Ground Zero (1987) – Cold War In The Outback

Ground Zero (1987) Vickers Valiant bomberGround Zero (1987) Vickers Valiant bomber scientists nuclear radiation

One way to write a good screenplay is to use historical facts for your plot and then jazz it up with some fiction. Ground Zero really doesn’t need “jazzing up” as the original source material is horrific in it’s own right but with a tweak here and there this 80’s Australian film casts a thrilling story. It also scores big points for a collection of amazing imagery which give the outback set pieces a science fiction movie feel.

Ground Zero (1987) Prosper Gaffney Donald Pleasence voice box

And guess what after yesterday’s Cul-de-Sac this is the third film within in a month with the truly wonderful Donald Pleasence. The other film was the exceptional Wake In Fright.

Ground Zero (1987) Harvey Denton (Colin Friels) film editing

Cameraman and film editor, Harvey Denton (Colin Friels) works for a news organisation in the city and freelances from his apartment. In his spare time he converts and edits old family video footage his father took in the 50’s. Also a cameraman, his father was a documentary film-maker working with the army during the secret testing of nuclear explosions in Maralinga in outback South Australia, which he then just vanished.

Ground Zero (1987) Harvey Denton (Colin Friels) gun capture held upGround Zero (1987) Royal Commission Trebilcock Jack Thompson

With the Royal Commission investigating the historical events with the excavation of a radioactive Vickers Valiant bomber which surprisingly contained the skeletal remains of what looks like a murder victim. Could this body be Harvey Dentons missing father? And why are different organisation interested in getting their hands on his family home movies? Motivated to find out what the blue blazes is going on he starts to investigate.

Ground Zero (1987) Harvey Denton film archive vault reel moviesGround Zero (1987) Harvey Denton (ed hearse car van

This leads to encounters with the head of the Royal Commission, Trebilcock (Jack Thompson) who is desperately looking for a lost reel of 35mm camera film. This links to a very eccentric old army veteran called Prosper Gaffney.  Who could that be played by you may ask? Hehe of course it’s Donald Pleasence.

Ground Zero (1987) Charlie (Burnham Burnham)

Now Prosper Gaffney lives out in the outback right near to the quarantine zone at Maralinga. He is now wheelchair bound and relies on the help of his Aboriginal friend Charlie (Burnham Burnham) who is blind, so they both help each other in different ways. 

Ground Zero (1987) Harvey Denton film archive vault reel moviesGround Zero (1987) burning sun outback aussie film oz

Does Prosper Gaffney know anything that can help Harvey Denton out on his quest? Can he find this film reel and give it to the right people to help bring justice to the Indigenous people of Maralinga who had their land, homes, family life and generations of health problems dropped on them from the British nuclear tests allowed through the Australian government.

Ground Zero (1987) burning sun outback aussie film oz Aboriginal stones

Like I said at the top, this story has been enhanced but a lot is very true and just as horrific. As Britain raced to become one of the “nuclear” superpowers during the Cold War they needed somewhere to do their tests. Did they know the exact damage these appalling tests would cause, it’s had to say at the time but it now seems they did and they blamed it on the severe weather change.

Ground Zero (1987)Aboriginal Indigenous people of Maralinga court case

Lots of the characters are loosely based on real people and if it is of interest then please read the links I have added at the bottom of this post to see the awful truth of the horrors of humanity.

It’s an excellent taunt fast paced action mystery film and what with two good performances from Colin Friels and Jack Thompson there’s also that whacked out psychedelic performance from Donald Pleasence who lights up his screen time. It has it’s problems but mainly it’s very enjoyable movie with it’s heart in the right place. Check it out. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

It’s on youtube in full at the moment if you fancied it. All the best… Mikey Wolfman

Further Reading Links

British nuclear tests at Maralinga
An article entitled 60’s years after the Maralinga bomb tests
Ground Zero (1987) Wiki
Ground Zero (1987) Oz Movies Site
Ground Zero (1987)

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2 thoughts on “Ground Zero (1987) – Cold War In The Outback

    1. Old Dame Edna Everage was all UK tv in the 70’s early 80’s. and most of the world I can well imagine. So I’ve more than likely seen it. It does look like so much fun and I spy Mr Roy Kinnear is in it too, he always makes me giggle. It certainly needs to be added to to the list.
      Donald’s name already brings a smile “Erich Count von Plasma” lol.

      Liked by 1 person

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