince, "I knew that I wanted Ric Carter for the role of Conrad, and Phil and I had both been impressed by Ron Beck's past work, so selected him at an early stage to play Conrad. They in fact worked very well together as the two "heavies" - a great double act - and Ric's comedy background shown through. His sense of timing is superb".

The only actor who they were not familiar with was Joe Bugner. Says Phil: "One of our casting agents suggested Joe to us. I had seen him in the past at various social functions around town an always thought that he might make a good actor. As the story developed we became more and more excited about the "cosmic" idea, and when the character of the Ranger took on a new life, we decided that Joe would be perfect for that role. We were right - he worked out wonderfully well, but we're delighted with all the performances."

Phil also co-stars in the film as Alex's mute bother Caine. Says Phil: "Vince and I had a couple of actors in mind for Caine and were originally both quite nervous about my playing the role. We then tested a few actors - none of them were right - and I finally took the role.

The "look" and feel of the film was something else that Phil expected to live up to his normal high standards. It was the turn of art director Keith Holloway to meet the necessary requirements. Keith is these days more at home in Thailand or the Philippines, where he has spent much of the past four years working as art director on the worldwide Camel cigarette television commercials, which, according to Keith is "a massive operation".

This film has been "a joy" for Keith, and he was very happy with all the selected locations. Says Keith: "The "gothic" house was so old! It was perfect - really looked the part. It had been in the owner's family for generations and he had all his family portraits up and down the hallway, with solid old gold frames covered in cobwebs. Ideal! I couldn't have dressed it to look any better than it already was".

Using the tricks of his trade, Keith also brought to life the scene where Joe Bugner as the ranger emerges from the water. Says Keith: "The river set up had to appear as if Joe were actually standing on the water. The character comes from under the water, breaks the surface and then slowly continues to rise until he's standing on the water's surface".

This was all made possible in very few takes. "We clamped a few planks together, heavily weighted at one end, and then used it as a giant see-saw. We pulled him up on the see-saw then cut to him standing on apple boxes surrounded by metal frames. Easy!"

Both director and producer are extremely happy with the completed film and are confident that they have a major hit on their hands.

PHILLIP AVALON 

Producer Phil Avalon has fast become one of Australia's most profilic film makers with a career in the industry that began at the age of five, when he wrote and produced puppet shows for any kid on the block that had an admission price of a green frog or a chocolate bear!

At the age of twenty Phil studied acting for two years at the Independent Theatre Drama School and from there where on to appear in numerous stage productions, television series and feature films. His may television credits include Skippy, Number 96, Skyforce and Return to Eden. Film credits include The Girl from Peking with Nancy Kwan; The Games with Ryan O'Neal; Squeeze A Flower with Walter Chiari and Jack Albertson and a highly-praised performance in Inn of the Damned with Dame Judith Anderson and Alex Cord.

In 1978, Phil turned his considerable talents to writing, with his first screenplay Summer City, a film he also produced and starred in. It was at that time that Phil discovered the acting talents of Mel Gibson. Says Phil: "At the time Mel was a NIDA student and was sent along to read for me. I thought he was terrific and cast him immediately".

Summer City helped two other young actors to make a name for themselves: Steve Bisley and Abigail. The film went on to break box-office records and was successfully sold worldwide.

Turning again to theatre, Phil subsequently wrote, produced and directed The Backstreet General, a project that has since been adapted for the screen by Denis Whitburn, and will be Phils' next film project.

Other film credits as producer include Little Boy Lost, a true story of a five year old boy who was lost in Australia's bushland for six days and Breaking Loose, the sequel to Summer City, which also enjoyed a very successful worldwide release.

Aside from his film-making talents, Avalon is also a keen and successful sportsman. A former Physical Education teacher, Phil has since competed in and won several major surfing titles, including the 1988 International Waveski Surfing Title in Bali. He is currently the 1989 World Masters Champion. Phil's love of surfing has prompted him to produce two documentaries on the sport, The Fantastic Sport of Waveski Surfing and Waverider.

