Lobby Cards: Breaker Morant & King Of The Coral Sea

Anyone who knows me well enough knows I have a genuine passion for motion pictures. I think I know more about film than I do most anything, and that includes comic books and music. Don't believe me, ask anyone that's ever questioned me on the topic. I've watched Oscar broadcasts since I can remember (and been disgusted by most) and can happily tell you where the Academy has gotten it wrong and why. In my own opinion, of course.

Part of this passion has seen me amass a rather sizable collection of motion picture related memorabilia. I have daybills going back to the 1930s, advertisements, full sized posters, photos and lobby cards. I don't just select one genre and stick to it, although I'm starting to think that I really do need to diversify, if only to stay on top of the collection. So, as I sit here on a warm Sunday morning, I thought to myself, "Self," I thought, "why not share some of the more hard to find items?" And I answered, why not indeed.

So here we go.

I'd be shocked to discover anyone who hasn't heard of, let alone seen, Breaker Morant. Made in 1979 and released in early 1980 this film has hands down the best performance from Edward Woodward (in a role that both Alan Bates and Rod Steiger turned down, thankfully, as it's difficult to see how anyone could have been better than Woodward), anywhere, and I still think that Jack Thompson also comes close to producing the best performance of his career. The movie was made during a Golden Age of Australian cinema, when people such as Peter Weir, George Miller, Bruce Beresford and others were breaking out and making such gems as Mad Max, The Lighthorsemen, Gallipoli and any number of other films. Sadly the industry has dropped a bit, but every so often something of that quality comes through, this year it was Balibo.

Breaker Morant was filmed around the Burra region, with the picturesque Redruth Gaol being used as the gaol, mainly because it was built at the same time as the original South African region and used a lot of the same architecture, so if you want a short holiday then head up to Burra and explore the surrounds where the crew and cast made this brilliant film.

The subject of the movie is still somewhat controversial, with a new enquiry being launched into the case recently with a view of clearing the names of Harry Morant and Peter Handcock, but as it all has to come from England I don't fancy anyone chances. What the movie, and any research into the case will tell anyone is that Lord Kitchener was, at best, a bloody coward, and at worse, a bloody murdering coward. This film didn't do much for fostering good relations between Australia and England and there's a lot to admire in Woodward, an Englishman, taking on such a anti-England role and helping create a stunning film, that, thirty years after it was made, still stands up.

I found the lobby cards in a job lot with the original daybill and some other Morant memorabilia and instantly leapt onto it. I probably paid a bit more than I should have, but seeing how I'd not seen any Morant lobby cards, let alone the daybill, before and have only seen the daybill since (price at roughly twice I paid for the lot) I think I did well. I only have the four cards, they're thin stock and not in the best condition, but hey, you'll not see me complaining.

King Of The Coral Sea I know nothing about other than the summary in the excellent book Australian Film 1900 - 1977, a book I'm not going to be parting with. The film marked the debut of Rod Taylor, an actor who was seen as recently as this year in Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds. Still, I can't find this movie anywhere, I can't recall ever seeing it and I'd love to know if anyone has ever seen it and remembers it.

The movie was produced by Chips Rafferty, who was a fairly major player on the international stage at the time, and featured a young Charles 'Bud' Tingwell as a featured player. It was made on a total budget of 25,000 pounds - chicken feed today (actually 25,000 pounds probably wouldn't be enough to feed chickens on a Hollywood film now) and it made a profit on overseas sales alone. Filmed at Thursday Island (where the filmed was premiered on the 17th of July 1954) and Green Island, two locations that must have enhanced the appeal of the film in international markets, it detailed the pearling industry of the time and remains a curiosity, for me anyway.

I can't quite remember where I picked this lobby card up, but I only have the one, which is probably one more than the rest of Australia, barring the Australian Film Museum, so that's a good thing. It's probably worthless, but it's one of those items that enhances any collection of Australian film due to it's rarity factor alone.

Keep watching this space as there'll be more lobby cards to come.


Anonymous said…
Breaker Morant is one of my brother's favorite movies of all time. When I was growing up I remember him having the video and watching it over and over again. I'm embarassed to say I've never seen it. I have no excuse for that. I'll try and track down a copy of it.
George "The Stooges"

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