Movies/Television

Picnic at Hanging Rock: Re-adapting a Classic.

When it comes to movies, I’m pretty much a stickler to the originals (so, I’m old-fashioned 😉 ). I tend to go by the rule ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t bother fixing it’. I believe that if a movie was originally well made, then why bother tampering with it? There are a lot of movies out there with the label ‘classics’ for good reason.

When I first heard they were making Picnic at Hanging Rock into a six part series for television, of-course my initial reaction was ‘Why?’ The movie made back in 1975, is one of my all-time favourite films and is a classic in Australian cinema history. I began to wonder if suddenly, like Hollywood, television was out of ideas.

Then came the how? How could it be stretched to six hours? Sure they could show parts of the book that weren’t in the film, and would that also include the ‘missing chapter’? I didn’t see how that could all be done to justify six hours of television.

It was then that I discovered that it’s not actually a remake, but a re-adaptation.

Seriously?

Again, why?

Personally, I don’t see the point. However, part of the reasoning behind it is that it offers a ‘fresh take’. In an effort to attract viewers, it would appear that some of the familiar characters have been ‘fleshed out’, so to speak. There is more emphasis on Mrs Appleyard and her background, and from what I’ve seen, it would appear that there is also more to other characters, including Miranda. Both within the film and the book, we are told all we need to know about these characters. The mystery, its domino effect and the rock itself is the focus and the appeal of the entire story. An article about the re-adaptation understands that ‘the enduring appeal may now lie in the unanswered question it poses’.

I have read many comments regarding this re-adaptation and it would appear that many people agree with my sentiments. People are very sceptical, believe that originals can’t be bettered and that there is a lack of creativity as this is the era of remakes. There were some points made about Peter Weir’s version that resonated. It is believed that in Weir’s version, much was left to the imagination; that the original had a spell-binding feeling that cannot be replicated.

There is no harm in younger audiences appreciating such films for what they are and it wasn’t all that long ago that I sat with my kids and watched the movie. Both my children are teenagers, so perhaps well within the age bracket this re-adaptation is aimed for. My children sat through the whole thing, and with the short attention span people have these days, it managed to hold their attention and neither one found it ‘boring’. At the end of the movie, my son said ‘that rock is evil’. Somehow, I don’t think the idea of the story being re-adapted will hold any appeal to either of them.

I saw Picnic at Hanging Rock when it first came out (yes, showing my age here) and as a young child it captured my imagination. This movie, above all others, made me the writer I am today (Alfred Hitchcock’s work a close second). Will I still watch it? I may sneak a peek at the first episode to get some sense of it, mainly because my curiosity usually gets the better of me. Whether it will hold my attention completely though, remains to be seen*.

The re-adaptation will have its world television premiere 6 May on Foxtel.

*Update: I did happen to watch the first episode and I stick by the opinions I have stated above. You can also read a review from The Guardian, which gives this re-adaptation 2 out of 5 stars.

What are your thoughts on re-adaptations? Do you believe that some films should be respected and left alone? Do you know of a film or television series that is better than the original? Will you be watching this re-adaptation?

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Australia's Historical Places · Ghosts & The Paranormal · History

Do Ghosts Move with Dwellings?

During a recent visit to Sydney, I took a tour of The Australian Pioneer Village. Opened in 1970, it was established in an effort to preserve some of the history of the Hawkesbury area, about an hour outside of the city. An enormous undertaking; about two dozen dwellings were relocated and their buildings kept structurally intact. Apart from dwellings, shops were also relocated, along with a bank, post office, school, church and police station. By day, it’s a journey into the country’s colonial past, however at night; it could be the most haunted street in the country.

On an episode of Haunting Australia, the team visited the Pioneer Village to find any evidence that ghosts moved with buildings. Both visitors and workers alike have experienced unexplained phenomena at the village and ghost tours are regularly conducted. A young stable boy has been sighted outside the sulky shed, the ghost of a horse has even been sighted and numerous orbs have been caught on film.

