CLASSIC AUSTRALIAN TELEVISION
Copyright © 2013 Don Storey. All rights reserved.
Crawfords adopted a broad policy of starting new crew on Homicide, and moving more experienced staff to newer shows, and consequently when other film directors became available for Homicide, David Lee worked on Hunter and other projects as well. The policy was flexible, and the 'old hands' would still work on Homicide from time to time. Homicide had its first overseas sales early in 1966, to England and Scotland. Although screened in provincial areas during off-peak times, it rated very well, and actually doubled the usual ratings figures for the timeslot in Scotland. These early sales were on kinescope, which was of a low technical quality, as facilities were not available for conversion to overseas videotape standards. Overseas sales increased from 1970 when converters became available and episodes could be sold in higher quality videotape formats. Even more sales eventuated when the series switched to colour production in late 1972. One country re-titled the show The Good Police - presumably their local constabulary had a public relations problem!
Real-life detective Gordon Timmins acted as police adviser for the series, vetting scripts to ensure that the episodes followed genuine police procedure and that no errors made it to the finished product. "I've been accused occasionally of being too fussy," he said, "but it's the detailed authenticity of Homicide that has preserved its phenomenal rating."38 Timmins first came to Crawfords attention when he played the role of a prosecuting Sergeant in the courtroom series Consider Your Verdict. From that point on Executive Producer Dorothy Crawford would often consult him regarding police procedure, and he gradually became their police adviser.
When Leonard Teale joined the cast, Timmins took him on a tour of the toughest criminal hang-outs in Melbourne, to give him first-hand experience of a detective’s work. In May 1966 Timmins left the police force, and joined the Homicide cast playing a regular support role as Det. Doug Marshall, a 'part-time' fourth detective added as required.39 In August 1966, Hector Crawford spoke out about the lack of Australian drama on television. "Another country's institutions and way of life were being pressed on Australians by television, the most persuasive of the mediums," he said. "The predominance of American TV drama on Australian channels could tend to make the Australian way of life a carbon copy of the American." He also condemned Australian content regulations which counted one costly hour of Homicide equivalent to an hour of a football match.40 The right of police to fire on criminals was explored in episode 76, 'The Snipers', which embroiled crack-shot Det. Hudson in a public controversy when the Homicide squad hunt down a crazed gunman who has killed four people. Coincidentally, after the episode was completed and before it was screened, a similar real-life incident took place in the United States when a gunman killed 15 people. The episode was filmed on location at Panton Hill on the coldest day for 10 years, with problems caused by pouring rain, snow and a flooded creek. In March 1967 Homicide’s 100th episode went to air, and critics were unanimous in their praise of the show’s development. It had become by far the most popular programme in Australia, and the yardstick by which all other local productions would be measured. "The most encouraging thing about the success of Homicide is that it has withstood all that rival channels have flung against it," said Hector Crawford. "Whenever it goes to air, this programme, which is produced on a minimal budget, has to face about half-a-million dollars worth of American programming."41
The 100th episode, ‘The Traveller’, had an unplanned close shave, when a motorcycle crashing over the side of a road bounced and narrowly missed cameraman Alan Arnold, who was pulled out of the way. The film was retained in the episode. By July 1967, the ambitious Crawfords spy series Hunter was on air. Although a vastly different show, it was Homicide that provided the confident foundation which allowed Hunter to reach fruition. The continual improvement of Homicide, and its phenomenal success in the ratings, was raising the standards for all Australian productions. Script Editor Phil Freedman said, "Every Homicide story must be plausible and authentic. Pace and tension are essential factors and the characters must be interesting but must be defined deftly."42 Film Director David Lee strove for authenticity: "I have spent a lot of time with the police at Russell Street. We talk