The Aussie Film Database

Dogs in Space

Richard Lowenstein


Film Credits

Production Details

Production Company:

Central Park Films Pty. Ltd.
Entertainment Media
The Burrowes Film Group
Film Victoria

Australian Disributor: Hoyts - Ronin
Additional Distributors:
Col - Tri
Skouras Pictures
Australian National Library

Video Distributors: RCA - Columbia - Hoyts

Copywrite: 1986
Released Date (Australia and U.S.A): January 1 1987.
Budget : $2 million
Box Office (Sydney/Melbourne, after 8 weeks): $189, 000. (‘Encore’, vol. 4, no. 24-vol. 5, no. 3)
Box Office (U.S.A.): $49,000 (All Movie Guide Database.)
Rating: R
Running Time: 103 minutes
Film Type: Kodak 5294, colour.
Format: 35mm, VHS.
Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Production Team

Executive Producers: Robert Le Tet and Dennis Wright
Producer : Glenys Rowe
Production Executive: John Kearny
Director : Richard Lowenstein
Scriptwriter: Richard Lowenstein
Director of Photography : Andrew de Groot
Editor: Jill Bilcock
Art Direction: Jody Borland
Music: Ollie Olsen
Sound Recordist: Dean Gawen


Michael Hutchence : Sam
Saskai Post: Anna
Nique Needles: Tim
Deanna Bond: The Girl
Tony Helou: Luchio
Chris Haywood: Chainsaw Man
Gary Foley: Barry
Caroline Lee: Jenny
Edward Clayton-Jones: Nick
Martii Coles: Mark
Peter Walsh: Anthony
Laura Swanson: Clare
Adam Briscomb: Grant
Sharon Jessop: Leanne_



‘Dogs in Space’ is set in what may be considered the initial decay of the punk/anarchistic subculture in Australia, 1979, and opens a at ticket stakeout for a Davis Bowie concert. It follows the lives of several people living in a communal style household, relatively secure in their closed, but tolerant, world of drugs, gigs, parties, television, music, destruction and (for some) sex. The relationship between Sam (Michael Hutchence) and Anna (Saksia Post) forms the main focus of the film but is only a part of the kaleidoscope of people ranging from sociopaths to hippies. Sam, on the surface, is an unambitious, incoherent, primitive ‘junkie’ who is the lead singer for the household band ‘Dogs in Space’, but, underneath this it seems that his ambitions are truly bourgeois, as revealed in his generally disguised concerns for money. Anna, the only person with at least some employment, carries the most positive possibilities of the lifestyle, totally tolerant/forgiving and appearing of happily carefree. Luchio, the resident student, is studying for engineering exams amongst the chaos and problem of an attached one night stand, Leanne. Tony and Clare are a hippie couple who live on the second floor along with Grant, a poor playboy with a string of beauties, and Tim a cool geek if ever there was one. Everyone else seems to live in the lounge crashing out in front of the tv. The girl (Deanna Bond), arrives on the doorstep the first morning, having run away from home and soon after begins exploring and experiencing the lifestyle in a strangely voyeuristic fashion with the quasi guidance/protection of Anna and her friends. These overlapping lives continue on their shaky way relatively unscathed until the night that Skylab falls back to Earth. Amongst the confusion of a house party and its aftermath the household seems to break up. The Anna’s death from a heroin overdose after deciding to try it for the second time with Sam, shocks and devastates the household, signifying the end ultimate end of their ‘endless party’ and lifestyle. The police step in, after having repeatedly overlooked them, enforcing an overdue eviction notice. The end of ‘Dogs in Space’ briefly follows Anna’s funeral and shows a maturer Sam, now polished and successful singer.


