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Australia 1975
Directed by
Terry Ohlsson
98 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

Scobie Malone

Based on a 1970 novel, ‘Helga’s Web’ by Australian author Jon Cleary that featured as its main protagonist the titular (so to speak) character of Sydney homicide detective Sergeant Scobie Malone (Jack Thompson) Terry Ohlsson’s film is an ill-formed corruption-in-high places thriller devoid of thrills but in the by-this-time well-established “ozploitation” tradition, featuring a ridiculous number of topless women.

Maverick cop Malone and his off-sider (Shane Porteous) are investigating the murder of a woman (Judy Morris) whose corpse is found in the basement of the Sydney Opera House. Malone and discovers she was a high class escort and mistress of the New South Wales Minister for Culture (James Workman). She was not only blackmailing the minister and his wife (Jacqueline Kott) but involved with a couple of shady characters, film director Jack Savannah (Joe Martin) and crime boss, Mr Sin (Noel Ferrier). So who killed Helga and why?

Well we do find out although frankly I can’t remember why. Suffice it to say that Ohlsson, whose only feature film this was appears to have no idea what he was doing and it is not really possible to care about the result.  

Loosely-adapted from Cleary’s novel by producer Casey Robinson and Graham Woodlock after Cleary’s own script was rejected, the character of Malone was radically changed from that of the novel’s married man to that of a stud who, ludicrously, calls home an apartment block where nubile young women lay topless round the pool all day like fruit for his picking. 

Whilst  boob-crazy Alvin Purple (1973)  had been a big hit in its day audience were not prepared to forebear the piece-meal narrative and bad acting let alone the marketing which falsely promised an “erotic thriller" and the film understandably tanked at the box office despite Thompson being an antipodean sex symbol and coming off two recent hits with Petersen (1974) and the classic Sunday Too Far Away (1975).

Whilst being an unqualified dud Scobie Malone is worth catching as a record of Sydney Harbour of the time, featuring the bridge and newly-built Opera House alomg with its garish 1970s wardrobe and interior décor.

FYI: Thompson who that year appeared as a Cleo centrefold was infamous for his ménage à trois with sisters Bunkie and Lee King, both of whom appeared in Scobie Malone.

It was also the first screen appearance of Bryan Brown, who appears in the credits as "Brian Bronn".




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