Came A Hot Friday
Came a Hot Friday is a rollicking comic adventure set in 1949 against a background of horseracing and gambling.
Came a Hot Friday, New Zealand, 1985
Director: Ian Mune
Producer: Larry Parr
Screenplay: Dean Parker, Ian Mune
From the novel by Ronald Hugh Morrieson
Director of photography: Alun Bollinger
Production design: Ron Highfield
Music: Stephen McCurdy
With: Peter Bland (Wes Pennington), Phillip Gordon (Cyril Kidman), Billy T. James (The Tainuia Kid), Michael Lawrence (Don Jackson), Marshall Napier (Sel Bishop), Marise Wipani (Esmeralda), Erna Larsen (Dinah), Phillip Holder (Dick), Don Selwyn (Cray), Patricia Phillips (Claire), Michael Morrissey (Morrie)
35mm, colour, 105 minutes, PG–Contains course language
Watch the Came a Hot Friday trailer (9.43MB; 2.39 minutes)
Came a Hot Friday is a rollicking comic adventure set in 1949 against a background of horseracing and gambling. Two conmen, the silver tongued Wes Pennington and his sidekick Cyril Kidman, have been successfully cheating bookmakers in small towns throughout New Zealand. But when they stop at a town called Tainuia Junction their luck starts to run out. At first delighted to cheat the local bookmaker, Norm Cray, out of a large sum of money with the help of local stooge, Don Jackson, they start to strike problems when they go to spend their money at the local dance and "casino". The unfortunate Wes suffers a series of heavy defeats with the women and at the crown and anchor table, before risking all their illgotten gains on one last heroic throw of the dice. But before the dice stops rolling Wes and Cyril find themselves at war with Norm Cray, the police and the casino boss, Sel Bishop. To get their money back, the conmen form an alliance with the Tainuia Kid – a Zorro nut and the wildest comic ever to ride the ranges. But even with the Kid on their side, the forces of evil are not easily overcome and in the end the final winner comes as a shock to them all.
“Came a Hot Friday is a major advance in Kiwi film comedy. A barrel load of talent, nurtured during New Zealand’s filmmaking renaissance and now signalling distinctive maturity, has been brought together in this Mirage Films presentation to explore a folk tale of intrigue and delight. Director Ian Mune, who has made major creative contributions to the growth of the local industry as actor and writer is the catalyst. His hand is obvious in the way a picaresque story full of traps for the unwary is propelled with great humour and visual joy. Of particular pleasure is the realization that, finally, a film based on the thoroughly original writing of Ronald Hugh Morrieson has done him justice. For this, further credit must go to Mune and co-screenwriter Dean Parker. Morrieson, a provincial recluse who died in 1972, has found a niche of his own in NZ literature as a great folk scribe. Two of his other stories, The Scarecrow starring John Carradine, and Pallet on the Floor, also have been adapted to film. Came a Hot Friday is heartland New Zealand circa 1949. Wes Pennington and loyal mate Cyril, conmen and gamblers, are ripping off small-town bookmakers in one of the last great scams of horseracing. They take advantage of delayed radio broadcasts to clean out bookies in rural pubs – and move on. But snags arise at Tainuia Junction where they become involved in a tangle of events that uncovers bootlegging, arson, murder and provokes mayhem of extraordinary proportions. The range of locals, not least the duo’s apparent guardian angel, The Tainuia Kid, is worthy of national preservation in a folkloric museum. Production values are first-rate, particularly the wry charm and subtlety of Alun Bollinger’s photography, the original 40s style music of Stephen McCurdy, and the convincing and integrated production design of Ron Highfield. There are fine performance from Bland, a kind of homely English carpetbagger, and Gordon. Erna Larsen, as the town belle Dinah, shines among the many neatly etched cameos. But the acting standout is Billy T. James, in what is a riveting, totally original performance as The Tainuia Kid. This Zorro-with-a-difference, who emits a schizo blend of Western cowboy hero and Mexican patriot, with Monty Pythonesque overtones, is a fine creation. This kid says more about cultural cross-breeding in small countries like New Zealand than any learned academic.” — Mike Nicolaidi, Variety, 20 February 1985
Screenings: Came a Hot Friday has screened on 13 June 2004 in a selection curated by actor/film maker Whetu Fala; on 20 February 2005 as part of a season chosen by film reviewer and Archive Board member Mike Nicolaidi (who reviewed the film for Variety); on 25 May 2005 in a programme selected by film editor Annie Collins; on 30 April 2009; and again on 20 August 2009 as part of a series screening the feature adaptations of RH Morrieson.
When asked about her choice Annie replied "Came a Hot Friday is probably my favourite NZ comedy – as far as I'm concerned it's perfect from start to finish because it feels exactly like who we are; and because every facet of production from concept to direction seems exactly suited to it. But the truth is: I just want to hear Billy T giggle again."