CLASSIC AUSTRALIAN TELEVISION

HOMICIDE

Part 1

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Copyright © 2013 Don Storey.  All rights reserved.


HOMICIDE
ARTICLE
Part 2
Part 3

 

HOMICIDE
EPISODE DETAILS
Part 1: Eps 1 - 50
Part 2: Eps 51 - 100
Part 3: Eps 101 - 150

Part 4: Eps 151 - 200
Part 5: Eps 201 - 250
Part 6: Eps 251 - 300

Part 7: Eps 301 - 350
Part 8: Eps 351 - 400
Part 9: Eps 401 - 450
Part 10: Eps 451 - 509

 

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CHRONOLOGICAL
OVERVIEW

 

F.A.Q.

 

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Homicide
is the most important and most popular drama series ever produced in Australia. Made in Melbourne by Crawford Productions, it ran for 12 years and 510 episodes, and commenced a continuous run of Australian production which has remained unbroken to the present day. It regularly rated in the high 40's and even low 50's, achieving a peak rating of 54 in Brisbane in 1968 (by comparison, today’s most successful shows often only rate in the 20’s). It was the success of Homicide which guaranteed the viability of Australian television drama production, and consequently the Australian feature film industry.

Prior to Homicide, the Australian feature film industry was virtually non-existent, and local television production consisted mainly of quiz and game shows and one-off plays. Drama production was sporadic. Local series were expensive to produce, and cheap American programmes were in plentiful supply. Commercial television stations filled expanding transmission hours with overseas product which they could buy for peanuts, and vigorously resisted any attempt to set-up a local content quota. Australia's track record in drama up to this point had not been very impressive.

Homicide was the turning point. From the very beginning it pulled ratings in the 30's, and they continued to grow, signalling that Australian production was not only viable but desirable. Homicide was made on one-tenth of the budget of an overseas programme, yet it consistently out-rated every one of them. It forced the stations into obtaining local productions because they attracted the ratings - a trend that is still followed today.

Getting to this point was no easy task. Upon the advent of television in Australia, Crawford Productions entered the field with quiz and game shows, including Wedding Day, Video Village and Don't Argue. A 15-minute live-to-air sitcom, Take That, was made in 1957, and Crawfords first ventures into drama were the 1960 play Seagulls Over Sorrento and the 1961-63 courtroom series Consider Your Verdict. "We wanted to dump the quiz and game shows as quick as we could," said Ian Crawford. "We'd also produced live commercials in the studio to make a crust before we managed to get dramas going, and hated that of course. We were drama people, and nobody considered doing anything else."1

Critics, accustomed to a diet of American product, were adamant that Australia could not produce a quality drama series, and if one were produced the public would not accept it. Hector Crawford, head of Crawford Productions, thought differently, and kept pushing for an Australian police show. The Homicide concept was born, and the only way to make a pilot episode was for Hector to totally fund it himself, which he did - even to the extent of mortgaging his house.

After making the pilot episode, it took the best part of a year for Hector Crawford to sell the programme - a Nine Network executive rejected it because he thought the opposition would kill it with a 'Cowboys and Indians' show. The stations were not interested in local drama production, and it was only Hector’s unrelenting persistence that caused HSV-7 to finally shut him up and purchase 13 episodes of the show. Seven probably thought it would fail, and they certainly never dreamed that it would become such a huge success.

Homicide, as the name implies, centred around the homicide squad of the Victoria Police. The original cast featured veteran actor John Fegan as Inspector Jack Connolly, head of the squad - a seasoned policeman, dry-humoured, outwardly gruff but a very warm and human officer devoted to his job. (The name Connolly was selected to reflect the Irish influence in Australian police forces). Terry McDermott played Detective Sergeant Frank Bronson, a capable and calculating detective, very tough when necessary but generally easy-going, with a strong core of humanity and humour. Lex Mitchell as Detective Rex Fraser was the third member of the team, young, impulsive, and single - a ladies man and a milk drinker, and only recently assigned to the squad.

John Fegan had previously appeared in a few post-war feature films, as well as the ABC serials The Outcasts and The Patriots. Terry McDermott had worked on stage, in radio and on television, with guest appearances in The Adventures Of Long John Silver, Consider Your Verdict and Whiplash - in fact, in one Consider Your Verdict episode, No. 139 'Queen Versus Benson', he played his Homicide character of Det. Sgt. Bronson. Lex Mitchell's previous experience was in Sydney theatre under the direction of Hayes Gordon.

