Australia, 1980, 90 minutes, Colour.
Ben Oxenbould, Bert Newton, Noni Hazlehurst, Gerard Kennedy, Henri Szeps, Tony Llewellyn- Jones, Greg Kelly, Lorraine Bayley.
Directed by Maurice Murphy.
Popular nostalgia emerged through the '70s. Comic-strip characters not only made a comeback but provided heroes for our times. Syd Nichols' characters echoed the inner city life of our cities in the '20s and '30s and Fatty has now made a welcome screen reappearance (originally in Tal Ordell's 1927 The Kid Stakes) in the very likable form of Ben Oxenbould. This production aims at the young and oldies with memories and has the kids doing most of the acting: heroes, heroines, villains (often humorously aping adult behaviour). The adults make cameo appearances. Costume and design and period and loudly exaggerated in colour, a good way of helping us to respond to the film as a comic. Director Maurice Murphy then made Doctors and Nurses with children in main roles.
1. A family film? Its success with younger audiences? Older audiences who remember the 'good old days'? The popularity of comic strips in Australia? Australian comic strips - Australian characters, Australian children? The long popularity of Fatty Finn ? The popularity of the '20s with the film, The Kid Stakes? Syd Nichols' insight into inner Sydney suburbia? Style of life, issues, Australian characteristics? The popularity of the same characters and time in the '80s? Nostalgia? The common elements running throughout the Australian character?
2. The response of the older audience with memories of those days? Delight? The impact for the younger audience - he-roes and heroines, villains, all their own age? The effectiveness of the film in focusing so much on the young rather than on the adults? The particular characteristics of Australian style, humour, myths? The impact for an overseas audience?
3. The colour photography? The songs and their humour? The importance of the realism of the suburbs? The unreality of the bright colours - suggesting the impact of the comic strip? Sydney in 1930 - the building of Sydney Harbour bridge, the harbour, Woolloomooloo, the houses, the streets, school, the police, Darlinghurst with its criminal element? The range of inner city Sydney?
4. The contribution of the songs: the Fatty Finn song and its place during the credits, the song about heroes, about cricket, about the races, the song for Maggie "Mean Mean Woman"?
5. How did the film create the atmosphere of the inner city? The streets and homes, the sense of class, money and the lack of it, the area of the battlers, Fatty and his "Enterprise"? The echoes of this way of life today?
6. Hubert as the hero? The talent of Ben Oxenbould to make Fatty Finn vivid for the audience? The humorous nickname of Fatty? The introduction to him via the essay and the humour of his writing, his memories of the May holidays? His age, leadership, the members of his group? His bond with his mother and father - and their family lifestyle? His father and his need for money, work? His mother and her fussing - with the touch of severity? Fatty and life at school, his friendship with Tilly, rivalry with Bruiser Murphy? The cricket sequence and Fatty's skill, the breaking of the window, the ruining of the fruit? The clashes with Claffey? The focus on cricket and Don Bradman as hero - with the benefit of the song? The importance of the crystal set and it giving a goal for Fatty to work for? The importance of getting the money - the pawn shop and Fatty trying to pawn his treasures? The preoccupation with money throughout the film? The cumulative detail: the school sequence with Bruiser and the frog and the teacher fainting? The various clashes with Bruiser - verbal battles, fisticuffs? The presence of the policeman keeping an eye on the situation? Fatty as a pleasant young Australian lad - tough, pleasant, courageous?
7. Bert Newton's presence as Dad - love for his son yet detached from him? Preoccupations with money? Enjoying his meals - the humour of the meal with the sausages? The washing machine for Mum? Persuading his son to give him the money for Mother's present? His presence at the final goat race? The pleasant sentiment when discovered that he bought the crystal set for his son? Mum and her fussiness, the caricaturing of Australian mothers? Her love for her husband and admiration for him, her wanting her presents for Mother's Day, her visiting her friend when her son begged and her snobbish attitudes, her disappointment at not receiving the gift? Her fearing that the family were always losers? Her happiness at the end with Fatty getting his crystal set? A pleasant and humorous caricature of Australian parents?
8. Bruiser Murphy as the tough boy around the streets, his bullying, his always losing? The irony of his father being a bookie, disappointed with his son, trying to urge his son to better things, the heart-to-heart talks, the final betting against his son? Maggie and the Damon Runyon-type humorous criminal in Sydney? Her lavish style? Her attendance? Her contacts? Fatty running the message? The arrest? Her being out on bail? Her presence at the goat race? The song? The comic strip characters and the adults seen as comic strips from the perspective of the fuller life of the children?
9. The humorous sketches of the other adult characters: the teacher and his fussiness, discipline in class, fainting with the frog? The owner of the pawnshop and his doing deals with Fatty, his suggestion of enterprise, his being tempted by Bruiser to sell the crystal set, his keeping faith with Fatty? The ice cream man and his pressurising Fatty to buy an ice cream? The man with the fruit and its all being ruined? The butcher and his sausages being taken by Pal? Claffey and his representing the law and standing over Fatty, directing traffic in the street, the arrest of Maggie? The Mayor at the goat race? The commentator at the goat race? A humorous gallery of adult characters?
10. The contrast with the presentation of Fatty's friends: how well sketched their characters, a pleasant group of city youngsters? Tilly as heroine attractive, devoted to Fatty, helping him, Fatty being jealous of her when she went for a ride with Bruiser, her being rejected by Fatty and joining
the group boycotting him? The happy ending? The range of other characters appearance, clothes, helping Fatty, boycotting him?
11. The humour of Snootie the rich boy and his seeming to be soft, everybody looking down on him, his kissing Tilly at the fair, his being trained by Fatty to box, the humour of his fight with Bruiser? His sister being taken to dance practice by Fatty? The contrast with Bruiser and his gang? Clothes, manners, hostility? Bruiser and his continued comeuppance? The mutual fights with the Murphy gang bleaching and starching and boot-polishing Fatty's friends? The pinching of the Murphy Gang's clothes while they were swimming? The fights, the races, the competitions? The irony of the gang going into the tins on the dunnycart? The atmosphere of the holidays, the competitions, the fights, the continued one-upmanship between the gangs?
12. The film's attention to delightful detail in episodes: the frog competition and the alcoholic frogs, Fatty's fair with the singing of the pirate song, the sideshows and competitions: the humour of the morbid foretelling of the future, Tilly being kissed, Murphy's gang swimming and the clothes being stolen and their having to get how without them, the revenge with boot polish and bleach and starch? The boxing match and Bruiser losing, the final goat race and the distraction of the champion by the female goat? Audiences enjoying these sequences and identifying with them?
13. The build-up of Fatty's character throughout the film - his relationship with his group and their turning against him, his love for Tilly and pet his being hard on her in the tree-house? His relationship with his parents and their ups and downs especially when his father wanted money? The various ways of getting more money - the dream seeming to come true and then his losing it e.g. paying for the sausages to the police, getting money from Maggie, collecting manure in the streets, trying to sell old papers outside the hotel? The final friendship, his disappointment when the crystal set had gone, the happiness of the ending and his ambition fulfilled?
14. Audiences enjoying a film's focus on children - humour, human qualities, friendships, loyalties?
15. The humorous and simple style of the film? The delightful delineation of character? The humorous selection of incident? The blend of nostalgia and insight?