Horror Review: Fair Game (1986)

A young woman running an animal sanctuary in the outback takes her revenge on a trio of kangaroo hunters who terrorized her.

Ah, good ol’ Ozploitation, it has brought us some highly entertaining films over the years.

I really do enjoy a good revenge flick, seeing someone get there own back makes me feel good. The 70’s and 80’s were a golden era for this type of film, though I would like to point out that this feature is not a rape/revenge film. I only point this out as I know there are some out there who don’t like that type of film.

One of the things I truly loved about this film was the great use of the films location, the vast emptiness and seclusion of the film helps create such a tense atmosphere for viewers and it also creates a great landscape for the story to play out. Australian films always seem to make good use of their amazing environment.

The films premise is a pretty simple one, nothing over complicated or too many twists and turns, just a simple plot. That isn’t a bad thing though, simple is good and its also very effective, it works really well for this style of film and with the feature clocking in at just over 85 minutes it isn’t stretched out too long.

Our leading lady Cassandra Delaney puts in a excellent performance, she really got me rooting for her character. It’s a shame she never did much more acting, having only appeared in five features. She would later became more famous for marrying John Denver, I’d be curious to know why she stopped.

“Fair Game” went on to become a cult classic over the years, it’s a gritty feature that I feel deserves more recognition. It may come across a pure b movie entertainment but it in my opinion it manages to be much more.

If you want to see the “Fair Game” trailer then just click on the video below:

Miscellaneous facts about the film:

This movie’s screenwriter, Rob George, on the film’s audio commentary, said of this film: “The original source of the idea for me was driving back from Sydney to Adelaide one night, we left about midnight, and around about West Wyalong we got taunted by some guy who kept driving right up behind us … just sitting a foot or two behind the back of our ute and then he’d pass us and go up and come back on the other side of the road and play chicken with us. It was really distressing”.

Rob George, this movie’s screenwriter, also said of this film on its DVD audio-commentary: “Now without wanting to sound pretentious, one of the other sort of sources for the story is the Barbara Baynton Bush Studies. Have you ever read those? Where the woman alone in the bush, there’s that sort of anti-mateship stories and they were sort of in the back of my mind at one stage when we were developing it”.

The filmmaker DVD audio-commentary states that the picture’s climactic grand finale as: “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral at High Noon”.

Peter Malone asked director Mario Andreacchio in a September 1998 interview: “Some reviews said it was misogynistic and sexist. Did you see it that way or was this more of the comic book style?” Andreacchio replied: “Yes, it was very much comic book. It wasn’t really saying anything. It had references to other movies and it was more like an experience. In the end it’s the woman that wins out: it’s a growth in strength of a woman who’s being harassed by these three guys”.

According to actress Cassandra Delaney in the DVD special bonus feature ‘Extended Interview with Cassandra Delaney from ‘Not Quite Hollywood’ (2018)’, her topless nudity in the movie was not scripted, and that director Mario Andreacchio asked permission whether she would be willing to do the nude shots. Moreover, Delaney states that these nude scenes were only added for the home video release, and were not apparently included in the original theatrical version.

Sound in the sequence where Jessica is tied to the front bull-bars of the outback tray-truck ‘The Beast’ were sourced from the noise monkeys made at the Adelaide Zoo which were recorded there for the soundtrack.

Producer Ron Saunders says of the film in the movie’s press kit: “We’re making a film that people will go to see because they want to, not because they feel obliged to”.

Actor David Sandford was cast in the movie in the role of Ringo after the producers had seen him in the Kennedy-Miller television mini-series ‘The Cowra Breakout’ (1984).

Debut theatrical feature film directed by director Mario Andreacchio.

The movie’s production notes describe “The Beast” vehicle as an “eerie metallic monster which takes on a life of its own as it pursues Jessica [Cassandra Delaney] through the fire”.

Approximately 2000 sterilized blow-flies were used for the filming of the movie which were acquired from the CSIRO in Adelaide, South Australia.

The press kit claims that this picture was the “first major feature film to be produced in South Australia independent of the S.A. Film Corporation [South Australian Film Corporation]”.

About three miles of welding wire was used to construct “The Beast” vehicle.