During the fine tuning of the Homicide concept, consideration was given to making the story location an unspecified Australian city, which could have been anywhere. After the pilot had been completed, executives from ATN-7 Sydney agreed that realism could better be served by not hiding the fact that the setting was Melbourne.

The first episode (not the pilot), 'The Stunt', went to air on HSV-7 at 7:30 PM on Tuesday, October 20, 1964, with Ian Turpie playing the first victim. Criticism all but disappeared and the series received good reviews, being compared favourably to overseas police shows Naked City (U.S.) and Z Cars (U.K.). Shortly afterwards, the go-ahead was given for another 13 episodes.

Although it was finally on air, Homicide lost money on the first 26 episodes because costs for the show were grossly underestimated, and it took until episode 106 to recover all accumulated losses. "I was, in fact, supported by my wife during the early period of getting Homicide on to TV," said Hector Crawford. "We'd made a pilot of the show and were a year trying to sell it. When we did, the only price we could get was way below cost. On the first 26 episodes we lost a total of $38,000. Dorothy, my sister and partner, and I went a year without salary. I had to mortgage my house. it was only through Glenda going out and singing a great deal that kept me solvent."2

Although running at a loss, Crawfords persevered with the show because of their commitment to setting up a viable local industry. Hector Crawford said they set out to prove three things:

  • That Australians were capable of producing a quality drama series;
  • To answer criticism of local actors and writers;
  • To show that Australians will watch, and prefer to watch, programmes made in Australia by Australians for Australians.3

Prior to the introduction of television, Crawfords were a prolific producer of radio programmes, and Homicide owes its existence to a radio predecessor, D24, which ran for 10 years. D24 (and the later CIB) was produced with the co-operation of the Victoria Police, and this same co-operation was extended to Homicide. Most Homicide episodes were based on actual case files, and 'props' such as police cars and even actual police as 'extras' were loaned. Scripts were vetted by a police advisor to ensure accuracy. A police spokesman said at the time: "By helping the producers, the police are helping themselves. Convincing the public that a policeman can be as human and understanding as the next fellow is a hard message to get across. This TV series should lift our image to undreamed of heights."4

Homicide featured extensive filmed segments on outside location - most drama up to that point was confined to studio scenes shot on video. Interior video scenes were directed by Bruce Ross-Smith at the HSV-7 studios, and exterior film scenes were directed by Ian Jones, assisted by David Lee.

The first 24 episodes (plus the pilot episode) also featured courtroom scenes to 'wrap up' the cases, an obvious carry-over from the earlier series Consider Your Verdict. Regular support roles for the courtroom scenes were played by Terry Norris as the Defence Counsel (Garrick), and Kenric Hudson as the Prosecutor. "Because of the second-half trial in the early days we couldn't have an action climax," said Ian Jones. "After the trial was dropped, the scope for better climaxes and a better dramatic build-up during the show was greater."5

The early episodes were very much a pioneering effort, and conditions were vastly different from today. Although the budget was fairly large by Australian standards, it was only a fraction of that for a similar U.S. programme. Improvisation and imagination were the rule in those early days, and actors were often required to do their own stunts - fights, falls and driving.

There was no outside sound, and scenes which were not self-explanatory were narrated by John McMahon. Later, outside dialogue was ‘post-synched’ - that is, dubbed in a studio using a guide track recorded during filming. Eventually 'real' sound was used, and the role of the narrator was progressively reduced to reading out criminal sentences at the end of the episode, and announcing preview scenes for "the next case in Homicide". (In the later colour episodes the criminal sentences were read out by Alwyn Kurts and Charles Tingwell).

Early acting tended to be a bit 'stagey' - television was still a relatively new medium, and actors played to the camera as they would to a live audience in a theatre, with exaggerated gestures and movements. Performances soon settled down to a realistic level, and part of Homicide’s success can be attributed to its believability, in contrast to some of the clichéd acting and writing coming from overseas.

Standards grew over the years, and in it's last three years Homicide was produced in colour and completely on film, and it had a slick, sophisticated, professional quality. The episodes moved quickly and with real meaning, often examining the social backgrounds of the crime. All aspects of the show's production, from the acting, direction, camera work, sound, music, editing and scripts were equal or superior to any contemporary programme - and most since.

