New Zealand's Missing Film History
Many of New Zealand's earliest films are missing, or survive only as fragments.
Follow the links for further details on our lost film heritage. And please, contact us if you have any information that could lead to their recovery.
Hinemoa, George Tarr, 1914
'The first big dramatic work filmed and acted in the land of the Moa,' was Hinemoa (1914). Made on a budget of £50, George Tarr directed Hinemoa over eight hectic days in Rotorua. Hera Tawhai and her husband Rua starred along with the Reverend Bennett's Maori Choir Party. Sadly nothing survives.
The Test, Rawdon Blandford, 1916
A 4-reel feature drama made in Auckland and based on The Ballad of Stuttering Jim by William Satchell. The film premiered in Auckland on 17 April, 1916. The film is lost.
A Maori Maid's Love, Raymond Longford, 1916
Made on location in Rotorua by Australian film maker Raymond Longford and set during the early colonial period. Originally called The Surveyor's Daughter. Longford was unable to secure a New Zealand release. The film is lost.
The Mutiny of the Bounty, Raymond Longford, 1916
Filmed partly in Rotorua by Australian film maker Raymond Longford and based on Bligh's log book, this was the first of at least five versions of the famous story. The film is lost.
The Kid From Timaru, 1917
Barry Marschel's one-reel dramatisation of his fifteen-verse ballad The Kid From Timaru (1917) featured a stirring recital with silent film action. No copy of the film survives. Read more
The Bloke From Freeman's Bay, Rudall Hayward, 1921
A 2-reel comedy made in Auckland by pioneer film maker Rudall Hayward. The Archive holds an original poster, all that survives from the film.
The Betrayer, Beaumont Smith, 1921
Made by Australian Beaumont Smith and filmed in Rotorua, the cast of The Betrayer included Bella Papakura and Guide Susan. The film is lost.
The Motor Bandits, 1921
In 1920 the touring theatrical company The Globe Trotters (which included director Harrington Reynolds) met with Mr HE ('Kosy') Bennett, manager of the three cinemas in Palmerston North. They decided, as a publicity stunt, to make a movie on the streets – The Motor Bandits, which included NZ's first car chase sequence. The group then formed a syndicate to make The Birth of New Zealand. Nothing survives.
The Birth of New Zealand, Harrington Reynolds, 1922
“8,000 feet of Sheer Wonder and Amazement” ran the publicity of the day.
Only fragments of the film survive.
Watch an excerpt
The Romance of Sleepy Hollow, Henry Makepeace, 1924
Starring Francis X. Bouzaid of Onehunga and June Phillips of Dominion Road, supported by Miss Lola Montesse of Mt Eden, Miss Angela Olivera of Davenport, Miss Olive Tayne of Ponsonby, Miss Peggy Carr of Parnell, Mr Herbert Hayes of Onehunga, Mr Henry Ferguson of Remuera, Mr Jack Fawcett of Newmarket and Mr Bert Higham of Ellerslie. All that survives is a poster (which describes the film as a bright, sparkling comedy-drama in 4 reels) and a few stills.
Rewi's Last Stand, Rudall Hayward, 1925
Based on historian James Cowan's recount in The New Zealand Wars, the plot recounted the stand taken by Rewi Maniapoto and his supporters at Orakau in 1864. 20 minutes of this historical epic survive. Director Rudall Hayward remade a sound version of the film in 1938-40.
Carbine's Heritage, Ted Coubray, 1927
New Zealand’s first big sporting picture, Carbine’s Heritage centred around the world renown racehorse, Carbine, along with a strong romantic interest. During World War II, the negative of Carbine’s Heritage was melted down to make belts. The film does not survive.
Down on the Farm, Stewart Pitt & Lee Hill, 1935
Shot on location in Dunedin, the film centred around two rival farmers, who "must resolve their differences when their children form friendships which ripen into love". Less than a minute survives of NZ’s first talkie feature.
Watch the surviving excerpt
The Wagon and the Star, JJW Pollard, 1936
On July 16 JJW Pollard's feature, The Wagon and the Star, premiered in Invercargill. Lee Hill and Jack Welsh collaborated on the film which was written and directed by the editor of The Southland Times.
Phar Lap's Son?, Dr A.L Lewis, 1936
Hollywood's Dr A.L. Lewis, wrote and directed Phar Laps Son? which was based around the visit of a theatrical company to a stable owned by an eccentric gentleman who owns the son of the famous racehorse, Phar Lap.
Between 1928 and 1930 the "Hollywood on Tour, Girl of Our Town" Coummunity Comedies were made in many New Zealand towns. The same script was used but a new cast of local talent and scenery made each film unique.
Film maker Rudall Hayward made most of the Comedies, but Lee Hill was also involved - first as an assitant to Hayward and then in competition with him.
Watch an extract from The Daughter of Dunedin
Some of the Comedies survive, but most are missing. Titles included:
Hamilton's Hectic Husbands, 1928
Tilly of Te Aroha, 1928
Winifred of Wanganui, 1928
Suzy of Stratford, 1928
Betty of Blenheim, 1928
Natalie of Napier, 1929
A Daughter of Hastings, 1928
Patsy of Palmerston, 1928
Natalie of Nelson, 1928
Nellie of Nelson, 1928
A Daughter of Gisborne, 1928
A Daughter of Wairoa, 1928
A Daughter of New Plymouth, 1928
A Daughter of Thames, 1929
A Daughter of Auckland, 1929
A Daughter of Dannevirke, 1929
A Daughter of Timaru, 1929
A Daughter of Whangarei, 1929
A Daughter of Te Kuiti, 1930