crime together and I have been to murder scenes, taken photos and made comparisons with the sort of things we do on Homicide."43 Scriptwriter Della Foss-Paine said one aspect of the increased realism was less use of dolls as dead bodies: "David Lee is trying to use more real actors in the death and stunt scenes. This follows the lead set by Ian Jones. Our yen for realism is such that if we could find a way of pushing real actors off buildings without hurting them, we'd do that too."44 Ian Jones thought the series gave a far more accurate and authentic picture of police investigation than any other show. "Many of the episodes are based directly on fact," he said. "Some have had sequences filmed where the actual murder was committed. In some cases people connected with the case have helped recreate scenes for television."45
Leslie Dayman said that Homicide avoided glamorising the police, or portraying them as aggressive witness-bashers like some U.S. shows. "In a way, we, as Homicide detectives, reflect the Australian character. If we tried to take a tougher line we would not be as true to life as we are."46 ‘Freakout’, episode 128, had its screening date advanced by six weeks because of the urgency of its message warning against the use of drugs. Said Scriptwriter Della Foss-Paine: "I hope from the bottom of my heart that anybody who might be thinking of trying LSD sees this programme before they take it."47 The expanding scope of Homicide was proving a strain on the existing actors for location filming, and it was therefore decided to have a permanent fourth detective in the cast. George Mallaby joined the team in episode 131, 'The Visitors', as Det. Peter Barnes, who was transferred from the Sydney vice squad, and became the show’s 'swinging guitar-playing bachelor'. A brash, young policeman, Barnes was promoted to detective at an earlier than normal age. Casting Director Sonia Borg said: "We were looking for a young man with a nice personality who could inject a bit more humour and light-heartedness into the programme."48 Barnes matured over the years and developed into a talented and formidable detective, but retained his good nature and sense of humour. For the role of Peter Barnes, George Mallaby was told by Dorothy Crawford that, in keeping with the other detectives, he would have to wear a hat. He was given some money, and he bought the silliest looking hat he could find - thinking that because the budget was so small, there would be no money for a replacement, and therefore he wouldn’t have to wear one. The plan backfired because Dorothy thought the 'silly' hat looked superb! Det. Barnes was introduced into the series gradually, and George Mallaby was not included on the opening titles for his first two episodes.
George Mallaby tried his hand at scriptwriting, and his first effort was episode 151, ‘Free To Kill’. Mallaby would write several more scripts over the years, for Division 4 and Matlock Police as well as Homicide, whenever his acting commitments would allow. Four episodes later, actor/producer Edward Ogden, recently arrived from England, took over as Associate Producer, allowing Sonia Borg to be utilised in other capacities. "It amazes me how we get Homicide finished in the time allotted," Ogden remarked later. "In England they take two weeks to produce an hour show. The actors, directors and cameramen do a fantastic job to produce what is really a very good show."50 The behind-the-scenes personnel went through various changes over the years. Dorothy Crawford, Ian Jones, David Lee, Ian Crawford and Sonia Borg continued to function in a variety of capacities on the series, and were joined in later years by names such as George Miller, Simon Wincer, Igor Auzins, Don Battye and many others. Writers Terry Stapleton, Della Foss-Paine and Phil Freedman continued to be involved with the show and many others contributed scripts, including Ron McLean, Fred ‘Cul’ Cullen, Luis Bayonas, Peter Schreck, John Drew and Vince Moran. Many of the Homicide crew also worked on Hunter, Division 4, Matlock Police and Ryan, all of which were in production at various times during Homicide's run. The popularity of the series was continuing to grow to undreamed of heights. During the Melbourne Moomba procession in March 1968, thousands of people cheered a float carrying the Homicide cast standing next to a police car. "All of us were really thrilled by the way we were instantly recognised all the way through the procession," said Leonard Teale.51 Even the real-life members of the Victoria Police Homicide squad admitted to being ardent fans - some even sporting nicknames from the show.
