NFSA presents comedy double at St Kilda Film Festival
BY HEATHER GILL
It’s enrolment day at the Preston Institute of Technology, Melbourne, in the 1970s. Bert Deling, director of the controversial underground classic Pure S (1975), tells the new intake, ‘Painting and sculpture are dead. Film and TV are the modern forms of expression.’
Among the bewildered students are Phil Pinder, Mitchell Faircloth, Tracy Harvey, David Shepherd and Gaetano ‘Nino’ Martinetti.
These students collaborated to create 1970s short film spoofs – Buckeye and Pinto (1980) and Terror Lostralis (1980) – which the NFSA presented as a special double bill at the St Kilda Film Festival on Monday 23 May 2016.
Buckeye and Pinto is a parody of traditional westerns. It merges contemporary Australian references with knowing winks to the films and TV of the filmmakers’ childhoods. They shot the film around Kinglake, Victoria, during the summer of 1977 with director Phil Pinder recounting the film’s development in a cartoon strip for Filmnews (at left).
In 1978 the collaboration continued with Terror Lostralis, the story of the ill-fated journey of Flight 27 from Bombaruppa to Port Lumbago. The film was shot around Bacchus Marsh, Mt Macedon, Erskine Falls near Lorne and a tourist trail called The Canyon. During filming the filmmakers faced many tribulations including car crashes, police visits and being kicked out of a scout camp in the middle of the night.
Narrated by Tracy Harvey, Terror Lostralis is a wonderful take on both adventure films like Tarzan and 1970s disaster films. It includes gratuitous shots of Australian fauna, along with a continued play on Australian place names. Writer and actor Mitchell Faircloth recalled, ‘We figured the best way to make the film was to attempt to make it on a grand scale and let the cheapness take care of itself. Therefore, Terror Lostralis is not a B-grade send-up, but is in fact, authentic B-grade.’
After a lengthy period in post-production, both films went on to play long seasons at the Valhalla Cinema in Melbourne and screened in Adelaide and Sydney. The screening program was inspired by the Saturday matinee set-up, which would have been familiar to late 1970s audiences.
Footage of the ‘Galah’ Valhalla premiere (see clip below) was inserted into an original newsreel that screened before the films, hinting at the tone of what was to come. These short films remain funny today because of their deliberate tongue-in-cheek references and the familiarity of the western and disaster film cliches they send up.
The humour continued in the publicity materials (see advertisement at left) and critics responded accordingly. Quoted in the South Australian Advertiser (1981), one reviewer said, ‘These movies prove that you can still go to the pictures, see a diabolically bad film and enjoy it’.
The films also received industry recognition at the 1980 AFI (Australian Film Institute) Awards. Buckeye and Pinto and Terror Lostralis were both nominated for Best Short Fiction Film and Buckeye and Pinto received an additional nomination for a Kodak Cinematography Medallion for Martinetti’s ‘Creative and innovative use of camera’.
The filmmakers continued to contribute to projects on television and radio as well as live performances at iconic Melbourne locations like Last Laugh, The Pram Factory and La Mama. Pinder actively supported the burgeoning Melbourne comedy scene, while Faircloth, Harvey, Thorpe and Adams performed as the satirical country and western act, The Whittle Family. Faircloth also became a staple of Melbourne community radio station 3RRR with Punter to Punter on Saturday mornings.