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Sleeping Dogs (1977) Poster

(1977)

Trivia

This was the first New Zealand produced film to attain general release in the USA.
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New Zealand's then-Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon, requested a private pre-release screening after hearing rumors that the film was intended as a criticism of his leadership.
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When Warren Oates gets out of his jeep after arriving at the motel, the paper he is holding (apparently a sheet of directions to the motel) is actually a page of the script which he used as a prompt for this scene.
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The film's DVD special features state: "Sleeping Dogs (1977) was a major factor in convincing New Zealand politicians that a Film Commission financed with public funds should be established".
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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Warren Oates was paid $5000 for his appearance as Colonel Willoughby. Director Roger Donaldson had wanted to cast Jack Nicholson, but the latter's agent turned down the role when informed of the film's low budget.
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The film was made and released about six years after its source novel "Smith's Dream" by Christian K. Stead (C.K. Stead, and billed in the credits as Karl Stead) had been first published in 1971.
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American star Warren Oates received a 'special guest star' credit. Some marketing artwork for the film states Oates as having a 'guest star' credit.
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The Australian DVD special features state that the movie was actor Sam Neill's "debut as a feature film actor" though Neill had actually previously appeared in two 1975 films, the short NZ documentary Ashes (1975) and the earlier Kiwi cinema movie Landfall (1975).
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The Australian DVD sleeve notes state that this movie was the "first New Zealand film feature ever shown in American [USA] theaters". For the web-page on Christian K. Stead, website Wikipedia states the picture "became the first New Zealand film released in the United States".
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Roger Donaldson performed a number of roles on this movie. Donaldson was the film's director, an art director, and the head producer.
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The name of the special anti-terrorist police force of the right-wing government police state was the "Specials".
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Warren Oates received second billing in some promotional artwork for this picture, such as the Australian VHS cover, even though Oates only had a supporting role in the movie.
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Melissa Donaldson played a character, Melissa, with the same first name as her own, whilst Cass Donaldson portrayed a character, Cass, who also had the same first name as her own. Both actors were relatives of the movie's producer-director Roger Donaldson.
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According to the New Zealand Book Council website, the film's source novel by Christian K. Stead, "Smith's Dream, was . . . elicited by his involvement in the anti-Vietnam War protest movement. The novel brings the injustice of Vietnam home to New Zealanders by imagining how a similar war might arise here". The February-March 1978 edition of Australian "Movie News" magazine states that "Professor C.K. Stead's novel 'Smith's Dream' . . . was published in 1971 at the height of the anti-Vietnam war protests. It 'brought the war home' to New Zealanders by putting a Vietnam-type situation in a local setting".
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The Charity World Premiere of Sleeping Dogs (1977) was held on 6th October 1977 at the Civic Kindergarten Cinema in Auckland, New Zealand. The Gala Charity Premiere Benefit was held in aid of the Lion's Club of Point Chevalier's "Aid to Deaf" fund.
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The only ever credit for art direction of director Roger Donaldson.
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The Australian home video sleeve notes declare that this picture was director Roger Donaldson's "first major motion picture".
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Producers Larry Parr and Roger Donaldson raised the finance for this picture.
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The DVD bonus extras state that this picture was actor Sam Neill's "debut as a feature film actor".
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Helicopters and fighter plans seen in the picture were supplied by the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF).
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In the movie's year of first theatrical release in 1977 in New Zealand, this Kiwi film was only equaled or outperformed at the NZ box-office by the films Rocky (1976) and A Star Is Born (1976).
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Warren Oates got cast in the film after actor-writer Ian Mune and producer-director Roger Donaldson had seen his powerful performance in the earlier American gangster movie Dillinger (1973).
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The picture's source novel is called "Smith's Dream". The title character of the book, Smith, who is named the same in this movie version, is portrayed in the film by Sam Neill.
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"The [film's source] book ['Smith's Dream' by Christian K. Stead] foresaw some of the confrontations in police, army and protester action that occurred during the 1981 Springbok tour" according to Helen Martin in the book 'New Zealand Film, 1912-1996'.
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Actor-writer Ian Mune has said of the casting of Warren Oates in this picture: "We couldn't pay him anything by international standards, so we offered him a sort of working holiday, flying him down here and sending for a South Island holiday after about ten days shooting. Oates said: "Anytime anyone wants me to go somewhere exotic, I'll go!".
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Breakthrough film of actor Sam Neill and director Roger Donaldson. Helen Martin in the book 'New Zealand Film, 1912-1996' says "Sleeping Dogs (1977) launched the careers of several film-makers and actors, most notably Sam Neill and Roger Donaldson".
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Many promotional title logos for the film featured an image of a rifle superimposed with the name of the film's "Sleeping Dogs" title.
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Nevan Rowe performed a number of roles on this low-budget production. Rowe acted as a casting agent, production secretary, "general dogsbody", and in a major acting role portrayed Gloria, the wife of Smith (Sam Neill).
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According to Helen Martin in the book 'New Zealand Film, 1912-1996', the movie "...is recognized as the film that marked the beginning of contemporary New Zealand cinema. Its success was followed by the announcement of the establishment of an Interim Film Commission".
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First New Zealand feature-length film shot on 35 mm film stock according to website Wikipedia.
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