In 1964 the public was not used to seeing film crews in the streets - and on those early episodes the film crew was so small that many members of the public did not realise that action was being filmed. When a stuntman drove a burning car off the side of a hill, a bystander jumped in to 'rescue' the driver. A night scene filmed for the pilot episode involved police cars, ambulances and bright lights, and consequently eleven tow trucks arrived, thinking there had been a big car smash.

During filming of the pilot episode, veteran actor Al Mack was playing a disreputable looking drunk in the city when two real policemen attempted to arrest him for vagrancy. Then an old friend saw him and, thinking he was down on his luck, offered to shout him a meal. There was even an instance of real police chancing upon a filming location and offering to lend a hand to the 'detectives'. But after a while the popularity of the show made people aware of film units in the street, and the public were very co-operative with various aspects of location filming, such as allowing use of their house or garden to discover a ‘body’ in.

The original film unit consisted of only four crew members: a cameraman, a grip, Director Ian Jones and Assistant Director David Lee. They would travel to the various locations in two cars: a station wagon loaded with equipment, and the police car for use in the scenes, which carried props and limited wardrobe in the boot. As there was no outside sound, all the film scenes for an episode could be completed in two days. There were no lights, only reflectors and a couple of battery lights, so consequently night filming was rare.

That the film scenes looked so good with an absolute minimum amount of equipment and time is testament to Ian and David’s ingenuity and ability. They had the knack of making every scene look 'real' and did not compromise on authenticity. "With only four people in the crew it was often necessary for everybody to get in and give a hand in order to get the job done," said Ian Jones. "If it was muddy a cameraman wouldn't wait for a groundsheet as he probably would now. He'd flop down in the mud and film. The actors often did stunts which would now be done by professional stuntmen."6 The exterior scenes were recognised as being a large factor in the show's success, and accordingly the film to video ratio increased with the second series of thirteen episodes.

Cameraman Alan Arnold was renowned for his nerves of steel and surefootedness. To get a dramatic shot, he would walk on girders or lie on the roadway while a car sped past inches from his face. A scene from episode 12, ‘The Decimal Point’, called for a hut to be burnt down, and the camera filmed the action from inside the burning hut. "We stayed in that hut, with the camera churning away, for what seemed like ages," said crew member Paul Green, "and then, seconds after we scrambled out through the flame-licked door, the whole thing collapsed."7

Not everything during filming always went according to plan. One episode called for a car to be driven into the Yarra River. The location was on the Yarra Boulevard near the city, and due to delays filming didn’t commence until the afternoon peak hour. Traffic banked up, and people crowded around to watch the filming. After the filming when they tried to pull the car out of the mud the chains slipped and, as it was getting late, David Lee issued an instruction to leave the car in the river for the night. But because the head of the dummy driver had come into view, some woman in the crowd who heard the instruction yelled out, "Save the driver! Save the poor man!"

Although Homicide was based on a formula to a certain extent (i.e. a murder and its investigation, with the usual dramatic devices such as fights and car chases), it also varied within this formula to a large degree. The narrative style could reveal the murderer before the opening titles, and then concentrate on the methods the detectives use to bring him or her to justice. At other times a number of suspects could be presented with many twists and turns to keep viewers guessing till the last commercial break.

Sometimes even more pronounced departures from formula were made, such as the comedy episode 'The Superintendent' (ep. 249), and the almost avant-garde 'Starring Joan Kendall' (ep. 459). Contrary to popular belief, the Homicide detectives did not ‘always get their man’ (episode 407, ‘Otto’, being one example), although such occurrences were few and (very) far between.

Many 'social comment' episodes were made and a wide range of issues were explored, e.g.:

  • pack rape ('The Violators', ep. 21),
  • prostitution ('The Brand', ep. 23),
  • loneliness and suicide ('An Act Of Love', ep. 31),
  • the occult ('Witch Hunt', ep. 34),
  • police shooting of criminals ('The Snipers', ep. 76),
  • road safety ('No Licence To Kill', ep. 123),
  • drugs ('Freakout', ep. 128),
  • the plight of pensioners ('Everybody Knows Charlie', ep. 208),
  • pollution ('Fighting Fred', ep. 314),
  • use of firearms (‘Time And Tide’, ep. 405),
  • ‘poofter bashing’ ('A Crime Against Nature', ep. 411),
  • youth gangs ('The Graduation Of Tony Walker', ep. 434),
  • child abuse ('The Life And Times Of Tina Kennedy', ep. 463),
  • the dangers of hitch-hiking ('Wipe Out', ep. 478),

etc., etc. Some of the early episodes were introduced by John Fegan to draw viewers attention to their special significance.

