Don’s Party (1976)

“What’s that got to do with your hand on my bottom?”

In the Australian comedy, Don’s Party, it’s election night, 1969. Don Henderson (John Hargreaves), a university professor decides to hold a party, and he invites a wide assortment of friends–married couples, swinging singles, and a newly separated man. Tensions are already obvious between Don and his wife, Kath (Jeanie Drynan) even before the party begins. But with the beer flowing, and opinions strongly divided on the results of the election, it doesn’t take long before the social niceties disintegrate.

Guests include: a volatile, jealous dentist, Evan (Kit Taylor), and his beautiful, slinky wife Kerry (Candy Raymond). The rambunctious, randy Cooley (Harold Hopkins) drags along his free-love minded 19 year old, Susan (Claire Binney). Stuffy pipe-smoking Simon (Graeme Blundell) attends with his naive wife, Jody (Veronic Lang). Mal (Ray Barrett) and his bitterly unhappy wife, Jenny (Pat Bishop) throw looks of unmistakable loathing at each other all evening. Mack (Graham Kennedy) has just separated from his wife, and he brings along a large naked photograph of the wife, so that she can maintain a presence at the party too. Mack, it seems, has a nasty little habit involving cameras.

The truly great thing about this film is the manner in which it captures human behaviour in social situations. Jody, for example, at the beginning of the film, is the most attractive woman at the party. The men gather around her like flies, luring her away from her husband, and subtly laying the groundwork for a series of sly, emasculating digs at her socially inept and passive husband. When Kerry and her husband show up, the resident males try the same tactics with her husband, but his explosive reaction signals their temporary retreat. While the married women fuss over Simon’s admirable characteristics, they can’t help but loudly compare their husbands’ inadequacies as providers, etc. The film maintains an intimate atmosphere throughout, and the setting–Don’s House, reinforces this. The film, directed by Bruce Beresford, is adapted from a successful stage play, and it’s really a very funny, excellent portrayal of bored married couples who are unleashed for a night of fun and fighting. The DVD quality is ok–not great, but then the film was made in the 70s.

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Filed under Australia, Comedy

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