He has also designed a surf ski called Wavemaster, which has since been exported to Hawaii, the US, New Zealand and the Channel Islands. It is still one of the most popular boards on Australian beaches.

Most recently Phil has redesigned and re-built The Avalon/Film Corporation Studios, which has since operated at full capacity.

As well as The Backstreet General. Phil has three other film projects currently in development.

TOM RICHARDS plays Alex Cordeaux 

Tom Richards is one of Australia's most experienced and talented actors, with a long string of credits to his name.

He is probably best known for his starring role as David Palmer in the hugely popular television series Sons and Daughters, that he was with for over four years. The series brought him to the attention of an international audience, culminating in a tour of Europe in 1987, visiting Belgium, France, Spain and the UK to promote the series.

Tom began his illustrious television career with a starring role in the series Matlock Police. He stayed with that for three years. It was at that time, back in 1972, that he first met Vince Martin, who was then directing the series for Crawford's. The two worked together again the following year - this time both as actors - on Sons and Daughters.

Recalls Tom: "At that time we became good friends and I remember during our time in Melbourne we would often hire a kayak and go off down the Yarra. Similar scenes in this film brought back a lot of good memories."

Tom was the obvious choice for Alex Cordeaux, a role which he worked closely with Vince Martin, to bring an additional depth to the character. Says Tom: "We also wanted to establish a strong rapport between Alex's wife Dianne and his son Billy."

He continues: "Generally a good character will always travel a journey through a story and by the end learn something about himself and become a better person because of that story. This can certainly be said of Alex Cordeaux."

Comments producer Phil Avalon: "Tom has turned in a great performance as Alex, a business man who escapes to a mountain holiday. He added a further dimension to the original character".

Tom's further film credits include Dawn, the story of Olympic Swimming Champion, Dawn Fraser; Raw Deal, Kick Start, Breaking Loose, also produced by Avalon, Mystery Island and the award-winner Run Rebecca Run.

ELIZABETH McIVOR plays Dianne Cordeaux


New Zealand born American actress Elizabeth Mivor returned to Australia to take up the opportunity to co-star in Sher Mountain Killings Mystery.

Having trained as an actress in Los Angeles at, amongst others, the Film Actors Workshop, Elizabeth went on to guest star in the television series Dallas, Days of our Lives and most recently Cheers.

Delighted to be given the opportunity to work in Australia, Elizabeth took on the role of Alex's wife Dianne with great enthusiasm.

Says Elizabeth: "Dianne is a woman who is thrown into a situation that is completely over her head. She's someone who lives a good life, she's married to a successful businessman, they have a maid, a nanny, a lovely home and then suddenly, out of nowhere, these manics disrupt her, she breaks down but finally is forced to find an inner strength she didn't know she possessed. She takes control and emerges with a new sense of herself."

Elizabeth is full of praise for her fellow workers, and in particular for director Vince Martin. "Vince was an absolute treat to work with. He's very much an actor's director. As an actor himself he knows he has to communicate with his cast. He always understood and was never too busy to give me advice and to work with me. He gave me the opportunity to make something of the role, letting me experiment, but was always there to hold me back if I went too far. I have the utmost respect and admiration for him".

Working in Australia has not only given Elizabeth a good career opportunity, it's also given her the chance to see a country she has fallen in love with. So much so that she's planning to stay! "Both Australia and the film have more than lived up to my expectations. I plan to stay here."

VINCE MARTIN Director


Vince Martin has been a part of the entertainment industry for over twenty five years.

He began his esteemed film and television career at the age of fifteen as an assistant film editor with Crawford Productions. Three years later he was working as film editor on the Australian police drama series Homicide.

Following the well-trodden and leading editors to direct, Vince moved on to direct episodes of Homicide, followed by other Australian serials Division Four, Ryan and The Box.

