Vale Everett De Roche

03 April, 2014 by Don Groves

Prolific screenwriter Everett De Roche, who died in Melbourne yesterday, was one of the instigators of the Ozploitation genre movement of the 1970s and 80s.

The US-born writer, who migrated to Australia with his wife in 1968, was 67. He had battled with cancer for three years. He started as an in-house writer for Crawfords for four years in the 1970s, penning episodes of Homicide, Division 4, Ryan and Matlock Police.

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His first feature screenplay was Colin Eggleston’s Long Weekend in 1978. Among his film credits were Richard Franklin’s Patrick (1978), Simon Wincer’s Harlequin (1980), Franklin’s Roadgames (1981), David Hemmings’ Race to the Yankee Zephyr (1981), Russell Mulcahy’s Razorback (1984) and Franklin’s Visitors (2003).

In 2008 he and director Jamie Blanks collaborated on a remake of Long Weekend, for which he added two characters, a baby dugong and several scenes. "The basic environmental message works as well today as it did in 1978," he said. But he rued the fact the remake was barely seen in Australia and hated the title used for the US release, Nature's Grave.

Throughout his career he was a prolific writer for TV, working on shows such as The Saddle Club, Thunderstone, Stingers, Ocean Girl, Something in the Air, Medivac and Flipper. His final credits, according to IMDB.com, were Anthony Waller’s horror/mystery Nine Mile Down and TV’s K9 in 2009.

“Another great man has left us,” Mark Hartley, who directed the re-imagining of Patrick, posted on Facebook. “Everett’s work was the backbone of genre filmmaking in this country and inspired countless writers and directors. Like all genre veterans in this country, his work was never really acknowledged by the cognoscente – but try to imagine Australia's rich film heritage without Long Weekend, Patrick, Roadgames and Razorback."

Producer Antony I. Ginnane described Long Weekend, Patrick, Roadgames and Razorback as “ground-breaking Australian genre titles that have never been equalled in my view.”

Ginnane told IF, “We did four films together in the late 70s through 1981, thrillers – his special expertise- but also action adventure. And he was fast when he needed to be. When we had to move Yankee Zephyr to New Zealand he turned a Queensland-based tropical jungle set story into a polar glacier piece for Southern New Zealand without missing a beat and in two weeks.

“Donald Pleasence picked up and adored micro-character adjustments that Everett had managed to slip in despite the time pressures. He was able to blend suspense and humour uniquely. The psycho killer stalker in the Mr Whippy van in Snapshot says it all.”

Genre writer Shayne Armstrong said, “It's a tragedy on so many levels. Yet he's been such an inspiration to so many, his legacy will last for many decades yet.”

Brian Trenchard-Smith was a contemporary in the Ozploitation era.  The director praised De Roche as a screenwriter who was ahead of his time in the Oz film renaissance of the 70s. "He knew what the international market would respond to, then created imaginative riffs on established genres like Harlequin, which transposed the Rasputin story to a modern political thriller with sci-fi trimmings," he said.

"Millions of people across the world saw movies written by Everett De Roche. Those pictures contributed to Australia's professional credibility as an emerging film industry. I had the privilege of directing one of his kids' mystery scripts, Frog Dreaming, starring Henry Thomas. The fact that it's still well regarded 30 years later is a tribute to the quality of his story telling. Rarely does the writer get the spotlight he deserves.

"Everett had a quiet magnetism and a quick mind. He was fun to work with, full of clever ideas for genre hybrids. I wish our pitch for Conan 3 meets Waterworld had hooked Dino Di Laurentiis. What a movie that would have made!"

In a 2012 interview, De Roche said he still cringed at some of the “campy” scenes in Patrick and talked about his battles with Franklin on that movie.

“Richard and I constantly argued about changes, but alas, the writer has zero clout and the show must go on,” he said. “I was furious about certain changes at the time – this happens with all of my movies – but I’ve mellowed over the years.”

De Roche is survived by his wife, six daughters and numerous grandchildren.

There will be a memorial at Bunurong Memorial Park on April 14 at 12 noon. The address is 790 Frankston-Dandenong Road, Dandenong South.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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