IMAGE OF DEATH
Australia, 1978, 73 minutes, Colour.
Tony Bonner, Cathy Paine, Cheryl Waters, Barry Peirce, Sheila Helpmann, Penne Hackforth- Jones, Queenie Ashton, Barry Creyton, Max Meldrum.
Directed by Kevin Dobson.
Image of Death is an enjoyable routine telemovie thriller. Two unknown American actresses were cast in the central roles - it was said that they couldn't be cast locally! However, the rest of the cast is a strong Australian group of character actors led by Tony Bonner in a somewhat romantic lead, a blind racing car driver hero. The treatment is geared towards commercial viewing - but the psychological background of the thriller is played up and engages audience attention. The direction is by Kevin Dobson who made the feature film The Mango Tree and directed several telemovies including Demolition with John Waters and a number of successful series especially Water Under The Bridge and a series based on the life of writer Alan Marshall.
1. The quality of the film as a telemovie thriller: excitement, characterisation, situations, plausibility, themes of identity, greed, violence, justice?
2. The use of the Australian setting: Sydney, the Sydney countryside, isolation? How Australian did the film seem? The choice of American actresses for the leading roles? The importance of Americans isolated in Australia and Barbara becoming a victim of Yvonne?
3. The strengths of the screenplay, plausibility for Yvonne taking over Barbara's identity? The situations in which she found herself? Her greed? The delineation of characters? The various types?
4. The character of Yvonne - the wandering type, her friendship with Maureen and her exploitive using of her, her life story and coming to Australia, her trying to get work, her unreliability? The encounter with Barbara? Her decision to exploit Barbara? Meeting her, acting, the sharing of the house? Barbara confiding in her? The overtones of past jealousy? The build-up to the murder, the drowning, putting Barbara's body in the trunk etc.?
5. The contrast with Barbara - the wealthy American girl, her engagement, grief? Her visit to Australia? Her trust in Yvonne? The enjoyment of the holiday together? Her becoming Yvonne's victim?
6. Yvonne's studying Barbara's style, taking her place, the plausibility of her success? Covering her own disappearance? The irony of the encounter with Mark? Carl and his recognition of the truth? His decision to support her? The various friends? The irony of Maureen discovering her and this being on television? The trunk, the people in the hotel, the discovery of the sculpture with Barbara's name? The irony of the truth and the violent poetic justice for Yvonne? How melodramatic the explosion and her trying to destroy those who stood in her way? A popular image of evil?
7. The character of Carl - the build-up to his reputation, the discovery of his blindness, his seeming to accept Yvonne, his discovery of the truth, his becoming Yvonne's victim? Mark and the infatuation? His murder?
8. The supporting cast of women and adding atmosphere to the film: Maureen and her flat, her work, her advancement in career, the clash with the TV producer, her discovery of Yvonne and the revelation of the truth, identification of the body etc.? The housekeeper, the storekeeper? The quality of the supporting roles?
9. Themes of greed, violence? A popular parable of evil and greed? The need for final poetic justice? A satisfying thriller telemovie?