Brothers in Arms – Rediscovering ‘End Play’ (Australia 1975 – 109 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - April 29, 2014
Brothers in Arms – Rediscovering ‘End Play’ (Australia 1975 – 109 mins)

It takes a good story and solid direction to make a great movie which relies mostly on a single set. Obvious examples are the exceptional ’12 Angry Men’ (’57) and Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’ (’54). Although the movie is not as confined as these two, ‘End Play’ does mostly rely on a sole indoor setting.

A spate of murders, all involving female hitchhikers on a lonely stretch of highway, is continuing to baffle local police. Meanwhile, the bitter and wheelchair bound Robert Gifford is visited by his seafaring brother; Mark, around the same time that hiker Janine Talbort, is picked up and murdered. Various sightings and clues lead Superintendent Cheadle to the Gifford home, where he begins questioning the pair. It soon becomes clear to Cheadle that one of the brothers is the serial killer and that the other is covering up for him. Is the killer the merchant seaman Mark or his paraplegic brother Robert, and what is the reason for this murderer’s hatred of women?

An engrossing mystery, ‘End Play’ is mostly a two hander between the warring brothers. At first (like in ‘Columbo’), you think you know who the killer is, but after a while you are never 100% sure which of the two is the actual murderer, and which one is covering up the other ones murderous deeds.

Both familiar faces on Australian screens at the time, John Waters and George Mallaby are outstanding as the brothers. London born Waters was one of Australia’s most popular actors and went on to co-star in the wonderfully unnerving ‘Summerfield’ (’77), and the acclaimed court martial drama ‘Breaker Morant’ (’80). Mallaby too was originally from England and, shortly after this film, he returned to the UK where he played in various television shows and had a minor part in the Bond movie ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ (’77). A gifted actor, George sadly died in 2004, aged 64. Ken Goodlet is great as the Columbo-like detective, politely and quietly piecing together the fragments of the puzzle. Television veteran; Goodlet, would later play another detective, this time in the cult series ‘Prisoner: Cell Block H’, and later had a recurring role in the long-running soap ‘A Country Practise’ (’81- 94).

Small yet crucial roles also went to the much-loved Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell, as the Gifford’s doctor, and Robert Hewett, as Cheadle’s silent partner; sergeant Robinson. Soap opera star and television presenter Delvene Delaney also appears as the ill-fated Janine Talbort.

Writer/ Director Tim Burstall had earlier made the successful ‘Alvin Purple’ comedies, and would go on to make ‘Eliza Fraser’ with Susannah York, and ‘Attack Force Z’ (’82) with a young Mel Gibson. Burstall does very well here with the minimal setting, letting the camera make sudden, jarring turns, as each character comes under fire.

‘End Play’ is a well made, perfectly acted and tight mystery-thriller, and one that I enjoy returning to. Even once you know who the culprit is, much fun can be had from slowly watching the detective unmasking the murderer, and the reason for the killings.

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