“Thirst” was the winner of the Gold Medal – Best Special Effects at the Catalonian International Film Festival.
"Thirst" has endured as an enjoyable vampire romp because it portrays the genetically oddball race with a straight face, and abandons the usual clichés, including religious objects, wooden stakes, and mirrors. Written by one-time screenwriter John Pinkney, producer Anthony Ginnane - who also gave us the Aussie supernatural thriller "Patrick" a year earlier - recruited members of Crawford Productions, a company that played a major role in bringing many celebrated Australian film artists to the international film scene during the Seventies.
Starting off with radio productions, Crawford moved into television and feature films, and it was during the latter half of the Seventies that a Renaissance of Australian Film occurred, with directors such as George Miller #1 ("Mad Max"), George Miller #2 ("Man from Snowy River"), Simon Wincer ("The Lighthorsemen"), Philip Noyce ("Newsfront"), Richard Franklin ("Patrick"), and Peter Weir ("Picnic at Hanging Rock") starting their careers. In 1979, Rod Hardy was already a veteran of many TV shows, and the efficiency and tight scheduling of the small screen helped the director deliver a 'scope film with a solid cast that includes David Hemmings (himself having also directed a handful of films in Australia at the time) and veteran character actor Henry Silva (an actor with one imposing, balloon-like melon).
Whereas the commentary track for "Patrick" focused on the production, director Hardy and producer Ginnane both present a broader lecture on the film as an example of a film made within the tight time and financial requirements of government funding, and a movie that helped develop native talent. Despite a few gaps in the last forty minutes, the two commentators cover a lot of production ground, and what comes through quite clearly is an immense pride in being associated with Australia's successful film industry.
The two also give some background info Hemmings, star Contouri (who ultimately retired from acting after a brief stay in Hollywood), the excellent locations at an artist colony and dairy refinery, plus a funny explanation about why Aussies shoot such striking widescreen films.
Both men also discuss a current and rather frightening situation, where a large catalogue of Australian films were sold for distribution by a Panamanian entity that's lost many original elements. The existence of a 'scope print for "Thirst" is apparently the result of two lawsuits and the discovery of a low-contrast print that had lain in storage for more than two decades. Elite's transfer is typically crisp, and they wisely decided not to boost the film's colours - the muted tones add to the filmmaker's attempt at creating an approachable reality, with some clever low-tech effects to maintain the otherworldly aura of the vampires.
Though a straightforward mono mix, "Thirst" has some marvelous sound design that particularly pays off during a hallucinatory "conversion" sequence of sorts, with wild sound effects by mixer Peter Fenton that beautifully intermesh with Brian May's excellent orchestral score. The late composer enjoyed a lengthy career scoring television and feature films (including - surprise - "Patrick") and though a stereo album of his music was released on CD, the DVD includes an isolated mono score track which allows viewers to not only experience May's gift for enhancing the film's eerie mood, but compare his contributions with that of mixer Fenton, himself still involved with many of Peter Weir's films.
Finishing off the disc is a gallery of publicity material (production stills, posters, press book, and soundtrack album - though the scanned notes for the composer are seriously blurry), the film's excellent theatrical trailer that no doubt help sway genre fans, and three TV spots (a teaser and two standard trailers).
Special note as well to the creepy animated menus that combine May's deceptively calming main theme with retro-graphics that come off like a Bavaesque intro for an episode of "Night Gallery."
© 2003 Mark R. Hasan