Les Dayman left the series in May 1968 to take up a position with the South Australian Theatre Company. There was some speculation as to whether he would be replaced, or if the team would revert to three members. "We have the choice of finding another actor to replace Les, or of giving the remaining three cast members more to do," said Hector Crawford. "I frankly think that we have three such talented actors in the show that it would be pointless introducing a new character."52
Dayman's last appearance was screened in June (episode 161, 'The Pay Off'), in which Det. Hudson is granted leave of absence after reacting very strongly when forced, once again, to kill someone in the line of duty. A couple of episodes later it was revealed that Hudson transferred to Forensic upon returning to work.A new detective was introduced in the next episode to replace Dayman - Det. Alberto Costello, known as Bert, played by actor and folk singer Lionel Long. Costello is a first generation Australian of Italian descent, transferred to the Homicide squad from Forensic. Long thought Bert Costello had the characteristics of a typical Italian: "Volatile, honest in so many ways; warm with a colourful temperament. I can see this character Costello can be developed a hell of a lot."53 Costello's Italian background was not pushed in the series: "When you're working with someone," said Ian Jones, "you cease to think of them as Italian, French or German - you think of them as a workmate and a friend."54 Long was initially signed to the show for an eight week period, but ended up staying for one year. Although primarily a singer, with a string of Australian folk song recordings to his credit, Long previously had acting roles in Whiplash and Riptide. "I suppose I could be called a professional Australian," said Lionel, "but I'm sure I can overcome the hurdle and play a convincing Italian."55 The opening titles were altered at this point to the classic format best remembered by viewers - the police car doing a U-turn outside Russell Street headquarters and the actors credits appearing as they each step out of the car, finishing with a group shot climbing the steps into the building. Censorship first came to Homicide in episode 174, Valley Of Silence. After screening in Melbourne, the Seven Network objected to a fight scene in which George Mallaby kicks stuntman John Ryan in the face. The offending scene was subsequently edited out for all future country and interstate screenings. The remainder of the fight sequence remained intact. Robert Schroeder started making cameo appearances as Forensic man when required, which continued for the duration of the series. In later years the character was given the name Greg Watkins. David John also made regular appearances as one of the forensic team. Episode 187, 'The Four Wise Men', was an episode with a Christmas theme, and the final few minutes featured George Mallaby playing guitar and singing a song as part of a concert for orphaned children. The sequence was filmed at the St. Johns orphanage in Canterbury, and many of the children appeared as extras. The 200th Homicide episode went to air in April 1969. At the time Studio Director Alex Emanuel recalled: "When I first started on Homicide I was a bit scared, despite 12 years in TV. I had never done any drama before and I knew the actors were thinking here goes another new director. But I dont think I could have done the show without their help. They were up and down the stairs to the control room telling me about things they were going to do here and there and marking my script. Finally the rapport is now so good that I have got to the stage where I dont even have to watch the pictures from the three cameras. I can follow the script and call the shots knowing they will be right on the ball. I think the rapport between crew, cast, producer and stage hands is the reason the series is as good as it is."56 At that time Crawfords had just started producing a new suburban police series for the Nine Network: Division 4. Hector Crawford outlined the differences between the two programmes: "Homicide is the police operation against crime. Division 4 is the men of the operation against crime. Homicide always starts at the murder, hitting hard that way. Division 4 is different; more often than not it opens before the crime is committed. And the nature of the crimes is different. With Homicide we lose the opportunity for dramatic material in the lead-up to the murder but we have plenty to compensate in the sleuthing and arrest. Division 4 shows other aspects of police work and the human problems and private lives of the men."57 John Fegan, the only remaining original cast member, decided to leave the series so that he could take an extended holiday to his native Ireland. His final episode was No. 204, 'Chain Of Evidence', in which Inspector Connolly retires from the squad to take long service leave. Inspector Colin Fox, played by Alwyn Kurts, took over as head of the Homicide squad after being introduced a few episodes earlier (No. 201, 'Blind Man's Bluff) to provide a smooth and gradual leadership transition. Fox, originally from Maldara in the country, is a widower, and lives with his unmarried daughter. He is greatly respected by the other detectives who realise his bark is worse than his bite but don't let on. Shrewd with a dry sense of humour, Fox has a deep and mature respect for the role he fills. Alwyn Kurts proved very capable of expanding and developing the character, and the depth of his role was increased as this became apparent - Inspector Fox became far more involved in the action than his predecessor did. Script Editor Henry Crawford later said, "The writers found they were writing