The most successful Australian documentary film of all. Made at a time when most outback roads were still dirt, when aborigines were more nomadic than they are today and when hunting crocodiles was more acceptable.
The film shows Keith Adams his wife and his sister traveling from Perth to ‘The Gulf’ in a 1948 Buick sedan, converted to diesel, towing a box trailer and small boat. The pet fox terrier dog Tiger was to many viewers, the star of the film, chasing wildlife and often catching it.
At subsequent film showings, attended by tens of thousands of people in each city, the dog developed ‘a bald patch’ on the top of his head from the constant attention and patting by the general public. Yes, the entire Adams family was at each screening, selling tickets, running the 16mm projector, and talking to the ‘punters’ at intermission in the three reel 165 minute original show, with two intermissions (later reduced to 120 minutes)- the first wave of environmentalists along to view the very first Australian wildlife film, in color.
Believe it or not, the ladies eventually stopped assisting with the film shows, ‘becoming tired of counting money every day’. Today, the equivalent of about $100,000 per week, every week for several years, and later overseas in South Africa, U.K. and Canada. Amazing success at the box office.
This was almost 40 years ago when crowds of 1000 people per showing were possible in the giant, dusty suburban cinemas before these became carpet warehouses or later, video shops. In Australia or overseas it was the same thing, huge crowds in large theatres or auditoriums. In Queensland the film toured constantly, returning each year to the same theatres with equal success.
This was an era in Australia when an adventurer confident enough ‘to go bush’, could catch giant 100kg groper, ten foot hammerhead sharks with a handline fishing from the bank of a river. So much natural food (wild ducks) in the bush, all you needed was a rifle and a fishing line to live for months off the land and sea.
The girls cooked Barramundi and fresh bread on open fires. When Keith Adams required a pole to help winch his car from a flooded river, he improvised as one needs to do in the bush. The film shows how.
It was also an era when only a few 4×4 vehicles traveled the chosen route, Perth to Ayres Rock (Uluru) via the Great Central Road- then a far lesser track than it is today.
Then on to ‘The Gulf’ where most of the adventure occurs, and a return months later to Perth via the Northern Territory and rugged West Australian coast (when bridges were few and flooded rivers plenty).
Northern Safari can also be appreciated as a magnificent record of one man’s film making with a hand-wind 16mm Bolex (shown above)- a very simple yet professional camera used later by many pioneers who followed the same techniques to adventure and fame via their films.
Keith Adams was the original trailblazer. Film historians seem to have neglected the success of Northern Safari possibly because the box office figures were unconventional, 16mm was not a ‘professional’ format once on big screens, and few historians knew the whole story which includes successful marketing outside conventional film company control.
Now on video and CD and sold with a book in it’s second edition both can be obtained direct from the film maker himself:
13 Rinaldi Crescent,
Karrinyup W.A. 6018