At this time Vince was also given the opportunity to work as an actor. His numerous television credits include: Ben Hall, Number 96, Outsiders. and Sons and Daughters, Vince was also asked to direct Sons and Daughters, a highly successful series, which he did for twelve months.

This was followed by an offer to direct another popular television series, A Country Practice. Vince worked as the series' director for the next two years. Following that, and using his experience as both actor and director, Vince was able to assist the ever-popular Australian series Neighbours with it's delicate but successful move from one network to another, working as director on the series for six months.

Happily, VInce has been able to combine his acting talents with his successful career as director. Further acting credits include the telemovie Watch The Shadows Dance and the feature Breaking Loose, produced by Phil Avalon.

He has also worked in theatre, appearing opposite Stanley Holloway in The Pleasure of His Company to rave reviews. More recently he completed a six month run in David Williamson's Top Silk, an experience he very much enjoyed: "It was a fantastic part, and to stand in front of hundreds of people every night and see them roaring with laughter was a great experience. I enjoyed it very much".

Vince is making his feature film directional debut with Sher Mountain Killings Mystery and is very pleased with the end result. He found his experience as a film editor to be invaluable : "I know that my experience as a film editor assisted my work on the film. I could see in advance how it was all going to cut together, and, if I arrived with a shot list, but for any reason couldn't have all of those shots, I could immediately come up with an alternative. That editing experience has also given me the ability to work rapidly and make instant decisions."

Vince also enjoys his work as an actor: "I think I'm probably more passionate about my work as an actor because it's a far more personal thing. I consider myself as an actor/director. With directing you oversee the project in its entirety, whereas with acting you concentrate on only one character."

Vince first worked with producer Phil Avalon as an actor in Breaking Loose, which Phil produced, and they 'became very good friends." The two have a further project currently in development.

Says producer Phil Avalon: "Although this was Vince's first film as director, he was completely in control. As both an actor and film editor he's got it all in his head before he goes for the take, and knows exactly what he wants. He was always one step ahead of everyone else and it's all there!

(Additionally Martin’s agent here, provides a list of credits for the singer, actor and director, though curiously the list doesn’t include Sher Mountain Killings Mystery):

2012 TV Ross Beechworth Tricky Business Screentime/Channel Nine

2011 FF Wayne Kiwi Flyer Kiwi Flyer Productions

2008 MT Lead vocalist Cole Porter Tribute Edison. New York City.

2007 MT Lead vocalist/guitar The Great American Songbook Don't Tell Mamma N.Y.C.

2005 MT Lead vocalist Don't Mimick Sinatra Edison. New York City.

2004 MT Lead vocalist/guitar Big Band Salute Edison. New York City.

2001 FF Albert Castaway DreamWorks

1998 MT Lead vocalist The Old Black Magic Show Roosevelt Hotel L.A.

1997 TV Harry Tracy Ullman Show H.B.O. 

1994 FF Support Ebbtide S.A Film Corporation

1993 TV Guest Lead Soldier Soldier B.B.C.

1992 TV Jack (Regular) 24 eps. Deepwater Haven South Pacific/B.B.C.

1991 TV Steve (Mr Bad) E-Street Westside Productions

1991 TV Guest Lead Home and Away ATN 7

1990 TV Guest Lead Bony Grundy Org.

1990 ST Eddie Top Silk World Premiere David Williamson. Kinselsa's Productions.

1989 TV Director A Country Practive J&P Productions

1988 TV Director Neighbours Grundy Org.

1988 TV Director Sons and Daughters Grundy Org.

1988 FF Robbie (lead) Breaking Loose Avalon Films

1985 FF Steve Beck Watch the Shadows Dance Overview Films

1984 TV Guest lead Sword of Honour Le Meseurier

1979 ST Musician/Singer/Various roles I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It On The Road Sydney Theatre Company

1977 FF Lead (Nominated for Best Actor - Sammy Awards) Mama's Gone a HuntingGemini Productions

1977 ST Roger Henderson The Pleasure of his Company With Douglas Fairbanks Jnr

1972 TV Director Homicide, Matlock, Division4 Crawford Productions

ABIGAIL plays Cordeaux 

Abigail, one of Australia's best-known and much-loved actresses, stars in Sher Mountain Killings Mystery as Muriel, sister to Alex Cordeaux (played by Tom Richards).

