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Production Diary: When Keith Met Rosie: ‘De-Crucify the Angel!’ *

Keith has set up his heavy, clockwork Newman Sinclair camera way down at the end of a grassy plain in the New Guinea highlands. The Cessna is now accelerating toward him. Sure, the pilot will take off and fly right over his head. It will happen, won’t it…

This amazing 1961 photograph was snapped by production assistant Chris McCullough a split-second before the wheel hit Keith and missed Chris. The hand at the bottom left is director Ian Dunlop, who was meant to pull Keith down in case of trouble.

No, it doesn’t. The Cessna’s wheel hits the solid metal camera and smashes it into his face. The camera is destroyed. Keith is knocked unconscious, his right eyeball dangling loose.

Inside the Evil Empire

Seven years after the accident, I’m called to the Australian Commonwealth Film Unit, the home of government movie propaganda.

“Dick, don’t do this to me. I don’t want a one-eyed cameraman.”

“Keith is our senior cameraman. You’ll like him.”

“Let me shoot it myself. I’m good. I don’t need a cameraman—especially a blind one.”

“Want the job? Take Keith,” says Dick.

It’s a deal-breaker. Fine, I’ll bring two cameras—Keith can do his boring 5-foot-high tripod, 10:1 zoom thing, I’ll do my own shooting.

Keith

I don’t like Keith. He’s a rough-and-tumble, much-married, ex-communist turned filmmaker, while I’m a brilliant, young filmmaker. He smokes Gitanes non-stop and he makes leery eyes at my production assistant, Rosemary.

Not only that, he’s half-blind.

Rosemary

She doesn’t like Keith either. Rosemary is a gently reared country girl who felt out of place in the country. She moved away as soon as she could, left Australia, studied television in Seattle and then worked in London as a PA.

“He touched me!”

“Where?”

Keith, Stefan and Rosie

“On the leg, here. I was in the passenger seat, Keith was driving. He told a joke and patted me. Tell him to stop. I don’t like him.”

The Heat of the Night

It’s ten days later and I’ve had my talk with Keith. Things have calmed down.

We are in Darwin, the northernmost city in Australia. Barbarella is showing at the local movies. The night is hot. The air smells of frangipanis. (Plumeria in American.)

“What was Barbarella’s mission?”

It’s a fun game we’re playing in the hotel’s swimming pool.

“To find Doctor Durand Durand and destroy the Positronic Ray.”

We splash around in the pool laughing. Keith is swimming with Rosie.

“The name of the city?”

“Sogo, built above the Mathmos.”

With a cry of “De-crucify the angel!” both Keith and Rosie disappear under the water.

* “Or I’ll Melt Your Face”

Keith and Rosemary

Things change. I get to like and admire Keith—the way he has overcome his accident, his willingness to try new camera techniques, his knowledge of film history (especially early Russian), his enthusiasm for Buckminster Fuller. We are friends.

But best of all, he loves my Rosie and she loves him.

We are a happy crew, doing good work.

Ever After

Keith and Rosie are engaged and a year later, married.

Keith and Rosie, I love you both. Miss you terribly.

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