The Plumber

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This article is about the Australian film. For the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon short, see The Plumber (cartoon).
The Plumber
The Plumber DVD cover.jpg
The Plumber DVD cover
Directed by Peter Weir
Produced by Matt Carroll
Written by Peter Weir
Starring Judy Morris
Ivar Kants
Music by Rory O'Donoghue
Gerry Tolland
Cinematography David Sanderson
Edited by Gerald Turney-Smith
Distributed by CEL (video) (1986)
Release dates
8 June 1979
United States:
March 1980
November 1981
Running time
76 min
Country Australia
Language English
Budget A$150,000[1]

The Plumber is a 1979 Australian psychological thriller film. Written and directed by Peter Weir, The Plumber was originally made and broadcast as a television film in Australia in 1979 but was subsequently released to theaters in several countries beginning with the United States in 1981.[2] The film was made shortly after Weir's critically acclaimed Picnic at Hanging Rock became one of the first Australian films to appeal to an international audience.[3] The film stars Judy Morris, Ivar Kants, and Robert Coleby, all of them being most notable as actors in Australian soap operas.[4]


The film opens as Dr. Brian Cowper (Robert Coleby) takes a shower in the apartment he shares with his wife Jill (Judy Morris), who is a masters student in anthropology. As he exits the building's elevator on his way to work, an ominous character is seen entering and randomly choosing the button for the ninth floor. He knocks on the Cowper's door and announces himself as Max (Ivar Kants), the building's plumber. Jill insists that they did not call for a plumber, and Max assures her that he is simply doing a mandatory check of the building's pipes.

Max maintains an affable, loquacious facade. Once inside the bathroom, he starts to chip away at the tile under the sink. When Jill rushes to the bathroom to see what he is doing, Max impishly encourages her to leave him to his work. He closes the door and then takes a very loud shower. Meanwhile, Brian has been informed that a team from the World Health Organization is coming to interview him about his work. He calls Jill to share the news, and in his glee, he dismisses her concerns about Max.

Max tells Jill that the apartment's pipes are a mess and that he will come back tomorrow to replace them. After he leaves, Jill goes to the bathroom to look at the mess that Max made, and he suddenly appears behind her. He claims that the door was unlocked and that he was just bringing in her groceries, since he had noticed they were in a heavy box. This basic pattern of Max's odd, slightly ominous behavior recurs and expands throughout the film. He keeps finding excuses to visit the apartment, and his work in the bathroom only makes a bigger mess each time. Because Brian never sees Max, he dismisses Jill's concerns out of hand. In one shot, Max patiently waits in his car for Brian to leave before heading up to the apartment.

Max eventually erects an elaborate scaffolding in the bathroom which renders it largely useless. As the Cowper's host the WHO officials for dinner, one of their guests gets himself trapped in the rigging and injures himself. During an argument with Jill, Max finally promises to finish his work, threatening that he will do a haphazard job just to get it over with. Sure enough, the plumbing explodes, pouring fetid water all over the bathroom, and prompting the return of Max to the apartment.

The film ends with the police arresting Max. They search his car and find items that belong to Jill. She looks down on the arrest from her balcony, and Max screams at her that she set him up.

Cast and characters[edit]


The film was one of three movies the South Australian Film Corporation had contracted to make for Channel Nine. It was shot on 16mm over three weeks.[5]


While the Rotten Tomatoes approval rating is currently N/A, the Want-to-see score is currently 28%.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Production Survey", Cinema Papers, Oct-Nov 1978 p137
  2. ^ Maslin, Janet. Peter Weir's 'The Plumber', The New York Times, 1 December 1981. Retrieved 17 July 2009.
  3. ^ Groenewegen, Stephen. The Plumber,, 25 July 2003. Retrieved 17 July 2009.
  4. ^ Tooze, Gary. The Plumber, Retrieved 17 July 2009.
  5. ^ David Stratton, The Last New Wave: The Australian Film Revival, Angus & Robertson, 1980 p79-80

External links[edit]