The fate of Homicide hung in the balance initially. In late 1964 the series was only being screened in Melbourne and on some country stations, and its continuation would depend on its acceptance interstate. In early 1965 Homicide went national, screening in Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide. "The interstate reaction to the show has been most pleasing," said Hector Crawford, "particularly in Sydney. It has gone down very well there."8 (Welcome news indeed, considering Sydney's traditional hostility towards programmes originating from Melbourne). In May 1965 Seven signed for another 13 episodes of the series, bringing the total so far to 39, and Homicide's future was assured.

"Adelaide was interesting," said Ian Crawford. "Repeats of Homicide in Adelaide always did better than the first run - much better. Apparently they kept changing it around to different nights trying to get the ratings the other states had. So eventually they put repeats on and just left them there, and the audience figures kept going up - much higher than they ever got on the first run!"9

Australian audiences were not used to seeing Australian drama, and suddenly they were seeing Australian streets and houses, and hearing Australian actors speaking for the first time with Australian accents - and they loved it. One reviewer, however, was baffled by John Fegan's accent, writing: "Is it supposed to be Irish-American, Irish-Australian, or just plain weird?"10

Homicide was actually quite innovative because right from the start it was portraying suburban crime steeped in realism, and showing what detective work was really like. Viewers saw a lot of knocking on doors, but they also saw plenty of action, usually confined to suburban streets and backyards where real homicide investigations take place, rather than the big city streets as featured in U.S. cop shows.

"Before Homicide came on the air, viewers had been weaned on American crime dramas which glamorised murder and violence," said Ian Jones. "But we showed violence and violent death as horrible. There would have been no justification in making a programme like Homicide unless we showed that murder was most foul."11

In fact, during the course of its run many people thought the Homicide cops were real detectives - young constables would even salute ‘Inspector’ John Fegan when filming at Russell St. headquarters. One bloke objected to the Homicide crew filming an episode at his block of flats and ordered them off his property, and appealed to Terry McDermott as a detective to uphold his rights!

Perhaps this is not surprising, given that the producers strove to present police procedure accurately, and the actors went to great lengths to study the characters and mannerisms of genuine police officers. "We spend as much time as possible up at headquarters studying them and what they do," said Terry McDermott. "We don't try to copy any particular officer, but we try to watch the way they react to things. We note that being a policeman is never just a job to them."12

Although the series concentrated on police work, the detectives were not cardboard cut-outs. Their private lives were explored, but not to any great depth, just enough to round out their characters. To this end two semi-regular support roles were featured: Pat Bronson, wife of Sgt. Frank Bronson, initially played by Terri Aldred and later by Ursula Finlay; and Insp. Jack Connolly's wife played by Betty Dyson, who was originally called Kathy but, for some obscure reason, in later episodes she was referred to as Betty.

Terry McDermott, who played Bronson fairly close to his own personality, said the actors had some freedom to tinker with their lines: "Sgt. Bronson is me if I was a police officer. I know this fellow Bronson. There are times when I just have to say, 'Look, this isn't Bronson at all.' I usually get my way."13


 

HOMICIDE ON DVD

Homicide is currently in on-going DVD release in 26-episode sets. They are only available direct from the Crawfords website, and are not being distributed to retail stores. Check the Crawfords website for further details: http://www.crawfordsdvd.com.au/

 

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The original Homicide cast outside Russell St police headquarters.  From left: Terry McDermott, John Fegan and Lex Mitchell.

 

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Film Director Ian Jones and cameraman Alan Arnold on location with Lex Mitchell and Terry McDermott.

 

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Filming a scene in busy Bourke Street in the city, now the location of a pedestrian mall. Film Director Ian Jones is holding the megaphone.

 

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The original Homicide cast.  From left: Lex Mitchell as Detective Rex Fraser, John Fegan as Inspector Jack Connolly and Terry McDermott as Sergeant Frank Bronson.

 

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Two advertisements for Homicide.  The top ad and variations were featured in the popular press; the lower ad was featured in an industry magazine to sell commercial space in Homicide.

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The original opening titles.

 

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The original commercial integration, which differed slightly from the title shot in the opening.

 


Standing in a tram stop safety zone in Collins Street filming action on the footpath for episode 1, 'The Stunt'. From left to right: guest actor Ian Turpie, cameraman Alan Arnold (behind the camera), Director Ian Jones and Assistant Director David Lee.

