Army Wives 1986

Army video cover.



Army Wives follows the lives of two childhood friends who marry brothers in the arny- one a non comissioned soldier and the other a Duntroon graduate.

The girls soon discover their lives will take dramatically different paths than they first expected. Their romance soon fades and the girls discover that they have married an impersonal insitution, especially since their husbands seem to have less than normal sensitivity towards their feelings.

Army wives deals with the difficulties experienced by Australian Military families - from class distinction between the ranks to everyday social problems such as alchol abuse.


Picture of Phil as Peter 1Stephen Cook, TV WEEK Australia 21/6/86

Strong cast assembles for $1.4 million telemovie Army Wives

Top young actors Julie Nihill and Philip Quast head a talented cast for Network 10's $1.4 million telemovie Army Wives.

The two, who have previously appeared in Sons And Daughters, will be joined by another couple of equally-talented but not-so-well-known actors, Shane Connor and Lian Lunson, for the Roadshow, Coote and Carroll production.

Former Prisoner star Val Lehman, Peter Sumner, husband of another former Prisoner actress Lynda Stoner, and Marilyn Allen are among other actors tipped to appear.

Written by top scriptwriter Anne Brooksbank and based loosely on a true story, Army Wives is a drama which examines the type of lives led by women married to officers.

In particular it looks at the isolated lifestyle, traumas and hardships faced by two girlfriends who marry two brothers who are in the army.

The telemovie follows the foursome between Australia and the army base to which they are assigned in South East Asia and the power struggle that develops when one of the brothers is made an officer while the other remains a soldier in the ranks.

Picture of Phil as Peter 2 Essentially, Army Wives looks at how the two women cope or fail to, with the constant pressures and changing living conditions which they and their husbands have to face.

Julie Nihill, who played Jessie Bradman in Bodyline and Julie Webb in Sons And Daughters, plays Jill in Army Wives. One of this country's most in-demand young actresses, Julie, wife of actor Richard Moir, is now on air as Belle Strong in ABC-TV's big-budget mini-series Tusitala, and more recently completed the role of Vicki Calcott in the Judy Davis/Colin Friels movie Kangaroo.

Jill's army-husband, Grant, will be played by Shane Connor. He was last seen in ABC-TV's acclaimed telemovie Emerging, in which he played paraplegic Steve McNair. Shane will also be seen later this year as Charlie in Network 10's mini-series based on Ruth Park's novel The Harp In The South.

Philip Quast, who starred in the comedy movie Emoh Ruo and played the ex-con Mitch in Sons And Daughters, is Grant's brother, Peter.

Val Lehman is tipped to play Jill's mother, and Peter Sumner and Marilyn Allen, Grant and Peter's parents.

Filming on Army Wives begins at the end of this month, and the telemovie will be produced by Pamela Vaneke.

It is expected to screen on Network 10 either later this year or early in 1987.

ARMY WIVES Reviewed by Elizabeth - Negative review, contains 'spoilers' for the film

Picture of Phil as Peter 2

This movie was hiding in the 'Australian' section of my local video store and hiding with good reason. The 1980s were not a good time for the Australian film industry as this little example proves yet again.

Scriptwriter Anne Brooksbank and director Denny Lawrence attempt to take us into the world of the Aussie soldier and show us the price any woman who is foolish enough to marry them must pay. Julie (Julie Nihill) is raped by her sleazy boss in 1977, doesn't tell anyone 'because it wouldn't do any good' and when she discovers she is pregnant, army cadet Grant (Shane Connor) her admirer of only a few weeks, decides she is enough like the 'kind of girl I want' to ask her to marry him and save her from the 'shame' of being an unwed mother. A convenient miscarriage before the wedding and Grant decides he still wants to 'go on with it.. if you do'. So Julie throws away any kind of attempt at standing on her own two feet and marries him, naively unaware of the lifestyle she is about to encounter as the wife of a soldier.

