Summer City:
Aka Coast of Terror

The largest Collection you’ll find on the internet or on paper.


Cast and Crew

     Director:  Christopher Fraser
As stated by IMDB the standard by which most people go.  However I have found varied cast lists, release dates and years, film lengths, and production companies throughout my research especially as stated in the Cinema Papers, in which Mel Gibson is not even mentioned.  The varied cast lists are near the bottom of this page.


John Jarratt


Phillip Avalon


Steve Bisley


Mel Gibson

Caroline’s Father:

James Elliot


Debbie Forman

Woman in Pub:



Ward Austin


Judith Woodroffe


Carl Rorke


Ross Bailey


Hank Tick

Man in Car

Bruce Cole


Vicki Hekimian


Karen Williams

Screenwriter:  Phillip Avalon

     Producer:  Phillip Avalon
Assistant Producer:  Allan Slutzkin

     Cinematographer:  Jerry Marek

     Editor: David Stiven    

     Music: Phil Butkis

     Production Design: Jann Harris


Production Information

Release Date:  1977

          DVD Release Date: November 24, 2003
                  By Platinum Disc Corp
                    Not Rated

VHS Release Date: August 15, 2002
               By Jeff Films Int.
                    Rated PG

Budget: approx. $200,000 from private sponsors
(Information thanks to Andrew Pike (1980) pg. 405 Australian Film 1900-1977 and David Stratton (1980) pg. 282 The Last New Wave: The Australian Film Revival)

Shot on: 16mm Film
(Information thanks to Andrew Pike (1980) pg. 405 Australian Film 1900-1977 and David Stratton (1980) pg. 282 The Last New Wave: The Australian Film Revival)

     Shot: Summer 1976-7

Premiered: 22 December 1977 at Century Theater, Sydney
(Information thanks to Andrew Pike (1980) pg. 405 Australian Film 1900-1977 and David Stratton (1980) pg. 282 The Last New Wave: The Australian Film Revival)


Run Time: 83 minutes

Genre: Thriller, Coming of Age

Country: Australia

Production Companies:      Avalon Films
Michael Jordache Enterprises
Summer City

Distributors:     Avalon Films
Columbia Tristar Home Video [au] 1995 VHS
                    F.J. Lucas [Brazil] as “Verão de Fogo”
                    NCA Pictures [Brazil]  “O ?ltimo Verão”

Box Office Figures:  NA




Distributed Covers:  




Publicity Trivia:
     August 1977:

  1. Phillip Avalon did a portfolio with Playgirl magazine, the same year as the film’s release.


  1. Featured in:
    1. Mel Gibson: The High Octane Birth of a Superstar [V]


  1. Referenced in:
    1. Making 'Liquid Bridge' [V]




Film’s Online Presence in the Web Literature

Unfortunately for the creators of this film, it has never been received as a high quality display of work.  Probably due to the year of release, reviews, interviews, and online literature in relation to it has not been created.  It has been very difficult to find what little information I do have.  Searching through all types of databases, including ones strictly based on Australian films, I have still not found many quality reviews, or any publicity in relation to its release. Most, if any, give a rough summary of the film, and many look as though they were copied from each other and pasted into a new environment. 
     All that seems to be left of this film is the memory of the beginning of Mel Gibson’s career.  In every biography done on Mel Gibson it is always mentioned as his jumping off point, though usually not considered to be a good one. So all that is left is a few reviews done by individuals either trying to sell the new DVD, who have bought it, or those genuinely trying to keep record of film archives.

The few reviews found:

Urban Cine File Review by Andrew L. Urban

Hollywood Teen Movies Review by Tony         

Editorial Review by Laura Mirsky
               Includes Customer Reviews

Rotten Tomatoes
          No reviews only a rough synopsis



Film’s Presence in Books and Journals

As I ventured into the library, not in my wildest dreams did I believe I would find a single reference to this film.  Its online presence being basically null and void I figured it would prove to be the same in the traditional sense.  Although there wasn’t an abundance of information I still found quite a bit of interesting information and even a pretty great review by David Stratton.  However it took hours of searching through film books claiming to have lists of every film ever made throughout the 1900s and none of them even mentioning its existence, before I found what I was looking for.  I searched through: International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers Film Edition, International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers Directors Edition, Encyclopedia of Cinema, International Index to Film Periodicals, 1976-1978, World Film Directors Volume Two 1945-1985 and the CineBooks Movie List without even a trace of the Phil Avalon or Summer City.