 


Terry McDermott, John Fegan and Lex Mitchell.

 


A scene from episode 3, 'The Rosary': John Fegan, Don Pascoe, Lex Mitchell and Terry McDermott.

Cliched Hollywood gimmicks were refreshingly absent from Homicide. In fact, the first gunfight did not take place until episode 11, 'Manhunt', (with Leonard Teale playing the villain). In those days, police did not routinely carry guns as they do now. Because of the show’s limited budget, gunshots could not be simulated in Hollywood fashion, as was done on Whiplash with an elaborate system of detonator explosions timed to the actors movements. Instead, small firecrackers were placed under the bark of a tree, and the actors simply ducked behind the tree as they went off.

Actors doing their own stunts sometimes resulted in close calls, episode 11 ‘Manhunt’ being an example: "We were filming a chase in the hills," explained Lex Mitchell, "and came over a rise to be confronted with two tractors. One was about to turn right. We were lucky. We whipped through them and used the sequence in the show."14

A fight scene between John Fegan and Allen Bickford got out of hand during filming of episode 13, ‘Aftermath’. Both actors wanted to make the segment look as real as possible and the fight took over somehow - Fegan was throwing real punches. An earlier scene saw the first real accidental punch thrown in a Homicide episode, during a fight segment at the airport when Peter Aanensen inadvertently struck Terry McDermott. Both sequences were retained in the episode.

Early 1965 saw exterior production halted for six weeks due to industrial action, in which Actors Equity lodged claims for salary and working condition adjustments. Interior taping continued, and the series was taken off air for several weeks to allow outside filming to catch up.

The first return episode was number 16, ‘The Juveniles’, which, as the title suggests, concerned a gang of juvenile delinquents. Judith Arthy featured in a scene on Elwood Beach wearing only a brief bikini - which was filmed on a very cold, rainy day. The script explained the conspicuous absence of people on the beach as the result of ‘being cleared by a sudden thunderstorm’. The script didn't explain why the detectives were wearing heavy overcoats!

Homicide proved to be a veritable training ground for all the television and film productions that were to follow. It was where almost everyone got their start - writers, actors, cameramen, directors, producers - there was hardly anybody who did not work on the show at some stage, and guest roles in the series read like a ‘who’s who’ of the Australian acting profession.

Some guest artists came from even further afield: visiting U.S. actor and producer Paul Smith accepted a role in episode 19, ‘Dead On Two’. Smith, who was Assistant Producer on the film Exodus and who had worked on many U.S. shows including Naked City and Gunsmoke, was impressed with Homicide but lamented the small budget and lack of time. "Homicide's first need is to have its budget at least doubled," he said. "Even then, its cost per episode would be only about one-twentieth the cost of a Naked City. Frankly, I admire the fact that you're able to do it at all. This is something that has stunned me about Australian TV generally. Your people here seem able to throw a show on the air with hardly any rehearsal - and a lot of the time it looks professional."15

Episode 20, ‘The White Mistress’, featured the police car in pursuit of an aircraft about to take off. "It was a very tricky business," said Lex Mitchell. "We had to be careful not to catch the car's radio aerial on the plane's wing, but at the same time keep close enough to be in camera frame. We did it in one take - that was enough."16 Earlier during filming of the same episode, £400 damage was caused to the plane’s wings when they struck a hangar door which wasn’t opened wide enough. Such mishaps occurred from time to time - filming of another episode caused £200 damage to a boat when it struck a submerged rock.

Gang rape was the theme of episode 21, ‘The Violators’, which featured a special introduction by John Fegan due to its social significance. The introduction stated: "Many cases in Homicide carry a message. This one does, plus a warning - a warning to all parents whose families could be struck by the type of crime committed in this case". Scriptwriter Phil Freedman said the episode’s purpose was "to demonstrate the appalling aftermath which can develop if the persons concerned do not face the tragedy squarely, and do not act in a responsible manner".17 An HSV-7 spokesman said the plot was "far too tragic to be regarded as a viewer attracting ploy,"18 and Hector Crawford commented that there were two important factors to the episode: "One is that gang rape is an increasing social problem. The second is that police are gravely concerned that parents of victims are reluctant to tell police so that the criminals can be apprehended."19

Two episodes later, No. 23 ‘The Brand’, had another introduction by John Fegan, this time warning viewers about the ‘ugly’ side of prostitution. This was also the first episode to display the title name.

