PLUNGE INTO DARKNESS
Australia, 1978, 75 minutes, Colour.
Olivia Hamnett, Bruce Barry, Ashley Grenville, John Jarrat, Tom Richards, Athol Compton.
Directed by Peter Maxwell.
Plunge Into Darkness is one of several telemovies produced by actor-producer Robert Bruning. It was directed by Peter Maxwell who directed such films as Is There Anyone There, Polly Me Love and the feature film Touch And Go. The screen play is by Bruce Wishart, author of a number of these telemovies. The screenplay is conventional material, the maniac boy and audiences knowing what was to happen while the protagonists did not. While the material is, to a certain extent, predictable, it provides suspense in the audience's waiting for the protagonists to find out the truth. The film has a very good cast who do their best with the material and the short time of the telemovie. The colour photography of northern New South Wales is outstanding and was done by noted cinematographer Russell Boyd. The telemovie is as competent as any similar production from overseas.
1. An entertaining thriller? Audience interest in crime, chases, madness and violence? The melodrama for television? Audience response to mystery and suspense?
2. The film as a telemovie, - the adaptation of thriller conventions to the home audience? The audience knowing that the boy was mad while the main characters did not? The build-up of suspense and the finale? How predictable was the action, the characterisation? Credible?
3. The quality of the colour photography, the use of the jail and the opening escape, the countryside of New South Wales and the bush, the establishment of the characters and the editing of the various sub-plots? The contribution of the score? Special effects?
4. How plausible was the plot? Pat and Gary as an ordinary couple, taking compassion and being involved in what became a nightmare? The tourists and the boy and the credibility of such a mad boy on the loose? The escaped prisoners and the search? The bringing of all these strands together? The contrived nature of the plot - sufficient for plausibility on a brief telemovie? The significance of the title?
5. The credits sequence and the establishment of the prison atmosphere, Joe and Toby and their breaking in to get food, the killing of the guard - and the suspense of his dying throughout the film and the action of the prison governor? The two breaking out again, their moving through the bush to elude capture, the resources used to capture them, the helicopters, the aboriginal bushman? The attitudes of the two towards escape, Joe and his hold over Toby, their adventures in the bush, Joe's injury, Toby's taking charge, the chance encounter with Gary and his telling them about the house? The irony of Joe's death - poetic justice? Toby and his being the saving figure? His burial of his brother? How well delineated as characters? Their place within the plot?
6. The establishing of Pat and Gary as a happy couple, their hunting, the travelling, the staying overnight at the motel, Pat's curiosity about the scarecrow, her concern and the involvement in the deaths? The meeting of the boy and audience knowledge about his and the couple? The ugliness of the deaths? Gary and his decision to run for the police - the plausibility, the inserted memories of his athletics career, middle age and his exertions, his running, encounter with the bushmen, with Joe and Toby? His final collapse? His return to find Pat? Her staying with the boy, her nerviness, drinking, playing cards? Her fright? The discovery of the truth? His hold over her and her manoeuvres to be free? The final confrontation and her imminent death? Being saved by Toby? The relief of rescue after being plunged into darkness?
7. The glimpse of the couple driving, their bickering, their stopping at the house? The presentation of the boy? Suggestions that he was psychotic? The intercutting of the convicts robbing the man in the poultry yard and the suggestion that they had committed the murders and set the father up as the scarecrow? When did it appear to the audience that the boy was the guilty one? The suspense of waiting for him to reveal himself to Pat? His story, his behaviour, the snake, his hostility towards Pat, her striking him, his threats? His fear when confronted? A convincing portrait of a psychotic boy? The implications concerning institutions?
8. The sketching in of the supporting characters - the governor, the prison assistants and the death of the injured man? The bushman and his contribution? The man with the poultry yard and his finally giving information?
9. How well did the film bring the strands together for suspense? Audience identification? Conventional material - but material audiences could identify with and imagine themselves in similar circumstances? Fear, courage, concern? Danger and rescue, relief?