SHARK DOCUMENTARIES – Savage Shadows Pt 1, Pt2

 

Henri Bource film ‘Savage Shadows’ was released in 35mm with a poor advertising campaign.

FIFTY  YEARS AGO Sharks on film were a rare encounter.

vent and Australia led the world in this respect. USA caught up during the 1970’s. The Shark Fighters programme ran for months in South Africa. In Australia it had a 30 day season in a Sydney theatre.

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Over-print version
Over-print version

We released these shark films at similar venues along the east coast. Shark Fighters did amazing business on 16mm but in that era we were all too busy having fun making new films and underwater photographs to bother with the effort involved with distribution.

In retrospect we passed up (potentially) millions of dollars of potential income. It’s all different today. Sharks saturated the pay TV screens. Cinema entertainment has changed.

The advertising copy (here on a handbill) was a joint effort between shark victim turned shark fighter and much later a ‘shark protection activist’ (Rodney Fox), the Taylor’s and I. It’s interesting to see how our attitudes have changed since those early days when we knew less and the public knew nothing of shark species and their respective behaviour. A grey nurse to them was just as deadly as a WP. The Saumarez Reef 30 minute film showed a tiger shark and grey reef whalers for the first time, yet these advertising pictured focused on grey nurse pictures – which were more graphic.

The three, thirty-minute-each films were shot and edited by Ron Taylor on non-fading Kodachrome film stock. Considered amateur film at the time it is beautiful as archival stock today. Beginners luck.

At each screening there would be about upwards of 300 to 500 people attending – mainly because I only screened on average for one night in any town. Theatre availability was limited.

The surf film addition guaranteed extra attendances from that entertainment-starved group. It was a fun project to make then and still is to look at today. Maybe Ron T. will release them on DVD?

The Rodney Fox film showed the graphic still pictures taken by doctors after his shark bite incident, that have been widely published since. Without fail, at almost every show, a young man would ‘almost faint’ at the sight of the real blood on film and leave the auditorium for fresh air.

Spearfishing convention, Kangaroo Island 1963
Ron Taylor (left) and Rod Fox at Point Lookout, Queensland.

Memoirs of the road shows? The Australian Prime Minister attended our Feb 16 Canberra Theatre Centre screening – arriving by limo with a police escort. Ron and Valerie were at this travelling show. (He was booked to attend a ball, but being a keen spear fisherman squeezed-in the last hour of the movies).

The PM invited us for biscuits and tea the following morning at Parliament House. 21 months later he vanished in the sea while body surfing one morning near Portsea.

The programme ran for weeks in South Africa. Later all three films were seen on TV but only in black and white. The Surf Scene film was notable as Ron Taylor took his 16mm Bolex camera aboard a speedboat and rode waves alongside the surfers – something novel at the time.

 

MORE: Shark Fighters was shown at venues known for surf films, i.e. older suburban cinemas struggling to stay in business, some with 1000 seats which were mostly empty except when a surf film screened.

Advertised via teen-radio announcers (Ward Pally Austin on 2UW) and with posters like this plastered all over the city, the surf and shark films were a cultural delight.

Hawaiian shirts worn by almost everyone – the forerunner of beach culture fashion. Bleached hair, white jeans were the uniform of surf addicts. Supporting films included old cartoons, war newsreels – which brought howls of laughter from the growing group of soon-to-be anti-Vietnam war protesters.

Shark films attracted both the surfers and the public. Divers were a minority. The true potential never fully exploited, we distributors being too lazy for that. ‘Better things to do’.

Conventional 35mm movie distribution did not work profitably you had to do it yourself in 16mm or not at all. The most successful 16mm film of all featured crocodiles. While surf films were more numerous than features like the above, the undersea titles were timeless and were distributed for years.

Queensland audiences, especially, were patriotic and huge when Great Barrier Reef content was exhibited via 16mm but by law only in licensed cinemas, huge single screen venues which were packed by schools by day and families by night, made possible by affordable TV advertising.

Narration for Shark Fighters came via three now infamous voices. American stage actor Hayes Gordon, TCN9 news anchor Chuck Faulkner, and 2UW disc jockey Ward Austin (who had the Aussie accent of the future in an era then dominated by British culture – seems more incredible today).