Abigail has worked frequently in the past with both producer Phil Avalon and director Vince Martin. She starred alongside Phil in his first feature film Summer City, and then appeared with Vince Martin in its sequel Breaking Loose produced by Avalon. Vince has since directed Abigail in episodes of the highly successful Australian television series Son and Daughters, in which Abigail starred throughout as Caroline Morrell.

Abigail was the first and only choice for the part of Muriel, a role Abigail took on "as a challenge", because "Muriel is a character very different to the women that I normally portray".

Says Abigail: "Muriel is very straight forward, and totally self-sufficient, having had to look after her handicapped brother Caine for so many years. She's really had no time for herself and as a result has a fairly hardened outlook on life. By comparison, I have been very spoilt."

Abigail is pleased with her own performance and says that it is a credit to the expertise of all concerned that so much was achieved in a relatively short space of time.

Abigail has worked extensively in film, television and theatre. Her credits include, for theatre: There's a Girl In My Soup, A Bedful of Foreigners and Rattle of a Simple Man; for film Summer City and Breaking Loose, both produced by Phil Avalon, Melvin, Son of Alvin and Alvin Purple.

Her numerous television credits include Number 96, Class of 75, The Young Doctors, Are You Being Served, Sons and Daughters, The Body Surfers and Rafferty's Rules.

Most recently Abigail has returned to work in comedy, having just completed a starring role in a television comedy series for Channel 9, Elle and Jools, which will be seen next year. She will shortly return to television work, having just been signed as the latest recruit for the new Nine Network series Family and Friends.

According to the films' producer, Phil Avalon, "Abigail has progressed to become one of Australian's most talented actresses, with a string of top credits to her name."

JOE BUGNER plays Jake, the Ranger 

As the undefeated British, European and Commonwealth Heavy weight Boxing Champion, Joe Bugner went on to contest the greatest prize of them all - the Heavy weight Championship of the World.

He "went the distance" with the legendary Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier, almost dethroning the great Ali over fifteen thrilling rounds. However, for "Aussie" Joe, the big moment arrived when he was given the chance to star in Sher Mountain Killings Mystery.

"Since the age of fourteen I put acting down as the job I'd most like to do!" says Joe.

Over the years as a champion boxer Joe was introduced to many actors and producers, and although he has appeared in a variety of films made in Spain, Italy and France, this is his first major role - and he's delighted!

"I'm the hero of the film as The Ranger - a sort of cosmic avenger; the guardian of a mysterical (sic) precious stone who has come back from the 18th Century with his bows and arrows to protect innocent people."

Producer Phil Avalon is surprised that he is the first in Australia to discover Joe's acting abilities. "He's great - a real natural talent. We're delighted with his performance. He was the least experienced of all the cast and has come through with a terrific screen presence - a cross between Bob Hoskins and Michael Caine." Adds director Vince Martin "Joe was very easily directed, although in the beginning fairly self-conscious. We worked on that and he ended up doing a lot of what I thought was difficult work in a couple of easy takes!".

After seventy-two professional fights, Bugner remains sharp, handsome and articulate - a tribute to the enormous ability of the man. His sense of fun and humour keep the entire cast and crew entertained throughout.

He reports, however, that much of it is lost on his wife Marlene, to whom he is devoted. According to Joe she thinks acting is "childish", but is glad that he enjoys it. "But then she'd rather be reading a book than listening to me!"

DENIS WHITBURN Screenplay Writer 

Denis Whitburn began his career as a journalist writing for a wide range of publications including the Nation Review, Hollywood Reporter and Harper's Bazaar.