So, just as I was about to give up and started to think maybe I had dreamt up the film, I happened upon, Australian Film 1900-1977 by Andrew Pike and Ross Cooper (1980), and  that led me to Australian Film Index:  A Guide to Australian Films since 1900 by Scott Murray (1992).  Now excited by my discoveries I continued my expedition looking up more books by these authors and possible journals that could hold a plethora of information.  Though I didn’t find excessive amounts I found one more book and one journal.  The book was The Last New Wave: the Australian Film Revival by David Stratton (1980) and the journal, Cinema Papers 1975-1977. Here is the information I received from them.  I have included the entire cast lists from the Cinema papers in order for you to see the variation and the entire articles so that you have them at your finger tips without having to track down the books.

Andrew Pike (1980) pg. 405
 Australian Film 1900-1977


1977 Christopher Fraser
PC: Avalon Films/Summer City Productions.
P,SC: Phillip Avalon. PH: Jerry Marek.  ED: David Stiven.  Art D: Jann Harris.
M: Phil Bitkis. PM: Lionel Slutzkin.  ASST D: Michael Carlton.  SD R: Bill
Pitt.  85 mins Color.

Conceived as a 'road movie', with both action and comedy for the teenage market,
Summer City was set in the rock-and-roll era of the early 1960s, complete with
clips from Brian Henderson's television show, Bandstand, songs by Australian
rock-and-roll stars on the soundtrack, and an appearance by the disc jockey
Ward Austin.  Four young men set off up the coast in their old Chevy for a
weekend of surfing and fun.  They stop at a country dance where Boo, a loud
mouthed lady killer, seduces a 14 year old girl, Caroline.  As they travel on
fighting breaks out in the group, and when Boo is confronted by Caroline's
father, a crazed war veteran with a rifle, the scene is set for violence and

The film was shot cheaply on 16mm (later blown up to 35mm) for $200,000,
provided entirely by private investors.  Shooting began in October 1976, with
locations on the coast near Sydney and Newcastle, especially at the small town
of Catherine Hill Bay, 80 miles north of Sydney.  The writer, producer and
costar was Phillip Avalon, a model and actor who had previously written,
produced and acted in a telemovie, The Double Dealer (1975), about
drug-trafficking and 'the white slave trade'.  Avalon and his associates
distributed and promoted the film themselves through independent cinemas, with a
premiere at the Century Theatre, Sydney, on 22 December 1977.

Scott Murray (1992) pg. 93
 Australian Film Index:  A Guide to Australian Films since 1900

Lists cast, Production Company, director, etc.

David Stratton (1980)
 The Last New Wave: The Australian Film Revival

Excerpt from the Chapter Poor Cinema, pg. 282:

Most of the films in this chapter have been made with limited resources but with
the best of intentions by sincere, dedicated people passionately involved in
getting their messages across in film. Summer City (1978) was made on the cheap
and therefore comes into this category; but it seems unlikely to have involved
much passionate dedication to anything other than the desire to make a dollar.

Produced and written by Phil Avalon, known for his surfing documentaries, and
directed by Christopher Fraser, the film has a very acceptable central idea: four
mates, Robbie, Scollop, Boo, and Sandy, head up the coast for a surfing weekend.
 Robbie and Scollop live for the surf, Sandy had a university education and is
not committed to the lifestyle of the others, and Boo is pure "ocker".  They
camp in the beach of a small town and Boo seduces a local virgin; next day her
father comes after them with a gun.

The film, with its sixties setting, proved a vehicle for some interesting
actors; while John Jarratt seems as out of place as the character he plays both
Mel Gibson as Scollop and Steve Bisley as Boo are excellent and would go on to
bigger and better things.  But the film is poorly directed, shoddily photographed
and lacks any kind of structure or tension.  A good opportunity frittered away,
in fact, although it was imaginatively marketed and appeared to attract quite a
large mostly teenage, audience.

Page 332

Summer City
Production Company: Intertropic Films.
Producer, Screenplay: Phil Avalon.
Director: Christopher Fraser
Photography: Jerry Marek, Color
Music: Phil Butkis
Editor: David Stiven
Sound: Bill Pitt
Art Director: Jann Harris
Budget: $200,000 (approx)
Shooting: Summer 1976-7
Premiere: Century, Sydney, December 1977

Cinema Papers 1975-1977
 Mentioned pg. 4 Volume 3
           pg. 160 September 1976, Production Survey