‘Dogs’ concerns the demise of suburban ‘punk’ in Melbourne during the late seventies. It depicts the various approaches to lower class status’s and finance, which were (and still are) chosen by young people, with residual people an ideas from the sixties subculture, blending into a unique ‘youth’ culture. The behaviour of its characters isn’t excused with historicity, allowing them the full responsibilities and reflections of their choices. The complexity of these coexisting differences is realistically evoked in the confusion of overlapping conversations, sound, activities and people. Character development suffers in this stylistic and narrative from, however, in maintaining a distance from intimate character knowledge, the realism of ‘strangers’ we meet and see daily, enables respect for each characters’ individuality. Repeated patterns of destruction, and drug abuse in the midst of decaying setting, awful music and underlying bourgeois ambitions becomes a bit tiresome at times. The girl and Luchio the only people apparently getting anywhere (the former deeper into the lifestyle, the latter further out), the rest seem like the static television screen of the film. Intercut space footage adds further to the themes of alienation, social class, ambition and illusion/disillusionment. Stylistically, the use of exceptional long shots moving through the scene almost allows the audience to become another, voyeuristic, character similar to the girl in that we are given a taste of each lifestyle and character. This also blends one scene into another much like an extended video-clip. In some instances the long shots lose their effect as the relentless ‘ugliness’ and deliberately chosen bad music of a scene like the pub gig becomes too much to bear. The music is well suited to the period and scene, giving a repulsive authenticity, in line with the supposed purpose of the punk movement. The film’s anti-drug message, represented in the depressing death of Anna, the only character not self absorbed or disturbed (yet totally yielding to the lifestyle), and the break up of the house, is quite powerful, as it is an event which finally makes a real impact on the characters. ‘Dogs in Space’ is a directional film of the eighties in its alternative representations and style, revealing a past which is appealing in its tolerance, yet, undesirable in its self abuse. Watching ‘Dogs’ as a young teenager I thought it was an unbelievably cool film (INXS, Michael Hutchence band was pretty big). Looking it now I still enjoy it, with a deeper understanding and appreciation of its style (including great ‘one liners’), aims and meanings, yet at times in trying to achieve realism, it begins to drag and is a little too raw. ‘Dogs’, for me, is a film which the more I think about it the more I find, making it particularly interesting.

CRITIQUES (release and after)

Released early 1987, ‘Dogs in Space’, received generally positive critic support in Australia, which continued to a minor degree in later Australian cinema discussion. The work of Andrew de Groot, Director of Photography, was praised in almost every review, particularly the effectiveness of its beautifully choreographed long shots moving through each scene, enhancing the feeling that ‘you’re there’. The ‘Filmnews’ review (Dec 1986; p13), says of ‘Dogs’, “..breaks new ground in Australian cinema... it simple fills you up with the talk, the music, the emotional plunges, and frantic frenetic activity of being young....this film seem to say, youth culture isn’t ..unitary or composed of subcultures. It is simple fragments, pulsating fragments of hyped up experiences refracted through little in the way of a worked out approach to anything.”. Some reviews, like Vikki Riley’s (Cinema Papers, no. 62, 1987; p45) were quiet harsh, comparing it negatively against ‘Pure S...’, 1976, and regarding the film as a “sour insight into the alternative scene”. Its experimental/alternative nature was recognised as was its potential as a cult film. In its UK release, Bruce Miller (Daily News, 1988) reported that the “bright spot of Australian culture in London is Richard Lowenstein’s film...‘Dogs in Space’”, while the American uptake of the film was minimal. Later, commentators such as, Harlan Kennedy cited ‘Dogs’ as one of a number of commendable films, for introducing Australian Cinema “to shifting perspectives, structural experiment and highly discomforting stories and characters’ of the best international cinema...’Dogs’ comes on like a post hippie musical with a cast too zonked out to sing or dance and is crusadingly structureless.”(Film Comment, no. 5, 1988; p1). Susan Dermody (1988; p140) also mentions the film as part of an alternative group, showing the way for a new direction in Australian cinema. Although generally well received by critics, public response was mediocre. Within a year or so of release ‘Dogs’ became simply a point of interest a few texts regarding Australian cinema.