for Alwyn's own excellent sense of humour. This has come out but it was not apparent in the early episodes. He made his presence felt. The characters are pre-planned to a certain extent, but an actor can always give something to a role."58 Kurts was chosen for the role after making a very good impression as Insp. Fox in an earlier episode, No. 180 Dead Or Alive - a role he was given as an audition for the Inspectors part when Crawfords knew that Fegan was planning to leave. Kurts, a veteran of radio and the stage, had previously compered the Crawfords panel and game shows Raising A Husband, Don't Argue and Fighting Words. He settled into the role of Fox very quickly and was well received by the viewers. In a TV Week interview he recalled a time when his car was stolen and he reported it to the police: "I rang up the stolen car division and the bloke asked my details and my name. Alwyn Kurts - oh, youre Inspector Fox from Homicide the voice said. Thats right I agreed. Well, why dont you find it yourself? was the reply."59
John Dingwall was joint winner of an Awgie (Australian Writers Guild) award for Best Script For A TV Drama Series with episode 208, Everyone Knows Charlie.60 Many veteran actors were engaged for the episode, which was written as a comedy but intended as a social comment on the plight of pensioners. The plot concerns a group of pensioners who are secretly earning extra money to supplement their pensions. When one of them drops dead they illegally dispose of the body to avoid an investigation which could expose their activities. Dingwalls script draws on his own experiences of working among pensioners before he joined Crawfords. He found that most of them had to struggle to survive: "One old man said to me, Were too old to do anything about it. Our fighting days are over, and nobody gives a damn about us. That moved me deeply, and prompted me to write this edition of Homicide. I think a programme like this, with such a huge viewing audience, is the best possible way to get a message across to the public."61 Only a few weeks elapsed before another cast change occurred, when Lionel Long made his final Homicide appearance. By mutual agreement with Crawfords, Long did not renew his contract after only a 12 month run, and Det. Bert Costello was killed off in spectacular fashion in episode 210, 'A Quiet Town' - the victim of a mine cave-in. Long was replaced by Norman Yemm as Sen. Det. Jim Patterson, a tough, formidable cop with direct methods, but also a devoted family man. Before joining the Homicide squad Patterson worked for a time in the country at Maldara, where he boarded with Fox and his wife. Script Editor Jim Stapleton said: "Detective Patterson is ruthless in his police work. He's the sort of policeman who is known in the tougher parts of Melbourne where even the hardest cases call him 'Mister'. We saw Norman in his roles as criminals and the idea of using his strong, silent personality as a contrast for the Homicide squad became obvious."62 Yemm had previously made several guest appearances in Homicide, and was regarded as one of the shows favourite villains. When Hunter was in a very early concept stage, Yemm was considered for the role of Kragg, to play opposite Gerard Kennedy in the title role. It was a move intended to create great impact as a dramatic double, but did not come to pass. "Homicide really was my first big break, I loved it," said Yemm. "I wrote a song called 'Patterson Walks Alone' and I never got it published - and I should have."63 Yemms first episode, 'I, Mick O'Byrne', was a Homicide landmark, and TV Week described it as "the most sensational piece of television drama ever filmed in Australia".64 It reconstructed almost exactly the controversial Ronald Ryan and Peter Walker case: two men break out of prison, shoot dead a warder, steal a car, hide out in a Melbourne suburb, rob a bank and escape with a large sum of money. They became the targets of an extensive police manhunt that involved two states, before finally being apprehended in New South Wales. The two faced trial, Peter Walker receiving a heavy jail sentence while Ronald Ryan became the last person to be sentenced to death in Australia, being hanged on February 3, 1967. Legal advice was sought and senior police officials were consulted for the episode, which was made just over two years after the actual events took place.65 The episode was originally titled 'I, Mick O'Shea', but the name was changed due to the recent widespread industrial turmoil caused by the jailing of Tramways Union secretary Clarrie O'Shea. By September 1969, Homicide's popularity was being challenged by its stablemate Division 4, although Homicide never lost its title of Australia's most popular programme. But Crawfords were not about to rest on their laurels - in accordance with a policy of continual improvement, Homicide received a budget increase which allowed the use of film to be expanded. Exterior location filming was increased significantly, now comprising about half the show. The other half remained as interior scenes shot on video.
Another form of censorship, albeit self-imposed, concerned episode 222, George. Nina Gregory, who was portraying the seductive wife of a psychiatrist, was told to cover up her revealing halter-neck top. Although she had previously worn the same outfit for exterior filming, when it came to studio video taping it was considered too daring. "Normally I wouldnt wear clothes like this," Nina said, "but the part called for a siren, dressed provocatively."66 To maintain continuity her cleavage was covered with a scarf. 'George' was scripted by Luis Bayonas, and was one of the 'out there' weird episodes for which he (deservedly) became known for.
