ZOMBIE BRIGADE
BY SCOTT HOLDSWORTH

PART ONE: FILM  INTRODUCTION
Zombie Brigade is primarily about how contemporary society has disgraced the ideals and values that the Australian Army fought for. These values have been corrupted by commercialism and greed.

CREW
Executive Producer: Les Lithgow
Director[s]: Carmelo Musca & Barrie Pattison
Producer[s]: Carmelo Musca & Barrie Pattison
Writer[s]: Carmelo Musca & Barrie Pattison
D.O.P.: Alex McPhee, ACS
Sound Recordist: Hugh Cleverly
Gaffer: Daryl Binning
Associate Producer: Brian Beaton
Continuity: Jan Piantoni
Production Design:  Julieanne Mills

CAST
Jimmy: John Moore
Yoshie: Khym Lam
Mayor Ransom: Geoff Gibbs
Kinoshita: Adam A. Wong
Constable Bill Jackson: Leslie Wright

PRODUCTION COMPANIES
CM Productions
Seaflower Holdings Pty. Ltd.
Smart Egg Productions

OTHER DETAILS
Format: 35mm
Screen Ratio: 3:1
Country of Production: Australia
Year of Production: 1986
Running Time: 92 minutes
Filming Location: Toodyay, Western Australia, Australia
Year of Release: 1988
Budget: ~Approx. AUD $860,000
Countries of Release: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Greece.

PART TWO: CRITICAL  REVIEW

PLOT SYNOPSIS
The story takes off in the fictitious country town of Lizard Valley, Australia. Mayor Ransom [whose name says it all] convinces the council to build a Japanese themed amusement park on a prime location just outside of town. Unfortunately this prime location is already the site of a war memorial to the fallen Australian troops in Vietnam. However the demolition of the shrine occurs to welcome the Japanese developer and his assistant. What Mayor Ransom and the council didn’t know was that the Australian troops were in fact vampires and the blast had woken them up! So, soon enough the Lizard Valley is over run by vampires and two unlikely heroes emerge in Jimmy, a young Aboriginal man who lives in the ‘white man’s’ world and Yoshie, the female Japanese assistant who has aspirations of being one of the few women CEOs in Tokyo. The two heroes soon realize to quell the threat of the vampire horde they need to use a little ‘dreamtime’ magic in the form of re-animation. With the help of a few other locals, the heroes raise the deceased Australian army from the town’s war cemetery thus the Zombie Brigade is born, sort of. What ensues is a battle between both undead armies. Ultimately the resolution sees the two armies form an alliance which sees them burn down the disgraceful town and move on to greener pastures.

MY REVIEW/COMMENTS
Though my plot synopsis may seem outrageous and exaggerated, it is not. But that is what I like about the film. Zombie Brigade is a ‘zombie’ film in all respects of the word but with a twist - in this anecdote the zombies are a force of good. They have moral values, ethics, mercy and valor. This is evident as they initially fight the vampires because the vampires have no honour but soon sympathise with the vamps and allow them to join their cause.

This film is surely lacking many things, such as a budget, but for me to give a fair comment I looked beyond the aesthetics of the film. The script is a fantastic idea. It motivates the notion of zombies and vampires and gives them reason to be angry, this is something that is rarely evident in other films of the same genre. The script also had great characters. Though some may be clichéd or generic, i.e. Mayor Ransom, the rest are both interesting and original. I spoke of the choice of the two protagonists of the film in an Aboriginal male and a Japanese female. This automatically presents something different to the film community as it challenges the audience’s beliefs. In fact, such a choice of protagonists is so different that the only other film where the protagonist was so confrontational and controversial, that I can think of, was George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead [1968]. Therefore like Romero, Carmelo Musca and Barrie Pattison present their social commentary on the issues of racism and equality.

Another shining light through the darkness of the film is the cinematography. It isn’t ‘out-of-this-world’ but it is however noticeably good. It showcases Australian landscapes and the rustic town with delight. Australia has always produced fantastic D.O.P.’s and Alex Mcphee proved that point. Of course, Mcphee is helped by the fact that Zombie Brigade is shot on 35mm film. In fact, this is the only Western Australian film to be shot on 35mm. This just adds to the magic that Zombie Brigade created for the Western Australian film community.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Zombie Brigade was the debut feature film for a lot of the cast and crew. The film led to bigger and better things for a lot of people involved, and although the film made back money four or five times over for the investors, it was this is that made Zombie Brigade a real triumph for the WA film community.

Barrie Pattison currently resides in Sydney, New South Wales and has switched focus to documentaries. He directs and does some editing on these projects but still keeps up with his writing. Pattison was also approached by the same investors to do another project after Zombie Brigade was a success, unfortunately he was unable to come up with something worth while in time.