There was some doubt about whether or not to screen the pilot episode, 'One Man Crime Wave'. Hector Crawford did not want it shown as the first episode, as it was thought that it may not be considered up to the same standard as the later episodes. As Lex Mitchell was due to leave the series, for continuity purposes a decision had to be made to either not show it at all, or show it before Mitchell left. It was finally decided to play it after episode 24, and it was therefore numbered 24A. "Nobody seemed to notice," said Ian Jones, "in fact, one critic said that 'Homicide keeps improving all the time'."20

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Terry McDermott as Sgt. Bronson and Lex Mitchell as Det. Fraser in the first gunfight, from episode 11 'Manhunt'.

 


A cold Judith Arthy during filming of beach scenes in the middle of winter for ep. 16, 'The Juveniles'.

 

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Visiting U.S. actor and producer Paul Smith (right) talks with Ian Jones during filming of episode 19, 'Dead On Two'.

There was concern about the effectiveness of the character of Det. Fraser, and it was decided to replace him with a new detective. Det. Fraser was promoted to Senior Detective and transferred to another squad in episode 27, 'Fifth Column', and his place was taken by Senior Detective David Mackay, introduced in the same episode. 'Mac' started out as a tough cop with a chip on his shoulder - he had been a Sergeant before, but was demoted because of a report by Sgt. Bronson. At first this caused conflict, but Mackay mellowed and matured over the years, although retaining his toughness and high ideals about justice.

Mackay was played by Leonard Teale, who was initially rejected for the part because he was considered too old. Leonard had previously appeared in the variety shows Revue 61, The Mobil-Limb Show and Singalong, the ABC dramas The Hungry Ones and The Outcasts, and had an extensive career spanning radio (including Superman), music, spoken verse, film and television. Teale was signed for an initial 13 episodes, but went on to become the longest serving of the Homicide cops, staying with the programme for 357 episodes.

Terry McDermott inadvertently received a broken rib during filming of a fight scene for episode 29, 'Inside The City'. The scene took three hours to film, and ran into the evening. With no reading on the light meter, cameraman Alan Arnold kept shooting using a battery light, and the result was very effective.

Leonard Teale soon found out how gruelling filming Homicide could be. "If the script requires you to run a car off the road, or to be punched in the solar plexus, or to chase a bloke up and down cliffs at top speed, that's exactly what you've got to do," said Leonard. "In one episode I do a hundred-yard dash at top speed during which a man comes out of an alley and hits me in the middle. This wouldn't be so bad if you only had to do it once, but often we have to repeat a scene four or five times and come up fresh and ready again each time."21 Another scene required Det. Mackay to be punched hard in the stomach. "We tried to stooge it, and it just wouldn't work, it looked fake," said Leonard. "Well, we did it for real, I was winded for a while, but the film looks fine."22

Terry McDermott said his toughest job was filming a chase scene on the top of a 40-foot wheat silo. "I had to walk along a protruding flagpole," he said. "There was a roaring wind at the time and I was terrified I'd be blown off. When I came down I was ashen, and I swore I'd never repeat such a stunt. Next day we discovered that the film was scratched - and I had to go through the whole routine again!"23

John Fegan nominated episode 31, 'An Act Of Love' by Jeff Underhill, as one of his favourites. He said it was well produced and acted and "so beautifully written it moved me deeply."24

The case in episode 34, 'Witch Hunt', involved witchcraft and black masses, and was introduced by John Fegan interviewing a police authority on the dangers of the occult. In the episode Derani Scarr made her first appearance as Policewoman Helen Hopgood, which became a semi-regular support role lasting for about a year. The part was written in on an ‘as required’ basis to reflect the role of policewomen in the force.

‘Colour Of Hate’ (episode 37) was based on the actual case of the murder of a young police constable, and drew an appreciative response from the victim’s family, who, in a letter to Crawfords, described the episode as ‘a fine tribute to our son’s courage and devotion to duty’.

In August 1965, HSV-7 announced that it was purchasing more episodes of Homicide. Hector Crawford said the latest renewal demonstrated that "Australians can produce drama if they are given the opportunities - and that drama can rate very well in a television hot spot."25 Seven continued to renew the series every year as a matter of course until 1975.

