1) Sky Pirates (1985) knocking off Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Raiders was a kind of Frankenstein’s monster creation, (beautifully) cobbled together from many old movies and serials, so it’s appropriate that it inspired numerous knock offs of its own (High Road to China, Tales of the Gold Monkey, Bring Em Back Alive, the Cannon King Solomon’s Mines). Sky Pirates was Australia’s 10BA attempt entry, with John Hargreaves as a swashbuckling pilot taking on bad guys in 1986. There’s enough genuinely good stuff in here (Hargreaves, Max Phipps, Brian May’s music score, Easter Island filming) to make you wish John Lamond had just stuck to producing and gotten in a writer to give it some shape. If you’re interested in learning more, check out the Film Buffs forecast episode on John Lamond. Here’s a trailer with Japanese voice over.
2) The Time Guardian (1987) knocking off The Terminator (1984)
It’s hard for filmmakers who want to make sci fi in Australia. The Time Guardian made it that much harder, an expensive 10BA action epic with a notoriously troublesome production history – including a last minute rewrite to make it more like The Terminator. There’s Dean Stockwell as an officer, Carrie Fisher running around as a warrior, Tom Burlinson as a grizzled warrior in a performance that killed his career as a leading man, Nikki Coghill being genuinely charming amidst the carnage. A film that should have a bigger cult.
3) Stanley: Every Home Should Have One (1984) knocking off Arthur (1981)
To understand how the lawyers and stockbrokers raised $4 million for this comedy, it helps to remember how big a hit Arthur was in 1981, so presumably investors were hopeful of a success with this similar tale of an amiable but dimwitted rich kid, played by Peter Bensley, when actors equity forbade the importation of Tom Conti. I’ve been unable to find a clip from the film to post here, but remember seeing it on TV. It’s a singular experience.
4) Doctors and Nurses (1981) knocking off Bugsy Malone (1976)
The team that made Fatty Finn (1980) came up with this comedy where the gimmick is kids play doctors and nurses and adults play the patients. I’ve got to say, I used to watch this on VHS when I was eight and remember loving it. I haven’t seen it since I was eight. Amazing cast – Pamela Stephenson, Bert Newton, Richard Meike, Graeme Blundell, etc.
5) Melvin Son of Alvin (1984) knocking off Porky’s (1981)
The Alvin Purple mother lode had been fairly well gorged by the late ‘70s – two films, a TV series – but the success of T&A American comedies in the early ‘80s seems to have inspired this late sequel, which took the one joke concept (homely man is irresistible to women) and made it a no joke concept by making it about a handsome male model type who is irresistible to women, replacing that with various Porky’s-era tropes (tubby best friend, etc). It’s got to be said though that this still made some money at the box office.
6) Running from the Guns (1986) knocking off 48 Hours (1982)
The Walter Hill classic revived the popularity of buddy action movies, best exemplified the previous decade with Freebie and the Bean and before that Butch Cassidy and before that Vera Cruz and before that… What Price Glory. Guns was a Burrowes Film Group Production featuring Burrowes favourite talents like Jon Blake and Mark Hembrow… There’s no reason films like this couldn’t have worked in Australia, this just wasn’t done that well…
7) Crosstalk (1982) knocking off Rear Window (1954)
The Hitchcock/John Michael Hayes classic had already “inspired” an excellent Oz film, Roadgames – Crosstalk was a more direct knock off. It’s a film best remembered for the fact that the director was sacked during production.
8) Turkey Shoot (1982) knocking off The Most Dangerous Game (1932)
Versions of the classic story ‘Most Dangerous Game’ appear at least once a decade (the most recent version is being done for Quibi with Australia’s own Liam Hemsworth). This was Australia’s 10BA version directed with great pace by Brian Trenchard-Smith and featuring an excellent cast and perhaps Australian cinema’s most notable werewolf.
9) Dark Age (1987) knocking off Jaws (1975)
The phenomenal box office success of Jaws meant producers inevitably looked towards Australia’s deadly fauna as a source of inspiration, resulting in movies about killer pigs (Razorback) and this one about a killer croc. In hindsight, it’s actually weird that more films about killer animals weren’t made in the 10BA era.
10) Far East (1982) knocking off Casablanca (1943)
A movie normally considered too smart to be classed as a “10BA movie”, it nonetheless rips off its source material as much as any other movie on this list. Part of Australian cinema’s (brief as it turned out) interest in Asia in the early ‘80s.