Goodbye Pork Pie’s launch onto New Zealand’s silver screens in 1981 not only became the nation’s first ever local blockbuster hit, but on many accounts kickstarted the tiny Pacific Island’s entire creative industry, which considering New Zealand is the world’s remotest country, punches well above its weight today on the global market.
It’s hard to imagine how much influence this movie has had on the nation’s creative sector as a whole. Whether in design, film or music, Goodbye Pork Pie showed New Zealanders that not only were there other ways to make a living that didn’t involve sheep, but they could also look past their woolly friends for entertainment as well.
Asking a Kiwi like myself for an unbiased review on Goodbye Pork Pie is a bit like asking FOX news to crawl out of Donald Trump’s arse. The film has such a hold on New Zealand’s cultural identity that it is considered today nothing less than a national classic – especially amongst those who grew up with the film and identified it as their local counterculture answer to Easy Rider mashed in with the Blues Brothers.
Directed by New Zealand’s other Peter Jackson, otherwise known as Geoff Murphy and starring Kelly Johnson, Tony Barry, Claire Oberman and a 1978 British Leyland Mini 1000, Goodbye Pork Pie ticked all the right boxes for its 80’s era Kiwi audience, with elements of anti-authoritarianism, casual sex and drug use whilst engaging in a comedic police chase that crosses the country from North to South, passing close enough to every New Zealander’s home town so that everyone felt a connection that they never experienced while watching imported British or American films.
Remarkably, outside of the protagonist’s rather casual lack of respect for any woman he encounters, the film still manages to stand the test of time and endeared the characters with the audience.
Alongside a surprisingly good jazz soundtrack by John Charles, Kelly Johnson’s character Gerry Austin teams up with laid back John and hitchhiking Shirl as they lead a police chase a thousand miles to Invercargill in a stolen car in order to reach John’s estranged girlfriend. Despite the story starting off a little on the slow side, any fears that this would end up as a Greek tragedy are soon alleviated as the car chase kicks in.
Along the way they meet up with an assortment of offbeat characters including a cameo by New Zealand acting legend Bruno Lawrence and John Bach who somehow foresaw the future by playing a skinny and insane Bill Bailey. Meanwhile the originally pristine mini keeps diminishing in volume until it ends up as a stripped burning heap by the side of the road.
Despite the almost cult status of Goodbye Pork Pie in its home country, it has somehow remained effectively unknown elsewhere in the world, even in neighbouring Australia to bitter resentment by many Kiwis. That said, a remake is currently being filmed and while few expect it to excel the original in quality, it will almost certainly reach a wider global audience.
Goodbye Pork Pie was a pleasure to watch 35 years after I first saw it when it ignited my love for a good road movie. But then again, you didn’t expect me to be unbiased did you?