reviewed by Marc Glassman
Three Blind Mice
Matthew Newton, director, script and actor (Harry). Gracie Otto, editor and actor (Emma). Co-starring: Ewen Leslie (Sam), Toby Schmitz (Dean), Barry Otto (Fred), Bud Tingwell (Bob)
When three Australian sailors hit Sydney for a final night of freedom before heading overseas to serve in Iraq, their evening proves to be far more dramatic than expected. Sam, Dean and Harry, the titular sea-faring “three blind mice,” decide to improvise their way through town, with nothing much on their minds but the expectation of good times. Of course, what they get is a lot more—but, honestly mate, are you surprised?
This isn’t the Forties and our lads hardly resemble the all-singing all-dancing trio in On The Town; there’s nary a Sinatra or a Gene Kelly among them—or even a Jules Munshin. Sam, Dean and Harry are a friendly, relatively good-looking lot—but from the beginning of the film, they seem to be heading down a dark path. While in their hotel, Dean and Harry almost immediately order in a midnight duo of hookers and when they go out to a restaurant, the same couple of guys jump right into a tense, potentially violent game of cards with tough-looking local Italian lads.
Sam seems more reasonable but one senses quickly that he’s the one who is hoarding secrets. What else would explain the welts on his back, seen but not commented upon by his mates? In the event, while his two pals are playing cards, Sam picks up a girl—the quick-witted, athletic and vivacious Emma. The flirtatious duo wants to run off to spend time together but, when Harry and Dean realize what’s happening, they react with anger. How can Sammy leave them on their last night?
Naturally, Sammy and Emma do figure out a way to go AWOL and the other two blind mice react with real fear and indignation. Why should they care so much? When revelations do occur in a drunken scene at, of all places, a karaoke bar, they fit nicely into a veiled critique of Australia’s participation in the Iraq invasion debacle. Yep, Three Blind Mice is more like Hal Ashby’s sad Seventies ‘Nam drama The Last Detail—about a court-martialed sailor being taken to prison— than it is like On The Town.
Matthew Newton, who wrote, directed and played Dean in the film, deserves kudos for his Down-Under Wellesian undertaking. But the biggest huzzahs must go to Gracie Otto, who breathes life into her character Emma, and to the fact that Ms. Otto also edited the film. Now that’s unique.