Norman Yemm had an immediate stand-in in the form of his identical twin brother Gordon. This was used to great advantage in episode 249, 'The Superintendent', in which Gordon Yemm played Patterson's twin brother Eddie. George Mallaby, as a guest on Tonight Live With Steve Vizard, recalled: "We had this insane writer, a mad Spaniard called Luis Bayonas, an absolute lunatic - in the nicest possible way!" Bayonas saw Gordon visiting Norman on the set one day and got the idea for the episode, which was written purely as a comedy from start to finish.
One scene features three of the detectives racing down an alleyway with guns blazing - minus their trousers - as part of a dream sequence in a classic case of mistaken identity caused by Pattersons twin brother. In all the two-shots Gordon played the detective while Norman played Eddie, and in single shots Norman played both roles, and dubbed all the voices.
Gordon Yemm appeared again in episode 298, Inquest, standing in for Norman on action scenes due to a leg injury. "The first scenes we filmed from my waist up and Gordon filled in for the action shots," said Norman. "It was all right when my leg was visible but if the directors just saw our heads, they couldn't tell the difference."67
The cast of Kurts, Teale, Mallaby and Yemm are probably the best remembered, as the show was then at the height of its popularity. Colleagues at the time considered that they would also have been just as well-suited to a comedy series, an opinion borne out by their performances at telethons and other functions. In fact Alwyn Kurts went on to give a brilliant performance as Ted Cook in the Crawfords sit-com The Last Of The Australians.
A policeman facing death in the course of his duty was the subject of episode 264, 'All Correct'. Former policeman Monte Miller, who was in the New South Wales police force for 15 years before joining Crawfords as a Scriptwriter in 1968, said of this script: "As a young cop I was sometimes faced with terrifying situations and this is what Im trying to put across in this episode. The young bloke on the beat can suddenly be fighting for his life, which is what happens in All Correct."68
Episode 265, Wall Of Silence, delved into Inspector Foxs past, and for flashback scenes Alwyn Kurts son Michael played a young Constable Colin Fox, suitably attired in a period police uniform.
To celebrate the show's sixth birthday in 1970, a 90-minute documentary was made. Titled 'The Homicide Story', it looked back on the highlights of the previous six years. Hosted by Leonard Teale, it was written and produced by Ian Jones and directed by David Lee. Produced entirely on film (no video clips were used), flashback scenes came predominantly from the first 58 episodes, as at the time episode 59 onwards had been repeated as The Best Of Homicide. (Even these repeat screenings still made the top 10, rating as high as 34).
The second half of the documentary took a behind the scenes look at the production of a typical episode, No. 266 'Have You Heard About The Lawrences?', which was shown immediately afterwards. "We have paid considerable attention to detail so that everyone will be able to see how we put Homicide together," said Ian Jones. "We will begin with the script and work through to the consideration of outside locations, the set design and making for the indoor sequences, camera work, make-up, direction, and then we'll take viewers into the production rooms. Here they will see films being spliced together, music added, and dialogue and shots edited. During this segment, Len will keep up the commentary to explain just how each job dovetails together."69 The Homicide Story has since been released on video, but for some obscure reason the second section was not included.
Bride Price, episode 274, attracted the attention of the Broadcasting Control Board after it was screened in Melbourne in October 1970. Due to the story concerning prostitution, the Board decreed that it was unsuitable for children and therefore all subsequent country and interstate screenings could not take place before 8:30 PM. TV critic Veritas, writing in the Melbourne Truth, said the Board had no objections to any specific part of the episode, and described the decision as "typical of the puritanical, small-minded attitudes of a bunch of fuddy-duddies."70
Two semi-regular support roles commenced at this time. Janice Copeland played Jill Patterson, wife of Det. Jim Patterson, and first appeared in episode 277, Pattersons Curse. (Another actor, Margaret Dunbar, previously played Jill Patterson in ep. 220, 'Major Edmund, M.A.'). Wendy Gilmore played Sgt. Mackays girlfriend Joy Bower, and was introduced in episode 295, A Kind Of Freedom. About a year later her character was written out when she refused Sgt. Mackay's marriage proposal and took a job in Brisbane. Her last appearance was in episode 342, 'Anti-Gravity'.