 

Tanya skin

 

"Savage Shadows" film frame. Geoff Goadby at Marineland, Sydney.
“Savage Shadows” film frame. Geoff Goadby at Marineland, Sydney.

 

Henri Bource at Point Lookout, Queensland.Searching for sharks with Mike Perry (journalist) and John Harding.
Henri Bource at Point Lookout, Queensland.Searching for sharks assisted by  Mike Perry (journalist) and John Harding, (boat owner and diver).

Henri Bource led a double life – some say a triple one. He made a film about sharks while being handicapped with half his leg missing (eaten by a shark). Some knew Henri as a Melbourne-based sax player with The Thunderbirds. Others knew him as a diver making a film about sharks. “Savage Shadows” featured a realistic recreation of the shark bite and earned more as stock footage than the film did in it’s 35mm release. Mike Perry (the Sydney journalist) and I assisted Henri make his film by taking him to Point Lookout at North Stradbroke Island in a search for adventure to be filmed. It became a big holiday and we had many funny moments. Filming girls (with no film in the camera) etc

Henri Bource getting shots for 'Savage Shadows' inside the tank at Marineland, Sydney.
Henri Bource getting shots for ‘Savage Shadows’ inside the tank at Marineland, Sydney.  Heavy camera housing was another handicap Henri didn’t need, he already had half a leg missing from a shark bite.
Henri Bource meets young Raymond Short at Coledale Beach, NSW. Both White pointer shark-bite recipients.
Henri Bource meets young Raymond Short at Coledale Beach, NSW. Both White pointer shark-bite recipients.

A shark victim turns film maker with a 16mm Bolex camera and makes a feature film released in cinemas.

“The only money I ever made out of Savage Shadows came from stock footage sales of the attack sequence” Henri Bource told me at his Melbourne home, as he hopped about on his one good leg.

Using self-hypnosis Henri was able to convince himself he still had two legs. It also got rid of the phantom pains (i.e. an itchy toe that wasn’t there anymore). The big white pointer shark had bitten Henri’s leg off, just below the knee. (Above the knee would have presented greater hardship – at least he had a knee-cap left that served as a hard base for the artificial leg he wore.

Henri didn’t look for sympathy – he was far more positive than that rubbish being required. He even had us convinced (in a strange way) he still had two legs. I once questioned his right to park in a disabled parking place – and this was a man with half a leg missing!

This was the attitude and influence Henri Bource projected to all who knew him.

I assisted in the film production in a slight way, with friends Mike Perry and Irvin Rockman

We appear in the film searching for sharks off Queensland’s North Stradbroke Island, (at the time a hot location, far-less-so today).

The resulting film was excellent BUT didn’t get adequate exposure. At the time it was difficult negotiating any deal with cinema companies. The film premiered in the sleaziest of city venues in Sydney, the former State Newsreel Theatrette. It was once possible to almost stick to the seats in this tiny theatre which ran continuous short films for anyone with 60 minutes of spare time.

Henri is gone now, missed by a heap of divers who were his good mates. But he lived genuine dual lives, there was also the music he loved and the friends and girls there. (His original band The Thunderbirds recorded the first rock ‘n roll LP album in Australia).

Before his shark accident (aka attack) he toured with the leading international acts working Australia’s southern states. This duality remained largely unknown.

John Harding film 1974
John Harding film 1974

SHARK AIR PATROL  Ballina,  NSW  January 1968

We were invited aboard the New South Wales north coast shark patrol aircraft to do a live interview about sharks. We were the experts doubling as film promoters during the January holidays in 1968.

Our film show would be held at the town cinema (which no longer exists) tonight at 8pm, a local radio station arranged for us to go up in their Cessna which was patrolling the beaches north and south.

