RON TAYLOR’S “Slaughter at Saumarez” (1964) GOOD QUALITY
October 20, 2009 § 3 Comments
Note: Shark sizes have been exaggerated by the narrator – (Chuck Faulkner the leading news reader on commercial TV who suggested changes to the script).
Documentary films made for a cinema release in 1965 had to have dramatic titles. We went a little over the top with these, to say the least. Both were, however, quality productions for their time.
Revenge of a Shark Victim was intended to be the star product but it didn’t turn out that way. Surfers heckled the overly dramatic and tragic personal events depicted in a skin diver’s life following his encounter with a white pointer. The subsequent ‘revenge’ was upon semi-harmless species and dangerous whaler sharks. Considered valid at the time but certainly not today when everyone prefers to spare sharks in preference to harming even the shark responsible for biting someone.
The late Robert Raymond (founder of 4 Corners) purchased B&W TV rights to Revenge for the sum of one thousand pounds (about $30,000 in today’s terms).
Bob re-edited footage into a new 60-minute special SHARK for his Project ’67 documentary series. It won the show a Logie.
We became lifelong friends with Bob.
Slaughter at Saumarez was the third of the three-film program. (Not listed is a surfing adventure). A better choice of title today might be something using the words: First underwater exploration of The Coral Sea.
This was a unique and very dangerous expedition in October 1964 traveling far offshore and beyond the Great Barrier Reef in a small professional fishing vessel with Capt.Wally Muller. Bob Grounds and I were the freedivers who chased grey reef sharks (then an unnamed species) with much success. It was a semi-acted documentary, ‘filmed as it actually happened’.
Highlight was the then intact 7,196 ton US Liberty ship aground on Saumarez Reef.
TV news reader Chuck Faulkner re-wrote what became an over-the-top script. He did the narration with an Australian-American accent. A five-foot long white tip reef shark became a fifteen-foot streamlined killer. Chuck believed what he saw and put this into words. We didn’t mind at the time but it was to later become a mistake regretted.
Geoffrey Harvey recorded music I’d describe as a jam-session of jazz for the soundtrack. Ah well. It was a very limited budget and also 1965.
Underwater shark films were not being made anywhere else in the world except Australia by Ron Taylor and his former partner Ben Cropp who was financially much better off by selling his grey nurse and whale shark film products to TV in Australia and especially networks in USA.
The North American’s asked Ben for a dozen more films – immediately. He couldn’t deliver so Jacques Cousteau got the contract instead.
For a brief period, Australia led the world in shark film and what would have been underwater adventure-travel productions.
Diver John Harding (left); cameraman Ron Taylor in 2004, forty years after making the three documentary films.
Slaughter at Saumarez was a fishing, spear fishing and shark encounter expedition of 1964.
Revenge of a Shark Victim was the Rodney Fox return to diving story after being bitten badly.
Surf Scene was introducing Australia’s top long board surfers of 1965 to the underwater world.
John Harding appeared in all three films, along with Wally Muller, Bob Grounds, Ron Zangari, Valerie Taylor, Rodney Fox, Robert Conneeley, Russell Hughes, Paul Witzig and the late Kevin Brennan.Rodney Fox returned to where a shark tasted him, to make the first of his many documentary film appearances.