Marsden Park Public School, Mitchell Cottage, Case Cottage and Perry House are among some of the better known buildings for paranormal activity. Case Cottage is a centre of spirit activity and a male and female presence has been known to reside in the tiny space of Mitchell Cottage. Perry House is known to have had a checkered past, which includes a saddlery, grocery store and a ‘house of Shady Ladies’. As a result, it is said there is much activity here.

Inside Perry House, once a ‘house of Shady Ladies’. Spirit activity has been known to occur here.

During their investigations, the Haunting Australia team encountered a female apparition, a moving curtain, a knock in response and an EVP (electronic voice phenomenon). There was even a partial apparition sighted at the school house. Psychics reported sadness and requests for privacy from the spirit world.

With such a positive conclusion, this may warrant further study amongst paranormal investigators. Their findings only strengthen the belief that spirits move with dwellings; after all, people do become so attached to their homes that they may not wish to leave them after death.

Do you believe it’s possible for spirits to move with dwellings? Have you ever experienced any unexplained phenomena? Do you enjoy taking a step back into the past?

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Australia's Historical Places · History · Postcards from Australia

Iandra: Australia’s Very Own ‘Castle’.

I’ve always loved castles. When I was a kid I used to envy the Europeans their castles (still do). They always interested me and I was fascinated by their history. Growing up in Australia, the closest we were likely to get would be a castle at a theme park, which doesn’t quite have the same appeal. It was only recently that I discovered that here in Australia, we actually do have a castle and it is situated closer to my home that I realised.

Situated near Cowra, a country town in Central Western New South Wales is Iandra Castle. Technically, it is not a castle, but a homestead; it is referred to as ‘The Castle’ by the locals. Built between 1908 and 1910, it is made of concrete with Tudor influences. Iandra is only open a couple of times each year and is popular amongst the locals.

Walking around the castle is like walking into a maze with numerous doors and corridors. With two storeys, it consists of almost sixty rooms. Situated in one of the downstairs hallways is a detailed floor plan of the castle. I couldn’t help but think of the difficulties new house staff must have felt during their first weeks of employment.

During its heyday, Iandra employed about 350 men to work the 32,000 acres. It also had its own store, post office and school. Iandra even had its own church, which still stands today. Inside, the castle includes its own games room, observatory and a smoking room for the gentlemen of the house. My husband was surprised to see more than one fireplace within the large stables, situated behind the house. With a clear distinction between the servant’s quarters and that of the gentry, it is believed Iandra is a rare example of the manorial system within Australia.

My only disappointment was not going into the turret, which, like some of the other rooms in the castle was inaccessible to the public. Who knows? Maybe we were inside the turret and we didn’t even know it! I may well have had a chance to play Rapunzel and let down my hair after all. 😉

Are you fascinated by castles? Have you spent some time in one – or even more than one?

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Postcards from Australia

Parkes Elvis Festival, 2016.

Elvis Festival Fun in AcapulcoAs a child, I grew up on Elvis music and my family knew a guy who wanted to be an Elvis impersonator. When he came over to visit, he would sing for us and even made up his own songs; so when Elvis died, our family were in mourning.

On a whim, for the start of 2016, my family and I made our first visit to the Parkes Elvis Festival. It has been held every year since it began back in 1993, and coincides with Elvis’s birthday on 8 January. This is in the middle of summer here in Australia, which is why I have been putting it off for so long even though I don’t live that far away.

Every year has a different theme and this year was ‘Fun in Acapulco’. With so much to see, this year we only took in the markets and the street parade.

Here come the Elvii….

Here Come the Elvii

American Elvis tribute artist Donny Edwards was there with this years Miss Priscilla.

Donny Edwards and Miss Priscilla

There was also a Las Vegas Showgirl.

Las Vegas Showgirl

New Zealand Elvis impersonator Brendon Chase, believed to be one of the best in the business was also there in a rather impressive looking limo.

Brendon Chase Elvis

One of the highlights of the street parade was this Kiwi Elvis doing the haka.

Kiwi Elvis

Even the law was getting in on the act.

Police Escort 2

The festival was a lot of fun and it certainly managed to freak my kids out! And just for the record, no I did not see the Elvis impersonator I knew during my childhood. But, I’m sure I’ll be going back again. It’s well worth a visit.

