Oh no, Bert Ford’s been thrown in the levee!

Yes, the surprise cliffhanger at the end of yesterday’s Australian period drama, “A Place To Call Home”. Set in the fifties, with ridiculous hats and heavy woollen clothes that are surely unsuitable for the climate, “A Place to Call Home” is an enjoyable potboiler exploring a changing postwar society. Complete with scheming manipulative matriarch, by turns sweet, charming, dictatorial and ruthless; placid, well-mannered but strangely absent-in-spirit son, gay grandson and a grand-daughter with modern ideas gleaned from Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Add to the mix Sarah Adams, an enigmatic Jew with a mysterious European past; Doris Collins, an excellent gossip, who helps the narrative along through judicious snooping and faux innocent letting cats out of multiple bags; and the handsome, damaged POW doctor, friend and, when necessary, critical friend to the Grandmother. In Sydney we have the convenient aunt, essential to the storyline, but with a story of her own; and flown in, Dallas-style, the sister-in-law (twin, no less), newly widowed and with designs on the son (yes, that’s right: her brother-in-law).

A special treat are the clothes worn by the sophisticated city-dwelling aunt — very New Look, large hats, oriental fabrics, vaguely Lauren Bacall — and the predatory twin sister-in-law: a gorgeously, shapely, well-corseted style (I was always a great admirer of Elsie Tanner, Coronation Street’s voluptuous boned siren).

We also have the mechanicals — a stockman who lost his sons and is won over by Sarah Adams (sometimes you want to slap her, she is so unswervingly full of creamy goodness) and persuaded to change the dirty dressings on his ulcerated leg; the Italian family, servants to the big house, but with plans for their own vineyard; and Bert Ford: dissolute, wife beating, ne’er do well, already bested by Sarah Adams (see what I mean about her?) in a roadside scrap.

Well, Bert Ford’s gone too far this time, attempting to blackmail the family over the grandson’s homosexual kiss with a hearty and very gorgeous stockman. Anyone would, to be honest, sexy and sweet-natured as the stockman is. Anyway, Bert was paid off, offered extra to get out of town, like that was going to work, and predictably decided he wasn’t going anywhere. Closing sequences of everyone in love, up to mischief or tending grapes (according to role) and then a surprise shot of a body rolling down the levee and the final cut to Bert’s unseeing face.

Shook me up. Who would have the wit and wherewithal to do this? Puts all the characters in a very different light, I can tell you.

(from December 2014)

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