A Chase For A Murder Suspect Becomes A Successful Essay At Character Development.
This very well-made Australian film, noteworthy for resourceful efforts by cast and crew, is based upon a novel by Hugh Atkinson, and is filmed for the most part in Macclesfield, a South Australian hamlet surrounded by the Adelaide Hills, across which the action takes place, its setting during the 1930s as nicely confirmed by correct production and costume design. The narrative opens as we see workmen toiling at a brickmaking factory, with their routine shattered by the discovery of a brutal homicide, the victim a village housewife. Although evidence for linking him to the crime is patently lacking, a Polish immigrant is suspected by the small community to have committed the act, and local police Sergeant Caxton, played by Wyn Roberts, eager to restore his reputation that was tarnished through his negligence that directly led to the deaths of two youths, decides that he will lead a deputized posse of volunteers in a search for the suspect. Prior to commencement of the hunt, the storyline reveals the hidden lives of several searchers, primarily the Sergeant and a town misfit, "Rabbit" (John Waters), and it is stressed that their wives are persistent in their urging of their spouses' parts in the pursuit. The reasons for their inducements are made clear, Mrs. Caxton in order to regain her own status in the region along with that of her husband, and Vi (Melissa Jaffer), the wife of Rabbit, to achieve acceptance that she never had while performing as the area scrubber. Their goading results in what comes close to being mob hysteria. The affair becomes a dismal experience for Rabbit since he questions the guilt of the fleeing Pole, but he nonetheless goes along with the others, whose insistence upon the guilt of the immigrant for the slaying is based in large part upon their belief that he, a rakish bachelor, has been a threat to their marriages. Fortunately for Rabbit, his neighbour Ab Nolan (Graham Rouse) supports the loner's actions despite Rabbit's lack of acceptance from the other men in the community. The production characteristics of the film are of such high quality that scenes which might elsewise seem pat are totally fresh in concept. Strong direction by Tom Jeffrey helps to maintain a mood of suspense, abetted by smoothly integrated flashback footage, all through the piece up to its startling ending. This is a purely fictional piece, but the adapted screenplay by Peter Yeldham provides an atmosphere of verisimilitude from its onset, keenly created character development being a result. Particular attention shall be directed to the sound editing of Greg Bell and the accurate costume design of Anna Senior. The cast is fine throughout the film, with Rouse gaining acting honours with his nicely crafted turn as Rabbit's best friend. Waters is effective, although he is uncannily remindful in both appearance and performance of Buster Keaton. Not released upon a DVD, and rather difficult to locate in its Embassy VHS tape format, the picture in its latter form does benefit from top-flight audio and visual quality appropriate for this undervalued film.
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