Fortress (1985 film)

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Film poster
Directed by Arch Nicholson
Produced by Raymond Menmuir
Written by Everett De Roche
Based on Fortress
by Gabrielle Lord
Starring Rachel Ward
Vernon Wells
Music by Danny Beckermann
Cinematography David Connell
Edited by Ralph Strasser
Release date
24 November 1985 (US TV)[1]
26 June 1986 (Australia)
Running time
91 minutes
Country Australia
Language English
Budget A$4.4 million[2]
Box office A$139,000 (Australia)[3]

Fortress is a 1985 Australian thriller television film directed by Arch Nicholson and written by Everett De Roche, and starring Rachel Ward, based on Gabrielle Lord's 1980 novel the Fortress.


A teacher (Rachel Ward) and her students at a small rural school in Australia are kidnapped and held for ransom by a band of violent shotgun-wielding masked thugs wearing Christmas character masks. Held for ransom in a cave, she and the children daringly escape from their captors, are pursued, establish a stronghold, and fight for their lives.



The novel Fortress by Gabrielle Lord was inspired by the 1972 Faraday Primary School kidnapping of an isolated rural single teacher school and was influenced by William Golding's 1954 novel the Lord of the Flies.

At one stage it was thought the novel would be filmed by Murdoch and Stigwood's R & R Films as a follow up to Gallipoli (1981). However this never eventuated.[4]

The film rights were purchased by Crawford Productions who intended to make a feature film for local release and a tele movie for HBO in the US. Half the budget was from HBO who insisted the lead be played by an actress who was familiar to the American public.

Everett De Roche wrote the script and originally Bruce Beresford was announced as director. He dropped out and then Arch Nicholson was hired. Crawfords and HBO wanted Bess Armstrong to play the lead. Actors Equity objected, so Sigrid Thornton was accepted as a compromise. However two months prior to shooting Thornton fell pregnant and HBO and Crawfords insisted on Armstrong. Actors Equity would not relent and the film shut down, despite the fact $700,000 had already been spent.[5] The project was later re activated when Rachel Ward (a British actress who had moved to Australia) was approved.[6]

The movie was shot in Australia during 1985 over 12 5-day weeks at Bairnsdale near the Gippsland Coast and in the Grampians.[6] It contains scenes of graphic violence unusual for TV productions of the time.


The film was initially released directly to cable television by the HBO channel in the United States in late 1985. It was released to cinemas in Australia a year later during 1986.

It won the American Cinema Editors for direction of Photography in 1986.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Production", Cinema Papers, March 1986 p62
  3. ^ "Australian Films at the Australian Box Office", Film Victoria Archived 9 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine. accessed 24 October 2012
  4. ^ "Production Blues", Cinema Papers, Oct-Nov 1980 p312
  5. ^ Hector Crawford, "The Rules of the Game", Cinema Papers, September 1985 p20-22
  6. ^ a b David Stratton, The Avocado Plantation: Boom and Bust in the Australian Film Industry, Pan MacMillan, 1990 p266-268

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