Crime: Melbourne’s Mean Streets

RMIT University, Building 80, Level 10 – Room 80.09.07

Down these mean streets: The depiction of Melbourne as a ‘noir city’ in Season One of Division 4

Dean Brandum & Andrew Nette

With Homicide a ratings hit on the Seven network, Crawford Productions was commissioned by the Nine network to produce a rival police series, one with a darker, seamier edge. Division 4 (1969-197 5) was set in the fictional ‘Yarra Central’, a thinly veiled St. Kilda and whereas Homicide presented a Melbourne where violent crime was an aberration to be corrected, Division 4‘s cops were the last outpost of morality in a tabloid Melbourne of vice and organised crime. Accentuating this tone was Division 4‘s aesthetic of high-contrast monochrome depicting the shadowy laneways, sleazy clubs and ever-threatening nightlife of the city. Division 4 presented Melbourne as a ‘Noir City’, a vision rarely, if ever, depicted on film as strongly and as consistently as this series managed over the course of its 301 episodes.

This presentation will focus on the first season of the series and will discuss the origins and production history of Division 4 and present a number of clips and stills illustrating the noir theme, placing the series in the context of classical Hollywood film and television noir emphasising its distinct sensibility in comparison with the more conventional approach taken with Homicide. Other than film and television, true crime pulp magazines and tabloid newspaper reportage also influenced Division 4‘s aesthetic. This presentation will shed some light on one of the darkest representations of Melbourne ever filmed.

Dean Brandum & Andrew Nette were the grateful recipients of the 2014 Australian Film Institute Research Collection’s research fellowship which allowed them complete access to the collection’s extensive archive of Crawford Productions material.

Dean Brandum gained his PhD at Deakin University in 2016 for analysis of historical box office takings. He has taught at a number of universities in Melbourne and has written for various publications, generally on the topic of film distribution. He maintains the website and his book Technicolouryawn: Melbourne drive ins in 1970 will be released later this year.

Andrew Nette is a writer of fiction and non-fiction, reviewer and pulp scholar. He is the author of Ghost Money and co-editor of Beat Girls, Love Tribes and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 – 1980. His popular website, Pulp Curry, contains reviews, features and interviews on a broad range of topics relating to crime fiction, film and popular culture


How Homicide gave Australians greater access to the global urban conversation

Nick Moore, RMIT University

From the dizzying opening cityscape of Homicide’s first episode1, through the prominent architecture of its iconic title sequences, to its persistent and extensive use of streets and buildings from all over Melbourne, Victoria’s capital was an inescapable element of this influential Australian drama series. More importantly, in the absence of other significant moving image representations of Australians, and at a time when public discourse around metropolitan identity was burgeoning, it can be argued that Homicide’s representation of Melbourne had an impact on the growing urbanised and suburbanised Australian self-image.

Crawford Productions based many of their storytelling decisions on a combination of their research into contemporary local crimes and their growing understanding of the demands of television drama2. At the time, ‘The City’ was emerging as an essential element of the episodic police procedural, both as a setting and as a rhetorical device. By making intentionally Australian genre television, Crawford Productions not only placed Melbourne in Australian stories on Australian screens, but it also put it in a position in the public imagination that had previously been exclusively occupied by North American and European cities. In this way, Homicide projected Melbourne into the conversation around modernism, urbanism and other mid-century concerns and contributed to a specifically Australian understanding of these issues. I propose to present this argument and to give examples of how Homicide’s co-opting of genre fed into the national discourse. I expect that this will contribute to the discussion of Melbourne on screen and I also expect it might add context to consequent moving image representations of Melbourne’s built environment, such as in David Giles’s The Dame Was Loaded or Scott Ryan’s The Magician.

Homicide is indisputably seminal. It has been argued that it was the seed that established the viability of the Australian film and television industry. This paper looks at a prominent instance of putting authentic and identifiable Melbourne locations at the service of the moving image and discusses the effect that this might have had on our metropolitan and our national identities.
Nick Moore is a professional editor, sessional academic and filmmaker. He was a programmer at the Melbourne International Film Festival for two years. His film Rauch und Spiegel won the Prix CANAL+ at Clermont-Ferrand in 2013 and is screening this year on SBS. Nick is a PhD candidate at RMIT University, researching representations of Melbourne in the moving image.


Sinister Visions of Melbourne

Patricia Di Risio, University of Melbourne

The Jammed (McLachlan 2007) is a hard-hitting drama about the trafficking of women into the sex industry in Australia. It was shot in Melbourne and received critical acclaim for its numerous strengths in terms of narrative structure and performance. The film’s low production quality is often cited as one of the reasons it did not perform well at the box office or has not received the attention it deserves. This paper will demonstrate that the major reason that this film has remained somewhat obscure is more to do with the underbelly of Melbourne it reveals. The familiar locations and settings highlight the indifference that the city has to this issue and the unwillingness to acknowledge the existence of trafficked women, particularly from Asia and Eastern Europe, who are coerced into sex work. The setting of this story in Melbourne, where licensed brothels are controversially permitted, portrays an image of the city that goes against the conventional discourse of Melbourne as multicultural and hospitable. This paper will assert that the main reason this film is rarely screened or discussed is because it reveals a dark side of Melbourne that the city would prefer to ignore. I will argue that it makes it a particularly disturbing and confronting film to watch for viewers who are very familiar with or live in Melbourne. Many of the locations and images are very recognisable and this accentuates the shocking information contained in the film about the city and its inhabitants. The aesthetic strengths and shortcomings of The Jammed will be examined in relation to the way the city is captured and the uncomfortable truth it reveals.

Patricia Di Risio is a PhD candidate in Screen Studies at the University of Melbourne. Her thesis focuses on unconventional representations of women and femininity in late 20th century Hollywood cinema and examines the interplay between gender and genre. Patricia has contributed chapters to Silent Women: Pioneers of Cinema (Supernova 2016) and Celluloid Ceiling: Women Directors Breaking Through (Supernova 2014). Patricia has taught film and theatre studies in Italy (Accademia dell ‘Immagine, L’ Aquila) and the UK (Studio School, Cambridge) and currently teaches Screen Studies and related disciplines at the University of Melbourne and Monash College, Monash University