Blue Murder (miniseries)
|Based on||In the Line of Fire by Darren Goodsir
Neddy by Arthur Smith and Tom Noble
|Written by||Ian David|
|Directed by||Michael Jenkins|
|Country of origin||Australia|
|No. of episodes||2|
|Running time||198 min
|Production company(s)||Endemol Australia (Then branded as Southern Star)|
|Original release||14 September – 21 September 1995|
|Followed by||Blue Murder: Killer Cop|
Set in the 1970s and 1980s in Sydney, the miniseries concerns the relationship between controversial former Detective Roger "the Dodger" Rogerson and notorious criminal Arthur "Neddy" Smith. Rogerson and his colleagues were accused of giving Smith a "green light" to commit crimes without Police interference, with the relationship fraying when Rogerson orders hitman Christopher "Mr. Rent-a-Kill" Flannery to murder Police Officer Michael Drury. The murder of prostitute Sallie-Anne Huckstepp also features.
Blue Murder is narrated by the characters of Rogerson, Smith and Drury and focuses on the corruption allegations that plagued the NSW Police Force at the time. Rogerson and Smith achieved a kind of celebrity status during the Wood Royal Commission into Police corruption.
The screenplay was written by Ian David who has written extensively on the people and events featured. The miniseries was directed by Michael Jenkins and produced by Rod Allan.
Blue Murder consists of two ninety-minute episodes, which are each divided into three individual "chapters".
"Getting a Green" (Narrated by Neddy Smith)
After a botched attempt at a payroll robbery, career criminal Arthur "Neddy" Smith (Tony Martin) is arrested by the NSW Police. He is brutally interrogated by Detective Sergeant Roger Rogerson (Richard Roxburgh), who attempts to coerce a confession from him. However, Smith maintains silence and is eventually released on the understanding that he will henceforth be operating under the paid protection of Rogerson and his colleagues. Smith initially takes on work as a bodyguard for a prominent heroin dealer, but soon takes charge of his own drug business. One of Smith’s underlings, Warren Lanfranchi (Alex Dimitriades), points his gun at a traffic policeman and pulls the trigger, although no round is discharged. Rogerson considers this a violation of the terms of their protection arrangement, and attempts to apprehend Lanfranchi, who immediately goes into hiding. Rogerson instructs Smith to locate Lanfranchi and turn him over, taking care to disarm him first. Smith convinces Lanfranchi to meet with Rogerson by reassuring him that he will face nothing worse than a verbal reprimand. Lanfranchi, however, fears that a worse fate awaits him, and he shares this fear with his girlfriend, Sallie-Anne Huckstepp (Loene Carmen). Smith delivers Lanfranchi to Rogerson, who shoots Lanfranchi dead. At the inquest, Rogerson claims that Lanfranchi had pulled a gun on him, forcing him to shoot him in self-defense. However, Huckstepp complicates the matter by appearing on television to voice her suspicion that her boyfriend was murdered by Rogerson. To redress the accusation, Rogerson convinces Smith to testify that Smith had not disarmed Lanfranchi before the meeting. Smith agrees to this, and Rogerson is consequently cleared of suspicion. Grateful for Smith’s testimony, Rogerson and his colleagues award Smith a "green light", meaning that he is permitted to commit crimes in Sydney with full police protection and, at times, assistance. This arrangement also requires that Smith occasionally act as a hit-man for Rogerson and his colleagues.
"Hitting a Blue" (Narrated by Michael Drury)
Michael Drury (Steve Bastoni) is an undercover officer in the NSW police. He receives a tip from an informant that a Melbourne-based drug dealer, Alan Williams (Marcus Graham), has a large quantity of heroin to sell. Drury poses as a buyer and travels to Melbourne to entrap Williams. As the transaction is about to be completed, members of the Victoria Police, who are assisting Drury with surveillance, break cover prematurely and attempt to apprehend Williams, who consequently escapes arrest. On returning to Sydney, Drury is informed that the prosecution against Williams can proceed, but only if Drury testifies against Williams in open court. Drury is soon contacted by Roger Rogerson, who offers Drury $25000 to change his testimony. Drury politely refuses, claiming that he would be unable to change his testimony without implicating himself. He also advises Rogerson to exercise caution as believes that the NSW police are being investigated by the Australian Federal Police. When his initial informant in the investigation mysteriously turns up dead, Drury becomes concerned that his own safety might be in danger.
