Gallipoli – 1981


Part One: Film Information


The Australian film Gallipoli, directed by Peter Weir, was released in the month of August in 1981 and managed to take in $11,740,000 at the box office.


Interview Bibliography

  1. Dempsey, Michael. “Inexplicable Feelings: An Interview with Peter Weir.” Film Quarterly 33, No. 4 (1980): 2-11
  2. Dowling, Terry, and George Mannix. “Peter Weir – Master of Unease (An Interview with Peter Weir).” Science Fiction – A Review of Speculative Literature 3, no. 1 (1980): 7-27


  1. Fonda-Bonardi, Claudia, and Peter. “The Birth of a Nation: An Interview with Peter Weir.” Cineaste 11, No. 4 (1982): 41-42
  2. “I Felt Somehow I Was Touching History.” Literature/Film Quarterly 9, no. 4 (1981): 213-217
  3. Magill, Marcia. “Peter Weir: An Interview.” Films in Review 32, No. 8 (1981): 474-79
  4. McFarlane, Brian, and Tom Ryan. “Peter Weir: Towards the Centre.” Cinema Papers 34 (1981): 323-28
Post 1981
  1. Smith, Margaret. “Mel Gibson.” Cinema Papers, No. 42, March, 1983, p.12-17

2.     Tulich, Katherine. “Peter Weir.” Cinema Papers, No. 80, August, 1983, p. 22-25


Film Review Bibliography

Brian McFarlane, Cinema Papers 33, July-August, 1981, p.285-86

Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune, September 18, 1981, n.p.

Rex Reed, Daily News (New York), September 11, 1981, n.p.

Gavin Millar, Listener (London), December 17 and 24, 1981, p.799

John Coleman, New Statesman (London), December 11, 1981, p.24

Jack Kroll, Newsweek (New York), September 14, 1981, p. 55

Marjorie Bilbow, Screen International (London), December 12, 1981, p.40

Anon, Sight and Sound (London), Vol. 5, No. 1, Winter, 1981-82, p. 72

Richard Schickel, Time (New York), September 14, 1981, p.80

Michael Howard, Times Literary Supplement (London), December 18, 1981, p.464

Miha., Variety, August 5, 1981, p.18

Joy Gould Boyum, Wall Street Journal (New York), September 11, 1981, n.p.

Kathleen Carroll, Daily Times Advocate (California), October 8, 1981, p. 81

Carrie Ridley, Village Voice, September 2-8, 1981

John Carroll, The Age Monthly Review, Vol. 1, No. 7, November, 1981, p.8

John Hindell, National Times, Vol. 550, August 16-22, 1981, p.33

Bob Ellis, The Review, No 1, October 15, 1981, p.15


Critical Essay/Book Discussion Bibliography

Critical Essays

1.Coruni, Everett Eugene. “Tantalizing Ambiguity: The Cinema of Peter Weir.” Ph.D. diss. University of Kansas, 1990.

2.Haltof, Josef Marek. “Film and Dream: The Films of Peter Weir.” M.A. thesis. Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia, 1988.

3.Haltof, Marek. “In Quest of Self-Identity: Gallipoli, Mateship and the Construction of Australian National Identity.” Journal of Popular Film and Television 21, no. 1, 1993: 27 – 36.


Book Discussions

1.Rohdie, Sam. “Gallipoli, Peter Weir and an Australian Art Cinema.” (1982)

An Australian Film Reader, Moran, Albert, and O’Reagan, Tom., Currency Press, 1985, Australia

2.Buchbinder, David. “Mateship, Gallipoli, and the Eternal Masculine.” In Representation, Discourse, and Desire: Contemporary Australian Culture and Critical Theory , edited by Patrick Fuery, 115-37. London: Longman Chesire, 1994

3.Freebury, Jane. “Screening Australia – Gallipoli: A Study of Nationalism on Film.” Media Information Australia, 1987.


Online Details

1.“I Felt Somehow I Was Touching History”

Literature/Film Quarterly, Vol. 9. No. 4, 1981


2. “Gallipoli”

D. Hart, Adelaide University


Search Details

 I collected information on Gallipoli by at first attempting various searches on the Internet however I found this act to be rather time-consuming and with very little results. I spent approximately several hours on the Internet with the end result producing at the very least a printable copy of a Peter Weir interview that focuses on Gallipoli from a web page devoted to the film, and a copy of a critical essay by Adelaide University lecturer. A visit to the Australian Film Commission website provided no information and I found this quite exasperating.


By this stage I knew that I had to hit the books and I am pleased to report that this was an extremely rewarding deed as I discovered a wealth of information at my hands. I first visited my local library (Cockburn Library) where I was fortunate enough to discover a text titled Peter Weir: When Cultures Collide that happened to be part of a collection called Twayne’s Filmmakers Series. The text provided an incredible insight into Peter Weir’s personal style of filmmaking with detailed chapters on many of his films and also a list of interviews, articles and references to books. I also visited the Alexander Library in the city and this also proved to be worthwhile effort as I had many resources at hand. There was an extensive range of books related to Australian film and this provided much of the information for the essay.



