MUFF 777

Australian Cult Cinema
Part 5: The Frank Howson/
Boulevard Films Legacy

Frank Howson was virtually born into show business, treading the boards for the first time when he was seven years old. By the time he’d reached his twenty-first birthday he’d starred in 21 major theatrical productions as an actor/singer/dancer.

In the late eighties and early nineties Frank Howson ran Boulevard films that produced over ten features in a short period of time all on film. After being shafted by his business partner Frank has fought back from many a crisis to be a great supporter of indy and guerilla filmmaking today. We are pleased to present a selection of the more alternative cutting edge and interesting films from Boulevard’s catalogue, a company that could have easily become Australia’s own Miramax or Lions Gate if certain things had not occurred that derailed the grand vision of Mr. Howson.

MUFF is honoured to premiere Howson’s new film “Remembering Nigel” on Closing Night also and we live in hope that this is just a teaser of more films to come. We have a feeling his best work is yet to come.

1988 | 97 mins
Boulevard Films’ third movie and debatably one of its best. It fulfilled Howson’s dream to make a movie about the dark side of the rock’n’roll industry, capturing all the grit and dashed hopes of that cut-throat profession. Howson again wrote the screenplay and it is loosely based on many characters he encountered during his career in the music business.

Howson was tired of all the Hollywood versions of the rock industry story and wanted this one to show it as it really was/is. As a result he demanded that all the music performed live in the film actually be recorded live as the cameras rolled. This required casting actors that could actually play and sing. John Waters plays the deluded aging rocker Johnny Dysart, and his son is played by Guy Pearce (making his big screen debut). Support actors include Rebecca Gilling, Kim Gyngell and Sean Scully. Gyngell was again nominated for an AFI award for his chilling performance as the heroin addicted Baz Schultz, one of Johnny’s old band members and songwriting partners from the golden days.
Sunday 16 July 3pm | The Spanish Club

1989 | 97 mins
Boulevard’s fourth film and Howson’s directorial debut. Written by Howson during a time of disenchantment with his business partner and the way his company was being run, it is filled with layers of meaning, both visually and spoken, that foretells the dark disillusionment Howson was finding himself more and more trapped in. It also predicts the fall of many of the eighties’ high-rollers.

Starring respected American actor John Savage as the mysterious Michael Bergman, a multi-millionaire whose business details are as cloudy as his past. Savage won rave reviews in the U.S for his performance and it reactivated his career there. Kerry Armstrong plays Michelle Harris, a married secretary for a stock-broking firm, she becomes drawn into Bergman’s world at the expense of everything else she cared about in life. Armstrong was nominated for an AFI award for Best Actress but did herself no favours by not promoting the movie and lost out. Supporting roles are played by Rebecca Rigg, Jeffrey Thomas and Nicholas Bell. Watch out for Guy Pearce’s turn as a ruthlessly cold hit man. Hunting was sold to Paramount in the U.S and became Boulevard’s most financially successful movie. It was also nominated for 2 AFI awards. David Stratton described “Hunting” as the best Boulevard film yet.
Thursday 13 July 5pm | Glitch

1989-1993 | 94 mins
Boulevard’s sixth film and Howson’s second feature as director. This much anticipated bio-pic of Errol Flynn’s early life, pre-Hollywood, became as controversial as its subject matter. The original director departed the project and the overseas distributor requested that Howson take over the helm. The film stars Guy Pearce (in a tour-de-force performance that was astonishingly snubbed by the AFIs), legendary British actor Steven Berkoff, Claudia Karvan, John Savage and Wendy Matthews. Look for cameo from MUFF festival Director Richard Wolstencroft!
Saturday 8 July 7pm | Glitch

1992 | 90 mins
This was Boulevard’s tenth film and the first not scripted by Howson. Bruce Venables wrote the screenplay based on his original idea (although Marc Gracie and Howson contributed much uncredited input into story and structure). It’s a cop/buddy movie, comedy/drama, with some very interesting plot twists. Directed by Marc Gracie (his second feature for Boulevard), with a stylish and commercial eye, it remains one of Boulevard’s most accessible movies. Starring Marcus Graham and Bruce Venables as the two cops who uncover corruption in their Police Force and follow it all the way to the top. It is layered with subplots that all come to a satisfying and exciting climax. Graham and Venables are extremely likable together and if this film had received its rightful release one can imagine a successful continuing franchise for these characters.

“Crime Time” was never released due to the fall of Boulevard and remains in a lab somewhere. No one has bothered to complete it or release it due to a minefield of legal spider webs. So, here for the first and probably last time, MUFF unveils the rough cut of what would’ve been an interesting Aussie gem of a picture.
Sunday 9 July 9pm | Glitch

See also howson’s new short film Remebering Nigel on Closing Night.