Director....Ross Hamilton
Distribution....Brian Walsh, Austin Levy
Production Company....Phil Avalon Productions
Producer....Phillip Avalon
Production Manager....John Flahety
Prodcution Assistants....Derek Catteral, Rick Bradley
Assistant Directors....Chris Fraser, Sandy Gateman
Production Accountant...Austin Levy
Screenplay....Phillip Avalon
Photography....Brian Probyn B.S.C.
Camera Operator....Matt Butler
Camera Assistant....Robyn Coombs
Colour Process....Easmancolor
Stills Photographer....Peter Carrette
Art Dircetor....Eddie Van De Madden
Prop Manager....Steve Salvo
Wardrobe....Ben Bardillo
Music....Doug Ashdown, Jimmy Stewart
Editor....Alan Trott
Continuity....Therese O'Leary
Make-up....Bromyn Jones
Grips....Bob Ross, John Collins
Sound Recordist....Max Henser
Boom Operator....Anne Maree Chandler
Gaffer....Brian Bansgrove
Electrician....John Cummings
Graphic Artist....Phil Mortlock
Casting Consultant....Mitch Mathews
Runner....Robert Marriott
Cast: John Jarrat, John Ewart, Andrew McFarlane, Nick Canny, Phil Avalon, Janet
Murray, Zoe Betram.
Synopsis: A period psycho-drama, set in a small coastal town



A Critical Review


Four friends head off on a road trip looking for girls, adventure, and surf.  Things take a turn for the worst when one of them gets exactly what he wants.  With Boo as a womanizing bad boy, Sandy as a sweet, naïve good boy, and Robbie and Scollop as two guys with no qualms, the beginning of an adventure with twist and turns is set in place.



     The film begins with Sandy on a train, thinking back on all the things that had happened to him on and after his road trip with his four buddies and through this we are led through the adventure that took place in Summer City.
     One afternoon Robbie makes his rounds picking up all his buddies.  With Boo being the last we find him with another girl different from the one he was introduced into the film with.  Sandy is clearly shown as having distaste for Boo and it is made obvious that there will be some kind of stand off between the two later.  As the boys head of a montage interlaced with bluegrass music gives off the feeling that they are having a good ol’ time and nothing can change that.

     Stopping in some towns to grab food, Boo is continuously shown as a playboy, hitting on the help, and not giving up if he knows he can get a piece of action.  Not always succeeding we hear him talk bad about the ladies to the other guys, irking Sandy every step of the way.  A few random things happen to them along the way, including a near car accident that leaves a man’s car rolling down hill away from him, stopping to play with a cow in a field, throwing burgers at a barmaid in a local town, and finally stopping in Summer City at a man’s housing asking if they may sleep on his lawn.

     Of course the first thing Boo sees when they stop to ask the guy, is his beautiful 15 year old daughter, Caroline, who he thinks of as just another possible piece of action.  Caroline’s father makes it clear he doesn’t want her near them, but Boo makes it impossible for her to say no.  Sandy has a long talk with Robbie about his interest in returning home, because he his annoyed with Boo.  Scollop talks with Boo telling him he’s angry with him for sleeping with Gloria because that is the girl he had told Boo he liked.  Though things are resolved between Boo and Scollop, Sandy is still angry with Boo even though Robbie convinces him to stay.

During a night on the town at a local dance, Boo and Scollop try to enter it for free as a blind man and helper.  Boo steals a girl away from Robbie which breaks out into a fist fight.  Boo then leaves with her, Caroline, whom he has wrapped around his finger, and takes her up to a water tower to swim with her in the dark.  There he convinces her to lose her virginity to him because he loves her, while her father sits at home angry about her late return. 

When morning comes a disturbing montage with a low rumbling sound and angry shots of the ocean are displayed as what I am guessing to be a direct approach to foreshadowing.   Boo tells Caroline he can’t walk her home as she asks him if he still loves her, completely naive to his game. 

Later in the day the boys go for a surf and Robbie tries to explain to Sandy that surfing is a way of life and that catching just one wave is enough to keep you out there for hours in hopes you’ll catch another just as beautiful.  They talk about how it relieves you of all your worries and stress, but Sandy questions the future in it. 

While on the beach waxing their boards they boys interact with a jerk that pushes another kid around, they challenge him to some surfing and he takes them on.  They continue for a few more hours before heading into town for a few beers.  While there Boo interacts with the elderly people easily and has them all captivated.  At the same time Caroline has seen Sandy on the beach and chases him down questioning him about Boo and why if he loved her he could ignore her the way he does.  Sandy explains to her she’s just a child and Boo never loved her he only wanted one thing.  He lectures her on how she never should have thrown something so precious away to a guy she had only met once.  She tells him she might be pregnant and he tells her the whole town is going to call her a whore.