Duration: 111 minutes, feature, colour, 35mm

Production company: Associated R and R Films


Director: Peter Weir

Executive Producer: Francis O’Brien

Producer: Patricia Lovell along with Robert Stigwood

Assistant producers: Martin Cooper, Ben Gannon

Assistant directors: Mark Egerton, Steve Andrews, Marshall Crosby, Robert Pendlebury;

Egypt, Attef El Taieb

Screenplay: David Williamson; based on a story by Peter Weir

Cinematography: Russell Boyd

Camera Operator: John Seale

Underwater photography: Ron Taylor

Editing: William Anderson

Music: Brian May

Sound Recording: Don Connolly

Design coordinator: Wendy Weir

Special effects: Chris Murray, Monty Fieguth, David Hurdie, Steve Courtley,

Bruce Henderson

Military adviser: Bill Gammage


Major Cast

Archy Hamilton – Mark Lee

Frank Dunne – Mel Gibson

Major Barton – Bill Hunter

Barney Wilson – Tim McKenzie

“Snowy” – David Argue

Billy – Robert Grubb

Uncle Jack – Bill Kerr


Minor Cast

Stumpy – Harold Baigent

Wallace Hamilton – Ron Graham

Zac – Charles Yunupingu

Les McCann – Harold Hopkins

Stockman – Heath Harris

Rose Hamilton – Gerda Nicholson

Angus – Brian Anderson

1st Official – Reg Evans

2nd Official – Jack Giddy

Announcer – Dane Peterson

Recruiting Officer – Paul Linkson

Waitress – Jenny Lovell

Billy Lionel – Steve Dodd

Laura – Phyllis Burford

Gran – Marjorie Irving

Dan Dunne – John Murphy

Lt. Gray – Peter Ford

Anne Barton – Diane Chamberlain

Army Doctor – Ian Govett

Sgt. Sayers – Geoff Parry

1st English Officer – Clive Bennington

2nd English Officer – Giles Holland-Martin

Egyptian Shopkeeper – Moshe Kedem

Colonel Robinson – John Morris

Sniper – Paul Sonkkila and

a cast of about 4000 extras.



Part Two: Film Review


Gallipoli is the tragic tale of two Australian men, Frank Dunne and Archy Hamilton,who have both enlisted themselves to participate in the Gallipoli campaign overseas. The film follows the journey of the two men from their time as competitors in a sprints race and journey to Perth for enlistment through to the training ground in Cairo and finally the Dardanelles. The film itself isn’t so much a ‘war’ film as it is a film dealing with attitudes of Australians through particular individuals towards war in 1915.


The story is expressed through the continued themes within the film such as competitiveness, mateship and sporting spirit with all themes being relevant to our national myth as a nation. Gallipoli uses stunning cinematography to effectively communicate a visual message to the viewer without overstating its intent. This filmic device makes Weir a successful yet subtle storyteller. This is especially obvious in the scene where Archy and Frank are crossing the dried up lake bed in an effort to reach Perth. Weir uses this landscape to highlight Australia’s isolation from the rest of the world and supports it with the two male leads arguing whether or not it is in their best interests to fight for the Mother Country, England.


The screenplay itself accomplishes gaining the audience’s interest and attention by using humour to capture the essence of Australian character enabling viewers to relate and later sympathise with all characters as well as highlighting Australian nationalism. Combined with breathtaking visual imagery, this is a remarkable formula. For example, in the scene where Frank and Archy meet the camel driver and inform him that if they didn’t go to war, the Germans would invade the country and take it away from all Australians. After hearing this the camel driver slowly takes in the barren landscape and scoffs lightly, “They’re welcome to it”.


Personally I feel Gallipoli succeeds as a film in regards to its cinematography, performances and writing. However, I realise that there are viewers who do not look at the film quite as favourably as I do as suggested by certain reviews of Gallipoli.

It is difficult to accurately convey Gallipoli’s uptake on a critical level as a film as there have been varied responses towards the film’s release. What was most interesting was that I found on an international level, not many critics embraced the film with one American critic calling it “unimpressive” (Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune, 1981) and another saying, “There is …a great film to be made about Gallpoli…but Peter Weir has not made it” (Michael Howard, Times Literary Supplement, 1981).


However the film succeeded in Australia largely due to the fact that it was a home grown film concerning our national myth and our identity something international critics cannot relate to nor truly grasp when watching the film. When released, Gallipoli received warm reviews from many Australian critics and the film has gone on to be a popular text to study and write about for many academics and the box office success of the film surely indicates how much Australians truly embraced the film.


The Australian Motion Yearbook 1982/83 contains a brief summary of reviews on Gallipoli with quotes from both local and international critics and is worth reading for exact comments on the film.


During the first half of the 1980s the Australian film industry was defined by the experimental changes in the tax act and represented a boom within the business. Government film agencies took a back seat to private investment agencies during this period culminating in a change in cinema output. Australia was becoming an increasingly differentiated cinema.