The 1987 UK Embassy Home Entertainment video cassette release had fifty-seven seconds of cuts made by the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) to remove shots of actress Cassandra Delaney having her clothes cut and shots of her breasts when she is tied to the Beast vehicle. Even with the cuts the movie was still classified by the BBFC with an 18+ certificate.

The make and model of “The Beast” vehicle was a modified red and grey-silver 1977 Ford F-Series 1000 tray-truck. Its accoutrements including six inch steel piping wrapped around its body, fat twenty-four inch drag-racing tyres, red head-lights, and gigantic chrome front winged-horn bull-bars.

Director Quentin Tarantino raves about this movie on Mark Hartley’s Australian Ozploitation documentary ‘Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!’ (2008) and has labeled this movie as “an absolute classic”.

Development Consultant Jim Henry (aka James M. Henry) said of this film in a piece published in the July 1986 edition of Australian ‘Cinema Papers’ magazine, that it was: “…very much a ‘market film’ which, he claims, was ‘one of the unapplauded stars of Cannes, I could have sold it three times over in every territory’. As it was, the film went to Embassy Home Video for the USA, Canada and the UK, to Scandinavia for ‘the highest price ever paid for an Australian film’, and to India for ‘only a few dollars less than they paid for ‘Rambo’.'”

Third and final of three Australian theatrical feature films made during the mid-1980s starring Australian-born actress Cassandra Delaney. The first had been ‘One Night Stand’ (1984) and the second had been ‘Rebel’ (1985). With the third being ‘Fair Game’ (1986), all three pictures were released in consecutive years.

Producer Harley Manners says of the film in the movie’s press kit: “With only [about] $1 million [Australian] to play with we are stretching the crew to its limit. This film will be walking a tightrope from day one. But this is our first independent feature, and we’re determined to see it succeed”.

During rehearsals, in collaboration with director Mario Andreacchio, the part in the movie of the character of Sparks, who was played by actor Garry Who, was modified and expanded.

‘The Beast’ tray-truck Ford F100 vehicle was custom engineered by Mike Loader and had more than one tricky design problem. Loader said in the film’s press kit: “The machine looks and is dangerous but the fact that an up and coming young Australian actress [Cassandra Delaney] has to be roped on the front of it and taken for a ride through the bush without doing herself an injury called for strategic placement of the huge chrome horns”.

Cinematographer Andrew Lesnie had been hoping to work with director Mario Andreacchio since they both had been to film school together.

The central female character of Jessica (Cassandra Delaney) appeared alone in the film for almost half of the movie according to producer Ron Saunders. Director Mario Andreacchio said: “She is alone on screen for almost half the film, so there’s a lot resting on her shoulders”.

According to the movie’s production notes, producers Harley Manners and Ron Saunders, argued about money all the time during production.

Lead actress Cassandra Delaney spent about three months preparing for this picture and her central character role of Jessica. This included a three month program of physical exercise including jogging and gym workouts. Stunt Coordinator Glenn Boswell also trained Delaney in horse-riding and trick-car driving.

Director of Photography Andrew Lesnie experimented for weeks with different methods of treating film stock to achieve a special unique different look for the picture.

Cinematographer Andrew Lesnie said of the movie in the film’s press kit: “It’s a challenge. The producers keep telling me they want it to look more stunning than ‘Razorback’ [1984], but that film had twice as long [to shoot] and four times the [budget] money. The one advantage we do have is [director] Mario [Andreacchio]. He has a unique visual style”.

Actress Cassandra Delaney said of her character in the film for this film’s publicity: “In her own way, Jessica is as ruthless as the men who harass her. She is remarkable. Her opponents have guns and machines, and all she has is her imagination and courage. But she’s not a one dimensional amazon – she only gets into the situation because of her concern for the sanctuary and wildlife”. Delaney also said: “I think Australian women have always had toughness about them. In the pioneer days there was no chance for them to be giggling and fearful – and that was reflected in the silent Australian movies made in the ’20s”.

Actress Cassandra Delaney said of working with director Mario Andreacchio: “Working with Mario is like wrestling with your conscience. He never lets go until he can see you’ve done your best”.

