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  Scobie Malone Sydney Chopper-a House
Year: 1975
Director: Terry Ohlsson
Stars: Jack Thompson, Judy Morris, Shane Porteous, Jacqueline Kott, James Condon, Joe Martin, Cul Cullen, Noel Ferrier, Bunkie, Walter Sullivan, Victoria Anoux, Max Meldrum, Ken Goodlet, Zoe Salmon, Joe James, Christine Danielle, Peter Mclean, Bryan Brown
Genre: Drama, Thriller, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Scobie Malone (Jack Thompson) is a police sergeant in Sydney, where he divides his time between work and bedding the local ladies. He is doing just that with his latest conquest when she asks him what he was doing last night, and he tells her he was at the celebrated Opera House, which surprises her as he is not the most cultured of men, but then he explains that he was there on a case. A dead body was found in the bowels of the building, a young woman he recognises as someone he literally bumped into the other day - she gave him her telephone number that he can only half remember. Despite this brief meeting, Malone takes her death personally, especially as it was actually murder...

The Malone character was an Australian hero of around twenty paperbacks written by Jon Cleary from the nineteen-sixties onwards, and had been brought to the big screen before, by another Aussie hero, film star Rod Taylor in Nobody Runs Forever. This eponymous entry in the sleuth's adventures proved to be his second and last, as the film was an enormous flop, an unexpected one too as Thompson was setting up to be a major player in the world of the movies, yet although his career would last for decades, he never really broke through internationally as had been predicted for him, and one could ponder it was the overconfidence in this role that was part of that.

Did this sabotage Thompson's career, or was it just one of those things and he would never have been a seventies Mel Gibson or Russell Crowe? He certainly had a rugged quality, maybe a little too rough-hewn to cut it as a romantic lead, which essentially he was trying here, only instead of one partner he was making his character's selection from a variety of Australian actresses willing to take their clothes off for the camera. Curiously, just about the only one who did not was the performer playing model turned call girl Helga Brand, Judy Morris, who apparently had a "no nudity" clause in her contract which rendered her scenes where she was obviously covering up, somewhat odd.

Morris had quite a career herself, branching out into screenwriting when the acting gigs dried up and enjoying a huge hit with kids' cartoon Happy Feet - she even had co-directing and co-producing credits on it as well, and before that had penned cult sequel Babe: Pig in the City, so no slouch when it came to being part of interesting work. Somehow she managed to make Helga a shade more sympathetic as a blackmailer of a top politician (James Condon), though the project as a whole was so insistent on being as tough-minded as possible that it was often unexpected when anyone here was genuinely likeable. This was a harsh world they were moving in, and even Malone's cop partner (Shane Porteous), a meek and naïve fellow, came out with quips like nailing a suspect's tits to the wall in passing.

Blame the screenwriter for that, producer Casey Robinson, an ex-Hollywood player who wanted to dip his toe back in the moviemaking game now Australia, his adopted home, was beginning to enjoy its cinematic New Wave, as selected nations were in the seventies, catching up with others who had seen a boost the decade before. Robinson never produced again, such was the disaster at the box office of Scobie Malone, and you can see why, as aside from the coup of securing the Sydney Opera House as a location, there was little to distinguish this aside from the desperate inclusion of regular nakedness. The Opera House, you would have thought, would have been ideal for an exotic setpiece or two, yet for some reason the film decided on staging scenes in its backstage areas, about as unglamorous as it was possible to get. That the mystery was so dry was no help either, and Thompson's laconic charm was not enough to lift this above the deeply average. Music, including two theme songs, by Peter Clark and Alan Johnston.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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