Boo on the other hand is in town hitting on another girl, who turns him down flat out, and so he tells her some story about the only girl he ever loved dying in a car crash.  He says it was like “real movie love”.  He later talks to Scollop about how the sex with Caroline was, while she is at home talking to her father saying she didn’t want it, giving him the impression that Boo raped her.  Her father angry as hell wants to know the boys name and she finally gives in and tells him.

Their time in Summer City draws to a close and the boys head out on a lonely bush road.  In the car they talk about how there are two kinds of girls.  The kind you marry and the kind you....while they laugh.  Boo and Scollop talk about how faithful Sandy is and how completely trusting he is of his fiancée Donna, who he believes to be completely faithful as well.  Boo spills the beans that the girl that he was with when Scollop knocked on his window at the lookout point was in fact Donna and that they had slept together.  Sandy attacks him punching him so hard that blood is flying everywhere, he then runs off into the woods with a rifle.

Scared out of his mind Boo sleeps in the car his face patched up.  Meanwhile Sandy is out in the woods crumpling up a picture of his beloved fiancée Donna while holding the rifle.  When morning comes Boo freaks out and runs off hoping to get away for the crazed Sandy.  He finds an empty road, but sees Sandy coming through the woods.  As a car drives by and stops Boo thankfully opens the door to get a ride, but as the door opens a gun is pointed in his face and he is shot.  Sandy stands in the woods completely shocked as the driver in the car notices his presence.  Caroline’s father exits the car and chases Sandy through the woods.  Scared out of his mind he hides in the bushes, however, Caroline’s father finds him and shoots at him.  In an effort to save his own life he shoots her father three times to stop him.  Scollop finds Boo and cries, while Robbie finds Sandy.

Here the story once again picks up with Sandy on a train.  A flashback explains his acquittal and the presence of Donna waiting for him on the platform gives the sensation of hope for their future.


My Commentary and Critical Review:
Like many others who have seen this film, I did not find it to be very well filmed, or written.  From my perspective the entire film could have been around 30 to 40 minutes long.  There were too many unneeded scenes that didn’t do anything to help the plot along, and I was confused for about half an hour about what the character’s names were.  The development of characters was done very well for Sandy and Boo, yet I did not really know where Robbie and Scollop stood on the entire situation.  They seemed to be there just so there could be a group of four.  (The distributed covers don’t really make sense to have Mel Gibson on them except to make money, because his part was a small one.) 

The film’s plot was a good idea, but it was shot terribly even for a 1970’s film. I mean Star Wars, Jaws, and Storm Boy came out around the same time and the cinematography and film qualities are at two completely different levels.  I understand it was low budget, yet it looked like the work of a high school student on his first project.  It also tried too hard with its overly filmic shots of the ocean and green scenery.  The morning scene in which the ocean was shown along with a low rumbling was an effect expected to be seen in an experimental film, however this film was anything but experimental it was quite straight forward.

Though I seem quite harsh on the film itself, I have read some reviews in which people actually like it.  I myself will probably never watch it again, but I do not want to discourage those who have found their love for Mel Gibson sending them in that direction.  If I had to rate it I’d give it  (half a star) for effort, and an interesting plot idea.  I do believe that if Phil Avalon ever got up the courage he could probably remake this film and create something actually worth viewing, but I kind of hope he never does.


Uptake and Other Works of the Cast and Filmmakers:

    Generally, when a film does well, it is recorded in history, taught in film schools, and reviewed excessively in journals, newspapers, and on the internet.  Summer City was not.  There aren’t many records about its production budget, release, or how it did in theaters.  Actually I’m not even at all positive if it was released in theaters that’s how obscure the knowledge about this film is. 

It is quite clear what happened to a few of its cast members:
     Mel Gibson went on to do Mad Max and became his generations Harrison Ford, acting in numerous film, producing, directing, and writing his own screenplays. The Patriot, the Lethal Weapon films, Maverick, and Braveheart are only a few of the blockbusters he went on to star in. 

     Phil Avalon went on to produce a few obscure films including Tunnel Vision and Liquid Bridge which he also directed.  His writing credits include Fatal Bond and The Finder which was made for cable TV. 

     John Jarratt went on to star in over thirty more films and TV series including The Sound of Love, Pirates Island, and his most recent film Wolf Creek which is due out this year.

     Steve Bisley did the same even having a small part in Mad Max with Mel Gibson. His feats include: Fast Talking, Silver City, and The Big Steal.

     Though every single one of these actors had a shaky start, they all managed to brush it off and create careers in film.  Summer City however, has been forgotten by them, the media, and all of their fans. 


