Morning of the Earth Re-Mastered: Watch a Timeless Classic on the Big Screen at The Ritz.
When Morning of the Earth was released in February of 1972 a generation of surfers fell under its spell. In the wake of Australia’s exit from Vietnam MOTE, as it became known, featured a tribe of intrepid surfers pursuing an Arcadian idyll on the NSW north coast and journeying to exotic locales like Bali and Hawaii in search of virgin waves. At a time when surfers were leading the charge against rigidly, conservative forces in Australia, MOTE and its rapturous soundtrack (the first ever Australian soundtrack to go Gold) became the ultimate symbol of freedom.
MOTE is still considered by many critics as the benchmark for all other surf movies and is also credited with projecting a powerful message about the environment well-ahead of its time. Director Albe Falzon insists he wanted to make a movie about a group of people living in harmony with nature. For Albe, the thrilling surfing action was just a means of drawing attention to the broader message, as he explains. “Morning of the Earth reflects in a simple way how we can endure and sustain and enjoy our life here and leave a small footprint and a better world in our passing.”
To celebrate the film’s 50th Anniversary, Morning of the Earth has undergone a meticulous restoration. Each and every one of the 150,000 frames has been digitized in 4K and enhanced by a state-of-the-art, museum-grade digital restoration process. To match the original projection, the film has been colour-graded, stabilized, de-flickered, scratch- and dust-busted, all the while staying true to the director’s original vision and the 16mm source format. Complete with a remastered soundtrack, Albe says his treasured movie, “Looks and sounds better than it ever has.” The remastered version of MOTE is set to tour in early March with a screening at Randwick Ritz on March 10.
The Ritz screening offers a chance to see Bondi’s own Chris Brock on the big screen. Around Bondi in the 60s Brocky was known as a talented Rugby League player and gifted surfer, but eventually his interests gravitated towards the north coast and its enchanting waves. It was Brock’s Angourie treehouse – made from driftwood – that famously featured in MOTE. “I liked the treehouse scene – not just cause it’s me – I just think it sets the theme for the movie really well,” Brock reflected in a Tracks article a few years ago.
While Brocky may be the local favourite, the seminal film features performances from a host of surfing luminaries. Back then Michael Peterson was the undisputed King of Kirra; his brooding and enigmatic presence matched by unparalleled surfing brilliance. Albe Falzon’s footgae of the wiry-limbed natural footer would ultimately transform him into a cult figure in Australian surfing and the frame grab of the fabled Peterson ‘Cutback’ still remains one of surfing’s most iconic images. For some the scene where Dave ‘Baddy’ Treloar shapes a board in the backyard and then trots down to surf Angourie Point is a favourite moment. Of course Baddy’s section is given resonance by the classic, John J.Francis track, Simple Ben.
Perhaps the most influential section of the movie features a fifteen year-old kid from Collaroy named Steve Cooney. Cooney left school to travel to Indonesia in search of surf with Albe and co-producer Dave Elphick. On the trip they discovered the glorious waves of Uluwatu in Bali. The ethereal imagery of Cooney gliding along luminous Uluwatu walls inspired thousands of surfers to make the pilgrimage to Bali. In his recently released memoir, ‘Unearthed’ Steve recalls the first time he sat alone in the lineup at Uluwatu. “The shore looked distant from the water, the pulse of the reef felt powerful, the cliffs were ancient and locals had gathered along the cliff line to watch what I was doing. Whenever I stood up on a wave I could hear them yelling until I pulled out.” Steven will be a special guest when Morning of the Earth screens at The Ritz in early March.
Whether you are a fan of Morning of the Earth seeking a sweet-tasting journey down nostalgia lane or a newcomer to the film, the opportunity to see this timeless classic on the big screen in a re-mastered format shouldn’t be missed.
Morning of the Earth will screen at The Randwick Ritz on March 10 with special guests Albe Falzon and Stephen Cooney. Tickets are available