This Australian TV mini series first stripped' in May 1988 on Channel 9, was the second instalment in a trilogy based on the sugar cane industry in Northern Queensland, in the years around the Second World War.
This second part starts in 1947 with the marriage of Kate (feistily played by Anne Louise Lambert, who replaces Anna Hruby from the first series) to Franco (Joseph Spano), and then addresses the problems of a mixed race relationship and the antipathy expressed towards the Italian community by the locals (themselves descended from other European settlers, of course). The expectations of Kate's husband Franco are not met by his highly spirited wife who refuses to be subservient and wants to be consulted about her husband's business. The consequences of remaining in an unhappy and unequal relationship that can only bring pain and misery to all associated, are ultimately tragic. Gina's (Peta Toppano) brother and sister-in-law's censure of her involvement with Franco elicits from her an important remark that `life is for living', and therefore too short to deny bringing healing to those who need it.
Respectability is equated with narrow mindedness and the lack of tolerance of others, deriving from the ridiculous notion that our viewpoint is the only acceptable one. The prejudice displayed against the Italians by the locals who refuse to sell supplies to them forces Franco to illegally distil alcohol for fuel and run other `crooked' enterprises which in turn increases the disgust of his unhappy wife. Inhumane attitudes and the displacement of moral values are expressed by the police sergeant's lack of concern for life and justice following the fatal bashing of Bruno because he had called on a prostitute. The sergeant even suggests that the Italian community take the law into their own hands, which they stereotypically do. Social prejudice and bigotry about differing cultures are also represented by an American woman's attitude towards Elsie (Kris Mcquade) who scornfully views her as a bar girl, failing to recognise her as a businesswoman and an equal.
Todd Boyce reprises his role as the English man, Bluey, who, in his over enthusiastic attempts to mechanise the cane cutting on Tiny's (Ollie Hall) farm, ends up destroying the crop. Medical bias is demonstrated by the resident provincial doctor who refutes Dusty's (Melissa Docker) experienced knowledge as a nurse, and other issues packed into this film include protectionism, child neglect and the disastrous introduction of Hawaiian cane toads.
The various storylines, acting and production are all perfectly reasonable for a TV mini-series and better for being Australian with their own particular set of issues than the UK's insipid American influenced staple diet. However, I found the denouement literally too over blown with several tons of explosives being liberally used, suggesting that Franco had actually built his house (a `pink mausoleum') on an ammunition dump, and the real nature of fire is manipulated for dramatic effect.
In tracking down a copy of this film I found some confusion concerning ownership of copyright, although the credits indicate Zenith Productions Ltd. This is worth pursuing as ScreenSound Australia has preservation material for all three series which could be copied onto tape.
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