Produced with a multi financed budget of $2 million dollars (Cinema Papers, no. 61, 1987: p14), ‘Dogs in Space’, made approximately $116,00 in its first four weeks of its Melbourne/Sydney screenings.. The budget was only secured after being placed on the market the previous financial year and with the enthusiasm of production executive, John Kearney, securing Robert Le Tet’s Media Entertainment Group. It’s star, Michael Hutchence, was one of the major selling points due to the unconventional script and music and the small experience of its relatively young crew affecting its saleability Producer, Glenys Rowe, believed that if funding could not have been secured in Australia, it could have been made in England ( Encore, no. 7, 1986;p14). The film stock used, Super 35, was fairly new in its Australian films application and was “designed to give the wide screen effect of traditional anamorphic photography using the lighter and cheaper equipment used for the square-framed 1:85:1 format.”, and greater depth of field and picture sharpness.(Encore, no. 7, 1986; p15) During production, a double crane system was devised to enable the camera to move vertically in a straight line, “the first of its kind to be used in Australia, McDonald [key grip] says.” (Encore, no. 7, 1986; p15). Many of the shots were taken using a stedicam due to the highly restricted and problematic space of the terraced house, where most filming occurred, and to capture multiple storylines and characters in the one master shot. For sound an eight track tape recorder was use, to give an authentic feel and live music was re-recorded and re-mixed (Cinema Papers, no. 61, 1897; p18). In casting, street promotion was used as finding the right look, ravaged, under-nourished and pale, proved difficult. Lowenstein says, “In the end we had to go to the streets....Much of our cast was drawn from life as it were.”( Cinema Papers, no. 61; p16). This resulted in a high proportion of non professional actors, including half of the ten central characters (Encore, no. 7, 1986; p15)


Promotion through word of mouth as a build up to distribution in Melbourne was part of the marketing strategy for ‘Dogs in Space’, as were quirky competitions, like asking owners of VWs (the type of car featured in the film) to call radio station 2JJJ for a double pass to the film, $20 and a ‘Dogs in Space’ stencil for their car (Cinema Papers, no. 61, 1987; p16). Other selling points were cinemas, record shops, and it’s star, Michael Hutchence. Merchandising was also well prepared, including an album. What was not anticipated amongst this was an R rating from the Film Censorship Board, on the grounds ‘Dogs’ was promoting drugs and the subcultural lifestyle it depicts. (Cinema Papers, no. 61, 1987:, p17) The Australian and American release date, set for December 4, 1986 was put off until January 1, 1987 allowing time for appeal (which was unsuccessful) and following promotion re-organisation.. The R rating effectively cut the film off from its intended audience, the result being “the first instance in Australia’s history where a censorship decision has actually crippled a local film’s box office chances” (P. Cowie 1987; p97). The change in market was responded to by Rowe (producer) promoting Lowenstein as a director, stressing the formal innovations of the film. Tony Malone, the general sales manager of Hoyts Distribution said he had “always intended a specialised release” and would focus on the long term market (Cinema Papers, no. 61, 1987; p17). Confidence in UK, West German and French release was not quite mirrored in the American release with anticipated problems with language and heavier reliance on the success of Hutchence’s band, INXS. I would suggest that a greater European success would also be expected as punk never really reached America. (Cinema Papers, no. 61, 1987; p18)’Dogs in Space’ has a reasonable box office run with approximately $49,000 in the USA and $189,000 during its eight week run in Sydney/Melbourne cinemas. Other films screening over the release of ‘Dogs in Space’ included ‘Crocodile Dundee’, 1986.


‘Strikebound’, 1983, a film about a miners strike lead by two Scottish men in the 1930’s, is the most notable connection for both Richard Lowenstein (as director) and Andrew de Groot (as director of photography). It received an Australian Film Institute award for best production design and was critically acclaimed. Its theme of class can also be seen in ‘Dogs’. Lowenstein’s third film ‘Say a Little Prayer’, 1992, about an 11 year old boy who befriends a drug addicted young girl, was also award winning, claiming the 1993 Giffoni Children’s Film Festival awards of best actress (Fiona Rettelle) and best director (Lowenstein). Andrew de Groot’s also worked as director of photography on Lynn Maree Milburn’s film ‘Memories and Dreams’ , 1993 (Milburn was credited with wardrobe for ‘Dogs’). Producer, Glenys Rowe’s only other film (currently) is ‘Greenkeeping’, 1993. To date ‘Dogs in Space’ is Michael Hutchence’s only film. Saksia Post has had a previous role in ‘One Night Stand’, 1984 and was later cast in a minor role for the highly successful film ‘Proof’, 1991. Nique Needles (Tim) has four other films to his credit, ‘The Boy Who Had Everything’, 1983 (received AFI best supporting actor award), ‘Afraid to Dance’, 1987, (lead), ‘As Time Goes By’, 1988 and ‘Tender Hooks’, 1989 (lead). The most successful and prevalent actor of ‘Dogs’, Chris Haywood (Chainsaw Man), has credits in fifty films including ‘The Man from Snowy River’, 1982, ‘Strikebound’ as the lead, ‘Malcolm’, 1986, and ‘Muriel’s Wedding’ 1994. (Australian Feature Films CD ROM, 1995)


