Category Archives: Crawford Productions

Down these mean streets: The depiction of Melbourne as a ‘Noir City’ in Division 4

Police station - Farewell Little Chicago, ep 30 (1970)Melbourne-based Pulp Curry readers might be interested in the upcoming 3-day Screening Melbourne Symposium to be held in association with the Universities of Deakin, La Trobe, Melbourne, Monash, RMIT and Swinburne; and in partnership with the Australian Centre for the Moving Image & the Australian Film Institute, from February 22 to 24.

I’ll be co-presenting a paper with my friend and colleague, Dean Brandum, on Crawford Productions’ Division 4 series (1969-75) and its depiction of Melbourne as a ‘noir city’.

With Homicide a ratings hit on the Seven Network, Crawford Productions was commissioned by the Nine Network to produce a rival series, the even darker Division 4. Whereas Homicide presented a Melbourne where violent crime was a aberration to be corrected, Division 4’s police characters were shown as the last bastion of morality in a tabloid Melbourne of vice and organised crime. Accentuating this tone was Division 4’s aesthetic of high contrast monochrome depicting the shadowy laneways, sleazy clubs and pubs and ever threatening nightlife of the city, a ‘Noir City’, a vision rarely, if ever depicted on the screen as strongly and as consistently over the course of its 301 episodes.

This presentation is partly based on the research Dean and I did as recipients of the 2014 Australian Film Institute Research Collection’s research fellowship.… Read more

Monster Fest 2016 appearances: The Evil Touch & Homicide, episode 27, ‘Witch Hunt’

qualyeA quick heads up to Melbourne readers – Monster Fest 2016 will happen on take place from November 23 – 27, at the Lido Cinema, Hawthorn. Monster Fest is not something I have had much to do with in previous years, but this year it has been hugely revamped, largely thanks to the new program director, Kier-La Janisse, who has put together a new programming team, of which I am a part of.

Anyway, I particularly wanted to draw your attention to two events I am a part of.

Low Grade Transmissions From Hell: Revisiting the Lost Australian Horror Anthology, The Evil Touch

The early seventies are viewed as a peak period for horror anthology television. The Australian show, The Evil Touch is unique in that it was the only horror anthology show made locally, specifically for the US market. Successful in America, it bombed when aired in Australia in 1973 and the 26 episode series is now largely forgotten. Although cheaply made, The Evil Touch is strangely effective, at times, genuinely disturbing television. The grainy look and surreal narrative style give it the feel – in the words of American television critic John Kenneth Muir – of ‘a low grade transmission straight from hell’.

As part of Monster Fest’s Monster Academy, I’ll be giving a talk on the origins, making and reception of The Evil Touch.… Read more

Police fictions: Law enforcement involvement in early Crawford crime TV

Homicide‘Why was Homicide so successful? One reason was its production values, which was much more advanced than previously made local television dramas. The fact it was shot partly on location was also an Australian first. But the most significant drawcard was the show’s realism. Its settings were Melbourne’s dimly lit streets and alleys, its public bars and cramped workers’ cottages. The show also presented a realistic portrayal of criminals, investigators and the methods used to solve crimes. This authenticity was the chief selling point of Homicide and its successors, Division 4 and Matlock Police. And crucial to this authenticity was the in-depth involvement of the Victorian police.’

Last year, myself and fellow research and friend, Dean Brandum, were lucky to be awarded with a joint fellowship at the Australian Film Institute Research Centre. Our research was on the making of Crawford’s early television crime shows, Homicide, Matlock Police and Division 4. This included the much talked about but little known history of Victorian police involvement in all three shows.

You can read the full text of a article myself and Dean wrote for the literary magazine Overland, about our findings, here.

Policing Melbourne’s TV mean streets: Homicide at 50

HomicideIt’s been a day for nostalgia. Foremost I’ve been thinking about the passing of Australia’s great reforming Labor Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, who died this morning at the age of 98.

But I’ve also been giving a lot of consideration lately to another Australian icon, probably the most influential Australian television show ever made, the crime drama, Homicide.

At 7.30pm on Tuesday 20 1964, Channel 7 showed the first episode of Homicide and what Australians would see on their TV screens would never be the same. Homicide’s influence was truly revolutionary. It was introduced at a time when an estimated 97 per cent of drama content came from the US and Great Britain. It was the first locally produced show to hit number one. It spawned several similar programs, including Matlock Police and Division 4 and established many of the key conventions of Australian true crime television: the team of dedicated police solving a crime per episode and a commitment to realism.

Homicide ran until 1975. The individual Homicide episodes have aged remarkably well in my opinion as self contained hour-long pieces of hard hitting TV crime drama. They are also a fascinating glimpse into the class, gender and social relations of Melbourne society in the sixties and seventies. If you want proof, check out this clip for episode 475, which aired in 1975, towards the end of Homicide’s run.… Read more