We recently reported that the first 150 episodes of the outrageous Australian soap opera The Box have been released across three compelling DVD volumes. Set behind the scenes of a fictional television station, the programme was so far out that British broadcasters refused to screen it.
The programme featured all kinds of backstabbing schemers as they attempted to claw their way to the top, it boasted lashings of sex and nudity, and some very oddball characters indeed. It is no surprise that The Box became a ratings smash when it launched in 1974 and now those of us that were denied the opportunity to see it the first time around can finally see what all the fuss was about. I am pleased to report that The Box is just as shocking now as it was back then.
The programme features a host of your favourite Aussie performers and we thought it would be fun to run through some of the line-up.
Judy Nunn who became a household name playing Ailsa Stewart in Home & Away, stars in The Box as the scheming bisexual journalist Vicki Stafford who has no qualms about blowing the lid on the perverts who work at UCV-12. The trouble is that Vicki has plenty of skeletons in her own closet. As for Judy she has also enjoyed starring roles in Sons & Daughters, Prisoner: Cell Block H, and is now a highly successful novelist having sold over one million books worldwide.
Judy Nunn: best remembered for her Home and Away role is seen here in The Box as Vicki Stafford
British born Peter Regan plays the bed hopping Gary Burke who presents Channel 12’s nightly variety show Big Night Out. Gary has no hesitation in wrecking the career of anyone who might attempt to take his crown as the star of the network, and is known to take the odd bribe in the form of upmarket call girls. Peter enjoyed a successful acting career in the UK prior to moving Down Under having appeared in Z Cars, Dixon of Dock Green, and he played Howard Lucifer in the ATV soap opera Crossroads. Ironically after leaving The Box he became a real life television compere hosting hit shows such as Quest 76 which ran for three years, and Peter Regan’s Musical World.
Ken James hit the big time playing Mark Hammond in the cult classic Skippy, he appears in The Box as the dim witted Tony Wild – the star of the stations detective drama Manhunt. Ken of course went on to enjoy further success in Skyways and Sons & Daughters.
Peter Regan: appeared in many UK sagas, including Crossroads. Stars in The Box as Gary Burke
Belinda Giblin plays the bed hopping secretary Kay Webster who is carrying on with two married men at the same time. Belinda later played the scheming Alison Carr in Sons & Daughters, and has had major roles in The Sullivans, Home & Away, and Heartbreak High. One of Kay’s lovers was documentary maker David Warner, played by Shane Porteous, who is better known in the UK as Dr Terrence Elliot from A Country Practice. More recently Shane has appeared in both Neighbours and Home & Away.
Briony Behets will be remembered by fans of the daytime soapie Families and for her work on Neighbours and The Saddle Club. In The Box she plays the bored and lonely Judy Donovan who cheats on her husband or turns to the bottle in order to escape from her dreary life. Unfortunately a tragic accident will leave her having to face life as a cripple. Judy’s husband Paul is played by the late George Mallaby who had starring roles in Homicide, Cop Shop, Prisoner: Cell Block H, and Neighbours. The workaholic Paul is no angel and has had his fair share of female conquests over the years.
Love can happen now, and it happened then: Belinda Giblin best known for her role in Sons & Daughters features as Kay Webster
Meanwhile spinster secretary Jean Ford realises that the clock is ticking and embarks on a sexual awakening which leads her into the arms of all kinds of weirdos who want to find out what makes her tick. Jean is played by the late Monica Maughan who will be remembered by fans of Prisoner: Cell Block H as inmate Pat O’Connell.
Graeme Blundell who played Ruwee Naberrie in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, stars in The Box as television director Don Cook who finds himself engaged to more than one woman at once, with one of them up the duff. Meanwhile the late Lois Ramsey plays loveable tea lady Mrs Hopkins who has to come to terms with her son turning ‘queer’ whilst in prison and then taking up with the homosexual television producer Lee Whiteman (Paul Karo). Unfortunately things were only going to get worse for poor Mrs H when her son was caught red handed loitering in a public lavatory with another man. Lois will be fondly remembered by many of you for her work on both The Young Doctors and Prisoner: Cell Block H.
Amongst the well-known guest artists appearing in these episodes are Syd Heylen who played barman Cookie in A Country Practice, and Joanne Samuel who went on to star as Nurse Jill Gordon in The Young Doctors, Kelly Morgan in Skyways and Jessie in Mad Max. Also making a very special guest appearance is the veteran actor, producer and radio announcer Walter Pym.
Ken James: best known for his role as Mark Hammond in Skippy appears as Tony Wild in The Box
There is never a dull moment in The Box and if you thought you’d seen everything a soap opera had to offer think again! The first three DVD volumes of the programme are now on sale and hopefully more will follow in due course. UK viewers can order their copies along with a host of other Aussie TV classics from Eaton Films.
Those of you who are based in Australasia can order your fix directly from Crawford DVD