I would argue that within some social groups (Australian) ‘Dogs in Space’ has achieved cult film status and is well within the realm of being termed a classic Australian film. It has medium to high value as a lifestyle essay, localised, alternative, directional and representative film in Australian Cinema in the eighties, however its larger public and market value may be considered as low. This lower value to the larger public and market has resulted from the film’s R rating restricting its audience, the deliberate aesthetic ‘repellents’ it uses making it outside mainstream cinema and, I believe, its highly marginal subject. Another factor to consider is the other Australian films in the box office at the time. ‘Dogs in Space’ was competing against not only Hollywood films but some of the most successful Australian films ever, which added to its limited current cultural and market spread. As part of a new direction in Australian film in the 1980’s, ‘Dogs in Space’ is briefly highlighted by authors such as Tom O’Regan (1996) and, McFarlane and Mayer (1992). John Slavin (Australian Feature Films CD ROM, 1995) places the film as within an increasingly prevalent theme of male rites of passage in the eighties, citing ‘The Year My Voice Broke’, 1987, and ‘Celia’, 1988, ‘Sweetie’, 1989 as comparable. The film is also noted for breaking cinematic conventions of narrative and style. Among some social groups ‘Dogs’ is regarded as a classic Australian film, and for many carries a heavy nostalgic weight.


As part of an English language, medium sized cinema ‘Dogs in Space’ is a minor film. In the wider cultural arena of English language cinema it is placed within minorstream, taking an aggressive subordinate approach rather than complimentary or similar, in relation to Hollywood mainstream. Some devices typical to Australian film, such as reliance on social realism, docu-drama style, ‘freaky’ characters and social problem themes. However, I feel that it does manage to avoid other devices like strong use of well recognised Australian stereotypes. It uses the spectacle of the ugly rather than of action or beauty. Scott Murray (1994), uses ‘Dogs’ as a comparison of American and Australian representations of teenage couples, saying whereas the American teenagers triumph, their Australian counterparts are, for what ever reasons, repeatedly driven apart. “Passion is often seen as obsessive and destructive as in...’Dogs in Space’” (Murray, 1994). As a film in a medium sized cinema, ‘Dogs’, find a fluid place between minor and major streams. Its budget and box office takings give it a mediocre market placing, like most better funded Australian films. Its neither conventional nor entirely festival/experimental nature, which “straddles shot political films, video-clip production and theatrical feature production” (Tom O’Regan, 1996; p130), also place it between the two ends of this kind of filmic scale. ‘Dogs’ reflects, to some degree, the antipodal character of Australian film in that it could be perceived as originating anywhere yet is distinct. Its uniqueness is can be attributed to its Australian iconography and language, which gives the film recognisable history (for Australians), its insularity and isolation and the warped cultural uptake of the punk movement which originated in Britain. Its suburban location means it could found anywhere, as does its commonality of subculture. ‘Dogs in Space’ is not exceptional in terms of the larger cinema market with regards to either cultural exchange, innovation or commercial considerations. As a part of Australian national cinema, it has greater value, but again is not exceptional, rather ‘Dogs in Space’ is a film which moves between the traditional values of cinematic assessment.


