I have fond memories of Armidale Film Festivals. During a break in one International Film Festival, I remember sitting in the now vanished Tatts upstairs restaurant eating oysters and drinking champagne.
Since the International Film Festival is on, I thought I should tell you a little of the history of film in New England. Not the showing of films, but their making.
For many Armidale people, New Zealander Cecil Holmes’ Captain Thunderbolt remains the best known New England film, in part because it was made locally and featured so many locals as extras.
Holmes and his film crew arrived in Armidale early in 1951 to great excitement. Locals lined up to take part as extras and goggle at the stars including heartthrob Grant Taylor (Thunderbolt) and Bud Tingwell (Thunderbolt’s friend).
Meantime, the crew scoured the countryside to find suitable locations, while sand was laid in Armidale streets to disguise the tar. By the time filming finished, the whole city had become involved. It was not until June 1955 that Armidale saw the world premiere of the cinema version. Again there was great excitement as crowds gathered outside the Capitol Theatre for the premiere.
Local historian Robin Walker rudely remarked that any connection between the film and history was purely accidental.
There were also films made on location in New England that had no connection with the place.
Perhaps the strangest example is the 1968 Japanese spaghetti western Koya No Toseinin (The Drifting Avenger) made around Nundle. The film starred Ken Takakura, an actor often described as the Clint Eastwood of Japan and known for his brooding style.
Another example is the 1983 WA film The Winds of Jarrah based on a Mills and Boon/Harlequin romance by Joyce Dingwell.
I will continue the story of New England film in my next column. In the meantime, enjoy the Film Festival and have some champagne and oysters for me.
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