"Brotherhood" (Narrated by Roger Rogerson)
Since the Warren Lanfranchi shooting, Roger Rogerson’s corrupt activities have cost him some of his prestige in the NSW Police, and he is transferred to menial desk job. Feeling resentment towards his superiors, he deepens his connections with the criminal world and becomes proactive in the Drury-Williams matter. Williams is determined not to go back to prison, and makes it clear that he is prepared to pay large sums of money to ensure that Drury is unable to testify. Neddy Smith refuses to involve himself in the matter, and advises Rogerson to follow his example. Rogerson instead recruits a hitman, Christopher Dale Flannery (Gary Sweet), as his agent in the matter. Rogerson introduces Flannery to Williams, and Williams agrees to pay Flannery $50 000 to eliminate Drury. Flannery agrees on the condition that Rogerson also receives $50 000 as an equal partner in the enterprise. Flannery accomplishes the hit by arriving at Drury’s house at night and shooting him through his kitchen window.
"Black Angus" (Narrated by Michael Drury)
Christopher Dale Flannery shoots Michael Drury twice, with both rounds hitting him in the torso. However, the wounds are not immediately fatal, and Drury is able to call emergency services before collapsing. He is taken into surgery and the bullets are removed. The investigation into the shooting is assigned to local detectives under the supervision of the acting head of CIB, Detective Superintendent "Black" Angus Macdonald (Bill Hunter), who is a long-time friend and colleague of Roger Rogerson. When Drury regains consciousness, he tells the investigating detectives that Rogerson had approached him with the offer of a bribe in the Alan Williams investigation, and that he therefore believes that Rogerson will have knowledge of why he was shot. Drury’s claims are corroborated by fellow officer Lewis Roussos (Bogdan Koca), who had witnessed the initial contact between Drury and Rogerson. Macdonald is highly sceptical about Drury’s accusations. He prevents the investigating detectives from questioning Rogerson, and instead subjects Drury, who is still in intensive care, to a heavy-handed and intimidating interrogation. Macdonald makes a very public display of his faith in Rogerson’s innocence by bringing him to an official police dinner, to which all other invitees have brought their spouses. Macdonald is brought before the police commissioner (Bruce Barry), who states that Macdonald’s obfuscation of the investigation will not be tolerated. He informs Macdonald that the Director of Public Prosecutions believes there is sufficient evidence to lay charges of bribery against Rogerson. The commissioner states his personal belief that Rogerson is thoroughly corrupt and instructs Macdonald to lay charges against him. Rogerson is formally charged with attempted bribery and is suspended from duty.
"The Dodger" (Narrated by Roger Rogerson)
Angus Macdonald gives Lewis Roussos a significant promotion in exchange for reversing his testimony against Rogerson, and this leaves the prosecution against Rogerson with a damaging lack of evidence. The prosecution assigns an investigator, Bruce Kerrison (Dennis Miller), to uncover new evidence against Rogerson. At this time, Christopher Dale Flannery has become embroiled in a mob war and is involved in a number of public shootings. Rogerson begins to doubt Flannery’s ability to maintain his silence on the Drury matter and later discovers that Flannery has boasted to a number of criminal associates that he had shot Drury. One of these associates, Tony Eustace (Marshall Napier), faces legal troubles and is consequently compelled to informing against Flannery to Kerrison. When Flannery becomes aware of this, he shoots Eustace dead. Rogerson organises a hit on Flannery, confident that the shooting will likely be interpreted as a mob reprisal. Flannery is subsequently shot to death. Rogerson’s lawyer, Chester Porter QC (John Hargreaves) advises him that, since the prosecution is now relying solely on Drury’s testimony, the best strategy for the trial is to undermine Drury’s credibility with the jury. This strategy is successful and Rogerson is exonerated. However, Federal investigators continue to build a case against Rogerson.
