Cult Cinema: Dark Age (1987)


Dir. Arch Nicholson

Starring: John Jarratt, Nikki Coghill, Burnham Burnham, David Gulpilil, Anonymous Crocodile

darkageBefore Rogue, there was Dark Age, a film that premiered at Cremoyne’s Hayden Orpheum Theatre this month, an incredible 22 years after its making and without even the two leads (John Jarratt and Nikki Coghill) having seen the film in its entirety. Given the extent of its disappearance kudos must be given to Quentin Tarantino (owner and lender of possibly the master 35mm print) whose quite the resourceful fellow.

Dark Age follows much in the tradition of other animals-gone-wrong flicks such as Jaws, but this time with a Northern Territory monster croc as stand in, and more iconic Australian references and colloquialisms than you could poke a stick at. Every scene, hunt, grievance and loss requires a fresh can of beer, or so it seems – and if nothing else, it’s this celebration of Aussie quirks that resonates with the audience, however technically terrible the film may be.

Dark Age is Ozploitation at it’s finest – amateur and ill budgeted, and frosted with both questionable acting and even more questionable plot and character development. Despite these setbacks the film stills looks surprisingly good. Legend has it that director Arch Nicholson was chosen after work as second unit director for similarly bad giant pig terror flick Razorback (1984), even though his shots were never actually used in the film. In all seriousness, his experience on Razorback was probably testament to very little, as despite this, the cinematography in Dark Age was considerably sharp. The shots were well thought out, and the crocodile attacks much more convincing than I’d have imagined (the original animatronic croc, having been fried with first submergence).

The story follows wildlife ranger Steve Harris (Jarratt, Wolf Creek), and (rather unconvincing) love interest Cathy Pope (Coghill), as they team up with local Aboriginals Oondabund (Burnham Burnham) and son Adjaral (David Gulpilil) in an effort to save Numunwari (even the croc has a name) from poachers and council enforcers, in the name of wildlife preservation and local Aboriginal lore. To be honest, the odds don’t look too good.

There’s a beautiful scene towards the close of the film in which the culling of Numunwari is played out quite vividly, with bullets to the eyes and exploding crocodile leather, as poachers take vengeance on this monster of nature that has claimed so many lives. The scene takes place with little notice – but given the sometimes-jumpy plot development of the film it’s hardly questionable. But this is an Ozpolitation film after all, so not everything is as it seems.

If you can get your grubby hands on a copy (though your chances don’t look great) gather everyone you can for a hearty laugh and an exercise in bad taste. It’s sure to disappoint and delight in equal measures – but isn’t that just the nature of all the best exploitation cinema?

You will love this if: you enjoyed Not Quite Hollywood.

You will hate this if: you enjoyed Not Quite Hollywood but was under the impression the whole film would be as good as the two kick-arse scenes they featured. Ain’t life a bitch.

Release details for Dark Age are currently under revision.

Check out the review of the Popcorn Taxi screening of Dark Age with Quentin Tarantino elsewhere on Music Feeds.

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