Review: Mama’s Gone A-Hunting
Escaped con Gerard Kennedy ropes an old mate (Vince Martin) into a get rich quick scheme; Kidnapping the five month old child of rich businessman Peter Stratford and wife Carmen Duncan. The couple are attending the ballet at the Sydney Opera House, whilst a meek and recently hired babysitter (Judy Morris, unlike ever before) stays back at their hotel room looking after the baby. There’s a kink to all of this though, the cons (nor the married couple) hadn’t counted on Morris being a grade-A fruitcake herself, who wants the baby for her own reasons- and boy is she possessive. With Morris and child on the run, the would-be kidnappers have to hurry if they’re gonna be able to carry out their plans for a ransom demand (even a recording of the baby’s voice will suffice), as the parents will be back soon.
This 1975 Aussie TV movie from director Peter Maxwell (mostly known for such beloved Aussie TV shows as “A Country Practice”, “Skippy” and “Boney”) is for the most part a B-grade corker. Kennedy and Stratford are perfectly cast as the would-be kidnappers (one brawny, the other a somewhat spineless lothario), and Judy Morris gives a surprisingly effective turn as the nutty babysitter, a million miles from her bitchy Liz from “Mother and Son” (my all-time favourite Aussie TV show).
The story by screenwriter Bruce A. Wishart (who wrote a couple of episodes of the landmark Aussie TV cop drama “Homicide”) starts off terrifically well, and for about ¾ of its length it’s wonderfully twisty and twisted. I had no idea how in the hell this was going to end. Unfortunately it is in the denouement that Wishart becomes all conventional, which is the wrong approach. One of the principal characters seems to undergo an entire personality change simply to serve Mr. Wishart’s needs to wrap this film up more conventionally. That’s a shame because for most of its length the film was being anything but conventional.
By the way, the interior scenes at the famed Sydney Opera House were actually filmed at the Seymour Centre, but they sure as heck fooled me. A lot of the action also takes place at Sydney’s Grand Central Station, with the film using locations very effectively.
This might’ve been intended for TV, but with a better finale, I think it could’ve worked OK on the big screen too. It’s certainly unusual. Stupid title, though, having been taken from part of a nursery rhyme that I swear I’ve never heard before (and I’m familiar with most nursery rhymes). Am I the only one?