The Last of the Knucklemen

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The Last of the Knucklemen
Directed by Tim Burstall
Produced by Tim Burstall
Byron Kennedy
Written by Tim Burstall
Based on The Last of the Knucklemen
by John Power
Starring Gerard Kennedy
Michael Preston
Peter Hehir
Music by Bruce Smeaton
Cinematography Dan Burstall
Edited by Edward McQueen-Mason
Distributed by Umbrella Entertainment
Release date
  • May 1979 (1979-05) (Cannes film festival)
  • 11 July 1979 (1979-07-11) (Australia)
Running time
93 minutes
Country Australia
Language English
Budget A$460,000[1]
Box office A$180,000 (Australia)

The Last of the Knucklemen is a 1979 Australian film directed by Tim Burstall.


The story involves a gang of rough miners. Tom (Peter Hehir) turns up at the mine looking for a place to hide. He allies himself with the mining foreman Tarzan (Gerard Kennedy) before the big fight.



Before Tim Burstall started on Eliza Fraser he thought Hexagon Productions should make a male bonding film, and considered Rusty Bugles, The Odd Angry Shot and Last of the Knucklemen. He eventually decided on the latter. He had to wait to get the rights because the Melbourne Theatre Company were negotiating to sell the rights to the US but this fell through.[2]

Burstall did the adaptation himself, which was largely faithful to the play. He felt that the film was weak in the first half setting up characters.[2] Burstall:

I was trying to take the ocker stuff and cross it, as I think John Powers' play was, with anthropology. Before I rehearsed the cast, I got them to read 'The Territorial Imparity of the Native Aid'. I wanted it to be seen not just as ockerism but as anthropology. But the only people who got that were the French. It was bought in France and it's done terribly well there – much better than it ever did in Australia.[3]

The movie was shot over six weeks in September and October 1978 mostly on sets at Melbourne's Cambridge Studios.[1] Exterior scenes were shot in the South Australian outback town of Andamooka.[4]


The Last of the Knucklemen grossed $180,000 at the box office in Australia,[5] which is equivalent to $703,800 in 2009 dollars. Reviews however were strong.[1] Burstall:

I don't think they knew how to market it. A lot of women said to me, 'I'd never go to a picture that had the title The Last of the Knucklemen'. But nobody ever looked at it as an analysis of the way men work. It's a right-wing view of unionism.[3]

Home media[edit]

The Last of the Knucklemen was released on DVD by Umbrella Entertainment in January 2012. The DVD is compatible with region codes 2 and 4 and includes special features such as the trailer, photo gallery and interviews with John Powers, Gerard Kennedy, Dan Burstall, Steve Bisley and Michael Caton.[6]

Original play[edit]

The Last of the Knucklemen
Written by John Powers
Date premiered 19 November 1973
Place premiered Russell St Theatre, Melbourne
Original language English
Setting A mining camp, north-west Australia

John Power's play had been produced in 1973.[7]

Leslie Rees described it as "a sequence of sketches using the same basic characters but without much development or thematic resolution".[8]

It was performed Off-Broadway in 1983 at the American Theater of Actors, featuring Kevin O'Connor and Dennis Quaid.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c David Stratton, The Last New Wave: The Australian Film Revival, Angus & Robertson, 1980 p38
  2. ^ a b Scott Murray, 'Tim Burstall', Cinema Papers Sept-Oct 1979 p577
  3. ^ a b Interview with Tim Burstall, 30 March 1998 accessed 14 October 2012
  4. ^ "Curator's notes: The Last of the Knucklemen (1979)". Australian Screen Online, part of the National Film and Sound Archives. Retrieved 27 October 2016. 
  5. ^ Film Victoria – Australian Films at the Australian Box Office
  6. ^ "Umbrella Entertainment". Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  7. ^ The Last of the Knucklemen at AusStage
  8. ^ Leslie Rees, Australian Drama in th 1970s, Angus & Robertson, 1978 p 207
  9. ^ Gussow, Mel (1983-10-27). "THEATER: 'KNUCKLEMEN,' CONTEST IN THE OUTBACK". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-09-26. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Murray, Scott, ed. (1994). Australian Cinema. St.Leonards, NSW.: Allen & Unwin/AFC. p. 266. ISBN 1-86373-311-6. 

External links[edit]