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  Goodbye Pork Pie Rambling Men
Year: 1981
Director: Geoff Murphy
Stars: Tony Barry, Kelly Johnson, Claire Oberman, Shirley Gruar, Bruno Lawrence, Stephen Tozer, John Bach, Frances Edmond, Don Selwyn, Clyde Scott, Ian Watkin, Marshall Napier, Jackie Lowitt, Shirley Dunn
Genre: Comedy, ActionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Back in the mists of time, in 1978 to be exact, Gerry Austin (Kelly Johnson) was wandering about looking for something to occupy his time - preferably a woman - when he was snubbed by a wealthy female who after ignoring his leering advances sped off in her flash car, but unwittingly left her purse behind on the ground. Gerry picked it up, tried to attract her attention but she was still ignoring him leaving him richer and with a driving licence he could use, pretending that he was her, after all she was called Leslie and he could adopt the name of Les when he hired a car to zoom about in. Meanwhile, John (Tony Barry) was suffering...

That was because his wife was leaving him, all part of the slightly overcomplicated set up to get three complete strangers into Gerry's hired Mini. Until Peter Jackson came along, Goodbye Pork Pie was probably the most famous film to emerge from New Zealand, and is still beloved of that nation today: before those Hobbits traipsed across the landscape there was a trio making their own way across it in an increasingly customised Mini. This left the film sort of a Kiwi cross between Smokey and the Bandit and The Italian Job, with a sense of humour similarly loyal to its country of orgin.

John's problems are stemming from the fact that his wife Sue (Shirley Gruar) is leaving him, but will not explain her reasons, something which drives him up the wall. Or drives him from one end of the islands to the other, in effect, as when she heads off to Invercargill he is extremely reluctant to be left behind. He makes up his mind to follow, but needs transport, which funnily enough is what the lightly criminally inclined Gerry can provide for him when John spots the young man being pulled over by the police for not wearing a seatbelt. John tells the cop that he was actually wearing one, the cop retreats, and Gerry has made a new friend as they both head off for his destination.

This is their first step to becoming folk heroes, maybe not so much in the plot of the film as they are not exactly Robin Hoods, but in real life as the New Zealanders embraced the duo's adventures as this was one of the first films from their home to make much of an impact, the film industry there being practically non-existent up till that time. There had been the odd effort that had made a minor impact such as Sleeping Dogs, but Goodbye Pork Pie was genuinely popular and gave rise to works showing off their humour, from Carry Me Back to the Jackson comedies. It does not seem as if there would be anything to displace this from its mantle, however, as the spirit of taking life by the scruff of the neck and doing what you wanted, if only for a while, truly appealed here.

That third member of the "Blondini" gang, as they style themselves, is Shirl (Claire Oberman), a hitchhiker who they pick up on their journey. She claims to have just been a bridesmaid at a wedding, and one of the first things she tells them is that she is a virgin, something Gerry considers a challenge, although it turns out every sexual encounter she has "doesn't count" in her way of thinking. Shirl is only in the plot for about half of it, as after the two blokes end up with their car on a cargo train she gets left behind, bringing out a theme of letting your life's baggage go until there's not much of what you have left: John pretty much ends up with his love for Sue to keep him warm. The car suffers the most, of course, as they get into chases along the winding roads amidst impressive scenery and have to sell parts of it for scrap to fund their excursion, but if there's a bleakness to the latter stages, Gerry and John's rebellion in the face of it is cause for inspiration. Music by John Charles.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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