In episode 49, ‘Three Headed Dog’, the script called for the police car windscreen to be shot out by a gunman. There was no money in the budget for a windscreen, so drafting paper was put all over it with a hole cut out. Cameraman Alan Arnold was filming from the back seat, and Terry McDermott and Leonard Teale sat in the front with their hands full of screwed up cellophane lolly papers, which on a signal they threw up in the air. The result looked like a bullet shattering a windscreen.

From episode 50, the Studebaker police car was replaced by a new Falcon. As the stock opening showed the three detectives getting out of the car, new opening titles were introduced from the same episode. On the original opening all the actors names were displayed together in a three-shot. When Leonard Teale took over from Lex Mitchell, his name was misspelt as ‘Teal’. The error was corrected on later openings, and the new titles featured individual credits for the three detectives.

Episode 53, ‘Holiday Affair’, had segments filmed down the west coast of Victoria at Geelong, Lorne and Airey's Inlet. A chase sequence along the Great Ocean Road nearly resulted in the police car, driven by Leonard Teale, going over the edge. After taking a corner the wheels caught some loose gravel, the back swung out, clipped a white post and slewed inches from the cliff. The cameraman was filming out the window when it happened, and the sequence is retained in the episode. The pursued car was pushed over the cliff for a crash scene and reportedly is still there - they were unable to get it out!

The Broadcasting Control Board queried the subject matter of episode 54, 'Wolf Pack', which concerned a gang of louts who crashed a party and terrified the occupants of a house. The episode was praised by the Victoria Police, and brought congratulatory calls from the public. The interference from the Control Board probably explains why 'Wolf Pack' was slotted in as episode 54 - it was actually filmed before episode 50 and featured the older car and opening titles.

A milestone was achieved with episode 56, 'Flashpoint', an all-film episode shot entirely on location at Mt. Cathedral, near Buxton, in the ranges about 160 kilometres north-east of Melbourne. Video tape was not used at all, the very few interior scenes also being shot on film - not even the familiar detective’s office set was featured. It was written and directed by Ian Jones, and Norman Yemm played the villain (a role originally intended for Ed Deveraux). Norman Yemm is also a professional runner, and his athletic prowess came in very handy for the physically demanding part.

Cast and crew risked their lives filming on the rugged cliffs - there were no blue screens, no stunt doubles, no safety nets - and the resulting scenes were quite spectacular. There were chases up cliff faces, mountain-top fight scenes, high speed car chases on rutted tracks - even a forest fire and a helicopter rescue scene. "It was pioneering stuff, it was magic," said Norman Yemm, "but the risks we took were unbelievable. I remember Terry McDermott dug his feet in and said 'I'm not going around that edge there, what if I slip!' It was a hundred feet fall, and there were no safety nets or anything like that."26

With a budget more than double that of a standard Homicide episode, 'Flashpoint' was produced as an experiment - to explore the dramatic impact of a total film treatment, to assess the economic viability of the technique and determine the expertise required to produce it. "Naturally the studio settings limit our range and movement," said Hector Crawford, "that's why for us - and for the Australian film industry generally - this all-film episode is an exciting experiment."27

As most American programmes were already being shot on an all-film basis, it was recognised that a similar treatment of an Australian series could enhance its prospects for an overseas sale. But Hector Crawford still regarded Australia as their primary market: "I believe it's possible to make high-quality dramas that will win such ratings they'll more than recoup their money in Australia."28

There was some concern that the 'Flashpoint' script wouldn’t run the required 48 minutes, and extra scenes were written and filmed. This extra work in effect made the location shoot resemble that of a feature film, but as it turned out the extra scenes weren’t required, the original script running to its intended time.

‘Flashpoint’ was also the first use of true location sound, and many hours were spent overcoming problems. Ian Jones stated in a TV Eye interview that recording of the episode, which took seven days, could have been done a lot quicker if they weren’t learning location sound as well.29

Leonard Teale, also in a TV Eye interview, elaborated: "I think the sound man worked about 22 hours a day. We were shooting a scene with dialogue on a gravel road, and it took about five attempts to get it because every time a car would come along or a plane would go overhead or something. For the first time they realised what the difficulties would be, and from then onwards Ian Crawford was absolutely sure you couldn't get any suitable sound on location, which is why we continued to post-synch long after it was necessary. The only way we could convince them that you could get sound outside was to make the guide track so good it was better than post-synch."30

‘Flashpoint’ proved that a small budget unit could handle all-film production very satisfactorily. However, it was much more expensive than film/video integration, and production did not shift to all-film on a permanent basis until the first colour episode several years later. When ‘Flashpoint’ was first proposed Crawfords were quite prepared for the possibility that the result may not be suitable for screening, and could remain a backroom exercise - fortunately, the episode proved to be very effective and went to air on April 19, 1966.