According to Suzanne Brown’s review published in the book ‘Australian Cinema’ (1994), edited by Scott Murray, “there are echoes of Henry Lawson’s ‘The Drover’s Wife’, with its story of a woman alone in the outback and open to harassment while her husband is away working, and to ‘Mad Max’ (George Miller, 1979), with the warrior-type clothing and car.”

In an interview with director Mario Andreacchio, published in the 20th September 1998 edition of ‘Signet’, Andreacchio said: “‘Fair Game’ [1986] came out of a situation where we were wanting to make a movie that was a B-grade video suspense thriller. I wanted to treat it like comic book violence – it was always like a comic book study of violence. What amazed me and the thing I found quite disappointing was that it started to become a cult film in some parts of the world and people were taking it seriously. And that, for me, became a real turning point. I thought, if people are taking this seriously, then I don’t think I can make this sort of material”.

The 2018 Australian Umbrella Entertainment Blue-Ray disc edition of this movie includes five of its director Mario Andreacchio’s short films that he made during the early to mid 1980s for the South Australian Film Corporation, all debuting prior to ‘Fair Game’ (1986). These five short films are: ‘Vandalism’ (1981), Break-in (1983), ‘Abduction… Who’s Next?’ (1984), ‘Taken By Storm’ (1984), and ‘Under Pressure’ (1986).

Director Mario Andreacchio says on the film’s DVD audio-commentary that the sequence where Jessica (Cassandra Delaney) is tied-up on the bullbars of ‘The Beast’ vehicle was inspired by Keith Carradine being tied to the front of a locomotive in Martin Scorsese’s ‘Boxcar Bertha’ (1972).

This picture’s director, Mario Andreacchio, has said of this movie: “On one level this film is a simple comic book story about good and evil, but on the other, it’s a drama about human conflict and survival on the scale of grand opera!”.

‘Behind the Scenes with Dean Bennett’ (2018), a dvd extra special bonus feature about this movie, is included on the 2018 Australian Umbrella Entertainment Blu-Ray edition, is behind the scenes actuality footage of the filming of the 1986 Australian feature film ‘Fair Game’, and runs for just over fifty minutes.

One of about five collaborations of writer Rob George and director Mario Andreacchio. The other titles include the later movie ‘The Dreaming’ (1988), the same later year’s tele-movie ‘Captain Johnno’ (1988), the earlier short film ‘Abduction… Who’s Next?’ (1984), and several episodes of the television series ‘Pals’ (1987).

Second and final of two theatrical feature films produced by the producing team of Harley Manners and Ron Saunders. The first had been a couple of years earlier with ‘Run Chrissie Run!’ (1984).

Director Mario Andreacchio says of the film the movie’s press kit: “It’s a primal and timeless theme, the human animal stripped of all civilised constraints, fighting for survival”.

Screenwriter Rob George developed the movie’s screenplay from one of his own short stories.

Harley Manners, one of the picture’s producers, said of the movie in the film’s production notes: “We have never seen the film as reality and so we don’t want a realistic look. Some of the action is pretty terrific, but the images will be fascinating. It won’t look like any Australian film ever shot”.

Screenwriter Rob George said of the film in the movie’s press kit: “Fair Game’s a bit like the old revue structure. The opening and closing were the things which gave the audience its money worth. What I’ve tried to do here is write a moral tale in a very direct and commercial format, using those old rules of entertainment”.

On the film’s audio commentary, of the movie, screenwriter Rob George admits that he was “a bit cautious about it at one stage”.

One of two Australian Ozploitation cult movies featuring actor Garry Who which debuted in cinemas in the same year of 1986. The other picture was Brian Trenchard Smith’s ‘Dead End Drive-In’ (1986) where he played a drive-in cop. In ‘Fair Game’ (1986), Garry Who portrays the character of Sparks.

The opening vehicle chase sequence has often been likened to and compared with Steven Spielberg’s ‘Duel’ (1971).

The name of the central character Jesssica, who is portrayed in the film by actress Cassandra Delaney, was earlier called “Brenda” at draft, treatment, and development stage.

During the mid-1980s, when Australian actress Cassandra Delaney was appearing in Aussie films like this movie, Rebel (1985), and ‘One Night Stand’ (1984), Australian audiences noted the same last name and her similarity in appearance with Australian actress and television star Delvene Delaney. The two however are not related.

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