"Two Dogs" (Narrated by Neddy Smith)
As the evidence against Roger Rogerson mounts, many of his former colleagues abandon him, but Neddy Smith remains loyal. After Sallie-Anne Huckstepp obtains tapes that implicate members of the NSW Police, Smith murders her to prevent the evidence from surfacing. Rogerson appears on television to address some of the charges that have been laid against him. During an interview with Ray Martin (playing himself), Rogerson claims that Smith has worked for him as an informant. Smith is angered by this, as he feels it will damage his criminal reputation. Soon after, an attempt is made on Smith’s life, and he afterward suspects that Rogerson was involved. Smith and Rogerson meet to discuss the matter. Rogerson denies involvement, and Smith accepts this. However, Smith criticises Rogerson for the many foolish decisions he has made in the past, including the Warren Lanfranchi and Michael Drury shootings. Nonetheless, the two reconcile and continue to work together, often drinking heavily and becoming increasingly anti-social in their behaviour. Rogerson is dismissed from the NSW Police, and is later charged by the federal police for white-collar offences. Without Rogerson’s protection, Smith’s "green light" privileges are terminated. Afterward, Smith is involved in a drunken traffic altercation, during which his accomplice stabs a motorist to death. The next day, Rogerson meets with Smith to convince him to surrender peacefully to the police, and reminds him to maintain his silence about their dealings. Smith concludes that Rogerson had, after all, been behind the attempt on his life, but he realises that this was just the nature of the lives they led, and that he feels no resentment towards his long-time friend. Smith surrenders to the police.
As the credits roll, it is revealed that Michael Drury retired from the Police in 2000, Roger Rogerson served three years in prison and Neddy Smith received an indeterminate life sentence for multiple murders, which he is still serving.
- Richard Roxburgh as Detective Sergeant Roger Rogerson
- Tony Martin as Arthur "Neddy" Smith
- Steve Bastoni as Michael Drury
- Gary Sweet as Christopher Dale Flannery
- Peter Phelps as Graham "Abo" Henry
- Joy Smithers as Debra Smith
- Gary Day as Detective Bill Crofton
- Steve Jacobs as Detective Mal Rivers
- Loene Carmen as Sallie-Anne Huckstepp
- Alex Dimitriades as Warren Lanfranchi
- Marcus Graham as Alan Williams
- Laurie Foell as Pam Drury
- Richard Carter as Detective Lyail Chandler
- Bill Hunter as Detective Superintendent "Black" Angus McDonald
- John Hargreaves as Chester Porter QC
- Marshall Napier as Tony Eustace
- John Jarratt as Jack Richardson
- Robert Morgan as Brian Hansen
- Geoff Morrell as Detective Les Knox
- Aaron Jeffery as Constable Bobby Williams
- Ian Bliss as Bobby Chapman
- Ray Martin (Stock Footage)
The style of production was very similar to Jenkins' earlier series Scales of Justice, particularly the "observational" use of multiple hand-held cameras and the density of semi-improvised dialogue, which was further extended in his subsequent series Wildside.
Given its confronting content, the DVD release was classified MA 15+. An injunction brought during Arthur "Neddy" Smith's appeal against his life sentence saw its broadcast delayed in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory for six years, until 2001. In New Zealand the DVD release was classified R 18+ for graphic violence and offensive language.
Awards and nominations
|1996 Logie Awards||Most Outstanding Actor||Richard Roxburgh||Won|
|Most Outstanding Achievement in Drama Production||Blue Murder||Won|
|1996 AFI Awards||Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Television Drama||Tony Martin||Won|
|Best Screenplay in Television||Ian David||Won|
|Best Achievement in Direction in a Television Drama||Michael Jenkins||Won|
|Best Telefeature, Mini Series or Short Run Series||Rod Allan||Won|
- Ed. Scott Murray, Australia on the Small Screen 1970-1995, Oxford Uni Press, 1996 p177
- "Curator's notes for Blue Murder". Australian Screen - National Film and Sound Archive.