David Hemmings' action-adventure feature RACE TO THE YANKEE
ZEPHYR had its world premiere at the opening of Kerridge Odeon's
new Regent twin-cinema in Christchurch November 1981. A capacity
crowd of 900 attended the charity opening. Hemmings told the
audience that the production was a 'wonderful opportunity to
highlight the burgeoning New Zealand film industry.' A reviewer
in THE PRESS, wrote that RACE TO THE YANKEE ZEPHYR is by far the
most ambitious film yet made in New Zealand and deserves to do
well. As a light adventure comedy, it also has a lot going for
it; a slight but interesting plot, plenty of action and the
presence of Donald Pleasence and George Peppard, and the greatest
star of all - the magnificent scenery of the Queenstown area.
The prime reason that RACE TO THE YANKEE ZEPHYR was made in New
Zealand was the attitude of the Australian Actor's Equity which
refused to allow four overseas actors in top roles in the film.
As a result Antony Ginnane, who had been providing a considerable
amount of employment for film industry people in and around
Melbourne, decided to come to New Zealand. It is to be hoped that
Equity in New Zealand does not get to the stage of cutting off
its nose to spite its face.
An international production, RACE TO THE YANKEE ZEPHYR has been
directed by David Hennings, recently seen in BEYOND REASONABLE
DOUBT, and a cast headed by Americans Ken Wahl, Lesley Ann Warrne
and George Peppard, and also Donald Pleasence. Pleasence, who
seems incapable of a bad performance, holds the show together
with his funny portrayal of the old, drunken scoundrel with a
rather poeculiar Kiwi accent...It is the scenery, however, which
sets the film apart from your average Saturday matinee movie. The
director, David Hemmings, lovingly lingers on the mountains,
valleys and lakes, and this probably also explains the length of
the film (almost two hours)...It may not have that distinctive,
casual and typically Kiwi feeling of GOODBYE PORK PIE but could
prove to be equally as successful both here and overseas. The
script, by Everett de Roche, tells of a missing DC3 that crashed
into Lake Wakatipu during the Second World War. An old deer
hunter falls out of a helicopter into the lake some thirty years
later and finds the old aircraft which is packed with the
American Pacific force payroll and hundreds of newly minted
medals. This production has a reported budget of $10,000,000.
Producers are John Barnett for New Zealand, Antony Ginnane for
Australia and David Hemmings for his own company of Hemdale.