A few years earlier in 1975, Peter Weir had just completed Picnic at Hanging Rock and was thinking of doing a story set in France concerning the battles of 1916-17 when it had been suggested to him to make a film about Gallipoli thus the process began. Using the Bill Gammage’s book, ‘The Broken Years’ and the official history of Gallipoli by C.W.E Bean, Weir and Australian playwright David Williamson began writing the first out of four drafts for Gallipoli in 1976.


A year later Weir signed a contract with the South Australian Film Corporation to make Gallipoli. However, it wasn’t until 1979 that the S.A.F.C decided not to proceed with the production and Weir contacted Hanging at Picnic Rock producer, Patricia Lovell, and asked her to take over. In September the next year, the draft for Gallipoli was completely finished and Weir and Lovell secured funding from the film from Rupert Murdoch’s production company Associated R and R Productions.


After fives years of organization, Gallipoli had a budget of a $2.6 million and took 4-5 months to film. The locations were mainly found in South Australia ( Town of Beltana, Lake Torrens and the coastline near Port Lincoln was transformed into Gallipoli) but also a small town near Cairo. It had been Mel Gibson’s impressive performance in Mad Max that was enough to convince Weir and Lovell into inviting Gibson to an audition for the role of Frank Dunne. Gibson was successful in the audition and got along well with his fellow co-star, Mark Lee, who had been cast as Archy Hamilton. Despite not having been in a feature film before, Weir thought Lee had the right qualities to portray the character of Archy Hamilton on screen.


Weir stated in one of his earlier interviews that he decided against shooting the entire production in Egypt because of the complexities involved in securing enough Anglo-Saxon extras. In the end, his pragmatism paid off when it was discovered some 4,000 extras were needed for the training and battle scenes.


Roadshow Video successfully distributed Gallipoli to its home viewers through video- cassette with the film topping the list in Australian Film Rental in 1981 earning $2,854,000. Gallipoli had also proven to be a success at the box office earning $11,740,000 due successful marketing gaining large cinema responses in response. Gallipoli had substantial publicity prior to the film’s release and included varied coverage in many magazines and newspapers.


It is also worth mentioning that even though the changes in the tax act brought around an increased budget for many Australian features, the tax incentives had not been enacted until May 1981 and Gallipoli was in production between July and October 1980. This means that Gallipoli had at one stage had one of the biggest budgets known to the industry.

When Weir signed with the South Australian Film Corporation to make Gallipoli he also agreed to write a script for a tele-feature. The commitment Weir expressed for the project led to his direction of a 16mm tele-feature in 1979 titled, ‘The Plumber’. It had been praised by critics as the “the best thing that Weir has done”. After Gallipoli, Weir went on to make the 1982 political thriller, The Year of Living Dangerously with Gallipoli lead Mel Gibson, in the title role.


Patricia Lovell had been a producer for Picnic at Hanging Rock in 1975 and came on board when asked by Weir to take over the production. Subsequently, Lovell went on to produce Monkey Grip. Screenwriter, David Williamson, had written quite a few features before he wrote the screenplay for Gallipoli including, The Removalists (1975), Don’s Party (1976) and The Club (1980).


Film Editor, William Anderson, previously worked on Breaker Morant (1980), The Club (1980) and Puberty Blues (1981) before working on Gallipoli in 1981. Gallipoli’s Director of Photography, Russell Boyd, worked on many features in the 1970’s before going behind the camera for Peter Weir on Gallipoli. Boyd’s credits include Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), Backroads (1977), and The Last Wave (1977).

Gallipoli, as part of a national cinema, can be construed as being made to effectively compete with the dominant international cinema especially Hollywood. It is part of the national cinema ideal to create a space nationally and internationally for non-Hollywood film-making activity. As a result, it was the film-maker’s conscious decision to invoke Gallpoli with qualities that are essentially Australian – dark humour, humanist values and quirkiness. In the end, the film would be an embodiment of Australia’s character as opposed to Hollywood’s commercial entertainment.


As part of a national cinema, Gallipoli was to be a purely locally made film but somehow be of interest to audiences outside Australia. Gallipoli was successful in this attempt as the film was released in both the United Kingdom and America despite an icy reception by several international critics in reviews and the like. Such a feat is difficult to achieve considering that Australia as medium sized English language cinema and must compete with other nations such as Britain, France and New Zealand. In fact, being an English language cinema, it was expected that Australia distribute and exhibit Gallipoli to Hollywood and British audiences.


Gallipoli is a shining example of what Australian film-makers can achieve in their own country and the film is as highly valued today as it was when first released. Constantly being shown to a newer and younger generation of cinema-goers and a fresh breed of film-makers, Gallipoli is a film that places value on our film industry through its ability to have stayed in the minds of Australians since its first release. It has defined Peter Weir as a exceptional storytelling talent and has showed off to the rest of the world the quality of talent we have in Australia.