The Adventures of Barry McKenzie

The Adventures of Barry McKenzie (Bruce Beresford, 1972) Melbourne, colour, 35 mm 114 min., prod. Phillip Adams for Longford Productions, wr. Bruce Beresford & Barry Humphries, from comic strip written by Humphries, dp Don McAlpine, design John Stoddart, music Peter Best, ed. William Anderson & John Scott; Alexander Archdale, Dick Bentley, Paul Bertram, John Clarke, Peter Cook, Julie Covington, Barry Crocker, Judith Furse, Wilfred Grove, Jonathan Hardy, Barry Humphries, John Joyce, Avice Landon, Margo Lloyd, Chris Malcolm, Spike Milligan, Maria O'Brien, Dennis Price, William Rushton, Mary Ann Severne, Bernard Spear, Brian Tapply, Jenny Tomasin, Jack Watling

The film has the one-dimensional, Carry On look of being shot in a harsh light - reminder of its comic strip beginnings. And both Bruce Beresford's direction and the structure of the Humphries-Beresford screenplay are like the television-inspired comedies being turned out by Ned Sherrin and friends. The film is episodic, farce rather than satire, and as happens in so many of those British comedies, the climax is in a television studio where Bazza hambones before the cameras and BBC Late Night Line-Up's Joan Bakewell (being a good sport about it). Sandra Hall, Bulletin, 1972, MilesAgo.

The Adventures of Barry McKenzie has as its erstwhile hero the monstrous Barry McKenzie who with his double breasted suit, airways bag (which even then was a sign of mental retardation), and his braggadocio is a camp parody of an outdated Australian masculinity (his clothes belong in the 1940s and early 1950s not the 1960s or 1970s). Episodically structured, improbably connected, the film has a farcical structure in which narrative is clearly at the service of set piece performances by Barry Crocker (Bazza), Barry Humphreys (Edna Everage and other roles), Spike Milligan and Peter Cook. In many ways the film can be regarded as a "re-writing" of They're a Weird Mob. It encourages not so much the "identification" with its Australianness of They're a Weird Mob, but a suspending of illusionist belief entirely thereby producing its fantasy of the "hyper-Australian". Tom O'Regan, Australian film in the 1970s: the ocker and the quality film.

"Occasionally funny, defiantly crude and tasteless, but poorly produced...", Halliwell, 1985; "Not all comedy is subtle and restrained, which is why the antics of crude, vulgar, lovable Barry McKenzie had audiences around the world shocked and in hysterics over his trip to the 'home' country.", The Age; "Broad, gross comedy, overlong, and a bit much for American audiences." Leonard Maltin, MilesAgo.

The film's importance in crystallising the image of the Australian 'ocker' was supplemented by its crucial role in boosting the confidence of the production industry and financiers. Budgeted at $250,000, the film was funded in its entirety by the Australian Film Development Corporation, the only time that complete funding was approved for feature films. Shooting began in London in January 1972, with Barry Crocker, an Australian cabaret and television singer, in the leading role. Late in February the unit returned to Australia to complete the few remaining scenes, and encountered union troubles because of the presence of British technicians in the crew. A compromise was reached with the employment of shadow Australian technicians, and shooting was completed in March. Distribution was handled personally by Phillip Adams, and with an R certificate as the reward for its deliberate vulgarity, the film opened at the Capitol Cinema, Melbourne, on 12 October 1972. Its immediate commercial success in Australia enabled the production company to repay most of the government investmet within three months of release. It also did very well commercially in London, where it established a record for any Australian film released there. Pike & Cooper: 265.


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