Due to contract renewal disagreements, Terry McDermott announced he was leaving the series. "In the light of the show's enormous success, I asked for a $20 a week rise," McDermott explained. "I also said I felt I should get top billing in the credits. The Crawfords knocked back both requests, and, as my contract was coming to an end, that was that. However, acting in Homicide has been one of the happiest experiences of my life - and my disagreements with the producers haven't lessened my admiration of what they've done. Against tremendous odds, they've built Homicide into Australia's first universally accepted TV drama series - and that's an achievement to be proud of."31

Terry's final appearance was in episode 58, 'Vendetta', when his character of Sgt. Bronson was gunned down by an escaped convict played by Gerard Kennedy. This was Kennedy’s first major role (he previously had a minor part in episode 51, ‘Detour’), and he proved to be a total natural.

"I suggested we build an episode around (Terry's) departure and he should go out in a realistic 'blaze of glory'," said Ian Jones. "So we came up with the idea of this criminal who is conducting a vendetta against the Homicide cops. I turned up on location to shoot scenes with this dastardly criminal character Peter James O'Brien - this guy really had to be the part. I hadn't worked with Gerry before, and here was this man, very quiet, very serious, quite sensitive, and I thought 'they've cast the guy on a photo - it's never going to work'. Anyway, he got into costume and we started talking about the part, and in 10 seconds flat I was looking at Peter James O'Brien. It was just extraordinary, absolutely extraordinary."32 Gerard was subsequently cast as Kragg in Hunter, and made such an impact with the role that when the show finished Division 4 was created as a vehicle for his talents.

 

HOMICIDE ARTICLE
CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE

 

1. TV Eye No. 12, July 1997.
2. TV Times, Nov 25, 1970.
3. Melbourne Listener In-TV, July 30, 1966.
4. Melbourne Listener In-TV, Oct 17, 1964.
5. TV Times, Oct 26, 1974.
6. Ibid.
7. Melbourne Listener In-TV, Sept 25, 1965
8. Melbourne Listener In-TV, May 22, 1965.
9. TV Eye No. 12, July 1997.
10. Melbourne Listener In-TV, Oct 24, 1964.
11. Melbourne Listener In-TV, Oct 16, 1971.
12. TV Times, Jan 12, 1966.
13. Ibid.
14. TV Times, June 2, 1965.
15. TV Times, Feb 24, 1965.
16. TV Times, June 2, 1965.
17. Melbourne Listener In-TV, June 12, 1965.
18. TV Times, June 9, 1965.
19. Ibid.
20. TV Eye No. 5, June 1995.
21. TV Week, Aug 14, 1965
22. TV Times, Sept 15, 1965.
23. TV Times, April 6, 1966.
24. TV Times, March 8,1967.
25. Melbourne Listener In-TV, Aug 28, 1965.
26. TV Eye No.2, May 1994.
27. TV Times, Dec 22, 1965.
28. Ibid.
29. TV Eye No. 5, June 1995.
30. TV Eye No. 3, Oct 1994.
31. TV Times, April 6, 1966.
32. TV Eye No. 5, June 1995.

 


The second cast line-up.  From left: John Fegan, Leonard Teale and Terry McDermott.

 

HomLenTealeBW65.jpg (9948 bytes)
Leonard Teale as Sen. Det. David Mackay.

 

HomOpen2LTgroup.jpg (26914 bytes)
The opening titles when Leonard Teale joined the cast were similar to the original.  His name was spelt incorrectly as Teal, which was corrected on later episodes.

 

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Commercial integration when Leonard Teale joined the cast.

 

HomOpen3TMcDindiv.jpg (21156 bytes)
A new police car required new opening titles, and the cast were given individual credits.

 

Commercial integration
A slightly different commercial integration was introduced with the new opening titles.

 

HomTVTCastJFTMcDLT.jpg (24816 bytes)
The second Homicide cast.  From left: John Fegan as Inspector Jack Connolly,  Terry McDermott as Detective Sergeant Frank Bronson, and Leonard Teale as Senior Detective David Mackay.

 


Gerard Kennedy and Peter Blake in a scene from episode 58, 'Vendetta'.