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Rewi's Last Stand (Rudall Hayward, 1940) aka The Last Stand: An Episode of the New Zealand Wars; Frontier Films Ltd, wr. Rudall Hayward, source Cowan's history, dp Rudall Hayward, Edwin Coubray; Leo Pilcher, Ramai Te Miha, Henare Toka; NZ; 5750ft, 64 min.
Martin & Edwards:
Frontier Films Ltd. Produced with the assistance and co-operation of the Te Awamutu Historical Society. A.k.a. The Last Stand: An Episode Of The New Zealand Wars. Location: Te Awamutu. Distributor. Hayward. Opened: Auckland April 1940. 35 mm. Black and white. 5750 ft. 64 mins. [note 1] (British quota cut, 1949.)
Director and producer. Rudall Hayward. Screenplay. Rudall Hayward. Source: James Cowan FRGS, History of the New Zealand Wars, vol. I and The Old Frontier. Photography: Rudall Hayward, Edwin Coubray, Jack McCarthy. Stills Mr Williams. Editor. Rudall Hayward. Sound: Jack Baxendale. Sound engineer’s assistant Ron Purdy. Narration: Kenneth Melvin. Original musical score. Alfred Hill. Publicity. R.M. Iver. Electrician for firings: Les W. Spence. Cast extras: J. Rust.
Leo Pilcher (Robert Beaumont), Ramai Te Miha (Ariana), Henare Toka (part role) (Tama Te Heu Heu), Stanley Knight (Corporal Ben Horton), John Gordon (Brigadier General Carey), A.J.C. Fisher (Sir George Grey), Peter Hutt (A.D.C. to Grey), Colonel J.D. Swan (General Cameron), Bernard Britain (Captain Jackson), Rud Peterson (the only member of the cast who also appeared in the 1925 silent version), (Pat Madigan, a forest ranger), with local cast Raureti Te Huia (Rewi Maniapoto), Mr C.S. Wood (Rev. John Morgan), Phoebe Clarke (Mrs Morgan) Rongo Paerata (part role) (Tama Te Heu Heu), H.A. Swarbrick (Ensign Mair), James Oliphant (Lieutenant Hurst), Tawhiurangi Huihuia (Ahumai), Tom Moisely (Jim Taylor, the wagonner).
The story is centred on a major battle between Maori and military forces which took place during the 1860s. Around that event is woven the fictional narrative of a young settler, Robert Beaumont, meeting and falling in love with a young Maori woman, Ariana. Her father has been a sea captain who has left her mother, but who has now joined the British forces engaged with the Maori in the Waikato. When the mission at which Ariana lives is in danger of attack, she is smuggled out, but walking with Beaumont in the bush, she is discovered and recaptured by her people. Beaumont joins von Tempsky’s Forest Rangers and goes off on a scouting expedition in an attempt to find Ariana. He does, but Ariana has promised to stay with her people, and they part. Following the major battle at Orakaupa, Ariana attempts to escape, but is shot, and apparently dies in Beaumont’s arms.
Hayward’s attempt to remake his 1925 version of this story in sound began with a letter to the Te Awamutu Historical Society on 10 Feb 1936 where he writes, ‘It has been suggested to me that the historical sections of the film should be reissued with the addition of sound effects and a descriptive comment so that the coming generations might have a visual impression of the heroism of the Maoris in this action.’ The consequence was that local citizens formed a company, Frontier Films Ltd, to support Hayward and to break into the apparently lucrative industry, and the Historic Society gave their support in casting and costume. The film, however, had a chequered career. By 1943, the company reported difficulty in selling it in the U.S., and earnings for the year were a mere £78 13/- 4d. The print promised by Hayward in his original letter had never eventuated, and he had taken what appeared to be the only negatives to Great Britain where it was recut as a British Quota title and reissued in shorter form, the version which is the only remaining footage of what was originally a much longer film.
The sound version lost much of the toughness and tightly woven drama of the original. The romantic melodrama which was intended to provide a human face for the conflict failed to convince, as Hayward did not seem able to decide whether he wanted a film which was identifiably New Zealand in style, or the soft focus sentimentality and overstated images which characterised low budget Hollywood material. A comment in Te lwi records a Maori view, ‘(Hayward) made an attempt at historical accuracy—but distorted the significance of the facts to suit obvious preconceived ideas about what should have been in the minds of the protagonists ... but couldn’t have been. Orakau was a bloody, almost genocidal confrontation by Maori and European with no quarter given.’* SE
Special Feltex Award presented to Rudall Hayward for the first television screening of a New Zealand film.
[note 1] In keeping with the intention of Rudall Hayward to allow his films to be used for educational purposes, a new 16 mm print was lodged with the National Film Library, and a new censor’s certificate showing a running time of 63 mins, was issued on 23 April 1980.
* Te lwi, February 1990, p. 19.
[image - not reproduced here:] Stanley Knight (Corporal Ben Horton) and Leo Pilcher (Robert Beaumont). Courtesy of the Hayward Historical Film Trust.
Rewi’s Last Stand, Hayward, Rudall, 1940; New Zealand, UK; 64 min; B&W Producer: Rudall Hayward, Production Company: Frontier Films; Writer, Editor: Rudall Hayward; DOP: Rudall Hayward, Edwin Coubray, Jack McCarthy; Sound: Jack Baxendale; Cast: Leo Pilcher, Ramai Te Miha, Henare Toka, Stanley Knight, John Gbrdan, Peter Hett, A. J. C. Fisher; Drama & Thriller
Based on the story of the battle between Maori and military forces in the 1860s, Robert Beaumont, a young settler, meets and falls in love with a Maori woman, Ariana. When the place she lives is in threat of being attacked she leaves with Beaumont but is captured by her people. Beaumont goes on a scouting expedition and finds her but she vows never to leave her people again. But after a battle she tries to escape but is shot and dies in Beaumont’s arms.
Format: VHS; Distributor: National Library
Martin, Helen & Sam Edwards 1997, New Zealand Film 1912-1996, OUP, Auckland.
Verhoeven, Deb, 1999, Twin Peeks: Australian and New Zealand Feature Films, Damned Publishing, Melbourne.
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