Alex Mcphee has moved on to the United States. He is doing great over there I am told. Before he left he was the cinematographer on many Australian-based projects.

Jan Piantoni who did continuity on Zombie Brigade is now the leading continuity consultant in Western Australia. She is in very high demand.

Brian Beaton was an associate producer on Zombie Brigade. Nowadays he is one of the leading documentary producers in Australia.

John Moore who played Jimmy went on to do many other projects in feature films, short films, television shows and theatre. Perhaps his most noticeable appearance is his character ‘Zeke’ in David Twohy’s sci-fi masterpiece Pitch Black [2000]. He was also nominated for an AFI for Best Actor in a Lead Role for his performance in Day of the Dog [1993].

Geoff Gibbs is also worth mentioning. After his role as Mayor Ransom, Geoff did a couple of other films and television shows. He also went on to become head lecturer/dean of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, or WAAPA. Here he was instrumental in tutoring such actors as Hugh Jackman, Dominic Purcell and Frances O’Connor.

As for Carmelo Musca, I figured that I would ask him myself.

AN INTERVIEW WITH CARMELO MUSCA
Carmelo Musca is currently situated in Perth, Western Australia and works through his production company CM Films. He recently took the time to discuss Zombie Brigade with me. Just through this conversation, I began to realize just how important Zombie Brigade is and how much of an achievement it was when it was produced.

Musca began by informing me as to why he chose to do Zombie Brigade. “It was a film that didn’t rely on who was in it… it was the subject matter that was important.” Musca spoke with pride as he talked about the films inability to afford a well known cast or extravagant sets. The organisation that was responsible for delegating funding for Western Australian films, now  Screenwest, at the time refused to fund Zombie Brigade as it was seen as being too low brow, instead the organization invested their entire budget of $500 000 into another feature film called Boundaries of the Heart [1988]. This film, as Musca explained to me, “…had the budget and well-known actors John Hargreaves and Wendy Hughes and that sank. Boundaries of the Heart had no local talent in key cast and crew positions.” From this statement it is quite clear that Musca believes Zombie Brigade‘s [and indeed his own] greatest accomplishment is the support it gave the local talent and how it was a stepping stone for most.

The choice of the leading roles also inspired Musca to attach himself to the project. Not only did he like the script that Pattison had brought to him but he liked the social commentary that was written in the subtext of the script. Musca informed me that before Zombie Brigade no Aboriginal had been cast in a leading role and if they had, they were a villain. The only thing that comes close to this statement is David Gulpilil in Nicolas Roeg’s 1971 classic Walkabout, but Gulpilil could not really been considered as a chief protagonist. It was important that Zombie Brigade had shown the concept of the Aboriginal dreamtime from an Anglo-saxons perceptive, as before this, Australian films were seriously lacking in this department.

The concept of army camaraderie was also a selling point for Musca. He explained that it was something that had not been done before but should have. We can quite easily forget the past wars and the fallen soldiers in modern society. In fact, one of Musca’s favourite lines in the film occurs when Yoshie wants to leave the party without being noticed, “Go past the Kokoda room, turn right at the Gallipoli honour roll…” This line in a way sums up the premise for the film for Musca. These great Australian victories that took place at these historic sites are nothing more than a path out. They aren’t even in the main hallway. This line in the script, as Musca tells me, is one of the reasons that he made the film.

Zombie Brigade was not an easy film to make. Obviously budget constraints didn’t help among the various other challenges that face any debut feature film crew. One of the biggest challenges that Musca recalls is the fact that they only had one night to shoot the night time scenes. The main reason for this is that the budget could not allow too much overtime at night. Another challenge occurred when the zombies set fire to the town during the climax. At the time on filming there was a total fire ban, Musca reflects what an accomplishment this actually was, “We had to have three fire brigades on set as there was a total fire ban in February.”

When asked about was he happy with the success of the film Musca laughed. Apparently upon its release to VHS, “…every copy from Planet Video was on hire for months…” Musca admits that a lot of this was due to WAAPA students wanting to see their lecturers in a feature film, lecturers like Geoff Gibbs. However, as mentioned before, Zombie Brigade was financially successful. This lead to the million dollar question;

Would you remake Zombie Brigade?

“Sure I would make the film again” Of course this answer was based on a lot of ‘ifs’. “The script would need to be modernised to adapt to today’s theories. We would need more money for casting, the art department…” Currently however Musca is more than happy producing and directing the many dramas, tele-dramas, documentaries and other forms of screen media that come to CM Films.


VIDEOGRAPHY