A new set was built for the Homicide squad offices, following the remodelling of the actual offices at Russell Street. Set Designer Tracey Watt visited the new offices at police headquarters, and made the new set as closely as possible a replica of the real thing - even the views were photographed and placed behind the windows on the new set. Real wood and building materials were used, it being constructed as a permanent film set, unlike the previous television stage set which used cardboard and three-ply. The new set first appeared in ep. 308, 'Expectations'.
Filming on location at the Melbourne Zoo in September 1971 for episode 311, 'All The World Is Queer', did not quite go according to plan. One scene required a gunman to throw his rifle into the lion enclosure - so far, so good until two lion cubs pounced on the rifle and began to play with it. Then the cub's father came along and smashed the rifle! Leonard Teale said: "I didn't realise the strength of these beautiful animals until I saw the lion smash the rifle with very little effort."71 All the cast and crew were amused by the incidents - that is, all except the Producer!
For the series seventh birthday, Scriptwriter Phil Freedman reflected on the programme: "Compared with todays shows the opening episodes would look pretty poor. We taught ourselves as we went along. We had to - there was no-one who could teach us. Techniques have improved beyond recognition, and the scripts have become much longer and tighter. Early Homicide scripts ran to about 45 pages, but today 70 pages is average. The action has speeded up, in fact everything has. Thats because of the way the show has become a better product."72
Back in July 1970 plans were formulated for a Homicide sequel titled Homicide Trial. Conceived as a new series, it was intended to be screened the night after Homicide, and would follow the previous nights episode into the courtroom. It was intended to be hosted by Alwyn Kurts as Inspector Fox, who would act as the link between the two programmes.
The proposal as such did not come to fruition, however over a year later production commenced on a special two hour 'Homicide Trial' episode. Titled 'From The Top' (No. 319), it was screened in March 1972 and extended beyond the normal ending of a Homicide episode into the courtroom to show the trial following.
An HSV-7 spokesman denied that From The Top was a pilot for a series, stating it was "just a special". Ian Crawford said: "It is something we have been thinking about for a long time and now Channel Seven has given us the go-ahead to make it. It is a very difficult thing to do, and I cannot see it becoming a regular weekly series. We look on this as a show which will probably be put on five or six times a year as a follow-up to a particular episode."73 As it happened, only one more trial episode was made, despite much critical acclaim. It is interesting to note that way back in 1963 the concept for the pilot episode was at one stage considered as a two hour programme, the second hour featuring the courtroom trial. And, as mentioned previously, early episodes routinely featured courtroom scenes until they were dropped from ep. 25 onwards.
Norman Yemm announced that he felt it was time for a change and wanted to travel overseas, and therefore would be leaving Homicide when his contract expired at the end of 1971. "It would have been easy to stay in Homicide because of the security it offers," said Yemm. "But, artistically, two-and-a-half years with the one role is enough. I feel I should now move on."74
Following Yemm's announcement, Alwyn Kurts waited a few days and - looking very distraught - approached Norman and said, "Didnt you hear? As from next year Homicide has been sold to the biggest network in America. It will be filmed in colour and our contracts are being renewed at double our present salary." Norman believed him and was kicking himself for such bad timing until he found out that Alwyn was fooling!
Episode 333, 'Grains Of Sand', was Yemms final appearance - Det. Patterson left the police force after becoming emotionally involved in a case in which he nearly killed the murderer of a small boy. Sen. Det. Bob Delaney took his place, played by former In Melbourne Tonight compere and singer Mike Preston in his first dramatic role. Delaney is a Londoner who was a constable in the British police force before coming to Australia. A 'snappy' modern dresser, he pushes his clothes and hair length to the regulation limit.