Bibliograph 1 (Interviews)


Cinema Papers, no. 63, May 1987; p38 -9 (Chris Haywood)
City Limits, no.347, 26 May 1988; p20 (Richard Lowenstein)
Encore, vol. 4, no. 7, 8 May 1986; p14 - 5 (On Location. Glenys Rowe, Righard Lowenstein, Noel McDonald)
Interview, vol. 15, no. 2 Feb 1987; p97 (Richard Lowenstein)
Time Out, no.929, 8 Jun 1988; p26 - 7 (Richard Lowenstein)

Bibliograph 2 (Reviews/Critiques)


Cinema Papers, vol. 4, no. 61, Jan 1987: p14 - 8
Cinema Papers, vol. 4, no. 62, Mar 1987; p44 -5
` City Limits, no.349, 9 Jun 1988; p27
Film News, Dec 1986; p12 - 3
Films and Filming, no. 405, June 1988; p30
Hollywood Reporter, vol. 299, no. 17, 9 Oct 1987; p3
Listener, vol. 119, no.3066, 9 Jun 1988; p40
Monthly Film Bulletin, vol. 55, no.652 May, 1988; p137 - 38
Screen International, no. 582, 10 Jan 1987; p26
Variety, 17 Dec 1986; p24


John Slavin, ‘Australian Cinema: The Eighties’ Australian Feature Films CD ROM, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and The Australian Catalogue of New Films and Videos Ltd, 1995 (Brief critique)


Scott Murray ed., Australian Film 1978 -1994: A survey of Theatrical Features, Oxford University Press, 1995, p214
Nash, Ross et al The Motion Picture Film Guide 1988, Cine Books Inc., Illinios, 1988, p72
ed. Peter Cowie, Variety International Film Guide 1987, The Tantivy Press, London, 1987, p96

Bibliograph 3 (Additional Information and Discussions)


Cinedossier, no. 327, 5 Jul 1988; p16 ‘Daily News’, Bruce Miller, Perth (Western Australia), Fri 24 Jun 1988. (Reference to London box office)
Cinema Papers, no.58, Jul 1986; p77 (Credits)
Encore; vol. 3, no. 24, 30 Jan 1986; p3 (Schepisi to produce)
Film Comment, vol. 25, no. 5, sept - oct, 1988 p 73 - 7 (Discussion in relation to other films)
Screen International, no. 572, 1 Nov 1986; p16 (Credits)


Scott Murray ed, Australian Cinema, Sydney, Allen and Unwin,1994, p222 (Mention, comparison) and p245 (Summary)

Tom O’Regan, Australian National Cinemas, Routledge, London, 1996; p30 and p128.
(Discussion in relation to other films)
Brian McFarlane and Geoff Mayer, New Australian Cinema, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1992 p213
(Discussion in relation to other films)
ed. S. Dermody and E. Jacka,‘The Imaginary Industry: Australian Film in the Late 80’s’, Australian Film and Television School, North Ryde, 1988 p132 - 154
(Discussion in relation to other films)
ed. Peter Cowie, Variety International Film Guide 1986, The Tantivy Press, London, 1986, p83
(Mention as forthcoming)

On Line (Internet)

AMG - All Movie Guide
Includes: database user ratings, two plot synopses, release dates,
location, technical info.

Internet Movie Database
Includes: plot synopsis, technical information, location, database user ratings, release dates,

Presence online and in the literature

Major Positive Sources include:
Film Index International CD ROM
Communications Reading Room
Film Literature Index
International Index to Film and TV Periodicals
Murdoch Library Catalogue
World Wide Web (Internet)

Major Negative Sources include:
Art Index CD ROM

Asking the advice of faculty and using facilities at both Murdoch University Library, Perth (Western Australia) and Curtin University Library, Perth (Western Australia), I found the resources mentioned above. Starting at the major sources listed above, positive and negative, the finer sources were yielded. For In searching the internet, the Murdoch University H231 site,

( )

was very helpful. The Film and Television Instiute, Fremantle, Western Australia, was potential source which was not utilised. The major information problem was finding box office returns. The only source I was able to find regarding this was in the Encore journal, which prints a regular, non accumulative table of Sydney/Melbourne figures towards the back.

html author: Sonja Pascho
This page was produced as part of the Australian Cinema Unit at Murdoch University
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