Julie's best mate, Wendy (Lian Lunson), decides that Grant's handsome younger brother, Peter (Philip Quast) is a bit of all right (and for the record, I'd have to agree - Quast looking rather scrumptious in (and out of) a variety of Army uniforms) and chucks in her own plans to follow Peter to Singapore and a life of luxury and vodka-drenched boredom as the wife of an officer.

The tables turn when Peter and Wendy (yes, the Pan reference didn't go unnoticed by the writer either!) return home to live on the Army base in Canberra, baby in tow (Peter thought that Wendy's desire to own a pet monkey meant it was 'time she had a baby') and discover that all is not rosy in the land of Army base housing, bitchy neighbours and a husband who throws a tantrum if his coathangers are turned the wrong way in the wardrobe. She becomes a serious alcoholic and after embarrassing Peter in front of his superiors, leaves him to go and sob on Julie's shoulder about their lost youth.

Julie, on the other hand, stands up to the Army 'rules' of neglecting one's family - by crashing her car through the wall of the Officer's Mess and demanding that her husband come home and pay her and the kids some attention.. this surprisingly has no effect on his career or relationship with his mates, even though Wendy's faux pas at the Colonel's garden party results in extra duties for HER husband. However Grant's Sargent merely raises a beer to him and says something along the lines of 'quite the little woman he has there.' The 'little woman' has now discovered that motherhood and the life of a roving Army wife, never staying in the one place for more than a year or two, carting the kids from post to post and deriving nothing but delight from her life of domestic bliss IS in fact the life for her, so long as hubby is there to say 'good girl' occasionally.

Picture of Phil as Peter 4

I want to believe that Lawrence and Brooksbank were trying to instill in us the horror of giving up your freedom and independence by marrying into the army in 1977 - the film was apparently based on an article in an Australian newspaper - but what we come away with is that women are stupid, helpless creatures who can't make a a life for themselves that doesn't involve babies and total dependence on a man. We are left with the feeling that soldiers are duty-bound knuckleheads who care more about the Army than their families, and that the 'grunts' in the lower ranks are the only ones with any feelings, which of course, they can't share because Army men (and Aussie men) don't share their emotions. There are obvious setups for plot lines - Peter handing Wendy a vodka bottle at the wedding 'oooh.. that means she's going to become an alcoholic!' and the film thumps its way through a plethora of social issues, clanging the audience over the head with each and every one with all the subtlety of a Sherman tank. By the end of the film there are token gestures at repairing the damage - Wendy leaves Peter and goes to work at Parliament House as a 'career woman' - denoted by a ghastly 80s suit jacket - and Julie and Grant live happily ever after traipsing around the countryside with the kids in the backseat - you can have a career as a homemaker, don't you know?

To their credit, the cast do try their best with a weak and stilted script, Julie Nihill is suitably pathetic as the weak-minded Julie and Connor doesn't appear to have to try too hard to play the 'blokey' Grant. Philip Quast is charmingly arrogant and carries off the role of the handsome young officer intent on rising through the rank with flashing eyes and boyish grin. There are also tantalizing glimmers of the burgeoning talent we've come to know and love in the older Quast - shades of the frustration and humiliation of Javert, the sexy charm of his barrister in The Governor and the handsome businessman in The Fall. And there's always something about a man in uniform... Also watch out for Val Lehmann (known to Aussie and UK fans as 'Bea' in Prisoner CellBlock H) as Julie's over-bearing Baptist mother.

But there are reasons this film never made it out of Australia and now gathers dust on the disused shelves in video stores of suburban Sydney. The cover features a soft-porn photo of a young blonde bride (who's not even IN the film) toting a machine gun and this is SO FAR from what the film is actually ABOUT that it pretty much sums up how much impact this film had.

Quast fans only. Extensive use of the fast-forward button recommended.

We would like to thank LIZ our Australian correspondent for providing us with the article and pictures.



© Kate McCullugh & Angela Pollard 2000. No portion of this page may be copied without permission of the author.