His first work to go into production was The Seige Of Frank Sinatra, based on the union banning of Sinatra's 1974 Australian concert tour. The play completed a successful run in Sydney in 1980 to rave reviews and opened in the US in 1982.

Later in 1982 Denis was commissioned to write a docu-drama for Australia's Seven Network: Warriors Of The Deep, based on the Japanese submarine attack on Sydney Harbour in 1942. The extensive research that went into this in Washington, Tokyo and Sydney prompted Whitburn's interest in World War II, which forced Whitburn and Williamson to investigate further Australia's role in the war.

As a result of this, the six hour mini-series for the Ten Network in Australia, The Last Bastion, based on the relationship between John Curtin, General McArthur and Churchill was televised in 1984, and received excellent reviews.

At this time, Whitburn was approached by Brian Williams with and idea for another World War II drama; the war-crime trials - post-war period, which since has resulted in Village Roadshow Picture's feature Blood Oath, starring Bryan Brown and Jason Donovan.

Whitburn also secured the screen rights to Robert Drew's book of Australian short stories, The Body Surfers and eventually co-wrote the 4 hour ABC TV mini-series. It went to air in 1989 and in the same year won Denis an Austalian Film Institute Award - Best Screenplay for Television Mini-series.

TED OTTEN Editor 

Ted Otten began his career as an assistant film editor in 1976, working on many of the first wave feature films that were produced during Australia's heady renaissance period of the mid-70's.

From there he moved into editing pop promos, television commercials, film trailers and documentaries including The Ronald Biggs Story, Australis top tennis player - Newcombe's Tennis Legends and The Commonwealth Games. At this time Ted also worked as sound editor on Blue Fin, a film produced by Matt Carroll and directed by Carl Schultz.

His first feature film as editor was Just Out Of Reach, an hour long cinema short, directed by Linda Blagg and produced by Ross Mathews. That was followed by a television play Another Saturday Night, directed by Jan Sharpe and produced by Phil Noyce.

Further feature film credits include A Dangerous Summer produced by Jim and Hal McElroy; Emoh Ruo produced by David Elfich (sic, Elfick); a tele-movie Archer produced by Matt Carroll and an American tele-movie for the CBS Network: The Blue Lightning, directed by Lee Phiips, produced by Alan Sloan (US) and Ross Mathews Matt Carroll (Australia).

Ted was editor of the feature Breaking Loose, produced by Phil Avalon, and appeared at the Australian Film and Television School as guest lecturer in creative film editing.

RAY HENMAN Director of Photography 

Ray Henman began his cinematographical career as camera-man for TCN in Sydney.

In 1967 he began his 12 year distinguished career with the British Broadcasting Corporation in London.

His screen credits are almost too numerous to mention. They include such prestigious tele-movies and documentaries as Whicker's World, One Pair Of Eyes, Yesterday's Witness, Korea 20 Years After with Rene Curforth, Colditz - the highly successful drama series with Robert Wagner, Albert Finney's first tele-feature A Walk Down Memory Lane and Alan Bennett's A Day Out. In Mexico and South America The World Around Us, followed by other major doucmentaries in America, Tonga, Japan, Singapore and Europe including David Attenborough's The Tribal Eye and Life on Earth with a further ten years filming Her Royal Family, the BBC's in-depth series about her life and times.

Ray was nominated by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (USA) for outstanding achievement in Cinematography for Paul Gallico's The Snow Goose, with Richard Harris.

In Australia, Ray's credits include a number of feature films and tele-features. In the documentary field - Don Featherstone's moving film about Arthur Boyd; Peter Carey's Beautiful Lies: Dreamtime - Machinetime and Slowboat to Surabia with Jack Pizzey; a 10-part television series with Alan Whicker - Living With Waltzing Matilda and the feature films Little Lost Boy (for Phil Avalon), Lady Stay Dead and Brothers.