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Secret Of The Skies* (A.R. Harwood, 1934) Centenary Films, wr. Laurence Brewer, dp Stan Pentreath, 56 mins; John D'Arcy, Norman Shepherd, Ella Bromley, Fred Patey, James Dee, Paul Allsop, Guy Hastings, Ada Koradgi, Norman Banks, Eddie Balmer
Hal Wayne, a bank robber on the run, hijacks a plane which crashes in remote mountain territory. The survivors eke out their dwindling supplies, but there is little hope of rescue. Growing desperate, Wayne steals the remaining food and abandons the others to their death. Wandering half-crazed in the forest, he throws away his stolen money and is eventually found by a lone prospector. Back in civilisation, he lives tormented by guilt and eventually, after three years, confesses his story to the police.
Made quickly for about £4000, Secret Of The Skies was shot in July 1933, with several weeks of location work in the ranges at Kinglake near Melbourne, and was completed at the Cinesound studio at St Kilda, Melbourne, using old and makeshift equipment.
The story was based on the actual mystery of the Southern Cloud, a plane that had disappeared three years earlier on a flight from Sydney to Melbourne. This exploitable subject gave the film probably the greatest commercial potential of all of Harwood's films. At a time when interest in Australian production was running high, Universal launched the film with an intensively publicised one-week season at three Sydney theatres over the Easter holidays in April 1934. Box-office results were good but reviews were poor, and the film received little further exposure.
Harwood next ventured into live theatre with a musical variety show, Something Different (1934), and in 1936 he directed a 16-mm feature, Pearl Lust. This South Sea island romance, starring Fay Revel and John Bowden, was aimed at the growing home movie market and was not released theatrically. Pike & Cooper: 164.
Garry Gillard | New: 17 October, 2012 | Now: 29 November, 2019