At the airport we waited for the Cessna to pick us up. When it touched down and taxied
over, up drove a limo with a businessman who turned out to be a sponsor of the shark patrol aircraft and he was also selling real estate.  “Stop seeing sharks” he yelled at the pilot “I’m trying to sell land and you are scaring people away (with your shark reports)”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

HENRI BOURCE – ‘SHARK-BITE’ DIVER, SHARK HYSTERIA

Proposed highly publicized shark fight (and one million dollars prize to Wally) did not eventuate. Promoter died suddenly amid world-wide protests of cruelty. This was at the height of JAWS media fever.

Wally Gibbins was the leading shark hunter in 1975, having killed a huge Tiger shark near Heron Island in 1963.  An American sporting promoter devised an underwater shark fight to use a captive shark in a cage – to capitalize on the shark movie hysteria which had most people fearing sharks like never before.  The plan fizzled when the promoter died.  Wally missed out on one million dollars for what would have been a senseless stunt on a very confused captive predator.  Yet at the time most divers would not have taken the job.  A gross mis understanding of sharks still existed.

Meanwhile, to combat phantom pains (itches and aches etc.) in the lost lower half of a leg, Henri learned self hypnosis soon after his ‘accident’ as he called the shark attack.

The effect was, he could explain how the shark bit his leg off and almost turn the incident into humor, sometimes.

So convincing was his attitude to living normal life, without thinking I once criticized him for parking in a disabled parking space.

Henri portrait

Henri Bource led a double life. Rock musician and underwater film maker. People who knew him as diver were unaware he had toured as sax player in the Melbourne group The Thunderbirds – supporting local stars for leading USA artists of the sixties.

Henri’s life story remains untold. He is survived by wife Liz and sons Philippe and Henri Jr.

A young White Pointer shark (1963), at that time it was still a mysterious shark that had not been photographed underwater in it’s natural state, only deceased specimens had been filmed pre 1966.

Cameraman Ron Taylor put a movie camera underwater in January 1966 at Dangerous Reef, South Australia and recorded graphic footage of a small White Pointer snapping at a bait just in front of the lens.

Still frames were used to promote both JAWS and Blue Water White Death movies.  (See Fathom 2 “White Pointer”)

Henri Bource was nearby underwater and recorded the same sequence from the safety of a shark cage.  Henri’s sequence is poorly framed due to the shark cage bouncing yet is a record of the break-through event in shark photography from an alternate angle.

Ron Taylor was not leaning overboard as has been claimed on You Tube (where his film sequence can be found). Only his hands were submerged for that first sequence recorded, on later expeditions Ron would have looked over the side with more confidence. The White Pointer was an unknown species who reputation was greatly exaggerated in the Peter Benchley novel, inspired by that first sequence recorded by Ron Taylor.

(Pat Smith had suggested to his friend Peter Benchley that a good novel might be written about a shark.  Both men were sports journalists working on Newsweek at the time).

The Henri sequence is included in his  Savage Shadows.

SEARCHING FOR SHARKS – “SAVAGE SHADOWS”

Henri Bource (shark victim) inspects large whaler shark, Point Lookout, Queensland.
Henri Bource (shark victim) inspects large whaler shark, Point Lookout, Queensland.

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Mike Perry checks the filming-dive boat, Amity Point, Queensland

We three rented a cabin where, at high tide, the sea water was under the floor. That cabin and many others have since disappeared as the western coast of this big sandy island slowly washes away.

The Australian mainland is seen in the distance, across Moreton Bay. To the south out of sight is The Gold Coast – in the opposite direction is Queensland’s capital city, Brisbane.

Two years ago bull shark(s) attacked and killed a swimmer just 50 meters from where Mike is standing.

Our shark diving was around the corner and offshore at a small rocky island 3km from the holiday village of Point Lookout.

Today fishing pressure has reduced the chance of easily sighting any shark (other than the seasonal and migratory Grey Nurse).

Occasional large tiger sharks are a possibility, attracted by lots of stingrays and a few manta rays – both natural food.

Small shark near a pair of legs (fake picture) frightened  many regular  swimmers at a Sydney Harbour beach when published in a tabloid evening newspaper and may have been a trigger for the erection of a shark-proof swimming enclosure – which would have been a good idea.

The small shark was recently born and presented absolutely no danger.  Not a scene from Savage Shadows but from that era of film making in the 1960’s.