Are you an Elvis fan? Have you seen an Elvis tribute artist? Have you visited Parkes for the Elvis Festival or visited Graceland? What have you been doing to kick off 2016?

Enjoy this article? Subscribe to my blog and never miss a post. You can also follow me on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Google+ and Goodreads.

Images by Debbie Johansson.

Ghosts & The Paranormal · Spooky Stories · Strange but True

Australia’s Paranormal: The Devil’s Pool.

The ExtraordinaryBack in the 1990s, my husband and I used to watch a show called The Extraordinary. As the title would suggest, it featured stories of the paranormal and supernatural from around the world, but also had a distinct Australian slant.

Growing up fascinated by unusual stories, I really enjoyed watching this show and some of the stories captured my imagination. One such story was that of The Devil’s Pool, a story that has become legend in Australian indigenous culture.

Whether the events in this story are just mere coincidences or there is something more to it, I’ll let you decide, but you can’t deny it certainly makes for one compelling, spooky story.

What are your thoughts to this story? Did you watch The Extraordinary back in the 1990s? Do you enjoy hearing and/or reading scary stories?

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Australia's Historical Places · Photography · Postcards from Australia

Australia’s Historical Places: Parramatta.

Elizabeth Farm VerandahRecently, I visited Parramatta, a suburb of inner western Sydney. I grew up around the area, and frequented the shops, movie theatres and other venues of interest here during my teens and early twenties. It is this area of Sydney where some of my stories are located.

The local aboriginals named it ‘the place where the eels lie down’, due to the large number of eels that frequented the river. Parramatta was founded in 1788 (the same year as Sydney) and is the oldest inland European settlement in Australia. Parramatta River became useful for farming and was a popular form of transporting goods into Sydney. Parramatta is now a major business district.

These are just three of the historic buildings in the area that I visited:

  • Experiment Farm Cottage: This home is the site of the first land grant made in Australia in 1789 (30 acres). Former convict James Ruse successfully farmed the site, which became an experiment in self-sufficiency. Surgeon John Harris later bought the land, and the house that stands there today contains the largest collection of early colonial furniture in the country.
  • Elizabeth Farm: John Macarthur was a lieutenant and was granted 100 acres from the acting governor. Together with his wife, Elizabeth, they became pioneers of the wool industry (although his wife’s contribution is rarely credited). Today, the house is a hands-on museum, complete with a re-created 1830s garden.
  • Old Government House: Once the country residence of early governors, including Governor and Mrs Macquarie, Old Government House is Australia’s oldest surviving public building. The appearance of the house today owes much to Governor and Mrs Macquarie, where visitors can capture the period of the 1820s.

Here I some of the photos I took on the day.

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Do you enjoy visiting historic houses? Does your home town have a rich history? If you’re a writer, do you use your home town as a setting?

Images by Debbie Johansson.

Australia's Historical Places · Photography · Postcards from Australia

Australia’s Historical Places: Abercrombie House.

Historical Places of AustraliaThe country town of Bathurst, about 200 kilometres (124 miles) west of Sydney is best known for its annual car racing, yet tucked away on the outskirts of town visitors can discover a little piece of history.

William Stewart arrived in Australia in 1825 and became Lieutenant Governor General of New South Wales. He was granted land in Bathurst in order to help colonise the region; his land extended as far as where the town is currently located, including Mount Panorama itself, about 6 kilometres (3 miles) away.  Abercrombie House was built in the 1870s by his eldest son, yet after World War I it fell into decline. It became the home of the current owners during the late 1960s and since then they have spent many years restoring the house, grounds and outbuildings, and is now heritage listed.

Today the house would be best described as a mansion, containing at least a dozen bedrooms, a turret and a ballroom. For some months now I have had an idea for a new novel and I think I may well have found the perfect setting with Abercrombie House.

Here is a glimpse of the photos I took inside the house and around the grounds of Abercrombie House.

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I have something special coming up, so I’ll be taking a break from blogging for a couple of weeks and will return on the first week in April. Consider yourselves warned! 😉

Do you visit historic houses? Are you one to enjoy undertaking a big project – like house renovation? Have you made a lucky discovery recently?

Images by Debbie Johansson.