In the tradition of Sunday Too Far Away (1975), this independent film is based on the classic Australian play by John Power. Pic tells the story of a group of miners living in a camp in outback Australia. They swear, brawl, gamble, and drink heavily. Central to the story is the conflict between Tarzan, the authoritarian group leader and cocky loud-mouth wisecracking Pansy. This results in a bare-knuckle punch-up for the movie's denouement. Exteriors filmed in Andamooka, South Australia. Written by
A drifter wandered on to the set at the desert town of Andamooka in northern South Australia with a stick of dynamite. The cast and crew of about 30 people spread rapidly all but for one special effects man who noticed that the stick had no detonator. The local wag threw the it under a truck where many people were hiding from the incident. The man was fined $200 (Aust) when it went to court. See more »
[enters bunkhouse, surveys the room for a moment, then starts throwing chairs]
Let's clear these fucking chairs! I've got to murder these mother fuckers!
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Whilst it is not a classic, it holds its own as a genuinely Australian film in the same vein as "Sunday too Far Away". It was obviously made on a shoestring budget but that somehow lent the film an authentic feel. It has just the right amount of rough edges. But it is the actors who make the film worth watching. The cast is a roster of Aussie talent who were mostly seen on T.V. Consequently, there are no "stars" and therefore a real sense of ensemble and camaraderie - possibly aided by the fact that they were feeling alienated by shooting in the genuine outback mining town of Andamooka.
Every character has their own moment of revelation but Michael Duffield as Methuselah is the most authentic. The character recalls Old Garth in "Sunday Too Far Away" and perhaps Candy in "Of Mice and Men" as he is the constant reminder to the younger members of the crew of the loneliness and humiliation that is in store for them should they remain wildcat miners. Duffield's "soft ride home" speech is one of moments that lift the film into another realm. The dream of living the last part of his life at ease and with a sense of autonomy is made all the more enticing after we see the life Methuselah has lived as a miner. However, he has to choose his moment to leave and be sure that the "time is right" because once he goes out the door there is no coming back.
The soundtrack to the film is one thing that makes it truly unique. The theme music by the New Harlem Jazz Band uses a strange garbled vocal that sounds like someone with a hangover trying to sing a lyric that he can't quite remember. He gorillas the lyric out of the way with the guttural sounds as if he can't be bothered making the effort to remember.
At the conclusion, as Pansy and Tarzan fight endlessly on in the endless desert of central Australia to the theme music that has no beginning or end, there is sense that we have visited a place that will never and could never be any different. If you visit the mining towns of Andamooka or Coober Pedy even today you will find that "The Last of the Knucklemen" is not far from the truth - then or now.
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