Blast from the past on screen

The making of a film based on 'Gelignite Jack' and the Redex trials of the 1950s is a reminder that we can compete with Americans, and work with them to share our stories.

As a young teenager, the story of Gelignite Jack Murray captured my imagination. The great Redex trials, which in the early 1950s – before television – saw 200 cars racing around the country starting and finishing in Sydney, rivalled the impact of today’s major sporting events.

So when I heard that Robert Galinsky was going to produce a film about the Redex trial and Gelignite Jack, I had to have an interview with Galinsky for Business Spectator’s Management Insights page.

Galinsky has raised $40 million from people who love the Gelignite Jack Murray story and reckon that it is worth funding a $40 million film in Australia that would cost $90 million in the US. It’s a reminder for Australian enterprises that despite the rise in the local dollar there are many things we can do in Australia at far lower cost than the US. However, the US is investing in its productivity and narrowing the gap.

It’s also a reminder that the home market is often not big enough to undertake a major project. The Australian film Red Dog, which cost just $13 million and was aimed at the Australian audience, has already grossed $20 million and will be a successful exercise.

However the Australian market is not sufficient to enable a $40 million film to be economic, so Galinsky must aim at the US. That involves inserting an American into the plot who aims to sabotage the Redex trial. Hopefully they have not taken away the antics of Gelignite Jack.

And of course you need American expertise to tap the US market – a reminder that you need local expertise in any overseas market. Simon West (Con Air, Tomb Raider, The General’s Daughter etc) will be director.

I can’t imagine how they will portray the great radio star Jack Davey who enabled the Redex trials to capture the imagination of Australians. But nothing can replace Gelignite Jack with his Ford Mercury and the gelignite in the boot for anyone who did not let him pass.

I wonder how many other wonderful Australian characters and legions can be brought back to life and their tale exported via film.