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Malcolm is a man whose mechanical aptitude is highly developed, but through the efforts of an over-bearing mother, his emotional and social development stopped a long time ago.  He is a thirty-year-old boffin who works for the tramways as a maintenance man.  He lives alone in his recently deceased mother’s house – watched over occasionally by local milk bar proprietor Mrs Tamarack.  His mechanical ability gets him in hot water when he produces a one-man tram that he has spent the last few months building in a little black room at the tram depot.  An ecstatic Malcolm drives his ‘tram’ around Melbourne streets at dawn.  The results – he gets the sack.

The long suffering Mrs Tamarack, fed up with extending credit to Malcolm, suggests that a boarder may be the answer to his enforced poverty.  The successful applicant, Frank, turns out to be a crim (complete with blousy girlfriend Judith) who inadvertently uses Malcolm’s abilities to further his career.  The combination of Malcolm’s amazing inventions with Franks’s criminal mind results in a spate of unique but unsuccessful robberies.  The three alternate between the violent world of bank hold-ups and the zaniness of their domestic life – crim, the girlfriend and the simple boffin get themselves into more strife at home than at work.

All this culminates in the heist of the decade – an automated bank job and a get away with the loot that stretches Malcolm’s devices to the full.


Malcolm – Colin Friels
Frank – John Hargreaves
Judith – Lindy Davies
Willy – Chris Haywood
Tramways Supervisor – Charles Tingwell
Mrs. T. – Beverly Phillips
Jenny – Judith Stratford
Barmaid – Heather Mitchell
Jenny’s Mother – Katerina Tassopoulos


Director – Nadia Tass
Screenplay – David Parker
Producer – Nadia Tass/David Parker
Executive Producer – Bryce Menzies
Associate Producer – Tim White
Music  – Simon Jeffes & The Penguin Café Orchestra
Editor – Ken Sallows
Director of Photography  – David Parker

Running Time:  90 Minutes 

Production Notes

Whilst working on THE COOLANGATTA GOLD in late 1983, David Parker found that his role as a stills photographer was becoming more and more frustrating.  With encouragement from Colin Friels he started to think seriously about making a film of his own and, in early 1984, in collaboration with Nadia Tass, the first draft script for MALCOLM was completed.

Channel 7 were sufficiently impressed with this early script to enter into a pre-sale agreement and, with the assistance of Film Victoria further funds were made available.  The script eventually went through six drafts and numerous revisions and although the services of two professional script writers were enlisted, the final script is almost entirely Parker’s.

Stockbroker Ian Johnson eventually took over the underwriting, after a novel approach by Parker.  One of the “bandit ashtrays” used in the final bank robbery was driven into Johnson’s office – the lid popped open and a small tape recorder shouted “Give us a million dollars or I’ll blow your balls off!”  the gun was obviously plastic so the threat was never taken seriously, but the request was!

Parker and Tass set out to make a film that was not only entertaining but had some value in terms of strong social comment.  Both felt deeply about the attitude of society to people who aren’t ‘normal’ and this formed the basis of MALCOLM.  Parker comments “If you take the trouble to look past the abnormality then you are likely to find something very special.  People who, by their very condition are not governed by the usual social mores often maintain a child-like purity and directness.  It takes a criminal, Frank, and his nagging girlfriend, Judith, to recognise these qualities and to bring a film – that a supposedly negative influence, i.e. crime, can produce positive results in someone like Malcolm.

The Gadgets

The mechanical devices used in MALCOLM were constructed in David Parker’s old photographic studio in South Yarra, Melbourne.  The Gadgets were designed by David with the help of Tony Mahood, the first Assistant Director and Steve Mills.

One of the intriguing gadgets was a radio controlled model car with a scissor lift holding the gun and video camera, which was used to perform a robbery in the film.  The whole thing is controlled by Malcolm from his bedroom.  He sends the model car complete with trailer for the money, into a bank foyer and holds up two guards with the device.  The guards are forced to put the money on the trailer and the car makes its getaway.

The scissor lift is constructed from aluminium strips of rods.  Their object is to get the gun and video camera up to a reasonable height.  The video camera is actually an old 8mm camera, which has been cut in half and extensively altered.  The replica is fitted with an aluminium barrel so that charges can be out in to simulate gun fire.  Various functions have been rigged up to radio control units so that the gun, video zoom and scissor lift movements can be operated remotely.

The ash tray were also radio controlled.  All three ash-trays are built over a 6 wheel drive, radio controlled toy and the ash-tray sections on top flip up to reveal on one a gun which is basically the gun used on the remote controlled car, a second has a fire extinguisher and a third has a clowns head which blows ping pong sized smoke bombs.

The most difficult mechanical device by far was the split car.  David Parker explains: “We naturally think of a getaway car as something high-powered and something police are not likely to pull over because it looks out of the ordinary.  But Malcolm’s a bit bent.  He’s been watching TV and he feels what you need is something that can disappear down a lane and get away, so he splits the car in half.”

‘We used a Honda Z.  We had a complete car, one for the actors, which actually split in two on a rig and we had to have one that had wheels and ran along with stunt drivers in it.  So we had to have three cars – two of which we cut right down the middle.  We just cut them through with an angle grinder and a hacksaw.”

Malcolm’s tram was the last gadget made.  Fitting’s came from the Tramways Museum north of Melbourne, and the power was provided by a motorbike engine.

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