Slasher Month: Early Frost, aka Chilling (1982)

I watched this Australian noirish thriller back-to-back on the same day as the supernatural slasher Stones of Death. I like to tell you that this Down Under rip of American film noir fared better than that Aborigine Freddy Krueger rip in a Poltergeist world.

Well, with this soap opera-laden tale — about a divorce investigation that leads to the discovery a dead body — that’s not going to happen.

Sure, it’s well shot and the editing is alright . . . but nothing happens . . . as Mike Hayes, an aged, private detective (Guy Doleman), and a 13-year-old fatherless local boy, Joey Meadow (Daniel Cumerford) — who keeps scrap books of newspaper articles on the town’s local kidnappings and murders — jointly investigate and — discover — a link in a series of fatal “accidents” in the city of Blacktown are actually the intelligent workings of a serial killer.

Finland release, courtesy of Video Space.

As I dug into the backstory: It turns out my “soap opera” instincts were on point: most of the actors — if you know your Aussie soaps — were once prominent actors in the ’70s daytime dramas Restless Years and The Young Doctors. In addition, thanks to a 2005 IMDb comment from David Hannay, the project’s producer, this TV Movie production (marketed on video in the overseas markets) was a troubled one. The original director (a real-life local Blacktown boy done-good, Terry O’Connor, who also scripted) was fired midway through. So, Hannay, along with his co-producer, Geoff Brown, did what they could to “save the picture.” The end result: it’s the only film released in Australia without a director’s credit.

And the “trouble” shows: Again, nothing happens here: A shopping mall maintenance man is knocked off a ladder to his death. A woman returns home from a date for an electrocution-by-faulty light switch to a non-thrilling tedium, etc., and so on. Well, there’s a severed head . . . at the very end (that we don’t see cut off). And there’s some shenanigans with a booby-trapped spear gun that’s not the least bit graphic (poorly lit and poorly shot, with no visual impact). Oh, a XJ6 Jaguar (owned by David Hannay) is blown up.

Whatever. It doesn’t suck, but I am just bored by it all.

The killer gets away with three more murders . . . and the killer fills another page in the scrap book. The end.*

If you’re a fan of Micheal Caine — and aren’t we all — you’ll notice veteran actor Guy Doleman from Caine’s pretty fine The Ipcress File (1965) in the cast. Fans of the Syfy Channel import Farscape will recognize a young David Franklin in an early role as our serial stalker-murderer (or is he?): he portrayed Meeklo Braca in that series; he also portrayed Brutus in several episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess. Mad Max fans may notice Ms. Rockatansky, aka Joanne Samuels, in a support role. Then there’s the career-never-realized of the late Jon Blake (of the Risky Business-inspired car romp, Freedom) in the cast (is he trying to kill his and his brother Joey’s mom?). As result of Jon Blake, and later, at the age of 19, Daniel Cumerford, each dying tragically — compounded by the troubled production’s woes — the Aussie press wrote a series of articles about “The Jinx of Early Frost.”

Blake’s career was ironically cut short by a tragic car accident on the last day of filming the biggest film of his career, the 1987 WW I war drama, The Lighthorsemen. Cumerford’s death was the result of “taking a shortcut” across a suburban train line near Rockdale, New South Wales. Cumerford made only one other film before quitting the business: the comedy Ginger Maggs (1982).

You can watch Early Frost on You Tube.

* Plot Spoiler: Joey was lashing out for his mother “accidentally” killing his father years earlier during a local swimming hole picnic, thus the “cold” of (alternate) title, we think: for there is no frost in the spring time.

Spanish market version, aka Cold to Death, courtesy of Mercado Libre.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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