In an Australian Context:
     Despite the fact that many some seem to feel that Australia has yet to become a contender in the world of film, I do not feel that Summer City is in any way a good example of Australian Cinema.  There are so many amazing films that have come out of Australia that I find it hard to believe those backward beliefs of its inability to compete have not yet been reversed.  From Storm Boy, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and Lantana, to Somersault, Australia has been a driving force in a new perspective on the world.  New eyes are exactly what films needs, especially in a time where originality is lacking and the search for a new story seems almost unattainable. 
     Although very Australian in that it is centered around Australia’s landscape and the laid back surfer lifestyle, Summer City’s  quality is no where near to that of other films created in Australia during that time. For that reason it is not a good representation of Australian cinema at all.  Summer City, I feel, can be considered a side project of Phil Avalon who produced it and distributed it through his own actions, only later with they help of other companies due to Mel Gibson’s prospering career.  This film on its own could never raise respect for Australian cinema, so it might be a good thing that it has been tucked away and is never spoken about.


     This film is clearly a road movie, though it has many aspects that allow it to be placed as a drama, I feel that most of the film is spent on the road with a destination different from the beginning.  First I base this on the fact that the boys went on a road trip.  Many things happened to them along the way a near accident, a man chasing them, and murder.  Yet everything happened because they were on the road.  I also take into account the surfing as part of the road.  As Robbie said in the film, surfing was the way to get away, and be free from all of your stress and problems.  They used it as an escape which is usually the basis for a road movie itself. 

     As stated in class in lecture four, there are four thematics in a road movie: the breakdown of the family unit, the main characters are acted upon, the characters identify with their means of transport, and a focus on masculinity (Presentation 4: Road Movies pg. 2).  All of these things are part of the film Summer City.  The family unit is broken down though it was not one of the boys’ families, but rather Caroline’s, because she loses her father who went out on the road to follow the boys.  The main characters, the boys, were acted upon by everyone on the road, the guy who tried to ruin their tires and Caroline’s father.  As I said before the surfboards were another piece of the film that I considered part of the road and all of them being obsessed with the surf except for, Sandy, identified with that lifestyle; which included toting your boards along with you on top of your car.  Lastly, the focus on masculinity was the main part of the film.  The boys were the only ones on the roads, including Caroline’s father.  Their intentions were set upon getting girls, and Boo’s upon getting every girl, even if it meant stealing them from his friends.  I believe this film fits quite perfectly within the genre of road movie, being that every aspect of the genre is entwined within the film. 



1977 Film Trivia:

  1. Star Wars was released.
  2. Saturday Night Fever released.
  3. Annie Hall won Best Picture.
  4. Richard Dreyfuss won Best Actor for The Goodbye


  1. Diane Keaton won Best Actress for Annie Hall.
  2. March 2nd:  Bette Davis is the first woman to receive the Life Achievement Award of American Film Institute.
  3. May 2nd: Joan Crawford dies.
  4. August 16th: Elvis Presley dies.
  5. November 25th: Charlie Chaplin dies.
  6. December 26th: Howard Hawkes dies.
  7. 49 films were released in Australia in 1977.

Most Popular movies in 1977:
Star Wars
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Saturday Night Fever
Smokey and the Bandit
The Goodbye Girl
Annie Hall
Looking For Mr. Goodbar
Oh God
          Summer City Q&A:
1. How many girls did Boo steal from his friends and what were their names?
2. Where did Boo take Caroline to hook up?
3. Why did Sandy hate Boo?
4. What did Scollop and Boo do to try getting out of paying a fee at the dance?
5. What did the guy they almost got in an accident with do?
6. How old was Caroline?
7. What does Scollop throw at the barmaid during one of their stops?
8. Who finds Boo dead at the end of the film?
9. What happens to Sandy after he shoots Caroline’s father?  
10.Who is waiting for Sandy on the train platform at the film’s end?


Answers: 1. 3, Donna from Sandy, Gloria from Scollop, and Caroline from Robbie. 2. The water tower. 3. Because he treated women like pieces of meat. 4. Scollop acts blind and Boo pretends to help him. 5. Tried to pump all of the air out of one of their tires.  6. Fifteen.  7. A burger. 8. Scollop. 9. He is put on trial and acquitted. 10. Donna.


Cast and Crew: (except for what is cited)
Production Companies & Distributors:
Distributed Covers: [1st, 2nd, and 3rd covers]
Publicity Trivia:
Reviews and Trivia:     Cited
Genre: Presentation 4: Road Movies 21/03/2005 pg. 2/4

©2005 Eromese Igbavboa, MED231, Murdoch University, Australia.