Preston was about to return home to England when he was asked by Crawfords to audition for the role of a policeman. "I heard nothing for about three weeks and then Hector Crawford rang me and asked if I'd come along for a chat," said Preston. "The next thing I knew I had signed contracts and was to be Sen. Det. Bob Delaney in Homicide."75 Ian Crawford could not remember who suggested Preston for the part: "But when Mike came down and read for the part, we knew instantly that we had hit a winner. We didn't have to look any further - Mike was Sen. Det. Delaney."76
Preston said there was no comparison between working on Homicide and doing a live variety show: "It is a lot more hard work than doing an IMT. The whole thing is entirely different. In television variety you start at 9:30 PM and at 11 PM you've finished. The full results are there for you to see. In drama, with all the different schedules, with separate times for filming and videotaping, it's impossible to imagine what the end result will be. I was doing filming on more than one episode and I wasn't sure at all what was happening. I have completed one episode, although again I didn't know. I thought it was the fourth until someone put me wise!"77
In line with changes in the Victoria Police force, some of the Homicide team were given new ranks. As there was no longer a rank of Detective in the real-life Homicide squad, Barnes was promoted to Senior Detective. Delaney was made Detective Sergeant and Mackay was bumped up to the new rank of Detective Senior Sergeant. Fox remained Detective Inspector.
The opening titles were altered significantly from ep. 348 to a sequence of action scenes. The other two Crawford police dramas in production at the time, Division 4 and Matlock Police were also similarly altered.
Channel Seven commissioned a second two hour trial episode, No. 363 'The Rape Of Lennie Walker', which was shown soon after completion in October 1972. Screened in the 'adults only' timeslot of 8:30 PM, Hector Crawford introduced the episode warning viewers that it portrays "ugly crimes" and is a "powerful piece of drama based on a series of child murders. Parents may not wish their children to see it." However, he also stated to the press that he believed every child should see it to possibly prevent further crimes of that nature occurring.78
A wide-screen colour movie version of Homicide for cinema release was first proposed in February 1972 when the Kurts / Teale / Mallaby team had been together nearly three years. Following on from Crawfords first feature film venture, The Hands Of Cormac Joyce, it was to be produced by Fred Engel, an American recently settled in Australia, and distributed by U.S. company MCA. "Homicide was a milestone in Australian television," said Hector Crawford, "and I expect that the feature film version will be as equal a milestone in Australia's film industry. Certainly MCA Inc. believes in the project. They have entered into a production and distribution agreement with my company which gives the film more than a fighting chance on the international market."79
The cast was excited about the project. "I hope it will be a roaring success, so that we can show the rest of the world that we are capable of making top-rate films," said Alwyn Kurts. "The concept isn't breath-taking, I know, but it's wise. Homicide wasn't a radical type of show when it first went to air, but it started an Australian television industry. We think the film will do the same thing for movie making."80
George Mallaby was looking forward to the challenge, and Mike Preston felt lucky he had joined the series at just the right time. Leonard Teale, who had worked in feature films before, admitted it was an exciting project for the industry, but saw it as just the same sort of work: "In this one we will have star billing, but what does that mean really? A close-up is still a close-up and location work is still location work. I don't think we are going to find things a lot different, except that we will have more time."81 Production of the movie was scheduled to commence in April, however delays completing The Hands Of Cormac Joyce caused the Homicide project to be pushed further and further back.
With the official introduction of colour television finally announced for early 1975, Crawfords planned to switch all their series to colour filming. The new private eye series Ryan, which commenced production in July 1972, was filmed in colour from the outset; Homicide was scheduled for colour filming in October, to be followed by Division 4 early in the New Year and Matlock Police by March or April 1973.
In July 1972, barely two months after Mike Prestons first episode went to air, it was announced that his contract would not be renewed past December. Public acceptance of Delaney was not very solid and it was felt the character was not developing. Preston himself said he would be happy if he could leave the series earlier to resume his singing career. Due to the imminent change to colour production, Preston was allowed to leave by October so that colour filming could commence with his replacement.
The movie project was indefinitely postponed at this time, obviously because a film which did not feature the current cast would have been out of date before it was released. The following fairly rapid sequence of cast changes to the Tingwell / Day / Stanton / Barker team caused the project to be forgotten.
In episode 375, 'We'll Both Remember Angie', the last to be filmed in black and white, Delaney is blown to bits by a letter bomb in the first few minutes - even before the opening titles! More than a few people have said that the way one was written out of a series reflected how much Crawfords liked them - it would appear that Preston was not in the good books!
33. Melbourne Listener In-TV, April 19,